Harley-Davidson and the Marlboro Man

 RB Racing made the exhausts for the Mickey Rourke's bike in the movie Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Actually we made several sets of exhaust pipes for Mickey Rourke's FXR when the movie was in the planning stages at the request from Dave Fournier who worked at Bartels Harley Davison, then in Culver City CA. We asked Bill Bartels what he wanted for an exhaust and he said "Just make it stand out because there will be a movie poster of the bike".

Damn bike got famous for some reason. We make a few sets of these exhausts for people wanting to relive the dream. FYI the 1 1/2" pipes on the stroker motor went like stink in 1st and 2nd gear and sort of died in 3rd gear...way too small.

We never painted the pipes they were left bare metal. Not Black as pictured above.

Mickey's Original FXR

This is Mickey's FXR that we made the original (not movie) exhausts on. It was so long ago that the kid on the seat graduated from Caltech and is has a PhD in physics after 24 years of schooling. Anything but greasy motorcycles. Intelligence seems to skip a generation.

In the late1980's and early 1990's various cocaine dealers, movie producers, wannbees, and movie stars like Mickey Rourke, Gary Busey, James Caan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger got their fancy seats clawed by the late "Two Toes" while their bikes were getting custom exhausts made at RB Racing. The Hollywood "Johnny Rockets" rumble crowd is long gone. Gary Busey bonked his head on a curb one Sunday morning across the street from Bartels and got helmet religion...At least Mickey kept the paint up and the rubber down.

Dual Megaphones..Try #1

We made a set of two inch severe cut megaphones for Mickey's white FXR so they would stand out on a movie poster..."acres of chrome". Everyone loved them but the decsion was made to just make a set of drag pipes with 1 1/2" primaries so they would "crackle". The bike pictured above was not Mickey's bike...it's just here to show the pipes we made for Mickey's FXR.

Bartels HD ended up copying these after we made them a few sets. Nothing personal they said. Those are also gone. Hooker also made some copies and the V-Rods ended up looking like these. Only so many way to the skin the....

Mickey's FXR Redone for the Movie


The white paint job and the Megaphones went away and the bike was raked and made as "raw" as possible which going against the fancy paint jobs everyone with money and no common sense wanted. We got the stroker bike back after Dave Fournier put it in it's final format and we made the 1 1/2" drag pipes. Dave may have mentioned that they dropped 40 large ones on it. Dave moved on to Arizona and is probably still a train nut...diesel and steam.

Before the movie guys came to pick up the bike a 3rd gear blast a few blocks from our shop caused a Cop to flip on his lights so we pulled a U-turn and cut behind a gas station and three full throttle turns later we pulled the door down on the shop while the cops flew by. Eventually they figured things out and three patrol cars later and a negotiation with a Police Sergeant ended things when we showed them Mickey's Registration. Cops like movies. They like extra security gigs and catered food. It's LA. They didn't quite buy the story that "we weren't really running from them" and that we were "just trying to get the battery charged".

Long time ago. Cops have lost their sense of humor these days..go straight to jail. Get towed.

When the movie was over we made a set of 2" drag pipes for the bike.

Gene Thomason & Dave Fournier

Bartels Harley-Davidson Crew: Gene (left) passed away in Dec 2021. He made things happen and got all the A-Listers on EVOs. We built custom exhausts for Gene's Hollywood crowd. Ask one day for an unspecified one-off new design and we delivered a chromed part two days later.

Dave (right above) built the Marlboro bike, retired from wrenching, and continued chasing his passion for locomotives in Arizona.


Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, original bike from the famous movie. Also known as Black Death 3 Yes, this is really That Bike! the bike that started the whole chooper craze and still today one of the most famous bikes ever built. I purchased in1997 from Gene Thomason of Bartell’s Harley Davidson. Tank was initialed on each side and signed by Mickey Rourke. “Ride Hard Mickey” HARLEY DAVIDSON – BLACK DEATH 3 GENERAL Owner : Bartels’ H-D Fabrication : Gene Thomason, Dave Fournier, Allan Barsi Year and make : 1989 H-D Model : FXR Value : 50 very big ones Assembly : Bartels’ Chroming : Browns/louie ENGINE Year and model : 1989 Rebuilder : Bartels’ Displacement : 80 cubic inches Lower end : stock Pistons : H-D Cases : factory Heads : H-D Cam : Bartels’ Performance BP40 Carb : S&S Super E;  Pipes : handmade 1 1/2-inch straight (RB Racing);  TRANSMISSION Modifications : JayBrake forward controls PAINT Molding/primer : Scott Bryan Special paint : handlettered by unknown FRAME Year : 1989 Type : H-D, FXR rubbermount Modifications : 42-degree rake 11 1/2-inch struts, chromed swingarm ACCESSORIES Bars : California Design, 15-degree drag Headlight : FXST Taillight : Custom Chrome Pegs : JayBrake Electrics : Custom Chrome Gas tank : 5-gallon, welded together Oil tank : chromed Primary cover : H-D Seat : Don Crager Mirrors : Rick Doss Grips : Arlen Ness, grooved FORKS Type : FLT Builder : H-D Modifications : 6 inches over, FLT sliders WHEELS FRONT Type : H-D Size : 21 inches Tire : Continental Rim width : 3 inches Brake : Performance Machine REAR Type : H-D Size : 16 inches Tire : Metzeler Rim width : 4 inches Brake : Performance Machine Photos : Markus Cuff HARLEY DAVIDSON & THE MARLBORO MAN Finally, The Ultimate Lowdown On The Ultimate Low Rider This balls-to-the-wall ’89 FXR has been the subject of more tech spec requests than a Fox Hunt winners’ photo-shoot panties. Black Death 3, better known as the Marlboro Man bike, was actor Mickey Rourke’s fourth attempt to capture what he really wanted in a scooter. Black Death 1 and Black Death 2 were built at Bartels’ H-D in Marina Del Rey, California, then scrapped. Next, Mickey had Billy Westbrook build him a scooter, which was later stolen by thieving, gutless, yellow-bellied, scumsucking, sheep-mating b******s. The best known incarnation of Mickey’s dream bike grew out of his drawing on a cocktail napkin, something he also hoped to be able to use for a prospective movie called “The Ride.” He handed his drawing to Gene Thomason, Dave Fournier and Allan Barsi at Bartels’, and they brought Black Death 3, the now infamous S&S 98-inch stroker, to life. (Note: this credit was incorrectly attributed to Billy Westbrook in the March ’97 issue of Easyriders, Talkin’ Tech, page 38. For the record, Gene, Dave and Allan are the one and only builders, period, end of story. Sorry for the omission, guys.) Shortly after Black Death 3 was completed, MGM approached Mickey to star in Harley-Davidson and the Marlboro Man. He wanted to ride BD3 in it, so MGM commissioned Gene, Dave and Allan to build a duplicate of the S&S 98-incher. Mickey’s stroker was used for some opening scenes and basic riding shots, while the duplicate 80-inch version was used as the primary stunt bike. The two sets of specs are identical except for the S&S stroker kit, but don’t think for one minute that the 80-incher doesn’t put the fear of God into ya. I took the thing for a spin, and lemme tell ya, there’s plenty of wallop waitin’ to kick your butt in that version. We’ll get to the road reality shortly. Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for the 80-inch stunt bike that’s had lips smackin’ for some time. All parts and part numbers listed (not all details were available) are stock 1989 FXR issue for the various manufactures, unless otherwise noted. A stainless steel spoked, dual-disc H-D FLT hub (#43404-87) runs dual 11-1/2-inch H-D rotors (#44143-84A Screamin’ Eagle, discontinued) with Performance Machine 2-piston calipers (#1220-0018), actuated by JayBrake controls (#06370) through steel-braided Russell brake lines (FXRSP plus 6-inch, dual disc setup) to stop the 321-inch Continental tire. The left front peg is stock H-D, replacing a JayBrake forward