TV Two Cam – 1929 Harley JDH on History Channel’s American Restoration

1920 JDH Two Cam

Buzz’s 1929 Harley JDH Two Cam was featured on an episode of History Channel’s American Restoration.

Text by Dale Walksler
Photos by Jim Dohms

I have always liked a challenge, and this is a great one — a worn out 87-year-old bike and only 45 days to rebuild it in front of a TV audience. To be seen on History Channel’s American Restoration, this is a behind the scenes look at what was involved in redoing this rare old Harley.

This wasn’t the first time my old friend and fellow motorcycle enthusiast Buzz Kanter has thrown a challenge at me. It’s hard to remember all the projects Buzz and I have worked on over the decades, but the reward is always a great motorcycle project, fun with old friends, and some ink in American Iron Magazine (AIM).

My guess is that most Harley riders have no idea what a Harley JDH is or represents. They look like single-cam Harley JDs, but less than 2,000 higher-performance JDHs were ever made. They were fast and reliable machines, and many were ridden hard, abused, and worn out. Eventually they became all but extinct. The few surviving examples have been scooped up by collectors, with the best selling for well over $100,000.

1929 Harley JDH before restoration

Buzz’s 1929 JDH before it got the American Restoration treatment.

Buzz bought his first JDH, a rough and rusty rolling basket case in a basement, in 1992 and immediately fell in love with these rare old motorcycles. In 2012, he rode one from New York to San Francisco on the Motorcycle Cannonball. So you know he has plenty of experience with JDH Harleys. But those are stories for another time.

What we began with on the TV show was actually a pretty good start for a project. It looked funky, but it was all there and in fair running condition. Because we had a tight production schedule to get this bike finished, it became an exercise in precise calculating of which parts got what finishes. It had to look good when finished, but we did not have the luxury of waiting for plating and painting.

If you saw the show (almost a million households viewed the first airing), you know some of this already. Bob, Buzz, and I quickly and efficiently tore it down in the Wheels Through Time workshop. We had it apart in less than an hour. Then, for the first time I can remember, I chased Buzz out of the workshop and told him to come back in a month to see the finished project. Then the real work began.

Bob White and I discovered that the frame and the forks were bent, which was pretty common — remember that these machines were raced, and that means crashed. Fortunately, we had a genuine 1920s Harley frame table at the museum workshop for just this reason. Once straightened, we sent the frame and fork out for paint. John Dills painted the components in a luscious two-tone maroon that Buzz had picked out. We tossed most of the crappy and mismatched nuts and bolt hardware and replaced a lot of it with leftover nickel nuts and bolts from a recent Crocker and other old bike projects.

1929 Harley JDH Two Cam stop taillight

Dale’s sense of humor is evident in this wrinkle to the restoration.

While waiting for the frame and fork to come back from painting, we stripped the tanks for inspection. They were worse than expected, so we opted for replacement tanks with welded seams from Tom Feezer of Replicant Metals in Pennsylvania.

Since the name of the show is American Restoration, all the parts had to either be repainted or replated. My pals at Plating Specialties in Michigan handled this in short order. I am thankful they cleaned the parts prior to plating, saving me the 20-plus hours that I did not have to spare.

1929 Harley JDH

Back to some of the details on this 1929 Harley. The front wheel had a massive British brake from the 1960s. Harley started offering front brakes in 1928, and they were less than inspiring. So this is a welcome improvement. And the forks are Harley, but from a much earlier year, meaning it does not handle like a 1929 road bike. In fact, matching up this older front end and tighter frame geometry makes it handle more like a 1940s dirt track 750 Harley racer, as Buzz was going to learn on his first ride. Next up was the handlebars, which have seen many variations over the years. I contacted Tom Faber, who makes bars for Harleys manufactured from 1909 to the 1950s. I use Tom’s bars on many of my bikes. They have never failed and have always been perfect.

Something happened to us that you won’t see on the TV show. Running tight on time with the painting and plating, we worked long hours to get the job done. It was all coming together when we almost lost it late one night while installing the most critical visual part: the right gas tank.

Want to find out what happened? Find out in American Iron Magazine Issue 338!

Also available in digital format CLICK HERE American Iron Digital

Be sure to check out the work of award-winning photographer Jim Dohms, a regular contributor to AIM, while you’re at it! 

