General Posts

Rebirth of an American Classic: Case Repairs

  Before the engine could be rebuilt, the cases needed some additional work to repair a damaged portion of the front baffle.  It appears that an unknown piece of debris was wedged between the backside of the baffle and the flywheel which eventually knocked a hole right through the baffle.       Since HD engine cases are made from aluminum, the best method for repairing the hole was to use a TIG welder to fill in the missing material.  The hole was located at the thinnest portion of the baffle, so a piece of copper plate was used to cover the hole and provide support for the weld.     The entire case half was then placed in a parts oven set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.  This helped to bake out the old motor oil which had impregnated the case over the years and ensured that the entire case was at equal temperature for welding.  The heating also revealed that there were a number of cracks radiating out from the hole which also needed to be fixed.  By the time the hole, the cracks and the casting imperfections had been repaired, I was left with a good deal of weld to grind away.       The backside of the baffle was easy to reach and was ground back into shape with the help of a curved template and a flap wheel mounted to a hand drill.  The top of the baffle was much harder to grind with standard tools, so it was necessary to make a custom router bit using an aluminum sleeve epoxied to a ½” four fluted end mill.       Working slowly, I removed about 1/32” of excess weld with each pass of the router.  Liberal amounts of Teflon lubricant was […]

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This bike represents an upbeat era when choppers were kings and the Discovery Channel made it so. We are going to attempt to tell the story of the bike, the shows, and the esteemed owner, Hugh “The Chopper” King, the producer/director. Hugh actually worked for Easyriders, as the video editor/director, while I watched over the magazines. But he moved on to Original Productions. Motorcycle Mania was the first motorcycle show and I got a call. “Who should I recommend?” Dave Nichols asked. I said Jesse James, and the rest is history. “Tom Beers, the boss of Original Productions, came to me,” Hugh said. “He asked me if I knew anything about motorcycles, and I said I knew everything about motorcycles, which of course I didn’t.” “I had worked for one year at Easyriders, “Hugh continued, “doing Easyriders home videos, back when Keith Ball was the editor. These videos really captured the hard core, get down, biker lifestyle. So when Discovery came to us about a custom Harley show, I was all over it.” The industry started flying and the ratings for these shows went through the roof. During filming at an Easyriders granddaddy bike show in Columbus, the Discovery Channel guys interviewed me and they asked what sorta chopper show I would suggest. I told them about a bike build-off series that would culminate in a test ride from one wild location to another. Tom Beers and Original Productions suggested the East vs. West aspect to Discovery and they signed off on the notion with a competition between Rodger Bourget and Billy Lane.   “It was East Coast vs. West Coast, Old School vs. more streamlined,” said Hugh, “and it would end at a small out of control event in North Carolina, the Smoke Out by Commander Edge, the magnificent


Rebirth of an American Classic: Transmission Rebuild

  My 3-speed transmission started out very similar to my engine, an empty case and a pile of parts, all in need of cleaning.  So the first step was to break everything down into individual pieces and perform a thorough inspection of each piece, to see which parts just needed cleaning and which parts needed repairs or replacement.     Luckily most of the parts were in good shape, even the transmission studs, so everything was put into the blasting cabinet.  It’s always important to note that you don’t want to blast bearing surfaces and fine threads, so these areas need to be covered before the part goes into the blast cabinet.  After a couple of hours of blasting, the results speak for themselves.     Next a coat of paint was sprayed on all the external parts (except the case).  Some parts were Cadmium plated from the factory, but a layer of silver paint was a quick way to approximate the original finish.     While the paint was left to dry, work began on assembling the internal components of the transmission.  I decided to upgrade the mainshaft bearings to sealed units which are available from Replicant Metals (  Using sealed bearings helps to eliminate fluid leaks, which is always a worthwhile improvement.  In order to install the new bearings, the case was carefully heated with a torch to expand the opening while the bearings were placed in the snow to contract.  Once the case was hot, the bearing was quickly dropped in and tapped into place with a wooden dowel.   Both my countershaft and mainshaft were well worn, so I replaced them with new units from Eastern Motorcycle Parts (  My slider gear was in terrible shape too and was replaced with a new unit from Eastern

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The Amazing SHRUNKEN FXR Updated

