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Suddenly I was inspired to build another motorcycle

By Bandit with photos by Wrench

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My grandson wrecked his Dyna. He thinks he went down on a slippery west side boulevard, but the bike looks like he was rear-ended, which launched his girlfriend. She was seriously damaged, but survived. He got scuffed and walked away.

He needed a place and some guidance with his ’05 Dyna. He could have sold it and moved on, but he was so impressed with the performance after Bennett’s Performance tuned it and added some S&S TC cams, he didn’t want to let it go.

I called Dr. John, in Anaheim, about his frame and spoke to Eric Bennett. We will bring you a complete report on what we do to his Dyna in the very near future.
So, we jammed to the Long Beach Swap Meet to find Dyna parts and didn’t find much. We bought a later model touring swingarm with a 1-inch axle, because I planned to upgrade his suspension wherever possible, but the touring swingarm wasn’t right. Larry Settles from Settles Customs in Harbor City fixed us up with a late model Dyna swingarm.

Anyway, we rambled throughout the packed isles looking for parts and I came across a large flatbed truck and a line of new, bare rigid frames displayed in front. Great looking frames and I inquired. Kraft Tech only sells to distributors like Biker’s Choice, but they bring a few frames to the swap meet once in a while and the price was right. In fact the owner’s son, Chris, was on hand and he recognized me and offered me a better deal.

The frames were obviously set up for Evo engines and 5-speed transmissions, but looked almost stock. I couldn’t resist. We carried that frame up and down isles until we finally headed toward the exit with no Dyna parts, but the frame and a set of stock Softail tanks, which the frame was set up for.

As I meandered toward the exit, my cell phone rang. It was Brad Olsen, an old friend who recently scored an Oregon shop’s inventory and stashed it in a warehouse near a river leading to the sea. “Yo,” Brad said. “I need to recoup some of my investment. Do you need a Panhead engine?”

I about shit my pants. I had just scored a sharp rigid frame, a set of fatbobs, and I knew I had a 5-speed Softail transmission at the Bikernet Headquarters. What the fuck? Hell yes, I needed a Panhead engine!

As it turned out, the engine was seriously incomplete, but with a good twist. The ’69, last kidney, Shovelhead right case was mated to a ’79 left case, which would allow me to run an alternator and Evo (Baker tins) primaries. I hauled ass home from the swap and started to dig through drawers, cabinets, and lockers looking for parts.

I created a pile next to my lathe, but when I stood up, I wondered what the hell I needed another motorcycle for. That wasn’t the mystic point at all. Fuck it, I was inspired and on a roll.

Here’s a code that works for us bikers. I tell young guys all the time to start to create equity in your lives for your future. You can buy and turn houses. You can restore a car, write a book (not a good idea), paint a painting, etc. But if you’re a biker, building bikes is perfect. No, they are not always worth a bundle, but they are like putting money in the bank. Think about that the next time the ol’ lady bitches at you for building another motorcycle. How’s she doing to build equity for your future?

Even before the swap meet kicked me into gear, I was moved by Go and Tasumi at Brat Style in Long Beach. Michael Lichter introduced me to them, just down the street on the evil industrial west side of Long Beach. They build the coolest shit on the planet with a major twist. Everything is vintage, seriously vintage. Go can build a totally custom tank and install it on a ’39 Indian Scout frame, but by the time he’s done, you would bet that’s stock part and 70 years old.

What completes his bike building twist? It was his amazing painter, Deny 528. Maybe I should keep this a secret. But fuck it, it will slip out anyway. I hope to feature one of Deny’s bikes this week, a restored (don’t forget that word) 1946 Indian Chief.

I was gone. I couldn’t think of anything else but this Panhead project. I dug around and Mike from Pacific Coast Cycles came up with an oil tank. He’s a major fan of Kraft Tech frames. “Everything just slips together,” Mike said. And he’s also a major fan of Paughco springers. He has about a dozen rollers in his one-man shop. If you’re after a cool project, give him a call.

Daily, I made lists of needed parts and started to make calls. I couldn’t stop and then my grandson flew to Deadwood to be apart of Scott Jacob’s Artist Retreat. Suddenly he wanted to go to Sturgis. I came up with a plan. I rode to Sturgis and back last year, so this year, we could alternate the plan. How about taking two old bobbers to Sturgis for the kicks?

We could stuff them into the back of a van and cut a dusty trail, but they would need to be short and tight. We would take the Panhead and a Shovelhead I’ve had for years, built by the guys at Strokers Dallas under the boss, Rick Fairless. We were about to chop the Shovelhead some with a Paughco scalloped gas tank, bars, solid brass risers, and a Softail oil bag. That would do the trick.

The Sturgis 2017 plan boiled in our minds. Suddenly, I had a deadline. Oh, what the fuck? I was inspired by many factors, but I still needed a few pieces to make it happen.

The engine was missing a cam and most of the cam case elements. It needed a carb, intake, distributor, oil pump and I started digging around. I had a set of rebuilt Panheads, but they were early model and this puppy would need outside oilers. I started to ask around. I also needed the right year cam cover and I found one on line.

