Saturday, September 23, 2023 ✦ Noon to 7pm

1988 Sportster Chopper

Words: Kurt Diserio - Photos: Alexa Diserio
  • Built by John Wagner
  • Shown at Glory Daze 2019
  • Published in Pittsburgh Moto - Issue No. 003
  • Do you know what’s enjoyable to sit and think about sometimes? The evolution of our own personal interests. Time has a definite influence over our curiosities. In John Wagner’s case, the progression that led to his interest in choppers makes perfect sense. Dirt bikes led to skateboarding, which led to cars and more motorcycles. There’s a good chance this sounds familiar to many of you.

    Let’s get started by rewinding this story to the beginning. John’s father first put him on a motorcycle when he was four years old—before kids in his neighborhood even rode bicycles. “I remember exactly what happened because I still have a photo,” he explained. “It was an old Kawasaki mini bike, which was still a big bike for me at the time. My uncle was sitting on the back of it, basically controlling it for me. We were cruising along when he just stands up, and off I go. I didn’t even realize he got off the bike. When I wanted to stop, I would just fall over.”
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Fast forward through the skateboarding years to when John became heavily involved with cars. After doing some time attack racing, he was introduced to drifting in 2003. “I instantly thought this was like skateboarding with cars,” he mentioned. Car drifting immediately clicked, and it took off from there. At first, he would borrow cars to do drift competitions, driving to and from the events in the same car. John worked endlessly to continue his drifting career, and eventually went professional for a period of time. Now you can catch him running the drift events at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania.

    This deep passion for drifting and nearly thirty years of skating subsequently sparked thoughts of motorcycles again. After buying a few different bikes, John developed an itch for choppers and decided to build his own. “I bought a 1988 Harley Sportster that was in perfect condition off of some older biker. The guy stressed how he took great care of it, but was bummed to hear that I was going to immediately tear the bike apart in less than twelve hours,” John said, explaining that he really only cared about the motor and rear wheel. “I had it in my head what I wanted it to look like and just slowly began to piece it together. I started with a Paughco frame and a four-over front end. Justin at High Noon Classic built the custom seat. Everything seemed to go smoothly besides the handlebars. I probably bought six different sets before Migbaron Kustoms expertly whipped up the perfect bars.”
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    The fabrication and paint was done by Jimmie Caldwell at I-concepts, who took John’s visions and made them a reality.

    Zack Williams from Bridge City Chop Shop and Roll-On Cycle was also a big contributor to the build. When the chopper was almost finished, Zack fixed some technical issues and ultimately got it running.

    The one thing that John wanted to avoid throughout the build was settling on something that didn’t quite look or fit right. While that mindset leads to a garage full of useless parts and pieces, it often pays off in the end.

    It’s no secret that choppers aren’t the most practical or comfortable motorcycle to build. Regardless, this Harley not only became John Wagner’s favorite bike to ride but also an appropriate representation of how each of our passions motivates the next. In this case, sometimes it all comes full circle.
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh John Wagner Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper
  • 1988 HARLEY-DAVIDSON XL1200 SPORTSTER CHOPPER
  • Built by JOHN WAGNER
  • Oakdale, PA
  • instagram.com/jwagz412
  • Originally published by PITTSBURGH MOTO
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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