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Building my first Harley one part at a time


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  • #46
    Best thing to do later on is buy aftermarket cases (or a donor engine built upon them) because HD cases are shit as you just found out. Wanting to use leftovers doesn't save money on these machines which are very much not Japanese.

    Hunting aftermarket heads is wise too which is why Dragstews is ordering a set for my Pan (old HD castings also sucked plus they're now ancient). You have time so using it not to screw yourself will pay off. Harleys like British motorbikes are wonderful for everything BUT OEM build quality!

    They're wonderfully REbuildable thanks to their 1930s design influence but reusing some less robust parts once they are damaged is like trying to refresh a dried out turd. (No matter how wet the turd it just won't be the same.)

    At least you got the flywheels and cylinders off the thing and learnt what not to try to make work. Stop-drilling then filling with epoxy might buy more time since the part won't be welded in future at that spot and contamination won't matter.

    Patience is fast, hurry is slow.

    A local shop may have a single leftover case they don't care about and will give away or let go cheap. With all the crate engines and parts out there many shops won't want to risk pissed off customers building on old junk and Evos are disposable.


    • #47
      Originally posted by farmall
      A local shop may have a single leftover case they don't care about and will give away or let go cheap. With all the crate engines and parts out there many shops won't want to risk pissed off customers building on old junk and Evos are disposable.
      If I did that would I not have to lap the cases and then line lap the main bearing hole and find the right sized race for it? Even not doing that may be better than what I have, but in the past matching two different cases has caused me nightmares I do not wish to revisit.

      Decking a cylinder base with a huge lathe file was not fun. And finding out later on my tranny pissed ATF (2 stroke) all over the place as soon as it got hot was worse. I had to take it all back apart and use sandpaper on glass to get them close. Then make thinner shims for the output and lay shaft. After the fucker still leaked, but was not bad enough to make me do it again. ($150 Yamaha with a $1000 of my labor in it if I paid myself) That engine had MX 175 MX100 YZ 125 YT175 and IT 125 parts in it and became a short stroke 160-170 engine in a MX100 frame


      • #48
        You would have to lap per the service manual at least theoretically but if everything bolts together and the crank turns with no additional drag then the lot is likely reasonably concentric. No need to lap the case joint if that's what ya ment by lapping the cases but you might end up decking them. I only mentioned it because it's possible but sure isn't optimal and you appear to want to do it the hard way. That's one of the hard ways but not impossible.

        If you're restricted to ghetto methods then what is the REAL reason you cannot hold off just a little bit (tell yourself, we don't really need to know to help you out) and save enough cash to avoid spending much MORE money and time on a fundamentally and demonstrably (it saves neither your time nor your money) course of action trying to cobble junk together?

        On one hand your winding and general custom ignition/charging system makes good sense (meaning testable, provable sense the demonstration being your previous winding successes) but on the other your approach to building this engine is testably, provably illogical to the point of absurdity.

        It's not a noble quest to use damaged parts which were superseded because they sucked in the first place and that are best improved by being melted down.

        Decide if you want to ride a Harley or just fuck around burning time and similar or more money then do what you want with eyes wide open. High mechanical skills can only make bad choices work to a point and buying the first cheap junk you found has already backfired. Doing the same thing then expecting different results is....questionable.

        It's of course not your fault the old stock parts suck but it is your fault for choosing perhaps the worst possible route to building a Harley engine after being cautioned.

        Chop Culters warn noobs about piecing together junk because complete basket cases are better, and we warn basket case buyers they'd best KNOW what they're buying and PRECISELY how to attack their project or they'll get financially punished. I prefer to learn from others mistakes as like every mechanic I've broken my share of stuff.

        The "built from bits" method can work much better for Japanese bikes because donor corpses are often free or at scrap price hence painless to shitcan if unusable. You are NOT attempting to build a Jap bike here so someone like myself should do the ethical thing and point that out. My guess is success with rice (I like everything on two wheels and am a multibrand mechanic) may have misled you as to what is optimal for a Harley.

        Want to do better and get the Harley you really want? Press on with the (affordable, suited to your skills and circumstance and potentially profitable in future) GOOD choice of working on a charging/ignition setup AFAIK no one else has attempted on an alternator Harley! That leverages what you do well.

        A motorcycle is a pile of dollars/euros/renminbi/glass beads/whatever on two wheels. The most efficient way to get what you specifically want is not the approach you are attempting. Instead you will be far more effective if you make coldly optimal choices.

        Given you're assembling the thing if you buy the frame you want that is a testable, demonstrable win because you get the frame with factory MSO ready for you to do as you wish. That is effective spending.

        Piecing together an engine is fine too but not by deliberately choosing the worst parts options. The gearbox is an example of a reasonable method. It's all there, probably not worn out since the owner bothered to case it, and easy to correct anything that may be not quite right as five speed takeouts abound.

