Less than four months ago we delivered the news that Indian Motorcycles had teamed up with some of the world’s best custom builders to let them loose on the new 2022 Indian Chief. And in rapid time the iconic duo of Paul Cox and Keino Sasaki have swung into action, together on their first joint build in more than 15 years. The result is American as warm apple pie, with the stock Chief Bobber Dark Horse transformed into a killer handbuilt chopper, to be unveiled at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, for world-renowned tattoo artist Nikko Hurtado. But you don’t have to be in South Dakota to get the first look, we have the scoop on the former Indian Larry tandem team’s tasty offering.

Cox and Keino have always had their own unqiue styles and for many years found a way to incorporate the two into one stunning creation. They’ve never been builders you go to with a demand, just as you wouldn’t tell Picasso how to paint you a portrait. But it’s clear they took inspiration from their client, with “Nikko Hurtado a pioneer in the world of tattooing for his use of color and hyper-realism, creating a unique, loud persona, making him the perfect owner for this masterpiece.” So with Indian delivering them a brand new Chief to get to work on and with Sturgis fast approaching, they quickly swung into action.

Starting at the front end and Paul got to work on a one-off girder fork setup that totally transforms the look and vibe of the bike. But look closely and you see his genius shine through with the trellis-style support between the lower legs and the asymmetric side plates, that give the functional parts a unique form. That function is never far from his mind, however, and a twin shock setup with preload adjustment allows for the girder to be finely tuned, while a steering damper is another modern touch to further improve a traditional design.

The rolling stock too comes in for a big change at the front with Keino taking a 21in rim that’s finished in black and lacing it up to the hub with stainless spokes, before it’s all wrapped up in an Avon tyre. Moving to the rear and if there is a criticism that stands out about the stock bike, it’s how far off the tyre the fender sits. “Paul eliminated the stock set up with the larger fender and internal strut and went with a shorter/bobbed rear fender and more traditional external struts that mount at the swingarm to get the fender to ride close to the tyre, while allowing space for travel between the fender and seat.”

Speaking of the seat, Paul Cox is a master and has been known for decades for his incredible leatherwork. To give the project his signature touch, he pieced together a bobber-style unit in traditional leather and etched in the Indian Motorcycle logo. He also mounted a traditional Indian Motorcycle headdress tail light onto the rear fender. With the front end getting similar treatment in the form of an old school headlight that sits high on the girder fork, but not as high as those wicked risers. They clamp a set of flat bars that hold the factory Indian switchgear, vital to retain full control over the modern bike’s array of features.

The best of these is found in the 4in gauge that doubles as a touchscreen; giving the rider everything from a traditional analog display, to SAT/NAV, rider modes, integrated phone connectivity, and even diagnostic features. So with the bars now changed, where to mount it? Here Keino takes over with his incredible metalwork skills and forming the one-off tank he made sure that the all-important gauge had the perfect home. The lines of the rest of the metal are wild, the swooping top making way for heavily sculpted sides. All of which still incorporates factory mounting and the engine’s must have fuel pump.

That engine is the booming Thunderstroke 116, with a stump pulling 162nm of torque at just 2,900rpm. This is the way American muscle is meant to be and with closed-loop fuel injection, you get all of that power in a completely smooth package. But that doesn’t mean it sounds tame and Keino had the welder fired up again to piece together an all new exhaust system. Much of the factory bulk is done away with, as an elegant twin pipe system with dual reverse cone mufflers takes over. On the other side of the V-Twin, the induction roar is also enhanced with a new air cleaner from the factory catalogue.

Changing gears now falls easily to your left hand, with a machined billet knob sitting atop the all-new jockey shift setup, with foot clutch for that old school vibe. The final touch was to lay down the colour and Paul Cox got crazy, completing a “custom paint job using his own ‘Soylent Green’ paint with metal flake, and light green/teal pinstriping throughout.”

The finished product is exactly the high-level masterpiece you’d expect from the pair who continue to keep Indian Larry’s legacy alive. And riding into the crowds of Sturgis, Hurtado has more than what’s etched into his skin to show off, a new Indian Chief to show the Harley faithful a new Dark Horse is in town.

Indian Motorcycle Customs Garage ]