Close your eyes and say the word “chopper.” Chances are good that the image that forms in your mind is the bike in this photo.
Such is the power of the iconoclastic “Captain America” bike from the film “Easy Rider,” a machine that epitomizes the chopper genre and brought it to the mainstream. It’s about as classic as they get, from its raked-out, brakeless front end to the all-star paint job to the rigid rear end.
Of course, the fact that it starred alongside Peter Fonda in the most famous motorcycle movie ever made doesn’t hurt.
Captain America was built by Fonda, bike customizer Tex Hall and fellow actor Dan Haggerty for the 1969 motion picture “Easy Rider.” It was one of two motorcycles, along with the Wild West-inspired “Billy Bike,” that carried Fonda and Dennis Hopper eastward from Los Angeles to New Orleans in their search for America.
Starting life as a 1952 Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide, which Fonda bought at a police auction, Captain America retained its original H-D Panhead engine, while everything else was stripped, bent or extended for the chopper look.
Of course, that meant creature comforts like turn signals, a front brake, seat springs, a front fender and a horn found their way to the bottom of the trash bin. Everything left was then reshaped and dipped in chrome—well, everything except for the American flag tank and the ultra-high-back sissy bar seat.
Two Captain America bikes were built for the movie. One was stolen, along with both Billy Bikes, after filming, and the other was crashed in the final scene. Rebuilt by Haggerty, the crashed Captain America was sold at auction in 1996.
This faithful reproduction of the quintessential chopper is one of the machines visitors have been able to see at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio.