Arlen Ness. Dave Perewitz. Rick Fairless. Three names indelibly engrained in the lore of custom motorcycle culture, master builders whose works have graced the covers of countless magazines. These guys didn’t read the book. They wrote it.
And though the three have shared in friendship and mutual admiration over the years, the trinity of custom of bike builders had never worked on a project together. Allstate Insurance changed all that when they asked the trio to each build a promotional motorcycle to be displayed at the Allstate Rider Protection Zone booth as the insurance provider makes its annual tour of the major motorcycle rallies. Allstate has a reputation for being an active proponent for safe motorcycling through its marketing campaigns and motorcycle awareness programs. These custom motorcycles will serve as another tool to help Allstate spread that awareness.
The idea to use custom bike builders as vessels of promotion began a little over three years ago when Perewitz got a phone call one day from an attorney representing Allstate.
“He asked me if I’d be interested in being the spokesperson for Allstate. It was as simple as that. I said ‘Sounds good to me and the rest is history.’ I’ve been with
Dave Perewitz has served as an Allstate spokesperson for the last three years. For 2012, Perewitz made a raked and stretched high tech Road Glide bagger with a boomin’ Kicker stereo and a built-in iPad complete with Allstate’s GoodRide app.
them for three years now and it’s been a great run,” Perewitz said.
This year, Allstate upped the ante, enlisting the services of The King of Choppers and the colorful creator of Strokers Dallas as well.
“Dave must have recommended us. Dave called first to see if we had any interest and then they called from Allstate. It sounded really good. It’s great PR for us and them and it’s just a nice deal. The bikes are three completely different styles so there will be something there for everybody. People are bound to like one of them, whether it’s a bagger or a hot rod or a full custom,” Ness said.
Each bike conveys Allstate’s awareness campaign in one form or another. Fairless built his custom to promote Allstate’s “Once is Never Enough (ONE)” program which encourages people to look twice for motorcycles at intersections. The psychedelic custom will be auctioned off on an episode of Discovery Channel’s hit show, Auction Kings, which airs May 23rd. Proceeds from the bike’s sale will go toward the installation of “Watch for Motorcycles” warning signs at dangerous intersections across the country. The theme has been incorporated into the bike’s design.
Ness and Perewitz’ custom motorcycles also reflect Allstate’s “dedication to protection.” Perewitz built a slammed, stretched and raked Road Glide bagger which comes with an iPad that has Allstate’s GoodRide app already downloaded and ready for riders to use. Ness deliberately went with extra long fenders on the “Digger” motorcycle he built so he could paint images and messages related to Allstate’s protection theme on them.
In addition to the “Digger,” Ness also decked out a 2012 Victory Cross Country with Ness billet wheels, “Fusion” grips and pegs, and a host of other custom accessories. One lucky person will call this bike their own as it’s going to be given away after it’s all said and done. The custom Cross Country is Allstate’s 2012 sweepstakes bike and if you’d like to enter to win, simply go to Allstate.com/MotoSweepstakes, sign up at Facebook.com/AllstateMotorcycle or visit the Allstate Rider Protection booth at any of the major rallies.
The four custom motorcycles made their public debut recently during Bike Week 2012 at Allstate’s booth at the Speedway. Fairless, Ness and Perewitz got together for a
Rick Fairless’ ‘Wilma’ has a frame constructed from two 4-inch tubes which serve as fuel reservoirs, an S&S 124 cubic-inch engine, a five-speed JIMS tranny and 120 radial-laced spoke wheels.
Rick Fairless rides ‘Pam’ around Sturgis. The double tubed frame of ‘Pam’ served as the model for Fairless’ Allstate bike.
photo shoot with famed photographer Michael Lichter, after which we were able to talk to all three about the bikes they built and about their careers.
Fairless – “I’m glad to be a part of the Allstate thing, it’s very cool, and that’s why I’m here (in Daytona Beach). The Allstate project, the part that I’m on, is called ONE, which is “Once is Never Enough.” In other words, “Look Twice” is their initiative to bring awareness to intersections for people to look out for motorcycles. Basically, most motorcycle accidents happen at intersections and they’re trying to bring awareness and to get people to watch out for motorcyclists. It’s a great thing that they’re doing. They brought Arlen, Dave and I together, we’ve been friends for years and years but it’s the first time the three of us have ever worked together. It’s a co-collaboration, and we all built three completely different motorcycles and it’s a cool deal.”
