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king of custom arlen ness dies

American motorcycle customiser Arlen Ness has died at his family home in California.

Arlen, who was 79, was known for his custom choppers, baggers and cruisers.

As well as producing his own customs, he worked with several motorcycle brands, most notably the axed Victory Motorcycles, producing limited-edition production models.

He also branched out into riding apparel and merchandise featuring his wild designs.

His business is reported to have an annual turnover of $20 million and to employ about 70. The firm produces a large and comprehensive motorcycle catalogue.

A family statement said: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce Arlen Ness, the visionary, loving husband, father, grandfather and leader of our family, passed away on 22 March. Arlen passed away comfortably in his home surrounded by loved ones after the most creative and inspirational life anyone could imagine.

“The most important things in Arlen’s life were his wife of 59 years, Beverly, his children, grandchildren, friends and motorcycles. Arlen once said that ‘Motorcycling has been a great ride…my whole life since I’ve been motorcycling has been wonderful. I’ve met so many nice people. Friends all over the world…. We can go almost anyplace and stay with friends. It’s been great.’ With few words Arlen conveyed his priorities every day, family and friends.

“Everyone who knew Arlen respects him for his achievements and for who he was as a person, both of which are superlatives. The respect is how Arlen came to deserve the commonly spoken nickname ‘The King of Custom Motorcycles’.”

Ness was born in Moorhead, Minnesota, on 12 July, 1939. After moving to California and working in a bowling alley, he raised money to buy his first bike, a 1947 Knucklehead Harley-Davidson which he customised. It was followed by many more custom motorcycles.

He was married to Beverly for 59 years and is succeeded in the custom bike business by his son, Cory and grandson Zach.

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