Michael Barragan, Evil Spirit’s driving force has one hell of a convoluted past. If you enter his name into just about any Internet search engine you will be confronted with a Wikipedia encyclopedia page informing you about the 1990s rock band ‘Plexi.’ Plexi were a gothic noise rock band consisting of Michael Barragan on guitar, Michael Angelos on vocals and bass, and Norm Block on drums. Their sound has been compared to bands such as Bauhaus, The Cure, and the The Psychedelic Furs. Barragan was known to use an electronic toy space gun (both in the studio and on stage) to elicit chirpy noises from the pickups of his Les Paul Jr.; he was also fond of using an Echoplex unit to create chaotic walls of sound. The band members were known for their decadent appearance featuring near total coverage with arcane tattoos, black leather gear and heavy make-up, these traits, along with their edgy, yet radio friendly music, made the band stand out from the crowd.
Why did I tell you about Michael’s past? Well, it occurred to me, that today’s custom bike builders are at the forefront of what many consider to be the new rock and roll, what with the regular television programs offering fame and fortune, and chopper builders becoming household names. The paragraph above includes the words; decadent appearance, arcane tattoos, black leather gear and edgy traits, all of which you can apply to bikers, and chopper pilots in particular. Why do we build custom bikes? To show off, to get noticed and most importantly to give two fingers to the establishment. Sounds like rock and roll to me.
Damn this bike looked cool hauling down the South Dakota blacktop with Bear Butte as a backdrop, no wonder Michael looked exultant. This ghetto sled, by Michael’s Evil Spirit Engineering company is called Scuzzy El Diablo; it was built as a gift for Tommy Tater, a life long friend who just happens never to have any money! Now that is brotherhood.
Michael told me that he modified a 1948 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead frame to build Scuzzy El Diablo, I’ve looked at the dimpled nickel-plated frame for a long time, and all I can conclude is that the modifications must have been wide-ranging. Apart from the engine and gearbox mounts, the lower frame tubes and the rear axle castings, I can see nothing of the original frame. There is a large amount of metal work on this chopper, all of which was taken care of in-house. Michael made the beautiful petrol tank, the rear fender, sissy bar, air filter (based loosely around the original style used on a Knuckle), oil tank and the housing for the electrics. He also made the dual level shotgun exhaust system and forward controls, before turning up the fuel filler cap and foot pegs on one of his lathes. The 16-inch rear and 21-inch front spoke wheels were procured from Black Bike in LA, both of which are shod with Metzeler tyres. The rear wheel sports a Nissin brake calliper, while the front, in true chopper fashion, has been left bare.
The 1974 1200cc Shovelhead engine that Michael fully rebuilt, looks right for this project, it’s not as old as a Knucklehead, which ceased production in 1948, but it is more reliable for everyday use, (even though it was built during the AMF years that Harley-Davidson put themselves through from 1970 until 1980). Shovelheads first hit the street in 1966, replacing the much-loved Panhead. This ‘74 engine will have come from either a FX or FXE model Harley-Davidson, there is no way of telling which, although my bet would be on the FXE model purely because it outsold the FX two to one in 1974. (FX sales figures were 3034 while the FXE managed 6199, both of which are just a tiny fraction of those achieved today).
Paint has been kept to a minimum on this chopper, but it looks all the more striking for that. Silver and blue metal flake, coupled with black paint has been used in a truly salient manner, the Evil Spirit lettering lift the overall visual effect. I love the one-of-a-kind fuel tank filler cap and the fighter pilot suicide shift knob, and the rear taillight that Michael constructed from a piston. Inimitable items such as these show the care, time and thought that has gone into this build. I’m sure that Tommy is over the moon with his stunning chopper.
I guarantee that you will be seeing and hearing a lot more about Michael Barragan’s Evil Spirit in the very near future. He’s just built a killer chopper for Buckcherry’s Keith Nelson for example, that I would love to shoot. You should also look out for a recent Biker Build-off program that pitted Evil Spirit against Chica.
Owner Tommy Tater
Builder /Make Evil Spirit
Model Scuzzy El Diablo
Motor 1974 1200cc Harley-Davidson Shovelhead
Builder Evil Spirit
Connecting rods Harley-Davidson
Carburettor S&S Super E
Air filter Evil Spirit
Exhaust Evil Spirit
Ignition Morris Magneto
Transmission 2007 RevTech
Hand shift Fighter pilot by Evil Spirit
Primary Primo belt drive
Final drive Chain
Frame Extensively modified 1948 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead
Rear fender Evil Spirit
Petrol tank Evil Spirit
Oil tank Evil Spirit
Forward controls Evil Spirit
Handlebars Evil Spirit
Hand controls Not on this baby
Front end Harley-Davidson Wide Glide
Tripe trees Harley-Davidson Wide Glide
Front wheel Black Bike 21-inch spoke
Front tyre Metzeler Marathon
Front brake None
Rear wheel Black Bike 16-inch spoke
Rear tyre Metzeler
Rear brake Nissin
Tail light Evil Spirit from a piston
Sissy bar Evil Spirit
Saddle Evil Spirit hand tooled leather by Pascal
Finish Buck Wild
Colour Fuckin’ wild blue metal flake
Thank you to the lovely Jaimie Nicole for modelling on a very hot day.
Written September 2007