The Prodigal Bike
(1998 Dean Jensen Gallery Exhibit)
Now more than a quarter century old, this chopper is the creation of Norbert H. Kox, a
nationally-exhibited painter and sculptor.
The vehicle came into being in 1975 at the Bull's-Eye Body Shop, a small business operated by Kox (and his brother) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that was a popular hangout for enthusiasts of souped-up and physically-modified cars and motorcycles. The chopper exhibited here was largely cobbled together from the front end of a 1955 Ariel, a British-built motorcycle, and the hard tail of a Harley-Davidson 74. The bike's distinctive gargoyle was sculpted by Kox. Its lacquered finish and most of its painted details are also from his hand, although the cruder painted handiwork, including the skulls, were added by others.
At the time Kox began bringing the chopper to life, he was [an outlaw biker] and was consumed much of the time by drugs, booze and hell raising. Interestingly, though, Kox says now, at about the same time he was bringing the chopper to life, he himself began undergoing a radical make over. "Around that same time, the Holy Spirit began to overhaul me," he says.
By the time Kox finished the Ariel-Davidson  material possessions no longer were of consequence to him. Nor were drugs or alcohol or hell-raising. He had broken his enslavement to them. He gave his newly-created chopper to a brother, and renounced virtually all his other worldly goods. For the next 10 years, Kox existed as a hermit in a northwoods Wisconsin shack There he concurrently studied Holy Scripture and art. The canvases he produces today are a result of his intensive investigation back then of the Bible and Christian history and also of the painting methods of the Renaissance masters.
As for the chopper on exhibit here, the creation was out of his life for more than two decades. After keeping the machine for five years, his brother sold it. The bike then passed through the hands of four or five owners. The last of the owners claimed the Ariel Davidson won several first place awards in shows.
Now and then over the years, Kox wondered about his creation. He surmised that it had gone to the graveyard long ago. Then, just last year, he learned that his chopper was still alive, if no longer so well. After negotiations with the last owner that were drawn out for months, Kox was finally able to buy back the bike. It was delivered to him in April (1998).
The story of the Ariel-Davidson isn't over. Another chapter, still unwritten, lies ahead.
Besides the desecrations the chopper suffered through the hands of some inept painter or painters, today it has some mechanical additions and subtractions that Kox never intended. His plan now is to refurbish his creation, reinvesting it with his original vision while at the same time adding the vision he has for it today.
In a sense, Kox sees likens the bike to the Prodigal son having returned home. "The Ariel-Davidson came back raped and beaten, in a sense dead," he remarks, "but soon it will receive the royal treatment." The Outlaw-Turned-Preacher finds it meaningful that this chopper issued from the pairing of an Ariel and a Harley-Davidson.
"Ariel is a symbolic Biblical name for Jerusalem," Kox notes. "In Hebrew, 'Ariel' means 'Lion of God.' Davidson' or 'Son of David' is a title for Yesu Christ, so the combined name, Ariel Davidson, has special significance to me. And this motorcycle, which was essentially in the grave, is about to be resurrected to glory."