Readers and their Rides

Charlie Williams and his '78 Parlin Orendorff?

Written by  June 30, 2006

Budget bobber or a maniacal fabricator's tribute to his redneck Swedish heritage?

Charlie Williams is a fabricator/body man extraordinaire. Having known him for around 20 years I’ve seen custom paint jobs on pickups, big rigs, motorcycles, and who knows what else. He’s painted several bikes for me and still has the distinction of having done the favorite paint job for an old Shovelhead Super Glide my wife rode for a number of years in the Eighties. Charlie is just one of those guys who can build, fix, or work on anything…and does.

He and his wife Becky have a business in the Tampa Bay area that does all types of paint, body, and fabrication work for heavy trucks and trailers. They’re both well known and run a good business. Will Fab offers quality work, fair prices, and a quick turn-around time, all of which spell success.

The last few years, however, have seen Charlie enter into the motorcycle world and with a typical Charlie Williams slant on things. Charlie is a very down-to-earth kind of person, a Tampa native who never could leave anything alone. He painted his dad’s GMC truck when he was 14 years old using the truck’s own air brake compressor as his air source for the paint gun. He’s been such a lifelong tinkering kind of guy that his father, upon seeing Charlie re-design his Ford Falcon’s rear suspension (jacking up the back end) at the ripe old age of 17, remarked to Charlie that “it was a good thing for those guys in Detroit that Charlie was around to re-engineer their flawed design.”

No small wonder then that one of Charlie’s first forays into building a motorcycle was done from the ground up…literally. While visiting a customer Charlie noticed a small old Jap bike (or should that be an entry level “metric” to be politically correct) lying on the ground on its side in the weeds in a corner of the fellow’s lot. After asking about the bike, Charlie was told that they just needed to get around to loading it up and hauling it to the junkyard. Ever the helpful soul, Charlie offered to take it away right then and there. Step number 1 complete, scoring a free bike.

As it turns out the bike was a 1978 Kawasaki 400. After massaging the carbs, mounting the Sportster tank and some minor electrical repairs, Charlie had the bike running. From here the Charlie Williams touch began in earnest. Cutting the bike in half Charlie welded on a homemade hard tail section, stretched the frame, used Triumph brake components, fabricated an exhaust system, the handlebars, ground off numerous tabs, scrapped the front fender, used a $10 boat trailer rear fender, added fork seal boots, and came up with a taillight courtesy of Trucklite manufacturing and Maxwell house.

Right around now came Charlie’s personal touch. As anyone who knows Charlie will tell ya, he’s not often a real serious guy. So after deciding to use a tractor seat he had laying around his shop for years Charlie came up with the theme/name for the entire bike. The tractor seat was manufactured by a company by the name of Parlin Orendorff. That name was cast into the back up-curled lip of the seat. Using the tractor seat’s name as a central theme (which seems to be hard to find anything out about online) Charlie removed any of the Kawasaki identifying info and had Parlin Orendorff lettering made to put on the cases. Modifying a Harley decal he also came up with a Scootster insignia for the tank. After a flat black paint job, Charlie wrapped the exhaust and had the lettering and pin striping done by Chris at Cobra’s. After his first couple of debuts at different Tampa area bike nights, Charlie is having a blast watching the response to his $600 creation. The bike rides well, and draws onlookers everywhere with the constant questions being “what’s a Parlin Orendorff,” and “where is this thing from?”

After first receiving the photos from Charlie’s bride Becky I sent them on to several buddies who are very knowledgeable motorcycle folks though not necessarily in the know about things Japanese. I posed the question in the e-mail picture correspondence about its origin and received the remark from more than one friend that it sounds like it might perhaps be of Swedish origin. So here we are, is this possibly an older smaller bike of Scandinavian origin (Charlie swears his Grandpa Ole Williams had one just like it during the war), or the idle time busywork of a creative madman? Only the great Swede in the sky (and Becky) knows for sure.

By Mike 'Doze’ O’Connor