1929 Harley JDH Two Cam on American Restoration

Dale kept Buzz in suspense and didn’t let him see the restoration job on his 1929 JDH Two Cam until the very last minute.

Motorcycle Cannonball 2016 Video – Stage 5 Start

Runnin’ Rabbits Films captures the start of Stage 5 of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball Run as riders set out from Bloomington, Indiana.

Day 3 Motorcycle Cannonball – American Iron Report

This event for 1916 or older motorcycles to ride across the US from Atlantic City, NJ to Carlsbad, CA looks to be the toughest one yet. The first Motorcycle Cannonball (2010) was for 1915 and older bikes from Kitty Hawk, NC to Santa Monica, CA. The second one was in 2012, for motorcycles 1929 and older, from New York to San Francisco, CA. And the third one was Daytona Beach, FL to Tacoma, WA for up to 1936 motorcycles.

Motorcycle Cannonball riders do whatever it takes to get in the miles each day, including pushing up the underpowered Class I bikes up the steeper hills.

Motorcycle Cannonball riders do whatever it takes to get in the miles each day, including pushing up the underpowered Class I bikes up the steeper hills.

This year, the age of the bikes was dropped back to 1916 or older, so all motorcycles are at least 100 years old. Scoring is pretty basic, the rider gets a point for every mile he or she (3 women riders started the event, including American Iron Magazine columnist Cris Sommer Simmons) rides on the course and during the allocated time. If the bike is picked up and trailered 15 miles, he or she loses 15 points. In take by 10 minutes at the end of the day – you lose 10 points.

Bill Rodencel is riding a boardtrack-styled Class II Harley with 2 cylinders and a single speed.

Bill Rodencel is riding a boardtrack-styled Class II Harley with 2 cylinders and a single speed.

Class I bikes are single-cylinder, single-speeds, Class II is multi-cylinder single-speeds, and Class III is multi-cylinder and multi-speed transmissions. In the event of a tie, the older bike scores higher, then Class I beats Class II and Class II beats Class III. If there is still a tie, the older rider scores higher than the younger one.  Got it?

This year’s event has been the most challenging yet with many seasoned riders already dropping out of the event with mechanical problems they can’t fix. Typically the riders fix the machines on the side of the road or at the host hotel’s parking lot at night. One of the biggest issues here is the lack of available parts for bikes this old, and many of the riders wanted the edge of older machines if possible as they score higher.

Second place (at the end of Day 3) Frank Westfell rolling the day's route sheet into the route holder on his 1912 Henderson. Each rider gets the next days route and needs to load it on his or her

Second place (at the end of Day 3) Frank Westfell rolling the day’s route sheet into the route holder on his 1912 Henderson. Each rider gets the next day’s route and needs to load it on his or her “1916 GPS.” Electronic maps and devices are not allowed.

At the end of Day 3 of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, the top 5 riders, in order, are:

#1 Dean Bordigioni on a Class I 1914 Harley

#2 Frank Westfall on a Class II 1912 Henderson (he is reported to have bounced off an 18-wheeler truck yestarday but got in with full points)

#3 Mark Loewen on a Class II 1912 Excelsior

#4 Bryne Nramwell on a Class II 1913 Henderson

#5 Fred Wacker on a Class II 1913 Indian.

Of the 89 machines to officiall start the event this year, only 27 are still holding full points at the end of Day 3.

CLASSIC AMERICAN IRON NEWS! 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball off to Difficult Start

The 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, a coast to coast endurance ride for motorcycles at least 100 years or older, started with real issues. I have ridden in all three prior Cannonballs and opted out of this one. However I did ride down to the start of this year’s event with my Cannonball partner Paul Ousey. We were surprised at some of what we saw.

On day one, the Cannonballers had to ride four or five miles from the host hotel to the boardwalk for the official start of the event. I saw four Cannonball bikes on the side of the road with mechanical issues and the event had not really even started yet!

Some of the bikes at the start of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

Some of the bikes at the start of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

At least two of the bikes at the start did not even cross the starting line on the first day. Mechanical issues seemed to plague the machines and they had thousands of miles in front of them.

I have heard reports of multiple break downs and other mechanical problems on the first day, including one racer’s bikes (a 1916 Harley Twin) catching fire.

