The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is a softail best known for its solid-cast wheels and massive presence. The Evolution version, built from 1990-1998, featured an 82 cubic-inch (1340cc) V-twin and quickly earned a firm place in American pop culture after appearing in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, with Arnold Schwarzenegger wielding a custom 12-gauge 1887 Winchester lever-action shotgun from the seat of a Fat Boy, roaring down the concrete channels of the L.A. River.
The Fat Boy may not seem like the most ideal candidate for a cafe racer special, but Nicola Martini — better for his brand “Mr Martini” — is always up for a challenge. With more than 25 years dedicated to building custom motorcycles, heavily inspired by art and the 60s / 70s style, he’s become one of the icons of the customs world. He didn’t get where he is by following the trends of the day:
“True beauty has to be seen over time, it is not recognized in today’s fashions.”
This 1998 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, built for a customer, has to be the sportiest softail we’ve ever seen. Nicola calls it a “concentrate of pure Martini style,” designed to make the riding experience more physical and fun than the original, while maintaining an overall elegance. The handmade side fairings are the signature element of the build, unifying the bike’s design and tying together the massive USD forks and the retro-inspired tapered tail — along with a second, two-up tail that can be installed.
The bike is nicknamed “Gnews,” which is Venetian dialect for News — a reference to the unique and largely unheard of style applied to such a bike. Below, we get the full story on the build, while wishing the best to Mr Martini, his loved ones and employees, and everyone in Italy during this time.
“Gnews” Softail Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Mr Martini is a brand made out of sheer passion, dedication, research and unique creativity. Mr Martini lab sums up the long-time experience of Nicola Martini; it is a place where things are not only created, but experimented with, and where unique motorbikes are created: Mr Martini explores new concepts about motorbikes and accessories, creating new styles. Years dedicated, from 1994, to work and research have traced a unique two-wheeled story, a truly Italian story which contributed to the culture of motorbike Style.
The worldwide presence of Mr Martini creations has further highlighted the uniqueness of its style, in which both technical expertise and aesthetic intuitions help create smart prototypes, featuring new technical solutions and ultra fine finish, top materials and pleasant chromatic matches.
If Nicola Martini has been dealing with motorcycles for a quarter of a century, his Mr Martini brand as we know it today was born in 2003. His business did not stop only on two wheels, but with his showroom in perfect English style and the own laboratory has become a reference icon in 360° motorcycling. Over the years it has been a succession of new adventures, first the Special Mr Martini restaurant, which gave him the opportunity to welcome fans by combining the passion for two wheels with that for quality cuisine, then the clothing collections were born in pop style.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Harley-Davidson, Fat Boy, 1998.
• Why was this bike built?
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
A concentrate of pure “Martini style”, which means a strong inspiration from ’60 and ’70, but always with an eye pointed to the future. A motorcycle that presents all the classic stylistic features of its production, search for details and the desire not to be discounted, with the usual certainty: to maintain a remarkable overall elegance.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The side fairings, which make it sporty but not clumsy. The front end made more massive by the adoption of an inverted fork and the modified swingarm go together to frame the black Fat Boy chassis; at the rear a very 60s-style racing tapered tail with a handmade and custom-made saddle. The slightly set back footpegs and a new handlebar together contribute to determining a new driving position, much more “physical” and fun than the original.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
“Gnews.” The story behind the nickname is because nobody ever made an Harley Davidson in this style, especially with the side fairings, so we can say is ‘News.’ ‘Gnews’ is the word News as we often say in Venetian dialect.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The motorbike has taken on a sportier character, the seat position is higher, the footpegs are set back and the handlebar is more loaded on the front axle. Driving is brighter than the base bike.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Certainly the fairings, without them the design of the whole bike would not be unified. The fact that the base bike was a custom Harley-Davidson made these fairings a bet, they are definitely the piece of this bike that makes me more proud.