My ex-old lady was going to take my money anyway. So I put the cash into my baby-the one that is true to me." Johnny L, on why he went to town customizing this `04 Road King.
When you think about it, tailoring your bike is a pretty good use of spite. It may lack the berserker fury of beating someone's car to death with a baseball bat, but it's also a tad more constructive. You also end up with a heckuva nice motorcycle in the bargain.
Getting back at his ex-monster was only one reason Johnny L upgraded his Road King, though. He'd originally got it as a big, comfy way to run around town on two wheels. That got old pretty quick once he realized the motor wasn't as big as his ambition; Johnny wanted more power and the stock mill just wasn't up to the task.
That's what started the changes. He took it to Hyevon where they changed out the V-twin's guts for a Zipper's 120-inch kit. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. Sure, Johnny felt like the big kid on the block with his new motor but he also got tired of the plain black paint and ginormous windshield. It felt like an upgunned grandpa bike to him. He wanted a two-tone color scheme but wasn't sure about which colors or the design. What he really needed was an artist's eye.
That's part of what led him to Road Dog Customs. It also helped that he was good friends with the owners, Leo Mouneu and his son, Sonny Boy. Their friendship went way back to the days when Road Dog was a dream and all the work took place in Leo's home garage.
This is what led to there being a Road Dog Customs. Over 30 years ago, Leo got a Sportster and started changing it because he was too poor to pay someone else. He learned welding, painting, and wrenching from a combination of reading books and busting knuckles. Eventually he got more books, learned from his experiences, and started doing work for other people. His love of the hobby kept him going.
As Sonny Boy grew older, he wanted to do bikes too, so Leo started him in the garage while he was in Oakland doing his day job. When Sonny was 12, Leo bought a basket case off a guy. It sat in the garage, in a box, all alone, waiting to get reborn. Sonny Boy sympathized. One day, he hit up dad to build it. "Hey, when you gonna build it?" Leo made a deal with his boy: if he could build it, he could have it.
That was all the motivation Sonny Boy needed. He got the job done and hasn't looked back since. Sure, dad helped when Sonny struggled, but that's what good fathers do.
Sonny's skill grew as he did and by the time Road Dog opened its doors in Santa Fe Springs, California, as an actual shop in 2004, he knew his business pretty well. Having seen what Sonny could do through all this, Johnny felt pretty confident the young painter could give him a sweet color job for his ride. He chose the colors, then let Sonny Boy run with it.
Take one look at the pictures and it's obvious Johnny was right. The paint scheme is kind of hard to pin down. Sure, the red is obvious but it was laid down over a combination of different base colors, then hit up with gold flake and pinstriped, all by Sonny Boy's steady hand. It's complex but not overpowering. That's how Leo described his son's style. "A lot of times that sells itself," he said. "Customers like how he's not full of himself. They leave him with carte blanche a lot."
Giving the King its new clothes took two weeks. Part of that was the complexity of the job, part of it was all the pieces that go with painting a bagger. This wasn't some chopper with a tank and one or two fenders. All the lines in the pinstriping had to flow from the tank to the side panels and saddlebags.
As if all this wasn't complicated enough, Road Dog was on a tight timeline to get it done for a major bike show. How tight? Well, let's just say the shop test fired it right after the sheet metal went on and literally rode it to the show from there.