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5-Ball Racing Chapter 8: Bonne Belle off to Paint

Final Adjustment and Manufacturing before the Powderman Takes Control

By Bandit, with photos by Sin Wu

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Several years ago, almost six, we finished a complete vintage 45 motorcycle roller. Powder coated and painted, it languished, but worked in our behalf, when Paughco developed the 4-speed 45 frame, which saved the world for H-D 45 flathead motorcycles. Dave Perewitz immediately built a classic chopper around this new configuration. It opened lots of doors for old 45 flathead engines. No longer did military or parking meter 45 flathead engines need to be left in the dustbin. They could run with the big dogs--sorta, given the help of a 4-speed, or in our case, a 5-speed transmission. Suddenly we could possibly attempt to go very fast with a 45 engine.

We were damn close to finishing all the little elements and shipping our powder to the boss of Worco Powdercoating, Tony Pisano, who just turned 80, and still works in his sprawling shop with one helper, Ramon, everyday. His shop is filled with hot rods and some vintage toys and gas pumps. At one time, Tony had a long and successful drag racing career.

Since I didn’t have the engine in the shop we couldn’t make the pipes and pipe brackets for the frame, but then it dawned on me. We needed a top motor mount, and we determined that we needed to incorporate small battery to run the Wire Plus speedo and idiot light system. Wayne Electric, down in Anaheim, is a massive battery and electrical shop and we stopped in to see what was available. With the measurements in hand we motored back to the headquarters to work on the mounting aspects.

I made a block of wood slightly larger than the battery, then cut angle iron at 45 degrees and welded the frame together. It fit into place behind the transmission perfectly, and we were good to go.

Then the mocked up oil bag arrived from Kustoms Inc, with tabs and fittings. Julie did an amazing job cutting, shaping, and welding the bag to fit the form of the frame. It doesn’t have a large capacity, but we ain’t going far. Gary Maurer instructed me to mount the tabs on the frame, and then mark where the bungs will go on the tank. He wanted to weld all the mounting bungs and the oil line fittings on the tank, so I did as instructed. I scribed the position of the fittings, and he marked which one was which, the feed line, return, vent, drain, and cap. Within a week they returned the tank and it was drilled TIG welded and ready for powder—amazing.


In the meantime, I monkeyed with the front brake. The 10-inch PM rotor didn’t reach the PM caliper mounted to the 39 mm cast aluminum H-D leg. I needed a slightly larger rotor, or a different caliper bracket. We decided to go without a front brake, for less drag and more aerodynamic opportunities. I cut and filled in the front fender and turned over the finishing aspects to Jim Murillo.


Regarding the top motor mount, I dug in my manual drawer and discovered a 45 manual with a blueprint drawing of the frame. Then it dawned on me, a 45 WLDR, 1939 vintage Harley resided in the living room. I was good to go on the top motor mount. I started digging around the shop for the perfect chunk of steel. I have whole drawers devoted to tabs, brackets, and spacers. I found the perfect bracket, the proper thickness for the required top motor mount strength and durability.

I started the shaping, grinding, positioning, leveling, and tacking process. It was perfect until the master, the Bikernet Performance Editor, Ray C. Wheeler, walked into the shop, just as I was about to fire the MIG welder for the final weld. “Will the motor mount fasteners clear the bottom of the tank?” Rays inquired.

I took one look at the bracket, dangerously close to the tank brackets and stopped in my misguided tracks. It was way too risky. I shifted gear to a more common, Panhead frame configured top motor mount. Ray saved the day once more.

We also ordered a Biker’s Choice steering damper and grappled with the positioning and bracket mounting. They ship it with an easy to mount chrome bracket, which we immediately modified and then welded it to the down tube. I believe it will work out perfectly—keep your fingers crossed.

I discovered a bullshit problem with our chain guard and altered the front mounting position. Finally, since the 45 has a serious power drawback and needs all the help it can get from an aerodynamic standpoint, I made a belly pan to prevent any additional wind drag under the frame. I also made and welded panels on the under side of my rear fender brackets to prevent wind from weaving through the rails. I’m sorta disturbed by the front fender. I wish I had created wings around the lower legs, but I’ll pray for surf this time out.

An undiscovered Bonneville rule smacked us with the Peashooter. The steering damper cannot act as a fork stop. We needed an additional fork stop for the Bonne Belle. The criteria called for aerodynamics and coolness. This is what I came up with and tacked the threaded stud to the frame.

I also discovered the handy Wire Plus speedo mounting bracket and how to fit it to the bars, tucked neatly in front of the forks where the Streetwalker fairing will shadow it.

We also adjusted the slick seat Barry Wardlaw built for the Assalt Weapan, and made it fit the 45. I called Lee Chapin and former boss of Mikuni about carburetion. He suggested a 42 mm Mikuni, if we could boost the flathead compression to 9:1, and a controversy began to burn. I discussed compression with John O’Keefe at Branch O’Keefe. It was possible, but not without problems.

To my way of feeble thinking, I imagined shaving the heads and going to town. The problem is the combustion chamber on a flathead. The valves are not positioned over the pistons. They are shoved over to the side, so if you increase the compression, it diminishes the size of the combustion chamber, plus when the spark fires, the limited combustion is not directly over the piston but off to the side, even shoving the piston sideways, and not down.

We always take shots of components due to be powder coated, and take a copy of the shot to the shop, for reference.
We always take shots of components due to be powder coated, and take a copy of the shot to the shop, for reference.

Just this last weekend I spoke to Dale Walksler at the Wheels Through Time Museum. He had a high compression VL, and he fired it for us. “The timing needs to be dangerously advanced way too much,” Dale said. “They run like crap, and it’s tough on the engine.”

I immediately called Lee Clemens and we opted for 6.5 to 7:1 compression, a more common approach for flathead engines. We want this puppy to run and last. So I suppose we will see how the Mikuni responds. I’m outta here to pick up the powder coating.

The next time you see the Bonne Belle, it will be a painted roller waiting on the engine. I need to find fire prevention gas line wrap.

5-Ball Racing Bonne Belle Sources

Accurate Engineering


Click on the banner for more info.
Click on the banner for more info.

Departure Bike Works

Kustoms Inc.
Grand Ledge, MI

Pacific Coast Cycles
2430 Lewis Ave.
Signal Hill, CA 90755
(562) 426-8095



Performance Machine

Street Walker Exhaust

U.S. Choppers


Wire Plus

Yankee Engineuity

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Click on the banner for more info.

I believe she's sitting on a restored 45 flathead--Yipee. Let's go racing, baby.
I believe she's sitting on a restored 45 flathead--Yipee. Let's go racing, baby.

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