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Max Schaaf - Born Free

Ben Hardy, born Benjamin F. Hardy, was an African-American motorcycle engineer and chopper builder, who is best known for creating the customized choppers for the characters ‘Captain America’ and 'Billy’ which featured in the 1969 Peter Fonda road movie Easy Rider, a movie which influenced more people to take an interest in motorcycles and choppers than any other.

The Captain America bike, made from a then 20 year old, heavily customized Harley-Davidson panhead is considered one of the most iconic motorcycles ever built, one which captured the zeitgeist of a generation and became an anti-establishment symbol.

Working with another Black motorcycle builder, coordinator Cliff Vaughs, Hardy built two 'Billy’ bikes and three 'Captain Americas’, one of which was destroyed in the making of the movie, the rest of which were stolen. The 'Billy’ bike was typical of the custom motorcycles Black bikers were riding at the time.

Hardy and Vaughs remained largely unknown and uncredited for 25 years as they were not accepted as being equal due to their color and, as African-Americans, were not welcomed into the mainstream white motorcycle world in the USA.

Known locally as “Benny” and “King of Bikes” Ben Hardy’s Motorcycle Service was located at 1168 E. Florence in Los Angeles. He was a mentor to many of the local motorcyclists in South Central, Los Angeles.

His work was featured in the “Black Chrome” exhibition at the California African American Museum.