Nearly forty years after his death, Steve McQueen’s image is still being used to sell everything from motorcycles to T-shirts. But here’s the irony: the classic bikes that we associate with his name today were cutting-edge contemporary at the time.
In the 60s he favored a Metisse Desert Racer, and called it the “best handling bike I’ve ever owned.” By the 70s, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and ripping around in On Any Sunday—aboard the ‘new’ Husqvarna 400 Cross.
The man had impeccable taste, but he valued performance above all. So what would the King of Cool be riding if he were alive today? We reckon the Husqvarna FE 501 would make the shortlist.
The 510cc, single-cylinder enduro weighs in at a paltry 250lbs, with oodles of ground clearance and fully adjustable WP suspension at both ends. Add to that fuel injection, a 6-speed box and an electric starter, and you’ve got a punchy enduro that’ll handle anything you can throw at it.
On the principle that customs can perform and look classy, we present ‘The Ranger’—a 2014 FE 501 given a mega hit of throwback style, by Deus Milano for a Swedish client.
“It was a long and cold winter the first time I met Peter in Stockholm,” explains shop boss Alessandro Rossi. “After a few beers we decided to turn his Husky into a ‘Deus Husky Rally’.”
The brief dictated that the bike should be the same blue as Peter’s Range Rover—hence the nickname ‘The Ranger.’ But a paint job was the least of Alessandro’s concerns; the 501 is built compact, so everything fits together just one way. It took Deus a full four months to turn this one around.
It’s now sporting all-new bodywork, starting with a generous, hand-made aluminum fuel tank. Getting the tank to fit right meant adding some mounting tabs, and getting it to work meant incorporating the Husky’s stock fuel pump.
Sitting behind is a custom leather saddle. It’s perched on a completely new chromoly steel subframe, with a barely visible tray underneath that now holds most of the electronic bits. Deus also fabricated aluminum fenders at both ends, adding a license bracket to keep the bike road legal.
Alessandro wanted to tweak the Husky’s stance ever so slightly, so the wheels have been re-laced on to a pair of Excel rims. The switch took the front wheel down from a 21” to a 19”, while the rear stayed at 18”. Both are now wrapped in Michelin knobbies that will actually serve a purpose.
Deus wisely left the Husky’s WP suspension alone though, opting just to have the fork legs anodized black, and the rear spring redone in yellow. The frame—and parts of the engine—got a fresh coat of black too.
Everything inside the motor’s still stock, but it breathes a little better thanks to a tailor-made exhaust from SC Project. The airbox has given way to a fat K&N filter, and Deus had to make up a new intake to get it to fit in the space available.
There’s a new LED headlight up front, held in place by hand-made brackets. The rest of the lighting is all LED too, including a discreetly placed set of Rizoma turn signals. Ariette grips and a Daytona speedo round out the cockpit.
When all was said and done, the guys decked the bike in the requisite blue, capping it off with a cheeky, Husqvarna-inspired ‘Deus’ motif on the tank. “Husqvarna bikes were born in Sweden in 1903,” says Alessandro, “and we are proud today to have a Deus Husky on the streets of Stockholm, ready to face the toughest rally.”
Kudos to Deus Milano for adding buckets of style to a highly capable machine. Sure, we’d take a showroom stock FE 501 in a heartbeat…but isn’t this even cooler?
Mr McQueen, we’re sure, would approve.