Tenth: Asterisk Japan Harley-Davidson Panhead Custom
Words: Geoff Baldwin Photography: Luke Ray
Before Luke headed off to Japan late in 2014 for the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show we talked about getting some bikes shot whilst he was there. His crazy tight schedule didn’t really allow for any workshop visits and with all the cars he wanted to shoot it wasn’t looking like he’d be able to fit many bikes in. When the day came for him to leave I had just two requests. The first was that he had to photograph the latest build by Cherry’s Company and the second was to shoot what ever else he thought looked cool. When it comes to motorcycles, Luke’s the first to admit he doesn’t often know what he’s looking at, but he’s got a keen eye for picking out something special. The fact that you’re reading this magazine means you most likely agree. I had complete faith that he’d deliver.
The Chronos, Cherry’s latest build, ended up on the cover of our most recent issue of Tank Magazine (issue six) and, just as I’d predicted, the second bike he shot was nothing short of amazing. The Asterisk Harley Davidson Panhead that caught his eye ended up taking out the award for ‘Best HD Motorcycle’, ‘Harley-Davidson’s Pick’, ‘Yaniv Evan’s Pick’ and ‘Hot Bike Magazine Japan’s Pick’ of the show; and Luke had shot the bike before any of those awards had even been announced!
Asterisk owner Hideki Hoshikawa named the bike ‘Tenth’ to commemorate his workshop’s ten years of operation and surprisingly it’s the first bike he’s built to appear at a Mooneyes show. Hideki grew up riding Kawasakis before turning his interest to Harleys. At age twenty he had become a Harley-Davidson mechanic and it only took him a few years to know Harley’s were where his future lay. For nine years he worked with Harley-Davidson, learning as much as he could about their bikes. At age thirty he opened the Asterisk workshop about 350km north of Tokyo.
The Asterisk Tenth began life as an ‘81 Harley Davidson FXS-80 that was imported from the States to Japan as the base for a customer build, but not much remains of the original motorcycle. Hideki and his Asterisk team stripped the bike back to its frame and even went a bit further by chopping the entire rear section off. A new rear end and softail style swingarm was constructed using hand bent pipe. To match the finish on the neck of the original H-D frame they developed a technique to make parts like the axle plates and engine mounts look as though they were dimpled, cast steel.
The Mustang style fuel tank was a three piece custom construction, which saw the two sides being welded to a ribbed centerpiece that was also treated to the cast effect. Up front a 1930s style W&W VL Springer was installed and a pair of hand polished, gold anodized rims were laced with chromed spokes and black anodised nipples to Kustom Tech hubs. The fabrication of custom parts continued with a set of back swept rabbit ear bars, a re-rolled rear fender with cantilever style stay, a milled, hand polished finned spacer to set the position for the primary belt and a seat pan which was also finished using the cast steel effect.
To power Tenth, Hideki replaced the original Harley motor with a fresh S&S Panhead complete with classic finned rocker covers. To continue his retro theme the cases were treated to the cast finish effect and the barrels were painted in a dark metallic grey. To dress the engine the Asterisk team then turned custom covers for the primary and air cleaner that matched the style of the front hub and the ribbed engine casings.
With everything mocked up and fitting correctly the tank and frame went off to be chrome plated. At this stage Hideki called in some of his trusted colleagues to get involved in the build. Leatherwork master craftsmen Jimmy Dope and Ben Kickin were given the seat pan, which they returned covered in intricately detailed, carved brown and black leather with a style reminiscent of vintage bicycle seats. The frame and fuel tank were finished with black paneling and hand laid, gold pinstripes by M & K Makoto; and as final construction began Hideki’s highly skilled Asterisk team handmade a stunning collection of turned brass components and custom control arms. Handmade foot controls with brass ‘beehive’ toe shifters, brass cable guides that route brake hoses along the internal lines of the frame, pulley style cable holders and Asterisk tank badges are just a few of the intricate details designed and made in house and it’s these details that make the bike truly unique.
Beyond all of the skill and craftsmanship that went into building Tenth, it’s the one month timeframe in which it was completed that’s truly incredible. It’s another example of the talent and focus of many of Japan’s top workshops and what you can expect to see if you make it along to a Mooneyes show. This year I’m booking my ticket early and I’ll be making the Asterisk stand one of my first destinations.
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 19.
Follow Hideki: @hideki_hoshikawa.