You’d better look out, because here comes the Judge. The American IronHorse Judge that is. Choppers like this ’07 model have been the bread-and-butter for the Texas-based company for the longest time, but it is AIH’s Slammer that has been turning heads and winning awards recently.
Even though they say that ‘Everything’s bigger in Texas,’ this adage doesn’t apply to a streamlined American IronHorse 2008 lineup. The Fort Worth, Texas-based company has trimmed down this year’s stable to an even handful of motorcycles, three classic chops and two pro-street models. Downsizing and restructuring are side effects of the custom boom’s spiral that have been felt industry-wide, and even proven players are feeling the pinch. Gone are yesteryear’s models the Outlaw, Legend, the LSC and the Tejas, slipping over the horizon like tumbleweeds in a dust storm. They’ve been replaced by an updated bevy of two-wheeled ruff riders, headed by American IronHorse’s award-winning Slammer, with the Bandera, Classic Chop, the Judge and the Texas Chopper the other members of the riding posse.
American IronHorse is one of the select custom-styled production bike manufacturers that have the luxury of doing almost everything in-house. Of course, when your house is a 224,000 sq. ft. facility in Fort Worth, then it’s easy to see how you can have engineering, manufacturing, paint, polishing and administrative teams all under one roof. And while they can pride themselves with being self-reliant for the most part, AIH does source from S&S for its engines, just like about all of its competitors. While the mills come from Milwaukee, they are ordered to American Ironhorse’s specs and assembled in the Texas plant.
The fact that AIH owner’s can choose from a variety of horsepowers and displacements is a strong selling point. The 2008 Slammer and Texas Chopper roll out with a polished 111 cubic inch S&S Sidewinder Plus engine with a claimed 115 ft-lb of torque and 110 hp. The other three 2008s come equipped with a black powder coated 100 cubic inch S&S Sidewinder Plus engine. For rider’s who prescribe to the ‘bigger is better’ notion, American IronHorse also offers up a 117 cubic inch version, (1918cc at a claimed 120 ft-lb of torque and 115 hp) or the Lone Star-sized 124 cubic inch powerplant (2032cc with claimed 128 ft-lb of torque and116 hp). Be aware, though, that as the power levels go up, the amount of warranty time comes down. The standard 111 cubic inch, 1819cc mill comes with a two-year factory warranty and unlimited miles. The 117 cubic inch engine gets one-year of warranty time also with unlimited miles, and the whopping 124 gets a paltry six months on the warranty clock with unlimited miles on the guarantee. Big pistons pounding on long stroke arcs make high demands on powertrain durability, so there’s no surprise American IronHorse has based its warranties accordingly.
In order to get custom buyers chompin’ at the bit, let’s take a quick look at this year’s round up of American IronHorse choppers and cruisers.
The 2008 American IronHorse Texas Chopper features a stretched-out frame with a 42-degree rake angle up front and a 300mm rear teamed to a Progressive air ride suspension system.
The Texas Chopper is characterized by classic chopper traits – a long wheelbase on a stretched frame with an extreme rake angle and raised bars. Though exact 2008 measurements weren’t available, it’s a safe bet that dimensions remain in the same range as last year which ran the tape to 110.5-inches in length with an 84-inch wheelbase. The dimensions are attained through a LW2 soft-style frame with a 4-inch top tube stretch and an 8-inch stretch on the down tube. The Texas Chopper gets its lofty 42-degree rake angle courtesy of 38 degrees in the frame and 4 degrees from the crested triple tree. A twin-sided LW1 Stealth swingarm with a 2-inch stretch further complements the chassis dimensions and houses a plump 300mm rear tire. Turbulent road surfaces are smoothed out by a Progressive air ride suspension system even though the rear fender sits close to the rear tire and gives it a rigid look.
Riders will snug up to a sharply-styled, angular SS-2 Chopper tank on a black leather Phantom solo seat. Chromed custom V-handlebars look to place arms about shoulder high and the custom-polished billet foot controls are placed forward. The fuel tank, fenders and oil tank are all color-matched. Eighteen base color options and multiple graphic schemes ensure that no two bikes need look alike. The carb-fed chop has a six-speed close-ratio right side transmission (common to all AIH 2008 models) and a 2-into-1 dyno-tuned exhaust system with integral heat shields. The Texas Chopper has enough juxtaposition between the bling of the chrome, including the engine, pipes, rims, fork and Enigma belt guard with the clean, cool custom paint and graphics to please the most discriminating chopper fiends.
At a glance, the Judge looks strikingly similar to the Texas Chopper. Look closer though, and you’ll realize it has a different engine, an A-frame swingarm, a smaller rear tire, chrome drag bars and different wheels.
While the Judge shares many of the same styling cues as its sibling the Texas Chopper, (same frame, rake angle, exhaust and tranny) it still has enough variation in its components to give it its own identity. Its chassis utilizes an A-frame swingarm, so get ready for a more rigid ride on a smaller 240mm low-profile rear tire rolling on an18-inch polished wheel. Instead of the polished 111 cubic inch S&S mill, the Judge has the black powder-coated 100 cubic inch S&S Sidewinder Plus. The chrome drag bars have a hydraulic ‘Easy Pull’ clutch and a low-profile digital speedo and information center. The front end’s chop is achieved by 12-inch over fork tubes with smooth polished lower fork legs and a 90mm front tire with 21-inch polished wheels. A single disc with polished 4-piston calipers puts the clamps on the forward action.
