We have a special guest writer for this newest post. We met Tandy approximately 15 years ago when she came in for some help with her Knucklehead, and she has been a faithful customer and friend ever since. Enjoy.
I bought my bike in 1981. It was love at first sight and I bought her before I could even kick-start her. The current owner started her and despite the suicide/jockey shift, I rode off as if she had been mine for years.
The first few years I lived on her but then life happened ….. my family all sold their bikes but I kept her and rode alone.
I made seat, fender, and paint changes to her over the years but could never find anyone that really seemed to understand her until I met the guys at HWC. They kept her running well for years then one day I had the money and they had the know-how to rebuild the engine and transmission, as well as make some chassie modifications.
Thanks to the guys at Highway Choppers I will be riding my scooter for as long as I possibly can. And yes, a ridge frame at 50 is not as easy as it was at 20 but it is still just as much fun!
A couple of weeks ago Bill Rodencal, the head Restorer/Conservator at Harley Davidson, called and asked if he could visit our shop while he was in town on his family vacation. He stopped by on a Tuesday and visited for about two hours. We talked about all kinds of Harley and Indian motorcycles. We were thrilled and honored to have such an expert in the field spend time both chatting with us and checking out some of our current restoration projects. The following Saturday, we took a ride to Cave Creek, Arizona and met him for lunch. We had a great time and look forward to his next visit. Thanks, Bill, for visiting.
This 1950 Indian was found in a barn in Pennsylvania. It was originally brought to us for restoration, but we talked the owner into getting it running and leaving it original after we saw how special this bike was. 1950 was the first year Indians were produced with a telescopic front fork as well as left-hand shift and right-hand throttle. It was also the first year for the 80 cubic inch motor. This bike was painted black when it came to us, but we removed the black paint to find the original Indian Red paint. Original-paint bikes are much more desirable than restored ones, in our opinion. In order to get it running, we may have to do a top-end on it. We also anticipate having to rewire and rebuild some components. This project may take a couple of months. These pictures may give you an idea of what an original 1950 Indian looks like.
This is an engine I found beneath a workbench while helping Bob Bamford on a 47 Offenhauser-powered brickyard racer back in the 80’s.
The story I got from him was that it is as highly modified Harley VL engine from 1936. It has special built components by Andy Koslow of Chicago. The left case half was cast by his foundry for extra strength and larger bearings. The cylinders are oversize and was done by the same company that was making the Harley cylinders at the time. The displacement is somewhere around 105 cubic inches. It has dual bombsight alcohol carbs by Tillotson.
In 1936, overhead valves first emerged in HD Knuckleheads, and these appear to be Harley rocker arms with standard ratio, but they are totally exposed with grease zerks on the ends of the rocker shafts. The side support plates for the rocker arms are also of Koslow design, and are manufactured by him. Although Andy was a famous hill climb enthusiast, he designed and helped bring a few of these engines to production. This engine was used in a race car similar to what’s now known as a midget car. Back then, they were called popsicle racers, I think.
Tony Bettenhausen supposedly won his first professional race sitting behind this very engine. I think it was likely the 1941 race at the Chicago Raceway Park. If anyone knows more about this story, or this engine, I would love to hear it.
Everything aside, this is still an exotic and gorgeous engine. I have the complete toolbox that accompanies the motor, and the special dovetail tools for removing all the nuts. One of these days I’m going to fuel it and fire it up. It turns over and the mag is hot. I bet it’s ready and waiting to go. Now where did I leave that run stand…