Saturday, September 23, 2023 ✦ Noon to 7pm

Milwaukee Vibrator

Words: Kurt Diserio - Photos: Alexa Diserio
  • Built by Nick Miller
  • Shown at Glory Daze 2019
  • Published in Pittsburgh Moto - Issue No. 009
  • There’s something about steampunk design that seems to fit well with Pittsburgh’s history. The retro-futuristic industrial style was glorified during the twentieth century through science fiction and fantasy and often represented with the likes of gears, brass, and Victorian-era influences. Although the stories were typically set in the wild west, the gritty mechanical theme just feels like a possible parallel universe of the Steel City.

    While it’s not powered by steam, the ironhead chopper from tattoo artist, Ray Morrow, was originally born from an idea for the ignition but snowballed out of control into what you see now. Morrow explained, “I had the thought of doing a skeleton key ignition motorcycle but became obsessed with it. After building the mechanism, I started acquiring stuff from there, and the steampunk theme just sort of happened. I saw the hand-built bikes from guys like Indian Larry or Billy Lane and wanted to take that route with something between the old digger look and a chopper. It had to be stretched and low, so I modified the frame to get that long look.”
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    The frame was actually hardtailed twice because he wasn’t satisfied with how it looked the first time. “The axle plates were too plain,” he explained. “When some buddies and I hardtailed it the second time, we used Harley-Davidson style cast axle plates to look more proper.”

    As far as parts and pieces, Miller mentioned that the most intricate part of the shovelhead is the modification to the gas tank. “A lot of those types of gas tanks have both a gas cap and a dummy gas cap. I had the idea to take the dummy cap out and mount the ignition switch in its place like a Harley Hummer tank. My buddy Flop, of Flop Customs hot rod shop here in Pittsburgh, modified the tank for the ignition switch, and we used a factory Hummer ignition bezel that I later chromed. It’s always cool for me to watch people’s reactions when they’re looking over the bike and finally notice that. It usually takes a few minutes for them to realize it’s not a gas cap.” He continued, “Another cool part that sticks out is the sissy bar. It has a removable bayonet that I’m told is Russian from World War II.”
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    The 1961-62 panhead fuel tank badges are one of Miller’s favorite Harley emblem designs. He explained, “I really wanted to use them on this bike because they matched the contour of the tank pretty well. The scallop painted stripe on the tank is a slight wink to a 1961-62 Duo-Glide paint job.”

    When it came to the paint, he had originally picked out a deep blood red with black scallop theme. Then about a week before it went out for paint, he was walking his Great Dane, Nigel, through Bloomfield where he lived at the time and parked outside of Sonny’s Tavern was a brown Kia Soul that he thought was a really neat color. “It doesn’t look metallic until you look closely at it. It was a really unique color, and as soon as I saw it I changed my mind.”

    For Nick Miller, his most fond memories are from building the chopper and having a lot of different friends help out with the many aspects of the build. To him, that’s the best part. “Motorcycles are about community. For me, at least, the friendships and connections you make are vastly more valuable than the actual motorcycle.” We couldn’t agree more.
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
    Glory Daze Motorcycle Show Pittsburgh Nick Miller Harley-Davidson FXE Shovelhead Chopper
  • 1979 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXE
  • Built by NICK MILLER
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • instagram.com/nickmiller_of_pgh
  • Originally published by PITTSBURGH MOTO
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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