Jim Howerton: Everybody needs a little Harley

Jim Howerton's mini-Harleys, which are made in Chinook, are the talk of the town. NANCY BUTTERFIELD photo

CHINOOK - Jim Howerton's mini-Harleys have been the talk of the town in Chinook for the past couple of years.

Not exactly motor scooters and not quite motorcycles, Howerton, 33, has built two of the scaled-down bikes, using Harley-Davidson parts he found on eBay and other parts he scavenged.

Howerton, who has been riding motorcycles most of his life and is a member of the Pacific County Chapter of ABATE (American Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments), got the idea for the bikes when he saw a mini-bike that a friend had built about a year and a half ago.

"Hey, that looks like fun," he said he remembers thinking. "Maybe I'll do one."

About a week later he was at an all-Harley-Davidson drag race at Woodburn, Ore., and saw small tow bikes brought to the race by a California chapter of the Hells Angels.

"I can build one of those," he said at the time, and came home to Chinook and started to work.

Howerton had both the skill and education to build a bike from scratch. The Chinook native has an associate's degree in industrial mechanics from Clatsop Community College in Astoria and is the asphalt batch plant operator at Naselle Rock and Asphalt.

"I made all the asphalt for miles around," he said. "I've made it for roads in Chinook, and all over the county."

The first mini-bike took about four months to build from the ground up, using 1-inch steel pipe for the frame.

"I got some materials from eBay," Howerton said, "And found parts just lying around. It was pretty fun. I'm notorious around Chinook. It's the only one in town."

Plans for the second mini-Harley were born when Howerton was watching "Motorcycle Mania," a show on the Discovery Channel. The show featured Jesse James, a well-known builder of custom Harleys.

"I thought, 'I'll build another scooter styled as a drag bike,'" Howerton said. "It took six months because I had to save up the money for the parts." He said the chrome on the second bike is "actual Harley stuff. It's really a down-scaled Harley. It's unique, one-of-a-kind. My friends think it's really neat."

Neither of the bikes is street-legal, Howerton said, but he can tool around the back roads on them. The first version can go 25 mph and the second, more refined design, can go up to about 50 mph, although Howerton said the bikes, which are "raked" 38 degrees, are hard to steer.

Howerton spray-painted the first version himself. The second one he took to Bruce Shelby's Restoration in Chinook and had it professionally painted. Though he's had a full-sized Harley since 1999, Howerton likes to take the smaller versions out for short rides around Chinook, the only guy in town with his own miniature Harley.

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