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Born Free Invited Builder: Nigel Petrie

Born Free has become the pinnacle of Custom Build Shows in America with hundreds of builders bringing in their bikes to display their skills and their design style.  While most turn up and enter their bikes in the hopes of gaining recognition, a select few are invited to showcase their latest creations.

For an Australian to be invited to Born Free, it’s a very big honour… Nigel Petrie received a special invitation and started building something unique to take over to the U.S.A… Then COVID-19 hit sending the entire planet into lockdown… the opportunity of a lifetime was put on hold for 2 years. 

Nigel was obviously disappointed but not defeated.  The invitation from Born Free remained open and he continued to build his Aussie Chopper from the ground up.  He embraced the challenge of fabricating almost every part of his custom design.  Aside from the rubber wheels and the engine, his hands created almost everything he needed to complete his vision.

Nigel Petrie Born Free 2022 01

The BMW R9T Chopper was specifically built for display at the Born Free Show.  While American local builders scramble to finish their builds in the final weeks before the show, Nigel had a different timeframe.  Getting this chopper to California required a long slow boat ride in a shipping container.  

Displaying his craftsmanship at Born Free 2022 was a dream come true that literally took years to be realized.  Thankfully for us, he took plenty of progress pics along his journey.

Custom Stainless Steel Snowflake Inspired Wheels

One of the most challenging parts to fabricate were the BMW Snowflake inspired wheels.  Nigel used his TIG welding skills to build these from scratch using stainless steel.  Great care was required to keep the heat down to prevent warping the metal, which would ruin the integrity and function of the wheel.

Looking at the finished product from a distance, you’d assume it’s CNC machined billet aluminum.  On closer inspection you can see the artistry and skill required to weld these stainless steel pieces together.

Front End Carbon Fibre Leaf Suspension

The custom front end is made from chromoly.  Chromoly is a chrome-alloy steel with a medium carbon content and .8% – 1.1% molybdenum for strength… It is a steel that is stronger than carbon steel.

You can see his method of string-lining to ensure he gets the angles perfect while welding his girder style front end.  The front end pivot on stainless steel dogbones.  Even the bronze bushes connecting the stainless steel to the chromoloy frame were hand machined.  the attention to detail shines through.

Once everything is assembled, the front end suspension runs through a carbon fibre leaf spring.  This provides a beautiful clean look and sets it apart from the competition at this years Born Free Show.

2019 BMW R9T Engine

Why would you build a BMW Chopper?…  Because most people would never think to do it!

When you look at Nigel’s BMW Chopper you have a hard time recognizing the bike he started with.  The only thing he kept from the original bike was the 2019 BMW R9T Engine.  This 1120cc engine provides approx 110Hp, which is plenty for the new lightweight frame.

The engine has been stripped down and now has custom titanium inlets and exhaust fitted.  (Watch the video above for more info on the engine modifications)

Born Free Show 2022 – BMW R9T Chopper by Nigel Petrie

It took 3 years for this dream to come true but it was worth the wait.  This BMW Chopper is truly one of a kind.

Congratulations to Nigel Petrie for finally getting this beautiful build over to the U.S.A.  The BMW R9T Chopper Won “Best Modern” & an “Award of Excellence” at Born Free 2022.

Born Free 2022 Award Winner Nigel Petrie 01

“The past weekend is one that I’ll never forget. Making it to @bornfreeshow was a win in itself but to walk away with two awards just topped off what’s been a tumultuous three years. I want to thank my wife @celia.petrie my family and all my friends including those old and new. Big thanks to @bmwmotorradaus for believing in me and supporting my efforts because without them there would be no BMW chopper. I took a big risk building something that hasn’t been seen before, months of work alone went into the lines and shapes of the bike and after getting so much positive feedback from my peers in the industry only now can I finally say it’s complete” – Nigel Petrie

Born Free Show - BMW R9T Chopper
Born Free Invitee Nigel Petrie

Nigel Petrie – Engineered to Slide

Engineered To Slide is Nigel’s online garage where he documents his designs and shares his builds to inspire others.  If you want to learn more and follow in his footsteps to create your own masterpieces then visit his website…

Nigel has proven himself to be a top level motorsport fabricator and now shares his skills with the next generation via his Fabrication Courses.

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