I don’t want a motorcycle, I don’t want a motorcycle…

Posted: May 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Today I went over to my buddy Joe’s house to help him lift the capper of his pickup so he can pick up a slide in truck camper he’s going to get tomorrow.  After the work was done, we sat down in his shop and took a little break after the hard work was done.

Joe is an avid motorcyclist and collector of vintage cycles.   And, by collector, I don’t mean he has a couple of vintage bikes in his garage, I mean he has almost one hundred vintage bikes.

That’s right, almost one hundred.  One.  Hundred.  Motorcycles.  Harleys of course, but he’s got half dozen Indians, a Norton, over a dozen BMWs, and Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis too numerous to count.  They’re in barns, trailers, his shop, and his house.

Of course they are.

In the shop were his latest projects, a 1913 Harley single, and a 1941 Indian Chief with a leaf spring front fork.  They’re both “patina” bikes, with crusty, rusty sheet metal, remnants of the original paint on the tins, and both decked out with vintage accessories and add-on’s from back in the day.

The ’13 Harley he’s assembled from swap meet bits, stuff off his shelves, with the heart being an engine and transmission he got from a friend of mine when I nearly got in trouble with my wife.  My buddy had called me to look at a ’58 Panhead, the first “Duo-Glide”, that a neighbor wanted to trade him for a Jag sedan with a Chevy 350 in it.  He wanted my assessment of the value of the basket case bike, who’s owner had taken it apart in the 70’s to paint it and never put it back together.  It looked as if all the pieces were there, and it looked to me as if it had to be worth what he was asking for the Jag.

I had a ’61 Panhead at the time, and the last thing I needed was another old bike, but the price was right, and I was tempted to buy it, but wanted to discuss the deal with Kim before I made a commitment.  I hadn’t put my feet on the ground in the driveway when I got home when Kim met me at the car, with the words, “You are NOT buying another Harley.”

Since I’d encouraged my friend to go ahead with the deal on my assessment of the value of the bike-in-a-box, I felt sort of obligated to help him sell it since I obviously wasn’t going to.

I made a call to Joe, knowing he didn’t enough Panheads (he only had 4 at the time), and most importantly, didn’t have a wife to prevent him from financial ruin buying stuff he didn’t need and already had too many of.

They made a deal, and Joe hauled the Panhead home in crates in the back of his truck, along with a single cylinder Harley engine and trans the seller’s dad had stashed in a chicken coop in the back yard sometime in the 40’s.  I knew he had the engine, but he didn’t mention it to me as potentially going with the Pan, which is good because then I WOULD have really wanted it, and there’d have been war at home.

Long story short, Joe put the Pan back together in a weekend, buying NOTHING, and it fired on the 3rd kick.  Sadly, the tins had been painted (poorly) sometime in the bikes murky past, and he left it as is, so it doesn’t have the original factory finish, but he likes it and named it “Orange Crush”, since the tins were painted orange and white sometime in the 60’s.   It runs good, leaks oil appropriately and he has fun with it.

Having the single cylinder engine on the bench was too much of a temptation for Joe, and he started gathering parts to make motorcycle out of it before the Pan was even finished.  The engine turned out to be a ’13, the trans a later bit from the ’20’s.  He found a rolling, late teens chassis with the springer forks folded back to the down tube cheap at a swap meet, with original paint on them, fenders from another late-teens/early 20’s bike, also with some of the original grey/green paint and red striping, and had tanks made by a local sheet metal shop.

The engine has compression, the mag makes spark, the tanks are full of gas and oil, and it’s lacking only one bit of linkage to the timer to be ready to ride.

How 'bout that kerosene headlamp?

How ’bout that kerosene headlamp?


Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it?


1913 Michigan 'cycle plate.  Yes, the engine came with a title too...

1913 Michigan ‘cycle plate. Yes, the engine came with a title too…


The other bike is a much more modern piece, even though it’s over 70 years old.  It’s a ’41 Indian Chief, and it’s story is interesting too.

Joe has had the big flathead V-twin Indian engine for years, all freshened up and ready to go, but didn’t have a frame to put it in.  He’s got several other Indian twins, all Chiefs, but none with the post-war with the springer front fork..  This engine is a also  ’48, but since it’s his bike and being built to ride, when he found a deal on a rolling, complete, 1941 leaf spring fork frame, he knew had to have it to build a pre-war Indian to ride.

Like the ’13 Harley, it’s not authentic, but it’s all built with period stuff, suitably crusty and is almost ready to go, aside from wiring the (VW) generator and ignition switch.  It’ll look nice on the side-stand next to his three other unrestored Chiefs, and the beautiful restored now in his living room.



No motorcycle ever built has prettier fenders than this.

No motorcycle ever built has prettier fenders than this.


Foot clutch on the left, hand shifter on the right, throttle left.

Foot clutch on the left, hand shifter on the right, throttle left.


I couldn’t be happier that the basket case Panhead went together for Joe without a hitch, and even happier that the Harley single thrown in to sweeten the deal is once again the heart of a real, pre-WWI bike.  I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or determination to do that, the bike(s) went to the right guy, and my other friend got rid of his Jag, turned the bike, so he was happy too.

Joe had me sit on the Indian, and it feels RIGHT.  So right in fact, that he asked if I thought I could get used to the hand shift and left-hand throttle.

I think I’ll be able to learn that…




  1. kirkus says:

    you don’t need A bike, you need several bikes, that way you always have at least one running and a few to work on!! you could fit 6 motorcycles in the same space that the t-bird takes up in your barn…

  2. flynbrian48 says:

    I know. You can never have too many, and you never have just the right one…

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