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The Little Red Story, Part 1

The '69 Shovelhead Chopper History and Build

by Kent Weeks with photos by Sil and RFR
7/25/2022


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To say this project has a long story is quite an understatement. Miracles two, we have all stayed friends and loosely in contact over the years. During this long, drawn-out period there are so many memories, kids, work, life and the madness that comes from it all, haha!

Like so many things in life, it all started by chance. Fairly early in my career, as a Welder/Fabricator, I built handicap equipment, which entailed serious vehicle mods and such. Daily I drove past this cool little shop, thinking, “Man that would make a great fab shop,” and one day a hiring sign went up.

What often caught my eye was serious TIG welding action. While I was well rounded in the fab shop and had a good handle on MIG welding, I had not learned to TIG weld, and I was on a serious mission to do just that!

Soon, I made time to stop in and meet Tom. I started to come around and help with odd projects, but it was mostly MIG work or things I already knew how to do. Finally, I sat down with Tom and explained that I was really coming around because I was determined to learn TIG welding. I don’t mess around for long, as my wife, Holly, would attest to.

I even went so far as to tell him that I was willing to pay for lessons and that I really wanted him to teach me, but I was going to learn to TIG weld no matter what. Needless to say, he set a small stack of material in front of me, and in short time I was TIG welding my heart out.
 
 

 
Leaving the handicap shop was one of the most difficult choices I made up to that point, but there were too many opportunities to learn at American Heli-Arc, so it wasn't really much of a choice, but something I had to do (kinda felt like I was running off to college and leaving home behind…).
 

 
I quickly had the chance to work on exotic materials and a wide variety of specialty projects. And yeah, we did a lot of metal work on vehicles, mostly motorcycles.



Sometimes things can be good and bad at the same time, and my fever for motorcycles took the lead. Before too long, we ended up doing a final assembly on a project and that started to bring in more mechanical work, and that lead into more complete-build projects like Little Red here.
 
Harvey back in the '70s.
Harvey back in the '70s.


 

Her story started off like a lot of custom projects. The owner, a long time rider spent a lot of time enjoying custom motorcycle mags for many years while serving our Country in the Navy and dreamed of building something custom for himself, a hot rod hardtail!

He brought the chassis in for some metal work, where I worked with my old friend and mentor Tom Young (American Heli-Arc). We bounced around a few sheet metal options, started off with some twin tanks and a hex horse shoe oil tank among other things.

Right about the time we were wrapping up the sheet metal or close to it anyway, our buddy Harvey (the owner) got the word that his temporary disability retirement from the Navy was under review. Knowing he’d rather have full retirement he hit the gym and trimmed up for his review and was subsequently reinstated.

I remember him stopping by in his dress whites on his way, so we could wish him good lucky (pun intended haha), good times.

Sometime in the Summer of 2000, Harvey was off to Japan! Needless to say, we had to put the project on hold because the Navy made a good choice and put him back to work. It was one of the few times when you’re glad to see a project held up.

“I spent 14 years in Japan,” Harvey added. “That’s putting a project on hold.”

Sometime after I had moved into my own shop, I ended up hosting a bike show event where we had a small chop off “builders” event. We had all stayed in touch to some degree, and we invited Tom to participate. Harvey was kind enough to just let the guys at American Heli-Arc do whatever they wanted, so they took that rascal and dolled her up for the show (They had been working on it anyway, and just needed a small excuse to step up the progress).

The guys made some really cool changes, different gas tank, oil tank and front fender to name my favorites. After the event Tom and the guys also took her around and showed her off a bit at events for the shop for a few years.

When Harvey was finally getting close to retirement, he reached out to Tom about making some changes to the bike to make it a little more comfortable and to add some bells and whistles. By this time Tom was not doing much mechanical work at his shop, so he said, “Let’s call Kent and get him involved.”

This was back while I was still in my old Lucky Devil shop slightly before I took in my “last” highly detailed Resto mod project (But you’ll have to wait for that story. It’s a long one also, haha!).



One of the ergonomic touches was upgrading the seat, I modified the mounts to run a set of custom shocks and changed the front mount a little. So unfortunately, I had to get into a little red candy touch up work. Good news, it came out alright, especially for a welder.



Probably the biggest and best changes we did to the bike was to upgrade the tranny to a Baker 6n4 with a N1 shift drum with a spline shaft and Evo style clutch basket. Now, she can keep up with modern traffic, shifts like a dream and there is no hitting Neutral in between 1st and 2nd (ask him about that and he’ll tell you really quick he fell in loves with it).





I also modified a BDL SHS-600 Shovel Shorty electric start drive support plate and Evo-style clutch basket to run with the 3-inch system we had for hanging the starter. It also seemed like a good time to upgrade to an S&S oil pump to keep things flowing well.





For pipes I made some 2-to-1 split pipes for the headers and constructed a muffler can from a blank I got from Bikernet while working on the Root Beer Float project. I did put just a little more baffle inside to keep the neighbors happy at night.





Harvey also had an old Pat Kennedy front end lying around. Tom used it for the original mock up. Harvey had him put a springer on it for the "old school" look. We ditched the springer and went with the narrow 41mm set up as that was the original plan, and we thought it might be smoother.







By this time, parts were hard to come by for this front end, so I made a custom offset bracket for the front brake caliper among other little things. I built a mount for the turn signals, tool roll and tweak bar. Yeah, I said turn signals for an early Shovel.





We also added a digital speedo with everything needed to be legal for import to some random places in the world, just in case. For that we used a Motogadget speedo with a custom mount I made up with indicator lights.





Needless to say, I had to molest the front fender a little to work with the new front end. I tied it into the front brake caliper mount I made to make it a little stronger instead of just using the 1/4x20 mounting holes on the sliders. I did a couple changes to the gas tank, and then just like that it was in need of a paint job.



A great example of why true customs and one of a kind work can “Take so long.” I don’t do a lot of painting myself and usually don’t do art work, but I did have fun with the flames on this one.







There are quite a few fine details on this rascal and as usual I did a little extra detail work on a few parts out of friendship, a small gift of time and material for those who support true custom work is always in order!



Long time coming, but Harvey finally got the chance to enjoy some saddle-time and right now we are finishing some break-in miles and basic service stuff so her story is just kicking off.

She's been waiting outside of the shop...
She's been waiting outside of the shop...



--Kent

Watch for the feature with the girls in the near future.
Watch for the feature with the girls in the near future.



Resources:

Lucky Devil Metal Works
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American Heli-arc
https://www.americanheliarc.com/

Belt Drive Ltd.
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S&S
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Baker Drivetrain
Click for Action.
Click for Action.


The 5-Ball Vest that breathes! Pit Crew vest with Brown Trim...
The 5-Ball Vest that breathes! Pit Crew vest with Brown Trim...

 

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Reader Comments


I enjoyed the article. Kent Weeks is one talented man!

Lonnie bissell
Omaha, NE
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Editor Response You just made his day.
--Bandit
Kent likes to say "if it ain't long, it's wrong". A true artist and master fabricator, he's also expert at tweaking the rake and trail essential to making a chopper, not a flopper.

Thank you, Bandit, for taking on this 'long' story.

HARVEY E EZELL
SAN ANTONIO, TX
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Editor Response It's not over yet. Hang on!
--Bandit

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