Guilty Custom’s Lucille epitomizes Guilty’s design philosophies – engineering simplicity teamed with retro-styling in a bike that’s reliable and ready to ride.
Corporate success guarantees nothing in the cutthroat world of custom bikes. After tasting big-league success with Bank of America and Compass Technologies, CJ Hanlon seeks to savor the lingering sweetness of success in his newest enterprise, Guilty Customs, and has been busy assembling the cogs for his latest business machine.
It starts with a businessman who has the know-how of the Fortune 500 corporate world but who also has been breaking bikes down and building them back up as long as he can remember. Throw in a self-motivator who grew up in the Bondo dust of a body shop where he honed his talent doing custom paint jobs and breathing life into vintage vehicles. Stir in the all-around talent of an MMI-trained shop foreman with fabrication and body-work skills and you have the foundation for Guilty Customs.
In May of 2006, shop owner Hanlon utilized his business savvy when he merged two respected local shops from the Apopka, Florida, area: Jason Gray Customs and Orgazmic Choppers into Guilty Customs. Since the merge, Guilty Customs has used venues like Sturgis and Biketoberfest to put its foot in the door of the custom bike building industry.
When asked about how Guilty would survive in the ultra-competitive, overcrowded custom chopper market that’s ready to chew up and spit out any pretenders, Hanlon coolly responded.
“At Guilty Customs, we will stay competitive by staying true to our design philosophies. We will not build according to trends, but will stay true to what we believe in.”
Guilty Customs plans on carving out its niche by combining modern, high-performance components on classically-styled bikes. Hanlon is a fan of the resto-mods, old cars that have been restored in a way that stays true to the period-correct shape but utilizes modern technology under the hood or to improve styling cues. Guilty aims to make streamlined, retro-styled motorcycles with simple lines that avoid the excessive ornamentation and fluff.
“With all the overdone, complicated choppers out there, it almost feels like a fresh idea to strip a bike down and keep it real,” Hanlon said.
Guilty’s feature attraction, Lucille from its Starlett line, is a prime example, combining a springer front end and a ’39 Ford taillight with a 260mm rear tire and modern drive-train.
La Primera, the name of Guilty’s first Indian bobber, uses an 84-cubic-inch, 42-degree V-Twin, a proprietary motor from the Kiwi Motorcycle Company.
Guilty’s “Indian” model line is another example. Not only Indian-themed, this bobber uses an upgraded 1950s-era flat-head Indian V-Twin. The 84-cubic-inch, 42-degree V-Twin is a proprietary motor from the Kiwi Motorcycle Company, a California-based business that manufactures vintage-design motorcycle parts, including the classically-styled Kiwi leaf-spring fork fitted to Guilty’s Indian bikes.
Kiwi MC is a leader in the design and manufacturing of Indian brand motorcycle parts, and it supplied its Flathead 42-degree V-Twin engine. Hanlon claims it is the industry’s first manufactured custom Indian bobber.
“With the bobber’s unique styling, low center of gravity, simple lines, superior handling characteristics and rider comfort, this bike will not only interest the Indian fan but will be uniquely positioned to satisfy female riders,” Hanlon stated.
Hanlon expressed concern that custom bike builders had not really been listening to rider’s needs or wants. Guilty Customs seeks to bridge the void between consumer and manufacturer.
One of his first strategies is to create bikes that are affordable, reliable and comfortable. A common problem with custom choppers is the custom price. You see those sporty bikes in magazines and see celebrities riding them on TV. You’d sacrifice a finger to own one, but you’re a hard-working stiff that can’t forfeit a year’s wages solely to sate your ego. One of Guilty’s first marketing strategies is to offer a cool custom ride that the average person can afford. Guilty keeps the sticker price down by claiming that it does not mark up parts. The price of its customs, starting in the mid $20’s, lends validation to Guilty’s claim.
Reliability of its customs is a source of company pride. Guilty aims to offer a bike that can be ridden daily, a bike that is going to get you to your destination without breaking down in a Podunk town on road trips where there’s not any parts available and Jim Bob, the only mechanic around, stands at the ready with his greasy wrench and dollar signs in his eyes when his brother comes towing your bike in. Guilty puts its handcrafted creations through a thorough shakedown before they leave the shop, testing the craftsmanship of its certified master mechanics.
Guilty supports the confidence it has in its workmanship with the guarantee that if one of its bikes experiences any type of complication in the first 60 days, Guilty Customs will fix it or take the bike back, no questions asked. The company also backs its work with a two-year warranty. Owners who live in the central Florida area can further take advantage of Guilty’s guarantee of quality service by having their bikes tuned in-shop by Hanlon’s crew.
Lucille’s giddyup is supplied by its 92-inch S&S Round engine that feeds its Prowler six-speed transmission.
Another arena where Guilty’s marketing strategies can carve out a niche is through its Women’s Line of bikes. Clothes aren’t one size-fits-all. Neither are motorcycles. Hanlon, a resident of Florida, recognized the increasing number of women bikers on the roads. He asked several female friends who ride what they would like to see in a bike. A motorcycle with a narrower frame and seating was high on their request list.
“We don’t want to feel like we’re riding a 50-gallon drum,” Hanlon quoted them.
