My First Harley
I’m sure many of you have interesting stories about the first Harley Davidson you ever bought and this is mine. The one major difference here is that I just did it. Most longtime readers know that my main ride for the last decade or so has been my faithful Shovelhead but although I built that bike with a greater percentage of Harley parts than the factory uses these days, it was registered as an ‘assembled’ bike in 1998, not an HD.
Over the years following the first registration, the Shovel became less and less an HD by percentage of parts. The original 1981 cases had to be replaced with S&S cases, the original Panhead FatBobs were replaced by an aftermarket King Sportster tank, the original Superglide rear fender was replaced when Fabricator Kevin chopped half the original Panhead frame off to hardtail it and so on. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that a Harley Davidson is only a real Harley Davidson if it still has all the factory parts... far from it. I’m just trying to illustrate that my Shovel was not registered as such and over the years has became less so. The flywheels remain 1981 HD however.
So... I’ve bought my first Harley Davidson.
I’m sure some of you that remember my editorial a couple of issues back, referring to the ‘lure of the new bike’ might jump to the conclusion that a brand new rubber mount Twin Cam now sits in my garage, or noting that elsewhere in this issue concerning the installation of a Baker TTP primary on my Shovel which now includes the provision to bolt in a starter, would indicate that because I am going to be 56 this year, I’ve given up on the kickstart equipped motorcycle. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
My first Harley Davidson is a recent score off Craigslist, a motorcycle that started off life as a 1953 FL. Of course it’s been screwed with by everyone that had a dull screwdriver over the last sixty years, but I’ve finally got the base for my seventies style longbike I’ve been dreaming about.
The claim was, of course, that the engine had been rebuilt (aren’t they all?), however the front engine mount is broken, so I’m going to have Dan Roedel pull the engine down to check it out and I’ll have the cases repaired then. It has a polished four speed that seems sluggish when rotated, Dan is going to look at that at the same time. May just be ye olde oil in there. The back wheel looks great. It’s for sure OEM and mechanical. If I can find a way to use it, I will. In fact I’d like to use as little new stuff wherever possible on this build. The big exception with be the Sugar Bear springer I’m going to use, which will necessitate Fab Kevin hacking up the Wishbone frame somewhat. The bike came with a long Wide Glide with the OEM front brake and hub laced to a 21” front wheel. I wish I could use that front wheel, but the hub with the brake installed is just too wide for the Sugar Bear rockers. The oil tank has several dents, so I may have to replace it. I’ll be looking around for a cool king and queen seat and other 70s goodies. There’s a genuine British SU carb installed (loosely), but I’m disturbed by how far it sticks out.
Although I’m pretty excited about this project, I have to remind myself that it’s going to take a while. Kevin is backed up with stuff for the forseeable future, but once the frame and engine is done I’m going to attempt most of the other stuff myself. Realistically I’m not going to make too much headway with this until later in the year. Never fear, as soon as I make substantial progress, I’ll be documenting it here in The Horse! I can’t wait!