Close inspection of the Judge brought out more of the nuances that distinguish it from the Texas Chopper. The Judge’s rear fender is a little longer and the rear doesn’t feature the large, chrome Enigma chain guard of the Texas Chop. The bars are shorter and straighter and should place the rider leaning farther forward in the saddle. The chrome headlight is more bullet-shaped than the Texas Chopper’s Illuminati headlight and both roll on different wheels, with the Judge sporting AIH’s Bandits while the TC has a set of AIH Fuel rims. American IronHorse bikes have two other wheel options as well, a sick-looking pair of chrome flame jobbies appropriately called the Burner and another spiked-out pair called the Streetfighters.
The 2008 American IronHorse Classic Chop looks like a ’70s throwback with its stretched chopper tank riding high on the backbone and a front tire sitting way out front thanks to 42 degrees of rake. The chopper also sports a much slimmer profile than the Texas Chopper or Judge.
And while the Texas Chopper and the Judge share a mix of modern and retro chopper cues, the Classic Chop lives up to its name. It has definitely got a throwback, ’70s chopper vibe to it. Though the soft-style frame has the same 4-inch backbone and 8-inch downtube stretch as the other two, the patented, super-stretched chopper tank of the Classic Chop appears to ride a lot higher on the backbone. There’s also more openness between the frame and engine. The compact chrome drag bars team with the skinny tank to give the bike a narrower look than the other two chops when checking it out back to front. It has the Judge’s A-frame swingarm but runs on the smallest tire of the chopper trio with a 180mm low-profile rear. The Classic Chop keeps it old-school with a carb feeding its black powder coated 100 cubic inch S&S Sidewinder Plus engine. With ample power on top and the smaller tires, the Classic Chop should have a slight handling advantage over the other two chopper models. Until we get an opportunity to mount up, though, we have to leave this to conjecture more than fact.
It only takes one look to realize why this bike was the hot ticket at the 2007 Cincinnati V-Twin Expo. Its appeal starts with wicked-looking Venomous split tanks, dual cells that are mounted on each side of the backbone, flush to the top bar and bisected by the LW1 soft-style frame. A 4-inch top tube stretch helped accomplish this feat and is enhanced by the single arched downtube. The bike’s design is tight and compact, despite a crazy 45 degree rake angle on the front end, achieved by setting the geometry at 38 degrees on the frame rake with 7 more degrees coming from the Accu-track crested triple tree. The meaty .50 cal sleeved front end and a big 21-inch chrome Streetfighter wheel also contribute to making the rake angle not seem 45-degree extreme. An adjustable Progressive air-ride suspension helps the Slammer live up to its ground-skirting name while a fat 300mm low-profile rear tire also helps keep the action on the asphalt.
The AIH Slammer won the title of ‘Bike of the Year’ at the Cincy V-Twin Expo in 2007 and its sharp Venomous split tanks and muscular, ground-pounding design should make it a contender again in 2008.
The Slammer is powered by the polished chrome 111 cubic inch S&S Sidewinder Plus engine that sits snugly in the soft-style frame. The engine connects to a standard six-speed polished right side drive tranny but the motorcycle receives its fuel courtesy of a SMART EFI system. The Slammer was the first AIH steed to get the electronic treatment last year for fuel delivery and continues to run it in ’08. Brakes on the pro-street cruiser also get a boost from Revolver 6-piston dual-disc front brakes.
Other distinguishing AIH feature on the Slammer is its side mounted AnkleSaver foldable license plate frame, leaving the rear fender and giant tire exposed for cagers sitting behind the bike at a stop light to ooh and ah over. American IronHorse also integrated a bare-bones speedo into the V of the chrome custom V-handlebars to go along with the futuristic-looking Illuminati headlight. Overall, the package is well-conceived. The tank gives the Slammer a custom show bike appeal while the big tires and brawny fork conjure American muscle car appeal reminiscent of a GTO or a Roadrunner.
Bandera – Pro Street bike
While the Slammer attempts to rewrite the book on pro-street cruisers, the Bandera is what you’d expect in a traditional pro-street package. The rounded one piece tear-drop style tank sits atop the 2-inch stretched backbone instead of wrapping around it like the Slammers. The rake has been brought in to a more modest 38 degrees, 34 from the frame rake and 4 degrees from the crested triple tree. On the front end, the Bandera has an inverted fork and the aggressive 21-inch Streetfighter rim that comes standard on the Slammer has been swapped out for a more modestly-styled Fuel wheel. The Bandera does utilize the same Stealth swingarm but trims the tire down to 240mm dimensions. The Slammer’s V-handlebars have been switched for straighter chrome drag bars on the Bandera which will also shift the riding ergos slightly forward.
American IronHorse’s other pro-street model for 2008 is the more traditionally-styled Bandera that has a rounded one piece tank mounted on the backbone instead of built around it like AIH did with the Slammer.
As for the powertrain, the air-cooled V-Twin gives up a few horsepower to its pro-street brother. AIH opted for the black powder coated 100 cubic inch Sidewinder Plus on the Bandera. More power is always an option, up to 2032cc if that’s what you need to fulfill your need for speed, but fresh off the line the Bandera rolls out with a lower displacement lump. The Sidewinder Plus still has plenty of oomph to get the show rolling. And once you’re cruising along, the Bandera should enjoy crisper handling thanks to a smaller rear tire and a tighter rake.
Bikers itching to hitch a ride on one of American Ironhorse’s stallions need to get it in gear and get over to the Lone Star Rally going on this weekend, Nov. 1-4, in Galveston, Texas. For those of us who have jobs and families and can’t throw caution to the wind and take off on a moment’s notice for Texas’ Gulf Coast, fear not. American IronHorse has more than 100 authorized dealers nationwide. Though the chopper craze may be in decline, AIH has shown the flexibility and perseverance to stay competitive since 1995. And as long as there are late night reruns of ‘Easy Rider’ on TV, there will always be a market for the unmistakable lines of a well-built chopper.
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