Once upon a time there was a bike built called the Shrunken FXR. Keith “Bandit” Ball, of Bikernet and other assorted fame, built it. By a stroke of good fortune the bike became mine through the generosity and trust of Keith Ball. This bike was my daily commuter for a handful of years. It was and is always a challenge and a ton of fun navigating the streets and freeways of Los Angeles on two wheels and especially on a custom built motorcycle. I decided it was time to update the look of the bike as well as do some fine-tuning of a few mechanical items I wanted to switch up a bit. Below is a brief summary of what was done, again primarily with the help of friends and some extra cash from my Pops to help get it all finished up proper. First I replaced the front fork tubes with new fork tubes made by Forking by Frank. Styles have changes, so I installed new handlebars, 10-inch baby apes mated to Black Boyd Motor Co. risers. I work at the magnificent ARCH motorcycle company and LA Chop Rods, so natch; I installed Black Anodized hand controls by ISR purchased. They are absolutely the best and contain the mechanical Bandit approved styling. I replaced the mirrors with 2-inch Blind spot jobs by CRG (Small and work great). We Powder-coated the classic Performance machine wheels black (Thanks to Custom Metal Finishing in Gardena CA, who handle the high-end ARCH motorcycle extreme perfectionist coating). We manufactured a new Shift arm and Brake arm to improve function. Ryan Boyd, Boyd Motor Co./Arch Motorcycle, is a master machinist and engineer. He configured then machined these components to enhance the rear brake functions, and it now works like a charm, plus it improved shifting

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Biker’s Choice TWIN-POWER Ignition Tech

I recently rambled about never giving up. This tech is an example in not giving up, and looking for opportunities for success. James Simonelli recently went to work for Biker’s Choice and it’s a company constantly looking for opportunities to succeed. They continue to expand and James is working hard on the Twin Power line of products. I built this bike a few years ago and enjoyed each element of the build. It was my first opportunity to work with Black Bike Wheels and installed the new 23s at the time. I also worked with Rick Krost and the Paughco team, who were building his US Choppers frames and several components. I also worked with Chica for the first time to build my rear fender. This bike slipped together like a dream. I was digging the old board track notion from the ‘20s, although I wasn’t the first. Arlen Ness built vintage-styled bikes with sidecars around Sportster drivetrains. The master, Don Hotop build a Silent Gray Fellow more refined than any the Davidson and Harley team built — it was beautiful. The Shadley brothers built another example with a sidecar, which I proudly featured recently. I was just one in a long line of masterful Hamster builders to take on the challenge. When the bike was completed and I slipped the key into Phil’s Speed Shop ignition box and fired it to life, it purred like a kitten. It was a beautiful thing and I appreciated all the help and guidance slipped my way to see this project through to fruition, including the hand-tooled seat by Glen Priddle in Australia. Some of my welds were not handsome, but I was proud to see this puppy finished, and then I went for a ride. My first challenge was the handling and

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Bikernet Bike Build: BETSY’S REVIVAL STORY Part 2

       Oncethat trailer gate hit the driveway back at home I could see tired ol’Betsy begging for another chance at life! As I walked aroundthe trailer she lay resting after the 1500 mile journey back. Iassessed the impending task of making this Ol’ girl right again.   “Rode hard and put up wet,” I said to myself thinkingof all the journeys and adventures she served Scooter Tramp Scotty through.As I took in every line every worn out part of this soul servingmachine I tried to imagine all the places she saw, all thelandscapes, the women who made passenger, the endless white lines stretched for over half-a-million miles. The nomadicvessel of freedom that is this motorcycle I now have the honor ofsorting out to make whole again.          Ilugged the broken pieces of this ’88 Electra Glide into the garageone by one. With an enthusiastic fire burning inside that I’vebecome a master at harnessing, I went straight to rearranging the shop foraccommodation of the new project. The work bench was clearedand the sorting of parts began, one-by-one. The bike “formallyknown as” Betsy quickly became a shell of her former self.The quest to get to her skeleton was my frantic goal, because there iswhere the worst lie waited to be healed. The evening faded to nightquickly and sleep was beckoning. Tomorrow would be a new daybut with it came the disruptive chore of work so Betsy would laywaiting for my 6:30 return from the daily grind.         Ipulled in to the house with anxious anticipation to strip her down tothat rusted and broken frame.As all parts lay categorized on the bench, I was left staring at 20years of grease and road grime thicker than the remaining paint theMoCo laid down 29 years prior. Before

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Doug Coffey’s RetroMod Panhead Part 3

  I needed an oil tank for this build that would be rather unique. It had to hold a full size battery from a late model electric start Dyna or Softail as my large high compression stroker motor would need all the starting power it could get. It had to completely hide the battery because I didn’t want any of it to protrude above the frame rails and it had to hold lots of oil.
My preference was round oil tanks so I started looking for cylinder like containers to see what size might fit.
After testing a variety of ice cream containers and my wife’s Tupperware I found a one gallon paint can to be perfect. (once I cut the bottom out to clear the electric starter)       The first step in  making the oil tank was to fabricate a battery box. I used some 14 gauge sheet metal and bent one up on my brake and then welded in the sides. The batteries I use are the late sealed type so they can be placed in any position. This one was going to lay in at an angle to miss the electric starter.   With the battery box out of the way I used some more 14 gauge sheet metal and rolled up the tank on my 3 roll machine.       I cut a rectangular piece out of the tank shell and welded the batter box inside the tank. Now you can see why I wanted such a big tank, that battery box displaces a lot of oil holding capacity.       The under side of the tank had to be notched for electric starter clearance.     With the oil tank shell part taken care of it was time to make some tank ends.