1914 Harley Twin on fire day one of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

John Pfeifer’s 1916 Harley Twin burst into flame after  a rocker arm reportedly broke and the pushrod punctured the gas tank on Day One of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball.

Nearly a third of the all motorcycles that started the Motorcycle Cannonball on Day One ended up in trucks or trailers – including seasoned Cannonball riders. Not a good way to start the competition.

If anyone thinks a ride like the Motorcycle Cannonball is easy, you are badly mistaken. This is tough on the rider and the machine. We at American Iron Magazine salute our riders and wish you luck in this tough event. More details and results to follow as we get them. – Buzz Kanter, 3-time Motorcycle Cannonball rider 

American Iron Magazine Publisher Buzz Kanter On American Restoration TV Show

Our very own Buzz Kanter, Editor-in-Chioef of American Iron Magazine, is on this week’s American Restoration show on the History Channel this Friday, March 5 at 9 PM EST.

Buzz teams up with his old friend Dale Walksler of Wheels Through Time to tear apart Buzz’s very rare 1929 Harley JDH Two-Cam motorcycle. Buzz rode a different 1929 Harley JDH across the US from New York to San Francisco on the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball endurance run.

You will not believe what Dale and his crew does with the bike in a month. It blew Buzz away and will amaze you too. Check it out this Friday March 5.

American Iron Magazine’s 2016 Motorcycle Kickstart Classic Ride

Details for the 2016 American Iron Magazine‘s Motorcycle Kickstart Classic have been finalized and it’s time for you to check your calendar and register for this fun and social motorcycle event.

Join Wheels Through Time‘s Dale Walksler of “American Restoration” and “What’s In The Barn TV” and Buzz Kanter of American Iron Magazine for a fun time and some great stories,

Join the classic motorcycle fun and some great people. Jim Dohms photo.

Join the classic motorcycle fun and some great people. Jim Dohms photo.

This 3 day event is on public roads and is open to riders of all makes (domestic or import) and years (antique, classic or modern) of motorcycles with electric or kick starters.

We have organized rides on some beautiful roads staying off the interstate highways.

This year’s event offers several excellent rides to choose from near Maggie Valley, NC on Friday July 29 and then we ride to Chesnee, SC. Saturday, July 30 to participate in the AMCA Legends Chapter’s Antiques on Main event. Swap meet, bike shows, Wall of Death and much more.

IMPORTANT FACTS • $100 pre-registration (each rider and each passenger). PLEASE NOTE, after June 28th, registration increases to $150 per person.

All registered riders and passengers receive passes to the Wheels Through Time museum, the free welcome dinner Thursday at Wheels Through Time, one event T-shirt as well as parking and sponsored dinner in Chesnee, SC.

Thursday July 28. 5 PM Free welcome dinner to all registered riders at Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, NC

Friday July 29. Group photo at 9am. All day and half day organized rides from Maggie Valley, NC. ending back in Wheels Through Time.

Saturday, July 30. 9 am Group ride to Chesnee, SC (back roads) to join up with the AMCA’s Legendary Chapter’s “Antique Bikes On Main.” Bike show, swapmeet, and hosted free dinner that night. Also Wall of Death, stunt riders, fireworks and more. Riders can stay overnight in Chesnee or ride back to Maggie Valley (3 hours on backroads, less than 2 1/2 hours by highway) Saturday afternoon.

Sunday July 31 (optional) Various motorcycle events in Chesnee, SC

For more information or to register for thie fun motorcycle event click on REGISTRATION FORM

Sponsored by American Iron Magazine, American Iron Garage magazine, Greaserag.com and Spectro Oils.

Harley In The Snow – Heck Yes With A Sidecar

So what’s a ride to do when the snow falls and sticks to the road? How about strapping a sidecar onto your Harley and bundle up for some winter fun.

That is what I did here in New England.

Classic Harley & Sidecar In The Snow

Classic Harley & Sidecar In The Snow

Granted, you have to be careful od slipping and sliding your Harley around on the packed snow and ice. And if salt is used on the roads, that can be a big problem too.  Up here in Vermont, where I have a vacation cabin in the woods, there is no salt.

If you are curious about this rig, it is a 1930 Harley V and Harley sidecar. I found it a few years ago sitting in a basement, where it had been for several years. We pulled it out and brough it to Retrocycle in Boonton, NJ. We removed the sidecar and put it aside as we focused on the antique Harley. We went through it top to bottom and followed the progress in the pages of our all-tech American Iron Garage magazine last year.