        The fundamental flaw in using old cases is they often failed on Harleys early in their service lives, are NOT quality parts and cannot be made into quality parts. That's why House of Horsepower, Cal Custom, S&S, Ultima, Delkron and others made and make bank selling cases which are not dogshit fucking garbage. Evo big twins are excellent by HARLEY standards but those focus on rebuildability and tradition rather than quality. Harleys are expensive machines with premium surface finishes and plating. The rest is of no better than industry standard quality AND the goof design choices which saved Milwaukee production costs made the aftermarket wealthy for very, very valid reasons.

        To succeed copy success (which it's worth reminding you are doing with your rewinding and electronics projects!).

        Some builds function as a savings plan where the builder knows saving is problematic so they buy parts to ensure the money used goes into the project and is not diverted. That makes sense but NOT the way you have so far insisted on doing it because of the aforementioned parts issues.

        The correct (meaning proven, testable, measurable) fix is to do some of what you're already doing (networking, looking for deals) but without trying to use old cases. Ultima and other cases or used good short blocks can be had with patience and patience is a benefit as you can save while you hunt and the more cash you can hunt with the better your options. I'm writing at length because many more prospective builders than you will likely read this and objective truth makes for better decisions.

        I would save up and buy new cases. It won't kill you and you're not betraying some imaginary Harley god by going with superior parts. Fill cases with your crankshaft and whatever else they require which are mostly consumable wear parts best bought new. I don't flush the shit out of used toilet paper because nothing makes that a good idea. You get the use of your good parts without pissing away cash and are more likely to ride sooner that way.

        While hunting heads you're not obliged to buy parts in any sequence and if something like primary covers, clutch, oil bag, forks, wheels etc offers itself buy that instead since they're all necessary! Sooner or later a legit deal on heads will turn up but by then you might prefer new or used aftermarket.

        Now compare the approach I just outlined with yours. Which is more likely to produce a rideable chopper in time and on budget?

        You're not the first builder of anything to self-sabotage by being hard-headed. Your previous method worked because of the way the Japanese bike market and organ donor pool worked. That reality does not apply on this project.

        Other than the engine cases and some heads the rest is typically safe to buy used without intimate hands-on inspection.

        Chop Cult is about sharing what works and what doesn't. You're obviously intelligent or you'd not be winding drone motors etc successfully and clearly have solid motor understanding. I suggest you apply that intelligence patiently, do the proven thing, and take advantage of the Chop Cult hive mind!

        Did I miss anything?
        Last edited by farmall; 01-04-2022, 11:32 PM.


        • #49
          Ya I get what your saying. I know damn well I've made a mistake on buying this engine to start with. The first guy I talked to looking for parts offered me a complete engine for $900. This one cost me $600 and was even a screw up there. I've been planning this a long time and was going to pick up another bike for $500 that needed electrical work. I think I could have got 2000 to 2500 out of it and I was going to buy an engine with that money.

          Then I saw this for $600 and thought I could cut a corner and have my engine sooner. (big mistake my ADHD don't help with)

          What I should have done was fix the bike while asking around to local guys about engines. Then sold the bike and bought one. This would have been much smarter. I have never lost money on a motorcycle other than the few that got stolen from me (GL1100 XJ650 YZ250 200X YSR50 PE175 KZ400 ATC70) But as you say the import bikes are worthless non running 90% off the bikes I have owned cost me under $500 and I have only bought 3 running bikes in my life and have owned more than 70.

          I think my track record of never losing on a motorcycle purchase (other than theft) has made me a little over confident. I dove head first into this mess and didn't take a real good look at the situation. Parts I expected to have were not there damage I never thought could be there was.

          The one thing I got going for me is my last purchase earlier last month was a total win (2012 CBR250R 12k-km for $300) It took me $150 and a few hours and its worth $3000 up here as is. So I have a dependable bike while I build this and I should calm my self the fuck down and take this slow. (easier said than done)

          That said I do still want to build this motor, but I need to take a breath and slow down.


          • #50
            Nice score on the CBR250R!

            If you can turn profit rice dealing it could make most sense to flip a few more to have a cash cushion.

            Flipping rice fund more sales. They're profitable. Buying stuff ya is a cost center. If you keep doing what makes money for a while and retain a grub stake so you can always pounce on flippable machines then flip that that can be nice side money. I used to flip Ironheads, misc rice, cars and trucks.

            The best way to get bargains is having enough set aside to afford bargains. Spring will arrive soon so if ya can have a scoot or three ready to sell that could work nicely.

            Flip enough and you could buy a runner to chop after riding it first to see what you will really want from a Harley.


            • #51
              Ya that CBR is one of my best scores yet. Some tweaker tried to steal it snapped of a screwdriver in the ignition then cut the battery out. The bike sat for a few years. The owner was sick of paying for lot fees and the shops wanted to do a full harness replacement. So she just wanted it gone. She told me $100 and I just couldn't do that so I gave her $300. I still feel a little bad its a perfect little getting around bike. If taken care of it will last me forever since I don't intend on being hard on it.