Berry Wardlaw from Accurate Engineering offered to help when I couldn’t find any through STD. Billy McCahill was having issues with his foundry and didn’t have castings. Berry checked with a couple of distributors and no one had any in stock.

Berry searched forums and then found a set on Ebay. I immediately ordered them from Wilson Cycles, Inc. in Roswell, GA, but when they arrived, I encountered a problem. One was perfect with valves, an O-ring intake manifold flange and the outside oiler boss. Unfortunately the other didn’t have an outside oiler fitting. It was an early model.

All right, we will deal with that problem, with Dr. Feng, our officially certified aluminum TIG welder. As it turned out, working with Ebay, I received a call from Billy McCahill, of STD and RSR, or Ryde Shop Racing. He's like a mad scientist, but he said they made a mistake two years ago and shipped out this order to a shop in Georgia. They never heard a word until I surfaced. I hauled the internal oiler head to their Downey shop and they replaced it. I was there for 30 minutes and heard 30 industry stories, some of which I will share in the news. Amazing!

We hit the swap meet again and found a cop solo seat from a major seat guy, but he had a pristine stock seat. I had an old hinged fender from an early swingarm Pan. I knocked out the pin and installed the bobbed fender with the help of Lowbrow’s new universal fender brackets.

It’s strong as a bull and fit like a champ. My funky MIG weld didn’t hold a candle to the precision Kraft Tech TIG welds on the frame. Sorta embarrassing…

I dug out a Softail 5-speed transmission, but I’m trying to figure out the plate to mount it—I did today. I called Chris at Kraft Tech and quizzed him. I have a Paughco offset 5-speed plate but need a stock ’86-’99 Softail tranny plate for a 5-speed. There are so many configurations and Paughco has them all.

I want to write a tech about ordering frames and all the configurations available. It’s not just about rake and trail anymore or wide tires, but left and right side drives, which transmission, which set of gas tanks and the type of seat being used. The list goes on. Hopefully, if the Paughco crew can help out, and with Biker’s Choice, we can make it happen.

I found a wide glide front end at the swap meet,  Ultimately, I wasn’t happy with it, but we made it work, (I hope) with an old drum front brake. I found some neck bearings and replaced the junk one. I tore the whole front end apart and cleaned it. The Paughco axle did the trick to allow it to be installed. A local shop laced the star hub to an old 18-inch used aluminum rim.

I spoke to the guys at Spectro about which fork oil to run in the legs. Joe Russo recommended Fork Oil Type E. 20 SAE, since it’s a one-up light bobber. “Heavy two-up bikes would use the 40SAE,” said Joe.

The brothers at Paughco are the best and have the best. After digging through my shit, I needed just a handful of vintage parts and pieces from the Paughco factory, like the correct front axle for an early glide. I made the mount for an old spotlight out of a bracket I built for a Bonneville bike but never used.

I needed the right side rear brake lever, plate, return spring and plunger, but I had three Wagner master cylinders. This Kraft Tech frame was set up for a Softail style disc brake. Years ago, we installed PM brakes on Dale Gorman’s Softail and I ended up with his stock solid aluminum rear wheel and brakes. They would do the trick.

I had most of the pieces for the left side, except for one, and Paughco had it, the shift linkage arm. And I didn’t plan to run a dash, but I needed something for electrics, a switch, whatever. I ordered a Paughco universal tin toolbox and then discovered something wild at an antique store, a K-model motorcycle trophy and it’s a heavy casting.

The notion is to build a simple, easy to handle bobbed Panhead. But for some odd reason, finding an early automatic-advance distributor is not easy. I don’t want any extra bells and whistles on this bike, no advance and retard mechanism, jockey shift, etc. Then I found a Mallory electronic ignition system in a locker from our ’06 Bonneville effort. I spoke to Berry Wardlaw from Accurate Engineering and it will do the trick. I’m rocking.

I went through the front end from stem to stern, installed new bearings, cleaned it, drilled lightening holes in the brake backing plate, and found a set of stock configuration stainless bars and some goofy 4-inch aluminum risers using a stock cap. I’m still working on the cable, lever and cable adjuster. I called Barnett’s today.

The bike is already headed back together for Sturgis. If the paint and engine comes together I should be cool for the run. Hang on for the next report.




Pacific Coast Cycles, Long Beach



Kraft Tech



Baker Drivetrain



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Reader Comments

Been awhile since you built a bike from scratch, if ya ask me Bandit
You still got it in spades, looking good.

tom k
ogden, UT
Friday, June 2, 2017
Editor Response Thanks brother and you made me think. When did I build the FXRs or the 5-Ball factory racer. I think I took a year break while trying to finish up the Richard Kranzler bagger with Paughco and the 1940 45 flathead Bonne Belle for Bonneville with Departure Bike Works. We just found the final engine parts. Plus, we've been building the Salt Torpedo for about three years and now it's at Paughco.

I needed something I could get my hands on. Panheads forever!

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