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1928 Shovelhead Part VI - Coming To Life

Final Assembly And Testing

Photos by Tonia Hendrickson

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right tank close-up

Just when you thought a project slipped off the lift, the paint arrived. Harold Pontarelli of H-D Performance, in Vacaville, California, made this puppy sing. It's now mighty close to pavement miles. What started as a 1984 Mexican Police bike was transformed into a 1928 Shovelhead.


All the Compu-fire electrics possible were stashed on brackets built into the frame backbone, under the split halves, of the gas tanks. The finish on the frame, front end, brackets and wheel rims came from Custom Powder Coating in Dallas. The drive to finish the bike came from Lena, the lovely daughter of Rick Fairless, the owner of Strokers Dallas, formerly Easyriders of Dallas.

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The magazine publisher determined that the 30-odd Easyriders stores around the country were not sending him enough bags of gold and pulled his name from their stores. Whatta shame, but Rick and many of the other store owners have bargained with supportive companies such as HOT BIKE and Big Dog. Some have chosen one of those names to stand behind, others, like Rick and Myron Larabbee, in Scottsdale, Arizona headed in their own directions. We'll see what happens next.

cropped right side top angle

This scooter is reminiscent of kits now being manufactured by Arlen Ness and Randy Simpson of Milwaukee Iron in Lynchburg, Virginia. Both of these talented builders are developing rolling chassis kits to house the driveline of your choice. Check with them if you have an engine and transmission around that's dying for a nostalgic rejunivation.

front shot

This particular 1928 Shovelhead was built with scraps and components from as far away as England. Parts were ordered from sources that actually remanufacturer fenders, tanks and seats for old Harley restorations. Additional components were scavenged from a shop closing in Van Nuys, California, but the final creation, fabrication and assembly was handled by a couple of talented builders at Strokers in Dallas. JR started the project then escaped the country for four years, while Jim Stultz took over. Jim has since opened his own shop and JR returned to the fold for final assembly.

front shot 2

JR slicked the welds before anything was powdered or chromed and cut spacers for the rear 21-inch wheel. They ran into one problem with the battery box configuration. The battery wouldn't fit. With some quick adjustments, a super strong Spyke gel battery slipped into place and kicked the scoot right off. The oil is housed in a portion of the gas tanks, so the box above the transmission handles only the battery and the ignition switch, with some wiring.

full left

"When we build bikes," JR said, "We completely mock them up before chrome and paint, but we don't juice and start them. That creates too much of a mess to deal with before chrome and paint." I rode through the final joining of parts with JR for tips that you could use. When the majority of the chrome and paint was in hand he began assembly. "First we had to send the wheels out to be relaced, trued and balanced," JR explained. Since we went the extra mile to powdercoat the rims, the wheels had to be torn down, then re-assembled once the painted rims were returned. Note that the front 21 matches the 21 on the rear for that spindly, early look.

full right

JR put the bike up with the front end, rear fender (it had tight clearances, so they mounted the fender before the wheel) rear wheel and front wheel, so it was a rolling chassis. Then the engine was installed (after the powder was shaved away from the mounting areas) and the transmission in that order. Before the driveline was tightened, he mounted the inner primary to insure proper alignment. Then the battery box was installed.

rear shot

Next the electrical components were installed so that the wiring could be run between the gas tanks and hidden from view. Then the gas tanks/oil tank was installed on the backbone of the frame. Jim originally bent solid tubing oil lines, but they leaked some and tight bends were threatening oil flow. "I was concerned," JR said, "Shovels and Pans need a lot of lubrication, quick. If I could, I'd pour the oil in through a big funnel. He was concerned about the myriad of hard bends and the small I.D. of the tubing. "I chose to use a larger diameter rubber tubing."

right rear angle

Then JR mounted the brakes, which were both disc and mostly Performance Machine components. Final components followed including the primary drive, the handlebars, headlight and internal throttle to the S&S carb. Note the lack of controls on the bars.

right side front angle

"The engine fired off the first time," JR said smiling. "We planned to Jet Hot coat the handmade exhaust pipes, but the boss, Rick Fairless, voted for chrome." After the bike was fired and tested they yanked the pipes for dipping.

If you've read the previous installments, you caught the sixth wife threat looming over Bandit's head. After five wives he has a deadly code, "No more wives". So he drug his cowboy boots in a dire effort to stay out of Texas. He's hoping his tactic worked, that the lovely Lena Fairless has grown and lost her desire to chain Bandit down one more time. She's almost of age and being sought after by a line-up of young Dallas riders. Hopefully, one will sweep her off her dainty feet.

seat, trani and lower controls

Bandit remains in California and awaits the arrival of the 1928 Shovelhead via a Truck from American Iron Horse, the custom bike manufacturer in Dallas. Then we'll road test the scoot ourselves and take the photos needed for a full feature on Bikernet and in a bike magazine. Hopefully soon it will rumble down the old streets of San Pedro, its home.


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