I’ve always been a lover of motorcycles, built a bunch of them – had some great times on them, crashed a couple times still love ‘em. Just the other day a friend had come to my house for the first time, he needed a little part fabricated. There is a long hallway that connects the house to my shop. Along the walls are pictures of some of the bikes I built. He stopped to check out the pics as we walked towards the shop. “How many motorcycles have you owned dude?” – Honestly, I didn’t know, a lot, I guessing around 100 in my life. I just answered question with “ I dunno, a fuck-ton”
Anytime someone spends any time on seriously studying that wall, I have a habit of asking which is their favorite. This guy was pretty cool with his reply to my passive/aggressive attempt at feeding my ego; “I like a lot of them for different reasons…what’s yours?” I’ve probably asked that in that hall a hundred times, yet this was the first time someone asked me.
On the spur of the moment I answered “The Organ Donor” – A hellish demon machine. I always loved that the bike had such a sinister appearance. The riding position on the bike was not the most ergonomic, but I did that intentionally – it looks bad assed and sexy. I crashed the hell out of it – that crash kinda made me bond with that bike,
The finished build was just a tad over 400 pounds – and something around 140 horse at the rear wheel – powered by a very tricked out Fuel injected Buell Lightning motor. Honestly, the bike didn’t corner that well – but plenty stable enough that it never scared you — you just had to respect the bike when you rode it.
The “Organ Donor”
It was also kind of a one-trick pony in so much that it did one thing exceptionally well – accelerate in the straight line! A little over 9 seconds in the quarter mile . the best thing was it tracked so beautifully going straight — never a monster wheelie, it’d just barely pull the front wheel from a dead stop. It had soul, and when it was “go time” it knew what it’s job was.
But was it really my favorite bike? Sentimentally, hands down yes – but if I could have only one motorcycle in my life, nope. Far too impractical.
Probably something like 80% of people on the hall walk have picked “Low Spade” as their favorite…aesthetically speaking, It’s lovely, some really cool machine things I did on that one – but never a favorite of mine – for a lot of reasons.
The Low Spade
The 1918 board tracker ? Dam, far and away my favorite on the build itself. 2010 we started the project – A lot of collaborative effort – good times, stories with that. Practicality; almost zero – Bud had the 1918 motor, we smoked a joint, talked about life, I showed him land-speed racing…We wanted the vintage motorcycle record at the Maxton Mile! We started on it the next day.
The build came a great time for me – I need some serious distraction from my personal life, And I love hanging with Bud – I’m always calm when we are working on something together – and one of the coolest, most talented people I’ve ever met. He may only have a sixth grade education, but smart as hell too. I’m going to have to do an entry sometime on Bud!
Anyway, we had nothing other than the motor – Bud got busy on the motor while I started to figure out what the fuck we were going to do for a frame, tires, etc… Bud and I both work with a mindset “why buy it, when we can build it”
Buds work on the motor was superb – his machine work, impeccable (as always). Replacing brass bushings with precision roller bearings, Took a flathead Ford piston and reshaped the combustion chamber to accommodate it at what he had calculated was the maximum volumetric efficiency for the configuration and then built the connecting rod to make it all work together.
Early Start and Run of the Motor
Titanium valves – (I think they were Chevy small block) were altered to replace the tiny original Harley valves – same for the pushrods. The head bosses were cut to accept bigger springs…Fuck I could do a book on just the motorwork, suffice it to say, it was pretty cool.
The frame was a challenge – we called Dale at Wheels through time and told him what we were up to, he invited us down to get all the measurements and pics we wanted. We went down a couple days later – About a mile from the museum Bud crashed his ‘56 pan head chopper.
He broke his arm and had some road rash – the bike was a mess – we stashed it behind a nearby business, he hopped on the back of my bike and we road onto the museum… He didn’t want to goto the hospital, said he’d go to the VA when we got back.
The funniest moment had to be after about three hours of taking measurements, a ton of pics all the while Bud walking around with a broken arm – at almost the same moment we determined that we wanted to use the little 1926 Harley peashooter 3 speed transmission – so measurements were pretty much a waste of time.
I took the best photo I could find of a dead-on sideways picture of the frame we liked best and went to work in photoshop. I erased everything except the frame – and scaled from the engine mount holes. Then in Corel Draw, I printed a full-scale tiled print out and taped it all together.
Bud had a rear wheel from a ‘48 Harley hummer – it was light enough, not a bicycle wheel, – perfect – we found a “rubber band” girder front end and wheel from another hummer on ebay, With wheels, trans and motor in hand it was time to design the frame.
We settled on a ride height and taped my paper frame outline to the wall accordingly. The first thing we noticed was the vertical height of the original frame was higher than it needed to be – weight and aerodynamic drag were important on this. We moved the lower of the spine bars to the lowest point we could go and still be able to remove the cylinder heads.
That made it easy to figure out the head angle and height. The transmission was another matter… A builder from California, “Brick” who had recently moved into the area stopped in the shop about this time. Brick built some very nice springer and inverted springer front ends and had built some frames including a very innovative rear-spring frame – think an old savior frame – but Bricks’ actually works, and well too.
Bud and Brick went to work on the trans mount and rear frame section and I got busy on the gas tanks – the left tank would be fuel and the right tank a faux hiding a reservoir for the valve oiling and a small battery for the electronic ignition. I cut wooden slugs of the tank sides and beat .063” aluminum around them.
During the build there was often an audience, various folks dropping in to see what the hell this was we were building. I can’t recall who it was, but one of the “regulars” surprised us with the billet filler caps and flanges – faithful reproductions of the originals – they looked like jewelry, flawless jewelry. And should the dude who did those ever read this – major props for your skills! The fit and finish on those are beyond compare!
Even one of the local kids pitched in when I spotted the billet BMX handlebar mount on his bicycle…it was the perfect part for the job – he agreed – it’s on the 1918. Like I said, good times, good memories.
Still not the motorcycle I’d pick if I could only pick one – the practicality kills that off.
So the winner? My favorite? “Un named” – and yes, that is more or less what I named a bike…never found a good name that stuck, so that became its name. I bought an real ugly, pretty rough 1978 GS100 on craigslist – local – $800.. I didn’t expect it to run and drive went I went to look at it – but it did. Was on the lift in my shop the next day.
Tore it all down, ordered what I needed and waited till I had everything in hand before I started, I wanted a cafe racer with the little fairing – something fun to scoot around town on. The bike came together crazy fast when I put it together – something like 8 or 9 days.
It was another build that made you look like a hooligan riding it, hell, a Tele-tubby would look cool on it. Handled beautifully; sticky Dunlops, good shocks, good springs etc. I put a little extra cam in it, did some port and polish work – smooth, ran like the proverbial raped-ape, stunning reliability, turned heads, fun to ride,turned heads. Did everything a motorcycle should do and did it well, I miss that one.