In 2004, legendary custom motorcycle builder Indian Larry passed away after sustaining head injuries during a motorcycle stunt. The untimely death shook up the custom chopper world, especially Indian Larry’s two partners, Paul Cox and Keino Sasaki. After collaborating on an Indian Larry tribute bike, the two craftsmen went their separate ways. However, after nearly 15 years apart, Indian Motorcycle reunited the two builders for the 2022 Chief Custom Build-Off campaign.
Starting with an all-new Indian Chief Dark Horse, Cox and Sasaki knew the stripped-down platform suited their style and strengths.
“The Chief was already a little bit retro, but with modern touches that would make a cool version of an early chopper,” noted Cox. “From that point, we chose specific tasks to take on and got to work. Keino wanted to handle the gas tank fabrication and exhaust, and I chose to build a custom front end.”
Similar to Indian Larry’s iconic chopper style, the team of master builders deleted the front braking system, ditched the hand levers, and adopted a suicide clutch. The pair also mounted the rear fender directly to the swingarm. While the creative decision effectively eliminates passenger accommodations, it also achieves the tire-hugging chopper look without sacrificing rear suspension. Cox and Sasaki also repurpose the headdress front fender ornament as a mudguard-mounted brake light.
Gallery: Cox-Keino Indian Chief: 2022 Indian Chief Dark Horse
Of course, the team couldn’t replicate Indian Larry’s signature twisted downtube on the 2022 Chief’s cradle frame, but Cox’s Girdraulic front end and steering damper setup draw much inspiration from his predecessor. Unlike most chopper builds, the duo also had to accommodate the Chief’s newfangled electronics and Ride Command TFT display. Sasaki’s hand-shaped gas tank seamlessly integrated the four-inch round touchscreen into the design while the pair tucked much of the electronic components under the seat.
“I painted the bike, including Keino’s handmade gas tank, in my custom Soylent Green metal flake,” added Cox, “and hand-tooled a leather saddle for the bike, complementing the paint with the black-rimmed wheels.”
The old-school look that Cox and Sasaki achieve with the 2022 Indian Chief would certainly make Indian Larry proud. The Cox-Keino Indian Chief will debut at Michael Lichter’s custom motorcycle gallery during the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally before going home to Nikko Hurtado's Black Anchor Tattoo parlors in Hollywood and Hesperia, California.
Fortunately, Cox-Keino Chief is only the first custom in the three-part series. Later this year, Indian will also unveil Carey Hart and Go Takamine’s “Bratstyle” take on the platform.