Grind Daddy Grind: Skater Stephen Dariz's Custom 1978 Harley-Davidson Ironhead

Words: Craig Metros Photography: Luke Ray

I had seen an A4 image of Stephen Dariz’s custom Harley in the Fuel office. I had also been told that he was an avid skater which peaked my interest. Two weeks later, I was flying to Adelaide for an interview and photo shoot with the builder and skater. After landing, Luke and I rented a nondescript grey econo box and drove to Stephen’s nearby home. The homes looked well kept in a neighborhood that seemed to have a 1950s innocence to it. After walking through the front door, I met Stephen, his wife Morgan, and a wide eyed and very curious baby José. We passed a few skate decks hanging on the walls, complimented by some cool ‘50s furniture pieces as we walked toward the back of the house to the kitchen.

Stephen is a modern husband and father who is motivated by loud, hard and fast music, enjoys the rush of a serious session at the local skate park and takes pride in building things. His individual spirit and go-hard attitude is balanced by his traditional Argentinian background and core family values. It becomes even more apparent who Stephen is and what moves him once we leave the kitchen and settle into his garage for a closer look at his ’78 Iron Head.

I quickly realised that this feature will cover more than his self built Harley for which we flew to Adelaide. The garage is more like Stephen’s hobby room with a large full-figured olive green ’48 Dodge club coupe parked smack in the middle of the tidy space. The substantial coupe dwarfs the custom Harley that is parked in front of its nose; looking like the big green giant could easily eat the Harley.

My eyes quickly travel from the bike to the small tower of skate decks stacked next to a beer fridge covered in skate stickers. Next, I notice the early chrome wheel cover collection and a few selective Punk/Metal band posters neatly displayed on the large side wall. An organized work bench with all the tools necessary to build a bike and carry out the ongoing mods Stephen makes to the Dodge blends into the background. The attention turns back to the bike as the hi-fi is kicking out old school punk.

The Harley is Stephen’s first custom build and it has already evolved. “I had just finished the bike and took it out for a cruise when a cop pulled up alongside and wanted me to pull over immediately,” Stephen explains as he is imitating the officer’s aggressive gesturing with a pointed finger. Stephen continues, “What the hell is this thing?,” the officer asked Stephen. “It’s a Harley Davidson,” Stephen replied. Stephen goes on to explain how strict the South Australia motor vehicle registration laws are. Especially when it comes to custom motorcycles and worst yet, choppers. “I wanted to build the ultimate freedom machine. Sadly, I think freedom is just an image here,” Stephen tells me with disappointment in his voice.

Once he pulled over and parked the bike, the officer started inspecting the custom two wheeler. According to Stephen, he wasn’t too impressed.  “These guy’s don’t know what they are looking at. The cop just knows the rear fender is much shorter, the chain guard is missing, and the bars look more narrower than normal. The bike was considered not road worthy and denied registration,” Stephen explains. He reworked the bike, fixed the areas of concern and was able to get it registered. “Once it was registered, I began to modify it.”

Like most builds, Stephen started acquiring parts from swap meets. “The Marchal head lamp was one of the first pieces I had. I love the triangular shaped lens. I found it at a swap meet sitting in a pile of parts,” Stephen recalls. The ’78 Iron Head motor was completely rebuilt and mounted to a modified hard tail frame. The frame sits on a 21 inch front wheel with a mini 3 inch drum brake and a 16 inch rear wheel. The bobbed rear fender and sissy bar were hand fabricated. The tank was already painted and came from the U.S. The cobra seat was upholstered by Stephen’s mate and fellow club member Ashely Cave.

It’s time to move the bike over to the local skate park for the photo shoot. Luke Ray plans to use the park as a back drop for the bike and hopes to capture Stephen tearing it up on a skate. Normally, Stephen would be at the park with his club, the Grinders. The club is made up of seven mates who all skate and are into hot rods, custom cars and bikes. Today he is sharing the bowl with a couple of random strangers as his young family watch and hang out from a grassy berm. At different times, the other skaters stop to check out the bike that is parked near the edge of the bowl.

There is definitely a connection between skating and the new breed of hot rodders and bikers. I believe it’s the independent and rebellious spirit that is found in all three sub-cultures. Stephen and I discussed the connection a bit more. “Skating is an individual sport, it’s your own thing. Custom cars and bikes are also a form of self-expression. For me it’s all about individuality,” Stephen explains. This independent attitude stems from Stephen's older brother. “I started skating when I was six because my older brother Michael was skating. He has been a major influence in my life.”

From the concrete bowl, we decide to move the bike to the middle of the giant steel half pipe lurking behind us. The bike looks cool sitting in the middle of it, attracting a few more onlookers. As the photography winds down, baby José crawls over to the bike. Not to be left out of the action, José sits on the skate deck and gets a gentle push from dad. It may not be too long before José is showing up dad and the Grinders in the big bowl.

Follow Stephen: @s_dariz.