Warning: Pot-stirring chopper inbound, avert your eyes now.
If I requested you to call a chopper movie, 99% of these polled would reply with Straightforward Rider—a becoming response for the genre-defining cult basic. However the iconic trio of Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson had all starred in their very own chopper movies earlier than Columbia gambled on Straightforward Rider in 1968.
Hopper performed the antagonist in a not-so-good movie known as The Glory Stompers in 1967, and Nicholson in Hell’s Angels on Wheels was decidedly meh that very same yr. Of the three, Fonda’s lead function in The Wild Angels in 1966 was the strongest, and bolstered his standing as some of the outstanding counterculture figures of the day. All of which units the stage for Captain America and Billy in 1969, as a type of farewell to the style.
Whereas it’s not as robust a movie as Straightforward Rider, The Wild Angels has grow to be considerably of a cult basic for individuals who can recognize the trippy chaos of early biker motion pictures. Peter Fonda stars as Heavenly Blues, the chief of a California motorbike gang, and his 74 ci Panhead chopper performs a central function within the present. 93 minutes of sticking it to the person, The Wild Angels is a extra angsty movie in regards to the biker life-style, however doesn’t paint as broad a stroke throughout the counterculture spectrum as Straightforward Rider.
The movie reaffirmed that moviegoers have been shopping for into the motorbike scene, even its rougher components, and went on to be one of many highest-grossing low-budget productions of its time. Critics detested it nevertheless, with famous movie critic Leonard Maltin calling The Wild Angels “OK after about 24 beers.”
The Dragon Bike and the Captain America Bike are each modified inflexible Panheads, however the two HDs couldn’t be extra totally different. The star-spangled Pan from Straightforward Rider is a rolling image of late ’60s rebel, with a chromed body, a tall king-and-queen saddle and a massively raked wide-glide entrance finish. A present bike via and thru, the raked-out Pan would have been a nightmare to experience every day, and Fonda admitted it actually solely labored on the open street.
With way more reserved geometry, the Dragon Bike is extra consultant of avenue choppers of the period. The neck seems unaltered, each wheels have brakes and the tanks look manufacturing facility and retain the inventory speedometer and bezel. With just a little further peak within the chromed springer, a 21F/16R wheel combo, a tall sissy bar and a pair of fishmouth ideas, the Dragon Bike nonetheless exudes interval type, nevertheless it’s a machine that’s nonetheless meant to be ridden.
“In some methods, the Dragon is much more of a biker’s bike; it’s the granddaddy of all choppers and it cemented my function as the unique, in chopper historical past.“—Peter Fonda
Its defining attribute is a pair of hand-painted dragons on the tanks, believed to be the work of Von Dutch. Along with being the daddy of contemporary pinstriping, Dutch’s artwork typically featured pigs, spiders, dragons and all manners of beasts, and the tank artwork right here bears greater than a powerful resemblance to different identified Dutch works.
The Dragon Bike was on mortgage to director Roger Corman for filming, and the Panhead kind of disappeared after its debut on the large display screen. A long time later, the bike was allegedly found as a basketcase, and a blog post from December 2008 signifies that 80-90% of its elements have been collectively at the moment. A letter of authenticity from Mil Blair, co-founder of Easyrider journal, additionally dates from 2008, indicating that the bike was the true deal, together with ‘a lot of its unique elements.’
The HD was later restored to its earlier glory using interval images and movie, with nice care taken to protect unique elements, paint and chrome wherever attainable. Receiving solely minor reconditioning, it wears its scrapes and chips properly, particularly on the tanks, which match the 2008 images. Having seen the film a dozen occasions, I used to be shocked to seek out that the bike is definitely purple, because it seems extra blue on display screen.
So what’s the purpose, why care about some leaky previous chopper simply trigger Fonda rode it in a low-budget movie manner again when? Nicely, take into account for a second that the one current Captain America bike from Straightforward Rider bought for $1.35 million in 2014, and that bike has some actually convoluted historical past—let’s depart it at that. Mecum estimates that Peter Fonda’s Panhead from The Wild Angels will convey between $100,000 to $120,000, and by all proof, it’s the extra unique piece by leaps and bounds.
Between the 2, I’d fairly show this fire-breathing Panhead every single day of the week, however that’s in all probability simply my contrarian nature (learn all snooty like). Captain America is king, however so long as cussed fools proceed paying tribute to the kidney-belted, rigid-frame days previous, even lesser-known machines just like the Dragon Bike will maintain skyrocketing in worth. Shade me uncultured for this deep dive into blockbuster HDs, however somebody will snort their solution to the financial institution with this one sometime, and I actually want it was me.