With this in mind, Guilty worked to customize its women’s line with special narrower seat pans and narrower engines. It brought the handlebars closer to the rider that made the controls within easier reach, and Guilty used hydraulics instead of cables so the lever action isn’t as heavy. The seating geometry takes into consideration a woman’s height and seating preferences, and in some cases scooped out the backbone to lower the seat height. Many of Hanlon’s friends suggested using floorboards, so his crew installed them instead of footpegs without sacrificing much in cornering clearance. The decision by Guilty Customs to acknowledge the needs of women riders is evidence that it is paying attention to the evolving demographics of motorcyclists and is adjusting its marketing schemes to meet those demands.
Guilty’s building philosophies of incorporating engineering simplicity in a bike made to be ridden and reliable while featuring retro-styling are embodied in the bike named Lucille. Weeks before the blowout in Sturgis, Lucille was only a frame still hanging on the lift in its infant stage, a mock-up from the mind of Guilty’s paint guru Jason Gray. Hanlon vacillated on whether even to attend the event. The project then became a passion. Like a good book you can’t put down, bringing Lucille to life consumed the Guilty crew. Fifteen days later, her 92-inch Round powerplant from S&S’s Indian line fired to life, with little time to spare in order for her to debut at Sturgis in 2006 at the 3rd Annual AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building.
“You don’t see a lot of lines or cables or things that you don’t need,” said Hanlon about Lucille, the celebrity of Guilty’s “Starlett” Line.
Its classic profile is a throwback to the bikes of the ’50s and ’60s, a no-frills example where less is more. The bike is built on a Santee Gooseneck frame. A 92-inch S&S Round lump feeds the Prowler six-speed transmission. The front suspension is a Redneck Engineering Springer fork that adds to the retro look of the bike. Guilty elected to use a Moon Eyes oil bag that master mechanic Mike Drum integrated into the flow of the frame. Drum welded the oil bag onto the downtubes that allows it to be easily removed for servicing. Guilty streamlined the bike’s wiring by fobbing up an electrical box under the tranny to hold circuit breakers and relays and customized the coil and regulator mounts into the crannies of the drivetrain. The integration of the wiring within the frame opened up the space beneath the seat so Lucille’s V-Twin becomes a focal point. The Sportster tank mounted high on the backbone also accentuates the throwback styling.
When asked to describe the bike’s ride, Hanlon said “Lucille is the smoothest rigid I’ve ever had. It is one of the most agile-handling rigids I’ve ever ridden, and I’m not saying that as a hard sell on the bike.”
He gives much of the credit to Redneck Engineering’s Springer fork. Hanlon added that the seating geometry and footpeg placement also come into play. Riders have to lean forward to ride the bike, removing some of the stress on the lower back from riding perpendicular in the seat. More of the bounce of riding is absorbed by the large muscles of the glutes and thighs.
Guilty’s production extends beyond the Starlett, Guilty Indian, and Women’s Line. The Platform Line features a street chopper called Dais’d. Hanlon has joined forces with US Choppers’ owner and friend Rick Krost on the bikes concept and design. Dais’d is built on a US Choppers rolling chassis. At its core sits a 92-inch S&S Round Indian engine and a six-speed Midwest transmission. A US Choppers hand-wheeled gas tank is tucked beneath the arched backbone and has a look from bikes of yore. The cylindrical custom oil bag sits neatly beneath the seat/shock unit in the dual cradle frame. The finishing touches on Dais’d have been done in-house, including the electrical work and molding. The bike’s simple lines are complemented by painter Jason Gray’s use of a clear coat over raw metal, and a ’39 Ford taillight gives it a touch of Guilty retro-styling. With its long wheelbase and low seat height, the street platform chopper has steering and seating dynamics Hanlon says has been attracting the attention of female riders.
The Redneck Engineering Springer fork anchors the front suspension and adds to Lucille’s retro-styling.
At the heart of Guilty’s Last Chance Line is Errant, a low-slung classic chopper. Built on a Santee frame, it also receives its juice from a 92-inch S&S Round Indian powerplant and a six-speed Midwest transmission. Errant’s front suspension features a Durfee Girder fork. Hanlon chose Durfee Girders for many reasons: its unique styling, its history in the industry, the girder’s handling characteristics and its high-quality grade of materials. Durfee’s fork gives Errant’s front end the nostalgic look that Guilty strives to maintain. The rigid’s backside is anchored by Guilty’s custom-built rear fender and an 18-inch 200mm Metzler. The steep angle of the downtubes opens up so Errant’s engine is prominently featured. By mounting the KustomChrome Sportster tank high on the backbone similar to the way Lucille’s is placed also gives the engine space to be noticed. Hanlon claims the combination of performance suspension and the bike’s balance “make Errant’s ride unforgettable.”
When asked about future production lines, Hanlon mentioned a new line is tentatively scheduled to roll out in the middle of next year. Details remain at the conceptualization level, but he hinted that it’s got three wheels and a long fork.
Through Hanlon’s corporate experience, he knows the importance of taking advantage of opportunities to get a company’s name in the mainstream. One of the strengths of Guilty Customs has been in its ability to forge solid relationships with leaders in the industry. He has teamed up with Mike Tomas of Kiwi Motors in the resurrection of the Kiwi Indian bobber. He has befriended Rick Krost of US Choppers and uses his company’s frames for the Guilty Platform Line. He has collaborated with Paul Durfee and uses his girders in the Last Chance Line.
Though he draws upon other’s expertise, Hanlon integrates what he gleans from them into what results in a motorcycle that is undeniably Guilty.