“The bike I built I call “Wilma” just because it’s a cool name and the bike looks to me like a “Wilma.” I built it off my “Pam” frame, the double tubed frame, so it’s two 4-inch tubes with the gas on the left and in the container below it while the oil is on the right. We used a 300 rear tire and I used 120 radial-laced spoke wheels, an S&S 124, and the headlight is off a ’38 Chevy. A JIMS transmission and it’s all pretty much custom fabricated stuff (A list that includes exhaust, hand and foot controls, pegs and grips, seat, handlebar, license plate frame and mount).”
“They pretty much let me do what I wanted to do. I had to respect the corporate logos and stuff and had to get stuff approved through them and it was a breeze. It was different than I’ve done before because everything had to go through the approval process but it was wonderful and everybody that I dealt with that works for Allstate was terrific.”
Perewitz – “Any bike that I ever build for a situation like this one with Allstate, there’s a lot of things to keep in mind. The most important thing is this bike isn’t going to be given away (like former customs Perewitz built for Allstate) so I don’t have to make it as ‘user-friendly.’ The more important thing is to make it eye-catching and make it look like something that will draw people into the booth. I pretty much knew what Arlen and Rick were going to build, so I wanted to build something totally different.”
“It just so happens right now the biggest craze is the baggers. We’re building more baggers than anything. The young guys are realizing that now they’re cool, they’re not the old man’s bike they used to be. They’re very practical and with all the modifications they do on them, they’re just another hot rod. So we built them a pretty radical long, stretched out bagger. It fits the bill perfectly. Allstate wanted a few things,
Arlen Ness built two bikes for the Allstate promotion, including this custom 2012 Victory Cross Country that will be given away as Allstate’s 2012 Sweepstakes motorcycle. For his other build, Arlen went old school, drawing inspiration from the ’70s and the ‘Digger’ motorcycles which were popular at the time.
they wanted to go with a high tech version so we built an inner fairing with an iPad and we put a crazy stereo system in it. It’s got three amps and six speakers and everything is run by the iPad (the iPad with Allstate’s GoodRide app pre-installed). It’s a pretty cool deal. (The Allstate bagger features a custom front fairing, 26-inch front wheel, a stretched tank on a raked and stretched frame, a Kicker sound system, Danny Gray seat and artwork by Keith Hanson).”
Arlen – “We built a little bike we call a ‘Digger’ from back in the ‘70s. We did a whole lot of these. We made the frame and all that stuff. Real small, 7/8’s style, real spindly looking little bike. More like a piece of art than a motorcycle. It’s got 26-inch wheels front and rear so they almost look like a bicycle with an engine in it. Nowadays a lot of them come with a great big tire in the back and a big long front end, big chubby frames, big gas tanks, so it’s completely opposite and that’s kind of refreshing.”
“Tank kind of reminds me of a Sportster tank, more of like a baby Harley Sportster tank. Bars are like real old flat track bars. And of course we went long with the fenders because we needed areas to paint because we hand painted all the stuff that they insure, from motor homes to snowmobiles. That’s all hand painted in the white panels so that’s good for branding (Other Arlen Ness’ “Digger” details include a 124 cubic-inch S&S engine, handmade tank and fenders, retro controls and a Le Pera seat).”
Asked if there was any friendly competition between the three, Fairless laughed and said, “How am I going to be in competition with two of the greatest minds in all the land? Bryan, you know better than that! No there’s no competition there. It’s three buddies, basically it’s two legends and one goofball from Texas trying to hang on.”
Seeing how all three have family members who have followed in their footsteps, we asked the guys about the family legacy –
Fairless – “Well, I think it’s kind of in the blood. My daughter sees how hard I work and how much I love it. We both have the same blood in our veins and she loves it, too. I mean, I’ve got five kids but this one, Lena, is just really the most like me. She enjoys doing this stuff and I tell her all the time I want her to be my Jody Perewitz and she’s my Jody Perewitz. She’s 25-years-old and she’s worked in parts and she’s worked in apparel and bike sales, so she can do pretty much anything. I’ve got her working in marketing PR for me now so she’s going to different rallies and doing different things like that so it’s a cool deal.”
“I was telling Arlen a few minutes ago, when I was in my 20s and 30s, when the Arlen Ness catalog came out, it was a huge deal. When I’d come home from work and my wife would say, “Hey honey, the Arlen Ness catalog is in,” and I’d get in my easy chair and my kids were little and I’d tell them, “Be quiet, let daddy read this magazine,” and I would study that stuff and I’d say “Why can’t we have a shop in Dallas where you could see this stuff?” You couldn’t see that stuff at the Harley shop. It was so cool to see that catalog and that’s kind of how I got started. I kept thinking about why somebody didn’t open up a custom shop in Dallas because I’d love to see Arlen Ness parts, Perewitz parts, and Donnie Smith parts and Greg Kennedy parts without having to go to Sturgis or New York or California. And I thought, “Why can’t that guy be me?”
