#72 October/ November 2007

Rob’s Big Red Slab Side

Words and pics by Gennaro

Rob Hirsh astride this sweet slab-side Shovel is one of those guys that seem to make every scene in Chicago. It seems that he pops up almost everywhere along with his Pan riding brother Dave. From bars, to shows, to barbecues, he seems to be omnipresent around our fair city and he’s been doing it since before most guys around here even had a Big Wheel plastic trike.

He’d grown up with his father’s HDs being littered about the back yard, garage and even living room. Even more fortunately for him, his father bought every single issue of Roth’s Choppers rag and a young Rob masticated and grooved on every picture and word in it. He took mental notes of every bike and had just about every appendage on this bike planned out in his head by the time he was 14.

Rob worked a bunch of odd jobs as a teen and picked up this ‘67 as a stocker from some black hipster guy up in Evanston. After bringing his father to check it out a deal was struck and $1,100 later he had his first HD. It was 1971 and a young Rob was loving life on his first BT.

After cruising it in its OE format (even venturing out to California on it in ’74) and going through it a few times, he decided to break it down and build his dream bike in ’78. He started hitting all the swaps in search of an OEM Pan frame and came across an unmolested beauty with all its tabs in place for the princely sum of $90. When the seller told him that he’d be sorry for shaving it down, Rob scoffed at him and to this day doesn’t regret a single thing that he’s ground off.

He picked up a couple of extended springers at the same swap… a 12 over and the 6 to 8-ish unit that graces it now. He originally pinned the 12 over to the frame, but it was crazy scary what with it flip flopping back and through every turn. The one that’s on there now tracks decently enough through town and gives him plenty of curb clearance. It also necessitates the longest kickstand that I’ve ever seen in my life.

Rob called up Jammer and ordered the dual 7” disc Hallcraft wheel and added some Hurst binders. He used Jammer as a one stop source, also picking up the upswept fishtails, rear fender, and sissy bar at the same time.

His old roommate had moved out of their 3rd floor apartment to get married, so Rob decided to use his old room as the workshop. He did all the molding and painting in that room, turning it into a red lacquered mess before Dave laid out the flames on the Mustang tank. He still marvels at the fact that he was never sued by the landlord for the indiscretion.

The motor’s been completely rebuilt several times over the years to stock specs. When everyone started doing crazy strokers, Rob insisted on keeping it as OE as possible right down to the Bendix carb-opting for reliability rather than speed. The fact that this bike gets ridden every day and there’s nary a speck of oil on its white heads is a clear testament that he’s chosen the right path.

He kept the mousetrap as well because just because he likes the mechanical-ness of it. The rear rim is a really neat 15” hoop laced up with 80 spokes to a custom star hub. He bought it from some Scandinavian source back in the early ‘80s and it’s been shod with car tires on the back ever since. There’s a matching front 21” set up as well, but he never got around to throwing it on.

It’s really neat to see such a fine survivor being ridden regularly around town. It’s a time capsule into the way it was done, the parts that were used and the kind of men that actually did things instead of whipping out their credit card and having someone else do the dirty work for them. All things that were once common place, but are now a rarity in this day and age.

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