It did not take much to get it sorted out and runnign well. Then we re-installed the sidecar and got it registered. Now I can ride this rig pretty much year round. There are a few issues with sidecars, 1. They take up a lot more storage space. 2. The do not lean into turns, so you have to steer them with the handlebars. 3. You need to keep in mind how far the sidecar spreads to the right – especially when parking and riding close the the curb or trees.

Wall Street Jitters? Invest In Precious Metals – Classic Harley & Indian Motorcycles

Wall Street and Dow Jones Industrial Average got you worried? How about buying a classic Harley or vintage motorcycle?

This 1930s Harley VL & sidecar were recently pulled out of a basement after 10 years and put back on the road.

This 1930s Harley VL & sidecar were recently pulled out of a basement after sitting there for more than 10 years. It was cleaned up, sorted out and is now back on the road.

While most people think of gold and silver as the presious metals to invest in, we at American Iron Magazine would like to propose this is a great time to invest in a different kind of precious metal – classic motorcycles.

If you bought an original paint or well restored Harley Knucklehead, Indian Scout, or just about any pre-war classic American motorcycle five or ten years ago, your investment would be better than any oil stock. A lot better. And more fun too.

And to all the nay-sayers who say there are no more real barn finds out there, we are pleased to report you wrong. They are there, but you have to dig a bit harder to find them. But the reward is well worth the effort.

Before buying a classic motorcycle, we suggest you do your homework first. There are plenty of places to do this – on-line (try Classic American Iron) and in print (like in American Iron Magazine) and vintage motorcycle clubs.

NEW STURGIS EVENT Indian & Classic American Iron Black Hills Rally 2015

Are you going to Sturgis this year?

Do you own or love classic motorcycles?

Be at the legendary Buffalo Chip on August 4th. 

Here is a “Save The Date” notification for an event you won’t want to miss.

We at American Iron Magazine are pleased to announce our new event at this year’s Sturgis Rally to celebrate the 75th Black Hills motorcycle gathering. The event started out as a gathering of Indian motorcycle riders and racers when Pappy Hoel, the local Indian dealer in Sturgis, invited his customers and friends to a race and tour of the stunning Black Hills in 1938.

The Sturgis rally has grown quite a bit since then. So we thought it would be appropriate to have an Indian and classic motorcycle rally in Sturgis this year to celebrate the amazing history of this great event.

Produced by American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Rides & Culture magazine, we invite you to join us at the first Indian & Classic American Iron Black Hills Rally on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at the Buffalo Chip on the edge of Sturgis, SD.

While the focus will be on Indian motorcycles (old and new), we also welcome all other pre-1984 classic American motorcycles to this free rally. In addition to the bike show, sponsored by Dennis Kirk, there will be a number of free and fun field events including the slow race, plank ride, and balloon toss.

The free Indian & Classic American Iron Black Hills Rally opens at 9 am and field events begin around noon. Trophies will be awarded at 4 pm at the Buffao Chip.

There will be members of the press covering the event and looking for motocycles to photograph and feature in print and on-line. So note the date in your calendar so you won’t miss motorcycle history in the making.

AI Garage 1930s Harley VL and Sidecar Sneak peak (Video)

AI-Garage logo 1The crew at American Iron Magazine recently rescued this 1930s Harley VL and sidecar, which had been sitting in a basement for 10 years, and brought it over to Retrocycle to get her all back up to snuff for a story in a future issue of American Iron Garage, the all-tech, all-DIY Harley magazine special.

“It’s over painted, over chromed, and has wrong year parts,” says American Iron Magazine/Motorcycle Editor-in-Chief Buzz Kanter about the VL. “It hasn’t been started in years. We do know the motor is a 1930, but there are questions about what the other parts are.”

The bike will be featured in the Summer issue of Garage. The article will show readers how to get an old bike back on the road by noting what the crew at Retrocycle do to make this classic motorcycle ridable again. The Summer issue, the second of three Garage installments for 2015, hits newsstands 6/15.

The Spring issue is currently on newsstands and is also available via digital delivery on Zinio.com.

Watch the video below as Buzz shows us the current state of the bike.

Retrocycle is located at 1 Mars Ct. Unit 3, Boonton, NJ 07005.