control peg busted during a stunt spill; the foot shifter, right front peg, and rear brake pedal are what came stock with the JayBrake forward control kit. According to Gene, the forks are “FLT plus six inches. That’s how I ordered them.” They have four machined grooves, 2 inches apart on each leg, along with FLT sliders, illuminated by an H-D FXST headlight (#67777-80A). At the rear, a stainless steel spoked H-D hub (#41020-86) sports an 11-1/2-inch H-D rotor (#91845-85A, Screamin’ Eagle, discontinued) and a 2-piston Performance Machine caliper (#1268-0052) connected with a steel braided Russel brake line for stopping the ME 88 Marathon 140/90/16 Metzeler tire. Cosmetic incidentals include a set of 15-degree, 29-inch wide California Design Superbike drag bars sitting atop 6-inch straight risers, sporting billet Ness grips (#07-100), a practicaly one-off Rick Doss 2-inch wide mirror, ’60s-style Custom Chrome switches (high-low beams on left, #25-534, start button on right with no kill switch, #25-533) and a Barnett steel braided clutch cable. The H-D speedo sits in a catseye ’30s-style Custom Chrome dash (#26-189), complimented by a Custom Chrome Lucas-style taillight (#19-647, closest known match). The whole shebang is attached to a modified ’89 FXR rubbermount frame with 42 degrees of rake, no stretch, and a chromed swingarm assembly. At the frame’s rear, a pair of solid, handmade steel 11-1/2 inch long, 1/2-inch wide struts (moved 2 inches forward at the frame) replaced the stock shocks, lowering the rig a full 2 inches. The fender strut mounting portion of the frame was amputated in favor of abrupt line termination, leaving an unobstructed view of what barely passes for a rear fender and seat. The rear fender is actually a single piece of hand-formed metal (resting atop the frame), hinged through the struts that doubles as a seat pan, 23 inches long and 13 inches wide, with rolled edges only on the back end (5 inches wide). The Don Crager seat is a 1/2-inch thick, 8-inch wide, 13-inch long strip of black leather with orange and yellow trim, wrapped around a thin piece of metal that is Velcroed to the 11-inch wide portion of the seat pan. Remove the seat, unscrew one screw, raise the fender/pan, and you’ve got access to the battery. The frame’s finish consists of some primer-covered, Scott Bryan bondo work at the neck (to just below the 5-gallon, unfinished Softail gas tanks with a 6-inch plate down the middle), and some primer running from the tanks to the rear struts, then down 1 inch below the seat. The rest of the frame is factory black. The hand-lettered playing cards on the tanks were done by an unrevealed artist, depicting initials of Mickey Rourke’s friends. The stock ’89 tranny runs a stock H-D chain primary and 1-3/4-inch H-D belt final drive. The chrome, 3-quart oil tank is fed with all stock rubber lines. Up front, an 80-inch Evo pumps a Bartels’ BP-40 series cam and an S&S Super E carb (using a clear fuel line, with an S&S air cleaner) that blasts out af a set of one-off, unchromed oval-cut 1-1/2-inch pipes. The H-D barrel fins have been machined with a V–For Victory–look, but the rest of the motor is virtually stock, except for the H-D ignition that fires through Spiro-Pro, 8mm, siliconplug wires and H-D 5R6A spark plugs (front and rear). The front cylinder wire is yellow, and the rear is orange, with KuryAkyn (orange front, yellow rear) plug-firing laser nodes. When you fire it, the thing sounds in real life like it does in the movie: awesome. You sit a mere 24 inches off the ground, with all of 4-5/8 inches clearence, and a 70-1/2-inch wheelbase that requires steering from the shoulders, with plenty of counterweight needed on the pegs to keep steady in slow turns. Open it up, and you’ll need more than bread crumbs to find your way home… For you high rollers, Black Death 3′s price tag stands at 50 grand in a paper bag. If you’re the serious sort, call Gene Thomason at (310) 821-3626. Then after you close the deal, fire up the beast, go find The Man, and give him a stink-finger salute as you pop a block-long wheelie. Doin’ anything less on this bike just wouldn’t be right. It might even get you in pictures. -David Aldridge; Easyriders May 1997 issue, page 64-67.