Shaw Speed & Custom, who pride themselves on building “Rideable Customs,” is one of our favorite builders–particularly when it comes to customized Harley-Davidson trackers. We recently ran across this Sportster Forty-Eight tracker, their Mert Lawwill Replica, and had to learn more.
Mert Lawwill was a top AMA racer in the 60s and 70s, winning the 1969 AMA Grand National Championship. Many of you know him from the most popular motorcycle documentary of all time, On Any Sunday, which came out in 1970, detailing his 1970 defense of the Grand National Championship. He shared the screen with legends Steve McQueen and Malcolm Smith, becoming a cult hero himself. Who can forget this mild-mannered man born in Boise, Idaho, who traveled from race to race, sleeping beside his motorcycles in his van?
In his 15 year career, Mert won 15 Grand National races and placed in over 160 other AMA races. His story certainly didn’t end there. Believe it or not, Mert Lawwill has been inducted into both the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame!
After Any Sunday
He went on to introduce the first production mountain bike, the Lawwill/Knight Pro Cruiser–a bike that sold well until 1982, when the foreign-built Specialized Stumpjumper was introduced. He also patented the design for the first commercially available four-bar linkage mountain bike suspension.
Mountain Bike Maestro
Mert was also a race team owner until 1990, when he was fed up with the AMA. He went on to develop the Lawwill DH-9 full-suspension downhill bike and run the Yeti Cycles racing team. Starting in 2005, he built a limited edition batch of Mert Lawwill XL1200 street trackers, built to replicate the legendary XR750 of old. He’s also developed the “Mert Arm,” a prosthetic hand that allows amputees to ride bicycles or motorcycles. About a third of all “Mert Arms” are shipped to the Walter Reed Military Hospital, for use by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Sportster Forty-Eight
The Sportster XL1200X “Forty-Eight” model was introduced in 2010. The name comes from the 1948-style peanut tank, and the bike takes a number of cues from the classic era: wire wheels, solo seat, fat front tire, and lowered suspension. Shaw Speed & Custom focused on an array of subtle but impactful changes.
They removed the front brake, the lack of which is an obvious nod to flat track racing. The single headlight has been replaced with a number plate bearing a pair of LEDs, and wide tracker-style bars have been added. The rear fender and stock seat have been removed in favor of a single solo unit.
The bike has been converted to chain drive, and side number plates added, and of course the red, white, and blue paint scheme, complete with Mert’s signature. Overall, a fitting tribute to Mert Lawwill, one of the most influential men in the world of two wheels.
Follow the Builder