I recently returned from another trip to the legendary Carls Cycle Supply, home of Matt, Miss Brittney, And OG Carl.
(pictures are all from my dirty I phone, so they aren’t great)
I had previously helped Matt on his Born Free 4 winning knucklehead, so I was honored he asked me once again to come help with some fabrication on a new project. This project, unlike the knucklehead, is a type of bike I was not previously very familiar with- a 1923 Harley race bike. Though it has a similar motor to the bike Matt raced in the 2012 “Cannonball”, every other part is completely different.
The bike is for his wife, the lovely Brittney, who plans to race it in a series of vintage dirt track exhibitions, along with many other period bike enthusiasts. What makes this bike especially unique is the fact that it has no transmission, and no brakes! It doesn’t have a starter either, or any clutch. It is about as “chopper” as it gets really. This is the style of bike that would have been ridden on either wooden tracks (aka board track), or later in the 1920’s, oval dirt tracks.
After a series of delays and layovers thanks to Delta, I made it there. First thing to make: a seat…
Now, keep something in mind here; Matts shop is a restoration shop. He and his dad have been building 10 point perfect (and I mean perfect) knuckleheads and panheads for many years. However, it is not a shop set up for heavy fabrication. This means that the tools I am used to using are not available. This includes brake, shear, bandsaw, plasmacutter, plannishing hammer, fixed dollies, and sander.
That doesnt mean I can’t work, but it does mean I have to get a bit creative with my methods.
With a sandbag and some hand dollies, it is possible to make most basic sheetmetal shapes. This is also a good reminder to new chopper builders that you don’t have to have a ton of expensive tools to make bikes, just some patience and ingenuity.
They do, however, have an awesome mill. Here I am using it to rough out a seat pivot from a block of aluminum I found..
Here is one of the inner tank panels- the easy part…
The tank design is 2 piece, hanging over the backbone of the bike on piggybacked strips, bolted directly into the tube.
The design for the tanks is very mailbox looking; square and boxy but with radiused edges. This immediately made me nervous because trying to keep thin sheetmetal panels dead flat (while curving the edges) is almost impossible! You see, flat sheetmetal is very weak and becomes warped as soon as any part of it is welded. When sheetmetal is formed into a curved shape, it gains body and becomes stronger. This time I had to keep about 80 percent of the tank panels flat, while curving and welding some areas. Did I mention This thing is going to be polished raw metal? ughh
They didn’t go for my paint scheme.
Here they are welded and hand sanded to about a 100 grit level.
Now they are down to about 600 grit..
We decided, partly due to time restrictions, to paint the top and side panels of the tank the same color as the frame, and only expose the polished sides of the tank. This was a relief because it meant I could rely on a small amount of bondo to smooth the welds around the gas caps and mounting strips.
The tanks will be sealed before the final side polishing occurs. I left that in Matts capable hands.
I also made a basic sissybar out of steel round stock, and made a little oil tank, which Matt later finish welded and added fitting to.
Then I was back on a plane, headed home after another great trip!