For Harley-Davidson’s 2018 Battle of the Kings, the rules changed.
No longer a mandated competition, the fifteen entrants had a wider choice of donor bikes ranging from the Street and Street Rod, through the Iron, Forty-Eight and Roadster Sportsters up to the Street Bob and Fat Bob from the new Softail range. This opened up new possibilities and fresh challenges, reigned in only by a requirement to do the work for £5,500 (€6,000) and that the result be road-legal.
12,000 on-line public votes whittled the fifteen down to five, which went to the London Motorcycle Show at ExCeL, where a panel of judges comprising senior editorial of MCN, Built, Bike Social and American-V, and Harley-Davidson enthusiast and racer, Shakey Byrne, had the arduous task of picking a winner.
Having been one of those five, with the benefit of seeing them very close-up, I can tell you that it was an arduous task and was glad that the judging was broken down into three categories: concept, originality and execution. For my part, that means I’ve got absolutely no idea who I scored highest overall, because I judged each on its merits.
I don’t think that necessarily did the Shaw’s and Guildford bikes any favours in the originality department as despite many significant differences, some startling similarities made them look like variations on a single theme.
It is perhaps ironic that the only Sportster to make the top five – Sycamore Harley-Davidson’s ‘Alley Rat’ – was the ultimate winner, its distressed finish and use of AMF-era graphics being right on the money at the moment … and just days before the launch of the new XL1200 Iron!
Second place fell to the Street Bob with the most one-off fabrication – Maidstone Harley-Davidson’s ‘Ottoway’, which doffed its cap to Harley’s earliest machinery and in a shade of grey that will always be associated with silence.
A very different grey that paid tribute to the US Navy adorned West Coast Harley-Davidson’s ‘Enlisted’: the most subtle of the five, which owed its style to the classic Hydra Glide, and won’t be the first FX – another Street Bob – to make the transition to an FL, but it’s not a well-trodden path.
Alley Rat will now go head-to-head against other national finalists in a European-wide 2018 Grand Finale.
|Dealer||Base model||Bike’s name||Custom King|
|Guildford H-D||Softail Street Bob||The Petrali Racer||Michael Noble|
|Maidstone H-D||Softail Street Bob||Ottaway||Group Collective|
|Shaw H-D||Softail Street Bob||The Edge||Neil Sefton|
|Sycamore H-D||Sportster Forty-Eight||Alley Rat||Todd Meynell|
|West Coast H-D||Softail Street Bob||Enlisted||Fraser Hine|