Perewitz – “It’s a pretty proud thing, I’ll tell ya. Arlen and I have been friends for a long time and Arlen’s kids were just little when I used to go and visit him. I remember I used to sleep in Cory’s room and he’d be on the couch because he was about ten years old. Our families are pretty close. I kind of saw his family grow up and he saw mine. It’s a pretty neat deal and it’s neat to have Jody in the industry. And to have her do what she did at Bonneville and be the fastest
We met Dave a couple years back promoting Allstate at the Laughlin River Run. This year, Perewitz enlisted the services of a couple of friends to help out with the Allstate campaign and it’s attempt to make people more aware of motorcyclists out on the road.
woman in history, but also it’s really neat that she’s in the industry and she’s got such a head start. She knows pretty much everyone in the industry and everybody knows who she is. There’s not too many dads that can say they hang with their daughter and their daughter’s friends are the same friends you have. Rick’s daughter and Jody are very good friends so it’s a neat time.”
When asked how he felt as a dad during Jody’s record breaking run – (Jody set a land speed record this past year and became the first woman to break the 200 mph barrier on an American V-Twin motorcycle).
“That’s a question I get asked a million times and I have to say that I wasn’t really very nervous at all. The only reason is she was so confident. She never experienced a minute’s nervousness. She followed our instructions absolutely to the “tee” as far as the way she rode the bike. There was nothing that made me nervous other than the just the fact of the nature of what she was doing. I had a lot of faith in her and her riding ability so things worked out very well. We’re going back this year, we’ve got four races this year scheduled. Our first race is in Wilmington, Ohio, April 29. Plus we’ll be going back to Bonneville and hopefully we’ll set some more records.”
Arlen – “The whole family is in the business and we’re all doing almost the same thing. We do a lot of stuff for Victory, we’ve been under contract with them for almost ten years now. All three of us, Zach, Cory and myself. It’s just part of the family business. Zach just did a new bike for Victory that they showed at the New York IMS and now they’ve got that down here for him to ride and lead the parade (during Victory Rider Association Appreciation Day festivities).”
“In May, they’re sending all three of us over to China because they’re opening up a new dealership there. Last year, they sent us to Stockholm for a Victory thing over there. It’s good PR for everybody.”
We wanted to ask all three if they had any advice for future generations of bike builders, but Dave passed the phone over to Arlen before we could hit him with the question. Here’s what Rick and Arlen had to say, though.
Fairless – “In order for your dreams to come true, you must first be the dreamer.” The translation on that is, you can do whatever it is you want to do if you want to do it bad enough and you put enough heart and soul into it. Do your homework. If there’s a guy in your town that’s got something he’s doing real good, don’t try and do that. Do something different. Build your own deals, don’t copy somebody else.”
Arlen – “Stick to it, if you really like it. Try to do your own thing. Don’t copy a bunch of stuff. That never works. It doesn’t go well with the people in the industry and there’s a lot of people that do that. You’ll get a lot more respect if you come up with something slick and new on your own. You’ll last a lot longer and you’ll learn a lot more.”
If you’d like to see the custom motorcycles the trio built, they’ll be on display next in Leesburg, Florida, April 26-29 at the Leesburg Bikefest. Fairless said he’ll be appearing at the Lone Star Rally in Galveston and possibly a few of the other stops, but his duties at Strokers require him to be there for the most part.
We’ve embedded a video below shot at Strokers about the creation of “Wilma” for your enjoyment, courtesy of Allstate and YouTube, along with the tour schedule where you can see the motorcycles next.
• Leesburg Bikefest – Leesburg, Fla., April 26-29
• Laconia Motorcycle Week – Laconia, N.H., June 9-17
• Thunder in the Valley – Johnstown, Pa., June 21-24
• Roar on the Shore – Erie, Penn., July 12-14
• Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – Sturgis, S.D., Aug. 4-11
• Bikes, Blues & BBQ – Fayetteville, Ark., Sept. 26-Sept. 29
• Biketoberfest – Daytona Beach, Fla., Oct. 18-21
• Lone Star Rally – Galveston/Houston, Texas, Nov. 1-4