Bob Vail’s “Similaria” Motorcycles

| 2/16/2017 12:00:00 AM

Bob Vail

Builder extraordinaire Bob Vail and his “Similaria” BMW (left) and Harley. Photo courtesy Bob Vail

Rider: Bob Vail, Cleveland, Ohio
Construction management consultant
Current rides:
Too numerous to list!

The story of Bob’s “Similaria” motorcycles: “I like to make things and inspire others to make things. In particular, I like to make motorcycles that are at the intersection of form and function. Old motorcycles have an elegant look of gracefulness and simplicity, where nothing is hidden. The eye picks up the distinctive colors of brass, copper, aluminum and nickel. My goal is to make similar motorcycles with that old look, but capable of running continuously at 70mph, with good brakes, good lighting, enough electrics to use heated clothing and good for the next 20,000 miles.

“The Harley-Davidson is made to look like the 1914 era. The main features of Harleys I wanted to include were the flat-sided gas tank, handshift, thin, large diameter wheels/tires, an antique headlight, a springer front end, long wrap-around handlebars and the Prestolite acetylene gas bottle on the handlebars (to power the headlight), and belt drive.

“This motorcycle was to be ridden, so features I wanted to include that were NOT on these older models were good brakes, a bright headlight, a large bright taillight, and a good amount of electrical power. I started with a 1997 Harley Sportster 883 and transferred the engine to an Arlen Ness hardtail frame. The gas tanks (left and right sides, separated by the frame) and oil tank were my first attempts at building tanks. The headlight is an original B&L brass light, but it’s gutted, with an H4 halogen reflector and bulb installed. On the handlebars I fabricated a steel bottle made to look like the Prestolite, but it has a cut-out for my speedometer and tach. Effort exerted: 195 drawings, 273 fabricated pieces, 1-1/2-year build time, completed in 2011 and ridden over 10,000 miles, including attending the Motorcycle Classics ‘Ride ’Em Don’t Hide ’Em’ rally in Pennsylvania in 2016.