              This one is not for sale unless I have another bike because its in the cheapest insurance bracket without passenger restrictions and gets 70 miles to the gallon.

              Also I can reprogram the ECU with a $5 FTDI I have lots of and tune the engine mapping. This is the next skill I want to future proof myself for the motorcycles of the future. As of now the bike runs way on the lean side for emissions (White plugs) so I need to get on that before long.


              • #52
                Well I ordered some of the electronics. I'll be doing a few YouTube videos on how I do my electronics. My way can work on just about anything. The first video will cover DC and is so brutally simple anyone can do it. I'm going to do the DC first because it wont even require an engine. I'll set it up on a wood sheet and show everyone how cheap and easy doing ignition really is.

                Also my system can be run dual CDI AC and DC. (For people who never want to be stuck with no spark) both ways the setup is the same the only difference being power source.

                If anyone has some weird old engine with no ignition this shit is a life saver. I've tested it on chainsaws, outboard, golf karts, ATVs, motorcycles, washing machine engines, and Briggs and Stanton.


                • #53
                  Gonna be looking forward to that vid; more knowledge = more power


                  • #54
                    Well making the video and editing it was a fucking nightmare. The gopro kept shutting off and I'm on editing software #2 now as it kept shutting down my laptop, but I think I got it now. I'm just waiting for it to export and will post soon.


                    • #55
                      Not done processing, but here is link. It will be available by the time I get my shitty dinner cooked.


                      • #56
                        Found a tranny that the owner actually responds to messages for. I'm going to buy it. It's a 5 speed and looking at the picture of the inside it's good enough.
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                        • #57
                          That is not the five speed you want. Find a later one with splined mainshaft (input shaft) and without the external clutch release arm. Trust me on this.


                          Edit to say, looks like someone already swapped a splined mainshaft into that case. You still don't want that box.
                          Last edited by JBinNC; 01-11-2022, 7:02 AM.


                          • #58
                            Ok, I'm listening. What problems dose that box have and can it be fixed with a few parts? Keep in mind i want to do a kicker conversion to it. I want to know if its a "Good enough for the woman I date situation" Or reamed asshole situation.

                            I don't have the money to get super picky here and the inside looked really nice as if the internals where put into it for some reason. Yes I am aware of that being a red flag, but if i can get away with this tranny for at least 2-5k miles I'm fine with it. I'm not looking for parts to last the life of the bike.

                            I am totally prepared to be changing the bike over the course of its life. In fact that's the goal here. Right now I'm getting my entrance to a harley and other than the frame I consider everything to be temporary. The bike will change as I get money and my taste or ideas of what I want change. Already things I wanted to do are changing as I research, such as my need for open chain primary is dead as I have learnt they only last 500 miles.

                            I am fully aware your saying not to for a reason and as you probably have good reason and more experience I want to know why. If it's a major unfixable reason I will stay away. If it can be fixed or dealt with for a while I may still buy it. If its just that cover and clutch arm setup I'm already planning on ditching it anyway. However if the case has different mounting than most that will be a problem.


                            • #59
                              I don't have the money to get super picky here
                              No shit since you appear to resent sound financial advice (which is what parts purchase advice in effect is!). How about not confusing purchase with progress?
                              Every old mechanic has seen this before but at least we tried to warn ya...

                              The juxtaposition of parts show it was leftovers from two or three different boxes slapped together while the old end door and breakage-prone clutch release is a red flag the builder didn't care. If I'm gonna rebuild a non-restoration for myself no way I'd run that setup and that's why it was left over in the first place. Someone assembling it rather than parting it tells me they probably didn't do more than replace gaskets. However that end door etc were on an older gear box and had to be transplanted. I didn't see it done so I don't know if it was swatted on with a hammer and hunk of pipe or what. There are more fish in the sea. It is a "false economy" to conflate low price alone (and that ain't low) rather than planning to reduce the real, net price of the project by efficient purchasing.

                              If buying mismatched parts I want to see them naked (the parts, not myself) to catch hidden damage. "Purchase isn't progress" and more money is more choices which include better choices which result in net savings and earlier project completion. Mechanical skill is not project management skill and it takes both to get shit done on time and reasonably in range of budget. Unanticipated expenses tend to be drastically higher when buying junk, the engine should have been a teachable moment.

                              If you just have to buy something save for a new frame and if a better deal comes along you were already making progress saving for the frame. You have to save for the frame either way and being a more expensive part it's a better financial goal because it permits diversion to less expensive goals of worthwhile quality (like a gearbox or engine) rather than delaying access to major goals by burning money in small amounts before it ever grows usefully large.

                              Think about it. What's REALLY more likely to put you on the road sooner?
                              Last edited by farmall; 01-14-2022, 6:09 PM.


                              • #60
                                Open primary clutch's only last 500 miles? Says who?


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