Queen Of California Digger Sportster

Digger1Digger2Digger3Digger4Digger5Arnaud Mary from is a big fan of Arlen Ness and of his typically Californian 70’s Digger motorcycles. After thinking of building one during no less than 8 years, Mary took the plunge and asked his good friend Tony of New school Garage to help him work the metal for a faithful-to-the-style San Francisco Bay Area Digger. One rule in mind. No interpretation, no distortion, no corruption of the original lines and of the typical parts making a Digger a true Digger. At minimum, it implied a long and low rigid gooseneck 7/8” tubes frame, a Springer front end, a “prism” gas tank, a “diamond” oil tank and a Weber carburetor.

Digger6Digger7Digger10A good 1000 hours of work were necessary to turn this 1986 XL 1200 Sportster into a very pure Digger even Arlen Ness would have been proud of 40 years ago. Frame and motor mounts were fabricated from scratch with the typical back bone stretch (5”), 40-degree rake and dropped neck that Digger style bikes borrowed from drag racing bikes of the time.

For the retro flair, Arnaud Mary opted to replace the stock Harley rocker boxes with the Pan style ones offered by Xzotic and fitted the Sportster engine with a double Weber 40 DCOE. Heads and cylinders were rounded for a vintage look. Triple tree and Springer front end with high springs were also conceived and built from scratch at Motorsports Garage.

Digger11Digger9Regarding body work, fabricators will tell you that it’s always a challenge to build a good looking prism gas tank with good geometry and perfect symmetry between both sides. Same for the diamond shaped oil tank under the seat. Mission accomplished with extra attention because the 2 partners on this project knew from day one that they wanted a spectacular “paint job”, as a matter of fact pencil drawings by Queen Of Scrolling French artist Geraldine. A superb 60-hour job, drawn in black on pure white paint with pearlescent gold, making this Digger extremely spectacular when seen in person. “Queen Of California” is currently accumulating gold trophies (a Gold Digger…) on the winter European bike shows tour. Full tech sheet is below. . (Photography @ Onno “Berserk” Wieringa for JeremySumpter)


Engine. Harley Davidson XL 1200
Year. 1986
Rebuilt : Motorsports
Ignition : Dyna 2000i
Coil: Accel
Pistons : Wiseco
Rocker boxes : Pan Style Xzotic
Cams: Andrews
Carburetor: Double Weber 40 DCOE

Exhaust: Stainless, hand made Motorsports
Custom lights at exhaust tips by NSG

Transmission: Harley 4-gear
Clutch: Barnett
Primary: HD
Final Drive: Chain

Frame: Custom Rigid Digger Style by Motorsports / NSG
Tubes 7/8”
Rake : 40°
Stretch : + 5”

Front End: Custom fabricated Narrow Springer
Triple Trees: Custom Motorsports/ NSG

Bars: Arlen ness
Grips: Vtwin
Rear Fender: Custom Chrome.
Ligths: Shaft
Controls: Vtwin
Gas tank: Custom prism design
Oil tank: Custom diamond design
sellerie Mongin

Front Wheels.
80-spoke by DNA, 21×2.15
80/90×21 dunlop

Rear Wheel.
80-spoke by DNA, 21×3.5
130/60×21 Dunlop

Rear brake: VTwin DNA

Other custom features.
All motor polished
Cylinders and heads rounded for vintage look.

24 Responses to “Queen Of California Digger Sportster”

  1. 1 Joshua Nov 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Great Digger. The new retro trend?

  2. 2 Shifter Nov 24th, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Unpractical but nice.

  3. 3 Wilhelm Nov 24th, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Neat. I like the shotgun tail-lights.

  4. 4 SIGFREED Nov 24th, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I can hear the Bee Gees in the background with “Too Much Heaven”. Nice build, keen attention to detail, period correct, mechanically sound, dynamically fit for purpose.., just not my kind of thing, as platform-boots are not my kind of thing…

  5. 5 P. Hamilton Nov 24th, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Too skinny for me but like it

  6. 6 Charles Nov 24th, 2014 at 10:50 am

    There is nothing less practical than any bobber on the planet. I’ve never owned a digger but I’ve owned many hardtail bobbers. If made from quality components and maintained properly, there is nothing wrong with them. Panhead sporty motor actually looks really good.

  7. 7 Nov 24th, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Should have used an ironhead engine.

  8. 8 Rodent Nov 24th, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Nice piece of art

  9. 9 stsn Nov 24th, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Quite feminine, actually. I like gracefull designs more than fat piggy ones, and this looks fat-free.
    The arabesque scrollwork is incredible.

  10. 10 [email protected] Nov 24th, 2014 at 11:49 am

    where do I begin? ?? Diggers were fun and this might be fun except for that funky exhaust. I agree it needs to be a Ironhead, if paying tribute do it right. Why the Panheads? Some odd things but nice to NOT see some bloated piece of crap for a change!

  11. 11 Nov 24th, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Being a bigger guy I wouldn’t fit well on this bike but it is truly a beautiful work of art and an honorable nod to the great Arlen Ness; one of the grand daddy’s of custom bikes.

  12. 12 domino Nov 24th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I grew up with Diggers …
    Mine would have a 16 on the back …
    Nice job, I think he made the Evo Sporty engine work well …

    Domino Dave

  13. 13 nicker Nov 24th, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Certainly captures the flavor of that era.


  14. 14 rebel Nov 24th, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    ironheads do look nice but if you want the charging system and starter to work he made the smart choice, clean.

  15. 15 Zenaldo Nov 24th, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    First thing I said to myself when I saw the picture before the verbiage was….a Ness Digger…so, mission accomplished..a nice tribute to an industry leader for many decades…(sorry Arlen)…none of us gettin any younger I guess….

  16. 16 Sheridan Nov 24th, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Outstanding, that looks fantastic!

  17. 17 highrpm Nov 24th, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    @ zenaldo, the same flash of recognition — digger and arlen ness. synonymous. i’ll never forget driving down e 14th in san leandro back in 77 i think it was and seeing arlen’s incredible digger parked on the street in front of his shop. my first intro to that world. whipped a u-turn fast. just couldn’t believe such a beauty. and then it was closing time and arlen came out with some guys and fired it up and drove off. talk about a treat.

  18. 18 Jacob Nov 24th, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I love the lines of a digger and this bike is pure sexy.

  19. 19 Badams Nov 25th, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Diggers are alive and well in the low desert of SoCal. This example is well executed yet there is something in the digger dna that shows its real charictar when built in a small shop in the desert. Doubt it will ignite a trend, requires many hours of fab and machine work that really profiles best on long straight roads. This one plays off tradition opposed to silly attempts with stretched frames and 21 inch billet wheels. If u run mags, run magnesium. Nice job.

  20. 20 BCinSoCal Nov 25th, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Beautiful bike, very well executed!

  21. 21 Nov 25th, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I’ll bet that would be a blast to zip around on.
    Really like the skinny look.
    21’s front & back!
    And the exhaust/taillight idea is cool.
    Nice job!

  22. 22 Nov 25th, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    SIGFREED is 100% correct / on the money !!!
    This is a beautiful rendition of the Cali Digger
    Certainly does justice to the period & the style that Arlen created
    LOVE that artwork / paint job
    Classic !!!!!

  23. 23 nicker Nov 26th, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    “… bet that would be a blast to zip around on …”

    Can’t remember anyone doing much “zipping around” on-em.
    That style never lent itself to much in the way of aggressive moves in other than an unencumbered, smooth straight line.


  24. 24 Jay Horton's Private Shop Dec 1st, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Beautiful! I’ve always loved this style bike. Love the Weber. Later Jay

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