Writer's Ramblings

The Anaconda

Written by  May 31, 2004

Steve “Smokey” McGill is a man who is long on imagination. I first met Smokey in February of this year at the 44th Annual CARQUEST Autoparts World of Wheels Show where his creation, the Anaconda, made its debut. The Anaconda is a 10-passenger Harley-powered trike, and it was one of the most popular entries in the show. Since then, the Anaconda has been seen at various places around Kansas City including the Easyriders® Bike Show Tour, Lakeside Speedway, bike night at Paddy O’Quigley’s, and various charity events. I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit with Smokey about his amazing trike.

CC: How did you come up with the idea for the Anaconda?

Smokey: I was Christmas shopping at the Mission Mall and saw a Harley trike displayed by Wright Brothers Bikes . On the way home I was thinking about it as the Cadillac of motorcycles. Then it hit me! I wondered why someone hadn’t built a limo motorcycle. When I got home, I made several copies of the trike photo from the Wright Brothers flyer. I cut them up and taped the pieces together to roughly illustrate the concept of a 10-passenger Harley trike. A few days later, I called Ron Wright and invited him down to our shop to talk about my idea. After seeing my illustration, he asked what I wanted from him. I told him I wanted him to give me one of his trikes to stretch.

CC: What was Ron’s reaction?

Smokey: He just laughed and told me I was crazy. But a little later he asked what was in it for him. I told him if he would give me a trike to work with, I would build and own the vehicle and would promote his business everywhere I went and would share any income generated from the project. After thinking about the idea for three days, Ron agreed to provide a motorcycle and trike conversion kit, and our partnership was formed. A couple of days later the motorcycle and kit were delivered.

CC: Did you get started right away?

Smokey: Not exactly. I let it sit for six months! I had no blueprints, but I had thought everything out-the clutch cables, the brake, the throttle linkage, and all. I figured what I hadn’t thought of, I would deal with as it came up. But I was scared to cut the frame. Finally my wife told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was time for me to get started, and I did.

CC: Once you began, how long did the project take?

Smokey: It took roughly 640 hours over about six months.

CC: Were there any surprises during construction?

Smokey: Some things went surprisingly well. The shift rod is almost 12 feet long, and it had to have proper clearance as it routed through frame components and still align properly at both ends. With amazing luck, it lined up perfectly. I was lucky on a lot of stuff.

CC: What is the length and weight of the Anaconda?

Smokey: It’s 19 feet, 6 inches long and weighs 1,420 pounds.

CC: Tell me about the motors.

Smokey: The back one is a stock Harley Evo motor and provides the power. The front one is a dummy, for looks only. I found out about a company in Leavenworth that produces over 300 different fiberglass engine replicas. They’re normally used by custom builders to align motor mounts and such. Everything is in the right place, but it’s much lighter. I got a fiberglass Harley block from them and added real heads, primary cover, and other chrome stuff. It’s fun to watch people stare at that front engine and try to figure out how it works. It sometimes takes them a while to figure out that it doesn’t. Once, I even caught myself being very careful not to route wiring or gas lines too close to that motor. Then it came to me that it wasn’t going to get hot!

CC: The front engine does contribute to “the look.”

Smokey: There has to be a motor under that gas tank. It just wouldn’t look right without it.

CC: Does the stock rear motor have any trouble powering this heavy beast?

Smokey: Amazingly, it gets the job done. I’m really impressed with it!

CC: How did you come up with the name Anaconda?

Smokey: The anaconda is the longest snake in the world, so it just seemed to fit. I thought people would remember it.

CC: How long have you been riding and what previous experience did you have as a builder?

Smokey: My 2002 Harley Ultra Classic is my first bike. The Anaconda is the first motorcycle I’ve built, but I’ve built race cars for more than 20 years.

CC: How much of the car building experience carried over to this project?

Smokey: Comparing this to the roll cage structure of a race car, there are some things that are alike. You have to think about stress and strength. Skills such as welding and the use of different tools came in handy.

CC: Will the Anaconda be used for limousine service?

Smokey: Absolutely not. I don’t want that kind of responsibility, and the cost of insurance would be astronomical.

CC: What are your plans?

Smokey: I definitely need to make some money with it. I’m looking for opportunities to put the Anaconda on display to draw attention to a business or an event. It could be used in advertising. It’s a real attention-getter. Maybe people would like to have photos of themselves on the Anaconda. I have Anaconda t-shirts to sell. I have met with executives at the Kansas Speedway and demonstrated that it was capable of hauling ten people, and they are considering having it appear at events there. I’m open to all opportunities that don’t involve hauling passengers on city streets.

CC: Are there any circumstances where you would consider giving rides?

Smokey: It would require a very controlled situation such as private property with no traffic. I have ridden it with a full passenger load in the park.

CC: Will you be involved with charities?

Smokey: I have already taken the Anaconda to some charity events and plan to be involved with the Bikers for Babies ride scheduled for September 12. I’ve also had contact with some other charities.

CC: Are there any road trips on your schedule?

Smokey: Sturgis!

CC: What’s your next project?

Smokey: I’m thinking of stretching a pickup so I can haul the Anaconda in it.

CC: How can someone get in touch with you or get more information about the Anaconda?

Smokey: Our web site is www.anacondalimo.com.

CC: Are there any people you would like to thank?

Smokey: There’s a long list:

Bette, my wife-Vital Signs of Kansas City (artwork)
Ron Wright-Wright Brothers Bikes
Wes Neal-Boulevard Drive-In Theatre
Doug and Tammy-W D Welding
Edwards Brothers-Custom Classics Auto Interiors
Bob Bonds-art work
Mark-G & R Body Shop
Sam-Yamamoto Cycleworks
Rob-NAPA Auto Parts
Hennessey Sheet Metal
Olympic Cabinet Company
And all my friends

After the interview, it was time for a photo session at a nearby park. I had the rare privilege of riding way behind Smokey in what I call the “executive seat.” It was interesting to watch the reactions of motorists and pedestrians that saw us along the way. My favorite moment was when a distinguished looking gentleman dressed in an expensive suit and driving a beautiful black Mercedes pulled alongside, scanned the Anaconda from Smokey back to me, and gave me a smile and a thumbs-up sign. I’m not sure what he was thinking, but I’m confident he had the wrong idea about me. He was right about the Anaconda though. It’s really cool! Thank you, Smokey.

Story by Stripe

Photos by Stripe and Roger Fleener