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Bennett’s Performance Dyna Build, Part Two

It took a while before the call shook the receiver on the wall.   “We’re ready, finally to move onto the next stage,” Eric said, and I slipped across congested Long Beach on Pacific Coast Highway to the base of Signal Hill, where the clean offices of Bennett’s Performance and Branch O’Keefe reside in an alley.   There’s a bit of a dichotomy here. When you say Pacific Coast Highway, you immediately have visions of the sea splashing against white sand. That’s not the case when PCH skirts through the Los Angeles Harbor area behind container ships, container trucks, and container trains Terminal Island and through the concrete jungle of Long Beach packed with steel supply joints, body shops, junk yards, stucco Mexican fast food joints, and dingy bars. Sure, once you weave south of Long Beach, the coast comes into view again and islands, marinas, and white sand can one again be seen. Sorta the same equation in reverse fits Bennett’s. They are located on an alley, but it’s about as clean and wide as a comfortable two-lanner, and the buildings are pristine and orderly. Hell, there’s even some landscaping bordering the buildings. Eric and his dad keep the shop tidy and it’s open and painted white on the interior and the exterior. Makes it easy to take tech shots. So we got to work. Eric hadn’t ridden his own motorcycle in six months, broke up with his girlfriend three times, and needed his two-wheeled Valium. Working with D&D, they altered a stock D&D system to fit ’91 to ’13 Dynas. The heat shield was modified and the system was ceramic-coated for a long-lasting satin black. He also had to modify the mounting bracket for the performance pipe system. Eric is going to share his mods with the D&D

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Doug Coffey’s RetroMod Panhead Part 4

  I started building my gas tank with a King Sportster tank shell available from Paughco. In this picture I have already cut the ends out to receive the tunnel in the bottom.     In this picture I have already started building the bottom from a flat piece of sheet metal I cut out and a tunnel. The tunnel is 1/2 of a piece of automotive exhaust pipe I cut with a plasma cutter and cleaned up on a belt sander. The elongated slots are for adding a rubber mount system.     Test fitting. Clearance all around the frame tube is required for rubber mounting tanks. The elongated slots left me room to tack weld mounting tabs to the frame. (This was way too complex, I have an easier way of doing it now)     This picture shows the rubber mounting system welded in the bottom of the tank.     The bottom is welded in the tank and tried on for size. Time for fuel tap bung, gas cap and speedo. Speedo????     This picture serves two purposes. It shows the rubber mounts welded onto the frame and the special tool I turned to mark the bottom of the tank to align my speedo mount. The speedo wiring will run down through the frame through the old unused stock speed drive cable hole.       Speedometer mounting gear. I turned the cup from steel bar stock on my lathe and welded a piece of DOM tubing to it for wires to run through the gas tank into the frame. The slight bend it to get everything to line up.     Test fit the Dakota Digital speedo in the tank. Looks good.     Good to go. Mark the tubing, Cut it off and

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Timbo’s ’64 FL Restoration (Part Five)

Well here she is, finally complete and out for her last shake down run. We stopped at a scenic area and shot a few pictures before I have to hand her over to the owner, Tim. I took my buddy Sal along. He’s the only one I have available to kick start this old gal. Sal owned a couple of Pans in the past, and he has the starting sequence down pat! With gas off, kick her through a couple times, gas on, breaker retarded, half choke and a little throttle, and Ka Bam! She starts right up! Riding the Pan is an art form in itself. The steering is spot on; it will turn on a dime! The suspension is wonderful for the age of the bike. It floats along better than most modern Harleys. The only thing I can’t get use to yet is the pogo seat, feels like it wants to buck you off sometimes. On the way back from our ride, I noticed a loud noise as I pulled to the stoplight. It’s Sal, yelling at me to slow down, YOUR DOING 85!! If you followed the articles from the past year and a half, you know that hundreds of man-hours and a little mega money went into this restoration. And I loved every minute of it! I’d be safe in estimating the restoration at 95% original, give or take a percent or two.   Enjoy the photos, and stay tuned next month when I start another restoration. This time a 1966 Shovelhead, Police special. Here’s a sneak peak!   Hope everyone has a save and wonderful 2013 Holiday season!   –Tail Gunner out till next month.

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