Copperhead 1917 Harley Davidson Replica from a 1979 Sportster

Copperhead Replica 1917 Harley Davidson

Quite a few builders have gone all out creating exact replicas of the early Harleys, only problem is the machines are not very practical to ride. Copperhead is not an exact replica but has a strong family resemblance to a 1917 Harley Davidson, though it began life as a 1979 Sportster. In other words, you have the antique look with a practical ride, qualities that remind me a lot of another bike we've mentioned here, the Warboy 883 XWL. Anyone familiar with bikes will see the modern parts, like disc brakes, but the copper and brass everywhere plus the proper paint colors give it a really antique feel.

1917 Harley Davidson for comparison

1917 Harley Davidson for comparison

Copperhead Replica 1917 Harley Davidson engine closeup

The wheels and tires are modern, but look right. Fluid levels are easy to check with sight glasses, there's a copper headlight enclosure, braided plug wires, it's a well done custom. The video below shows it works like a modern bike, sounds like a Sportster and looks like it was just restored after being discovered in some long forgotten barn.

Copperhead Replica 1917 Harley Davidson

You could roll up to any antique bike show and fit right in. This looks like it would be a hoot to ride. I like it.

It's for sale on eBay.

Video below:


  1. HoughMade says

    That looks like a great bike. I seem to remember a frame kit, maybe a sidecar rig, made by Ness that used an XL engine that mimicked the look of a WWI era bike. This isn’t it (I don’t think), but I always thought that kit was a great idea…but I looked for it and can’t find it anywhere, so maybe I’m the only one. I would love something like this.

  2. Norm says

    I can’t see Willie G. getting behind this but I like it and I think if it was introduced in a kit form that there are a few out there that would buy it. One of the things that brought back some memories was the rocker clutch. My first Harley, a 49 Pan, had one with a “feel through” shift. There was something satisfying about shifting with you hand and toeing the clutch.

  3. AlwaysOnTwo says

    What a hoot! Guess that’s the proper way to say it.

    I was hoping for more details on the engine and the apparent mods to the valve covers and both side cases. Nothing I could find. Did he cast and machine his own covers? What is the purpose to the take-off housing on the right side? Looks like maybe the left side case was modded to a suicide clutch and the lack of a clutch handle sort of confirms that. Which means the Sporty wet clutch had to undergo some wrench work. Any help @Paul Crowe?

    I’m not a fan of the retro this far back retro, but I do like this bike. Lotta work to make it look so much like a simpler bike of the time..

  4. '37 Indian says

    I like this one, must be fun to ride, sort of an early day retro-chopper. For me, there’s too much chrome, the frame gooseneck looks odd, and the muffler isn’t right with the overall theme of the bike. The workmanship looks top notch. One of my far away projects is to use an ironhead Sporty motor and make a poor man’s Vincent/Brough Superior, and this gives me some styling cues for that.

  5. Thom says

    I’d like it better without they gooseneck frame. A bike that long doesn’t need to be made longer.

  6. says

    Lots of fine work for sure. But I am having trouble with the fact that in profile it is two feet longer. It doesn’t seem necessary. It could have been quite a faithful copy except for that. Which brings me to my bigger gripe: Tribute bikes, like the Triumph Steve McQueen Edition that has virtually no resemblance to the original it was intended to emulate. Light green seat? No valanced front fender? Different size wheels? No low-rise handlebar? All these were within their control and would have made a modern bike in the true spirit of the original. Seems like a hurry-up job…

  7. Bigshankhank says

    Wow, well as hard as it is to find parts for a 1979 Sportster (look up the curse of Fits All Years Except 79), I guess making your own is the path of least resistance. Pretty amazing what a person can do with the time and talent, while I haven’t bothered to cleann the carb on my dirtbike in six months. I am jealous.

  8. B50 Jim says

    Very sharp! I love the styling of bikes from the teens and ’20s, and this catches it nicely. I agree the gooseneck is irrelevant, though. Look at the genuine article from ’17 and you’ll see no wasted space; it’s a logical, compact layout. Copperhead seems to have at least 12 inches of extra frame. Cut that out and bring the wheels closer to the center, and it will be a winner. That is, for anyone willing to risk a hand shift and suicide clutch. There’s a reason the manufacturers went to toe-shifted gearboxes and clutch levers on the bars. The term “suicide clutch” meant just that. Still, this is a very good-looking bike.

  9. HoughMade says

    Trying to rack my brain. In my earlier post, I mentioned a kit. I have seen a reference to an Arlen Ness “Antique XL”, but I can’t find any pics. Anyone know what I am talking about or have info.? It was a kit that used a late Sportster drivetrain, but in a pre-1920 look frame. I saw it years ago in :Kit Car” magazine, then a couple years ago in “American Iron”.

  10. says

    With all due respect i must comment. People repeatedly call hand shift/foot clutch bikes “suicide shift”,,,,sorry but not quite right. The rocker, heel-toe clutch is spring loaded and has and adjustable friction disk set up. You can “pull’ the clutch in and take your foot off the board, it will stay disengaged,,,,if properly adjusted and in good condition the spring a friction do this. Not an inherently unsafe system. On many choppers most of this is removed leaving only a pedal and return spring, that is a suicide clutch, lose your balance, put your foot down and away you go. Too much chrome, no like chrome!

  11. GottaHaveIt says

    I absolutely love this bike! Everything but the goose neck.
    Can anyone point me in the direction of a 1910-1929 motorcycle kit company, other than Timeless Motor Company. According to their disclaimer they are not street worthy. Im hoping to have a sweet old ride even if its new.
    With limited tooling in my garage I would hate to have to fab the bike from scratch.

  12. Philth says

    I worked at the east 14th shop the kit was the ness”tique”.. That looks to me to be the frame kit by the neck.
    Arlens was two tone orange and black w checked split.. I belive it was an aysemetrical spilt side to side.
    He milled the head to disguise the age..
    Best time of my life..
    Toobad now thats a mechanical feat a unit and a half of crazy.

  13. mark says

    Randy Simpson, of the original, but now defunct, Milwaukee Iron, was the first “mass producer” of these frames, I believe. Arlen Ness built a show bike many years ago, which may have been the inspiration for Simpson. If you watched the show “Southern Steel” on Discovery, that was Simpson and crew. I see two of these several times a year, one with sidecar, at a small biker breakfast get together here in KS. I think they are available somewhere still, but can’t find anything either.

  14. says

    Hi Paul !
    ya said ” ….only problem is the machines are not very practical to ride.”
    after two years on the south-France roads ( everday use ) : nothing to say .