The Uninvited: Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Bobber

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

From RW (Rusty Wrench) Motorcycles: 1980 Shovelhead Bobber… 

The new television series Masters of the Air — executive produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg — is shedding new light on the lives of allied bomber crews during World War II. Based on Donald Miller’s best-selling book of the same name, it follows members of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in the air war against Nazi Germany.

The two main US heavy bombers used in the European theater of the war were the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator, four-engine flying behemoths that carried crews of 10 men each. While these planes were well-armed for defense, they were very vulnerable to both anti-aircraft fire and swarms of Luftwaffe fighters, and casualties were extremely high.

While the B-17 is the better known of the two, having appeared in such films as Twelve O’Clock High, Memphis Belle, and now the Masters of the Air series, the B-24 was actually produced in greater numbers. Of nearly 20,000 produced, there are only 13 surviving examples…and only two are still airworthy.

Painting by artist Robert Taylor

Bomber crews are well known for nicknaming their machines and adorning them with nose art, and there’s a veritable trove of old photos of these planes — bittersweet images, since many of them never came home. One of those was the B-24 Liberator “The Uninvited” of the 482nd Bomb Group of the Eighth Air force, stationed out of Harrington airfield, UK. The nose art depicted a “black sheep” duck in the Donald / Daffy Duck style so popular at the time.

Unfortunately, “The Uninvited” and her entire aircrew were lost off the Dutch coast in February of 1945:

“Assigned to 36BS, 482BG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) from RCM (Radio Counter Measures) mission off Dutch coast 5-Feb-45, presumed lost to icing conditions. 10 x KIA MACR 12234.” –American Air Museum

Image Source: IWM

Fast forward nearly 80 years, and our friend Francisco of Portugal’s Rusty Wrench Motorcycles decided to build a Shovelhead named after this particular B-24…and built with a touch of 1970s style for good measure.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

Located on Portugal’s stunning Algarve Coast, RW Motorcycles has a brick-and-mortar store, apparel brand, and their great passion, a custom workshop:

“Transforming and making two-wheel dreams come true is our mission! For RW Motorcycles, a motorcycle is not just a vehicle, it is an extension of your personality, of yourself…

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

Having visited Francisco’s shop in person back in 2022, we can attest to the man’s passion, as well as the thought and personality that goes into each bike. In a world where many people still look down on bikers and motorcyclists, particularly those of us riding old greasy bikes, a name like “The Uninvited” carries a certain weight. We’re coming down the road, whether you like it or not.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

The donor here is a 1980 Shovelhead, and the work is quite extensive. Francisco notes a modified frame — check the clean neck area compared to a standard Big Twin of the era. Meanwhile, the forks, swingarm, and drum brakes come courtesy of an older Panhead.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

The rear fender has the flipped-up angle of a Japstyle build, while the fishtail exhausts precisely match the angle of the fender and compliment its shape — these are the details that unify a build.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

Attention was placed on the 43-year-old Shovelhead motor, too:

“The engine has been opened up to make several improvements in terms of performance.”

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

Then there’s the paint, consisting of gold and orange tones with heavy flake, and the name of the build written in gold foil. Of course, the bike wouldn’t be complete without a reference to the duckish nose art of the original B-24, and here the oil tank bears Donald Duck ready to crash the party with an “uninvited” cartoon bomb — perfection!

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

All in all, this is one gorgeous, well-executed bobber, and we love both the craftsmanship and inspiration that went into its creation. Below, we talk to Francesco for more details on the build, and a big thanks goes out to Vera from RW Motorcycles for making it happen. Muito obrigado e muito bem!

Shovehead Bobber: Builder Interview

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?

Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, 1980.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• Why was this bike built?

Customer project.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

The influence was the 70s, with a touch of Japstyle. We used the name of a B-24 bomber from World War II.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• What custom work was done to the bike?

We worked on the frame to have longer suspension. The engine has been opened up to make several improvements in terms of performance.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

We used the suspension and bracing from a Harley-Davidson Panhead. In the braking system, we used drum brakes on the wheels, also from a Harley-Davidson Panhead. We gave it a special touch by adding twisted spokes.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

We made the exhausts fishtail style for a classic touch. On the rear fender we gave it a Japstyle look.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

In terms of the paint, we used yellow and orange tones with gray lines and metalflake, and we wrote the name of the motorcycle in gold foil.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

The Donald Duck is similar design that is on the front of the original Uninvited bomber.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• Does the bike have a nickname?


Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

Very good, rides well and performs well.

Harley Shovelhead Bobber

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

I’m proud of the entire project itself. We are proud of the final result and the details.
Harley Shovelhead Bobber

Follow the Builder

Instagram: @rwmotorcycles
Photographer: Paulo Teixeira (@pauloteixeiraphotography)

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