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1928 Shovelhead Runs Part VII

Handmade Pipes By Strokers For The Final

Photos by Tonia Hendrickson from Strokers Dallas

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Here's the deal. The 1928 project was recently completed except for a stylish exhaust system. The antique notion was based on racers from the '20s, something way off the pavement, open and short.

JR, the service director of Strokers, explained the steps, "They were cut and pasted together. Bits and pieces from the scrap yard, combined with pre-bent 1 3/4-inch diameter 16-gauge tubing, which is similar to stock. We also used stock exhaust manifold chunks off scrapped systems."

He hung up, and I sat back in my chair perplexed. I was faced with the same daunting task when we built the Amazing Shrunken FXR pipes. I had a myriad of questions and called back.

"Hold on JR," I said trying to capture his attention while he was carb tuning a running, 100-inch, RevTech motor.


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"What the hell do you want?" he said in a Texas gunslinger drawl.

"Do the pipes have baffles? I asked holding the phone like you grasp a girl you don't want to lose.

"Nope," JR said.

"Are there any brackets other than the exhaust manifolds?" I rattled the question rapid-fire quick, hoping that he wouldn't hang up.

"One," he said, "anything else?"

"Yep," I barked.

"I gotta go," JR fumbled and the straight-pipe, 100-incher roared.

"Wait," I begged.

He hung up. I looked at the phone as if someone sliced the wires leading to the pole, and the died. The next day I called back. JR was off on Tuesday. I called Wednesday and the receptionist fed me to the service department. The service writer was courteous, told me JR was in but couldn't find him.

I called the next day. He was on the premises but unavailable. I called the following day, still no JR. I was growing a complex. I called everyday for a week, no luck. I went around him to his boss, the magnificent Rick Fairless, the mastermind behind Strokers of Dallas with Strokers Ice House, one of the most happening biker bars in the South. An e-mail sprang back. JR suffered a heat stroke after road testing a new Big Dog, for two hours in 102 degrees, then helping his daughter move to college. I felt like shit.


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Apparently heat strokes are notorious and can become an annual nightmare. This was his third devastating attack. We finally hooked up again, and he coughed up his exhaust pipe making secrets. Strokers is noted for their customs, which rock from old school radical choppers to hand-fabricated marvels. JR is learning more and more fabrication techniques to expand the shop's capabilities.

"We've been performing sheet metal functions, with hammers, successfully," JR said, "but with an English wheel and Yoder hammer machine, we can speed up the process. I'm taking classes."

They don't manufacture many exhaust systems, and when they do it's by hand.

"You can buy exhaust pipe segments, 1 3/4-inch to 2 1/2 inches in diameter, from hot rod shops, and piece any pipe together," JR explained. "We buy "U", "S" shaped bends and straight chunks."

Since I also faced the delicate job of trying to hold two chunks perfectly in line and tacking them, I asked JR how he handled the task.


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"We discovered magnet clamps for holding chunks of pipe," JR said, "they're available from Harbor Freight Tool Supply. I made flat clamp brackets in dissimilar lengths from 3 to 6 inches long with a variety of holes drilled in them in an arch. There are two "C" clamps attached, on at either end. I welded bolts to the clamps so I can move them from hole to hole, on the bracket, or change the angle.

I asked a final nervous question about the allowable gaps when tacking pipes.

"I try to make the fit as close and precise as possible," Jr explained. We continue to grind the edge of the pipe with a 90-degree, die grinder and a 2-inch 3M sanding disc. We also have a band saw with a tilt-able head for slicing exhaust at just the right angle."


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"The pipes haven't blued," I said looking at the shots.

"Yeah," JR said. "We use three coats of Blue Shield by Kreeme, the guys who make the tank sealant."

"So how loud are these puppies?" I asked holding my breath. They looked like window breakers.

"Not bad," He muttered looking at the shop clock. I was burnin' daylight in Dallas. "They're loud enough that ya know what ya got."

"That's it," I said. "I won't darken your phone again."

"It's happy hour at Strokers," JR barked, and I could sense that I was losing him.

"It's party time," were his final words.


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