The bob-job evolved from an earlier type of American custom motorcycle, the ‘Cut Down’, which appeared in the late 1920s, and which was based on the Harley-Davidson ‘J’ series v-twin. The cut-down was created to modernize the appearance and improve the performance of the aging J-series Harley-Davidson. By removing the front fender, shortening the rear, and removing all excess accessories, the motorcycle was significantly lightened. The cut-down was also characterized by a modified frame, in which the seat tube was lowered and the wheelbase shortened, resulting in a lower, shorter machine, with a sweeping diagonal line between the steering head and rear axle.
Immediately after World War II, bob-jobs, in parallel with hot rods, were subject to increasingly decorative modifications, including extra chrome plating, metal flake paint jobs, pin striping, and colored upholstery. As early as 1946, Kenneth Howard (‘Von Dutch‘) began modifying his Indian Scout bob-job with wild paint jobs, a smaller gas tank, raised handlebars, and exhaust pipes which turned upwards at the rear. Such modifications became the standard for bob-jobs, which grew in popularity, whether as show bikes or ordinary road bikes. The bob-job evolved through the 1950s and 60s in several directions; some were strictly for the popular motorcycle and hot rod show circuit, some had a distinctive ‘club bike’ style, some reflected drag racing practice, and some were simply a continuation of the original Class C inspiration.
Bob-jobs reflected the aesthetic tastes of their owners, and were home-built, there being no commercially produced road-going bob-job available until the late 1990s.The style has also influenced motorcycle manufacturers, such as Harley-Davidson and Honda.
In the late 1990s, the term bob-job became shortened in popular parlance to ‘bobber’, and the style saw a resurgence in popularity in the custom motorcycle scene. The bobber continues to be favored today; although hybrid styles have emerged, such as the “bobber chopper”, and “retro-bobber”. Such bobbers exemplify the continuing evolution of the style, and its enduring popularity.