How To: Fabricating a Tail Section with Special '79


Making a tail section for your bike seems like a daunting task without a shop full of sheetmetal forming tools. You may be overwhelmed and start asking yourself questions like, "Do I have enough tools for such a project?" or, "Is my skill level up to par?" or even, "Will friends think my bike looks cool enough?" Well, I can only help you answer two of those questions.



The starting point of many tail sections is the ever present, random garage floor gas tank. Cutting that tank up instead of constantly kicking it around your garage will help the average garage builder who may not have an English wheel or planishing hammer stashed in the corner.

The first thing I’ll do in this project is pick a tank  whose shap I like and draw some lines on it to determine what section I’m going to use for the tail. In this particular case, I’m cutting up an old mustang tank and taking some width out of it to make it skinnier. Once I have both halves even, I clean it up inside and out with a paint stripping wheel on my angle grinder and take the pieces over to my t-dolly for some edge flaring. After tacking the shell together, I take it over to my bike to check the raw fit. When I’m happy with what’s what, I’ll finish weld all the tacked areas.

On this particular tail section, I’ve decided to add a little hammerformed piece frenched into the rear. After drawing a few Sharpie lines that I don’t like, I finally come up with a cutout profile that appeals to me. I trace that profile on a piece of paper, transfer that shape to a piece of ¾” MDF board, cut that shape out then use a quarter-round router bit to round over the edges. Using a piece of 16-gauge steel, I use the form to draw a line that’s approximately 1/4” to 3/8” larger than the MDF form. I cut out that blank and clamp it to the form and start hammering. Be sure not to be too aggressive with the first few hammer blows; you want to move the metal slowly so you don’t create any creases or folds. Once I have the metal hammered down to the form, I’ll take it off, check fit, trim if necessary, and weld it up.

Well, there’s my version of the gas tank tail section. Aside from the details added to this shell, it was all done with a gas tank, Sharpie, angle grinders, and a welder. Sweet.

You can see more of Jay's work here: Special '79 Blog

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Commented on 12-6-2010 At 07:13 am

Great write up, and awesome work.

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 07:28 am

Wow. Just wow. I love this stuff. Thank you thank you thank you

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 09:00 am

Thanks bro, you just gave the idea for my taillight!! Excellent write-up too!!

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 09:20 am

Jay you are giving away your secrets! Nice write up keep them coming and maybe I will get out from behind the keyboard and do something in the shop. Tim

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 09:58 am

Great tech artical and very nice work too. Thanks

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 10:04 am

His write ups and video how to's are awesome. I was admiring that tail section and taillight when I saw it on his blog.

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 10:30 am

bad fucking ass - in a good way - not like when yer hot girlfriend eats chili - mustang tank prices just went up!

great how to!

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 02:32 pm

its great to see artisans giving us the knowledge to do it oursleves when they could just as easily keep it to themselves and make more money. Thats brotherhood.

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 03:56 pm

WOW thats crazy skill good work

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 04:44 pm

Very cool!! gives me a new idea for a cafe racer seat...

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 05:22 pm

cant use this on my current build but will keep it in mind for future projects... good write up as usual.

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 06:07 pm

Awesome! More stuff like this please.

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 06:32 pm

Sweet. I was just thinking how much I missed the how to's and videos on his blog

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 09:30 pm

Very nice write up and even better detailed pictures. Jay is very talented man and sure knows what he is doing. Thanks again for the tank Jay!

Commented on 12-7-2010 At 09:17 am

Nice! Jay does super clean work, I have had him do some tank narrowing for me and it turned out top notch.

Commented on 12-8-2010 At 06:42 am

wickid cool mang

Commented on 12-8-2010 At 11:06 am

I had a WWJD What would J. do moment yesterday. Made me stop slow down and put the mig away and grab the Tig. I thought J. wouldn't just fill this gap with weld. He would take his time and make it fit right and tig it up. Your the man J.R

Commented on 12-8-2010 At 06:34 pm

killer work dude! you continue to raise the bar j

Commented on 12-12-2010 At 04:15 pm

i dont know how you guys do it but you make it look so effortless...unbeatable work..

Commented on 12-13-2010 At 09:21 am

Very cool. I think I might have to try this.....

Commented on 3-25-2011 At 08:23 am

Thanks for the sweet info!

Commented on 2-14-2012 At 06:16 am

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet but I am currently using a front fender off a Harley narrow glide that will fit over my rear tire. The size of the fender along with the amount of metal on the sides allows for a large area for me to cut out a nice design that I can easily make a tail section out of. So, if you have an extra fender lying around it may be cheaper to cut up then a good tank. Just a suggestion...

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