Although Bob McKay at McKay Cycle Creations has been customizing and building one-off motorcycles since 1969, he never built until now a Digger bike, a style extremely popular at the time he began his career in the motorcycle industry. When it was not a Chopper, the ultimate custom bike of the 70’s was a Digger. At that time, Arlen Ness, Donnie Smith, Barry Cooney and Dave Perewitz are some of those who were excelling in this styling genre. For reason of nostalgia and of friendship with some of this 1st wave of custom builders Bob decided it was time to pay tribute to both the customizers and the type of machine that they were building.
But what is the definition of a Digger? Of course, like a Bobber or a Chopper, you know it’s one when you see it… But definition of style getting easily distorted and corrupted by new generations, what specifically made a Digger a Digger? Let me just say that 40 years ago the Digger was inspired by Drag Racing bikes and are a sort of adaptation to street custom motorcycles,. They were using long and low rigid gooseneck or straight frame, most often equipped with a Springer or Girder front end and featued Prism, Diamond or Rocket Sportster gas tanks. At that time, the carburetors of choice were the Webers or Dellortos, Rajays turbo or Magnuson superchargers.
To stay faithful to the 70’s spirit and style, Bob McKay contacted Arlen for the “Hardhead” frame specs and modified his in the same style Arlen was doing it, using a forward backbone stretch and dropping the neck for a pure Digger attitude. He even used the same exact top frame motor mount and neck gusset. The Ness Narrow Springer is an original part that McKay tracked in an old shop through a web site in California. For the rollers, Bob used in the rear an original 15″ aluminum Performance Machine wheel and in the front an 18″ American Racing magnesium wheel previously converted for motorcycle use by Dick Allen. The “Rocket” gas tank came from Donnie Smith who had gotten it from Ness who had it fabricated by his long time fabricator Bob Monroe. Donnie also supplied the Smith Brothers & Fetrow Spring Struts and a NOS rear fender using a NOS Drag Specialties “Knight Light” taillight. Back then, Paughco was the vendor of most Diggers’ custom pipes and they were able to supply him with an old set.
For upholstery, Danny Gray was the man to go to. McKay fabricated the seat pan and Danny Gray wrapped it in leather using old style stitching and buttons. For paint, he called Andy Anderson from Nashville who has been painting since the 60’s and who was one of the very first to master the art of applying gold leaf in pintripes. In pure Ness Style, McKay built the oil tank from a battery compartment. For the final Digger touch, the covers on both sides of the engine were engraved with scrollings by Heather New from Newline Engraving. Regarding engine, “hexing” the cylinders was a must. McKay thought that “hexing’ was done on a mill, but both Dave Perewitz and Donnie Smith assured him that it was done with a big hand grinder. So that’s the way he did it and the job came out excellent. Still owning a couple of his old Diggers, Perewitz provided the correct tire information . Original Ness Tiller bars couldn’t be tracked, so McKay fabricated his own set in his shop in Ontario. Many other parts and accessories are period correct pieces that have survived more than 4 decades, like the Digger style. McKay Cycle Creations.