Arlen Ness's Early Work

Two Harley choppers from the early days of the Ness legend

Arlen NessDennis Anderson

Arlen Ness is an icon, with his signature on all manner of motorcycles and accessories. Son Cory and grandson Zach have even followed in his footsteps. But when this photograph was taken 45 years ago, the former semi-pro bowler and one-time furniture mover was not long removed from the $300 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead on which he began his two-wheel journey. "I know those two bikes," the 77-year-old Ness recalled. "One was a Sportster, one was a 74. They were way different from anything anybody else had built at that time. They were half dragbike—low and stretched out. I always liked that look, so I tried to put it on the street." Ness built both of these bikes, modeled here by Ron Granato and Dennis Schriber, as well as a third, his personal machine. Also asked about the image, photographer Dennis Anderson, who went on to become a successful commercial and residential shooter with examples of his art in the Museums of Modern Art in San Francisco and New York, said, "I loved this period of my life."