Words like authentic, original and iconic describe Arlen Ness — arguably the king of motorcycle customizing. Never afraid to try something new and take the next step, Ness has had great success and a string of groundbreaking designs to his credit. Curated by renowned motorcycle photographer and author Michael Lichter, the AwesomeNess exhibit made its debut at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in the summer of 2008 and now you can see this awesome, one-of-a-kind Arlen Ness exhibit at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
Ness may not have known it as he was customizing his own Harley Knucklehead and winning custom competitions in the 1960s, but he was starting a parts business that — driven by his prolific customizing — would someday make him famous. As a result, Two Bad, a twin engine/twin blower bike; Smoothness, Arlen’s favorite; Nesstalgia, a 1957 Chevy-inspired creation; and Top Banana, are known worldwide.
The AwesomeNess exhibit is made up of 11 of Ness’ “awesomeness” creations. Untouchable is the Ness bike that started it all. The 1947 Knucklehead launched his career after he repainted and customized it in the 1960s. The exhibit also includes:
- Two Bad — the 2,000cc sportster
- Ness-Tique — a modern custom inspired by an old-school 1903 Harley-Davidson that was depicted on a Cartier trophy he won at a Harley-Davidson ride-in show
- Red Flame Chopper — inspired by his first Knucklehead
- Top Banana —winner of top honors on Disney Channel’s Biker Build-Off
- Overhead Cam Sportster — a spin-off of a 1200cc with sportbike styling that he keeps in his office
- Mach Ness — his helicopter turbine-powered bike
If you’re thinking about heading out for a visit, you might want to start making plans now. AwesomeNess runs through the spring of 2011 at the National Motorcycle Museum.
There’s a lot more going on at the museum, located at 102 Chamber Drive, Anamosa, Iowa. As long as you’re in town, you can get a close look at more than 275 motorcycles from around the world as well as thousands of photographs, posters, postcards and pieces of motorcycle memorabilia, plus a fabulous collection of antique toys. The National Motorcycle Museum is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) corporation. For more information, call (319) 462-3925, or go to www.nationalmcmuseum.org.