Suggestions Wanted For 2014 American Iron Kickstart Classic Motorcycle Rides

We at American Iron Magazine encourage all motorcycle owners to ride and enjoy your bikes – old, new or in between. It’s pretty easy to find a local ride for newer bikes, but not always so easy for those classics that are not as comfortable at highway speeds.

American Iron Magazine's Kickstart Classic Ride Spring 2013

American Iron Magazine’s Kickstart Classic Ride Spring 2013

That is one of the reasons we created the Kickstart Classic rides. We held the first one in 2010, another in 2011 and 2012 and 2 in 2013. So now we need to decide what and when to hold the Kickstart Classic rides in 2014, and we’d like to hear your suggestions.

Legendary Harley drag racer Pete Hill and his street legal hot rod Knucklehead with Buzz Kanter and Dale Walksler

Ideally the Kickstart Classic rides should be fun for classic motorcycles and last two full days ending at a great motorcycle-related event, destination or rally. And the rides should not be within a month before or after the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run in September 2014.

Suggestions please?

Harley Magazine Editor To Ride 1926 Harley In Cross Country Motorcycle Cannonball

It is the dream of a motorcycle editor to ride a vintage Harley cross country and share it with his audience. As the Editor-in-Chief of the world’s best selling Harley magazine I was fortunate enough to buy, rebuild and ride Selma, my 1915 Harley motorcycle on the first ever Motorcycle Cannonball. This event was a coast to coast ride for pre-1916 motorcycles. No, that’s no typo – a cross country ride on pre-1916 motorcycles.

Buzz Kanter and local policeman with Selma on the road before the first Motorcycle Cannonball

Nothing like this had ever been tried before and none of the 45 riders really knew what to expect before we rolled out of Kitty Hawk, NC for the Santa Monica pier in California. I was committed to ride my 1915 Harley twin as hard and far as [Read more…]

1949 Harley-Davidson EL Panhead Bobber

When I first started collecting parts for this project about 10 years ago, the motor­cycle rage was choppers. Back then, not many riders cared about bobbers and the phrase old school had not yet become the cliché it is today. I’ve always enjoyed old bikes that perform well, and I’ve been fortunate enough to own some great and mostly correct classic motorcycles. So, for a change, I wanted to design and build a classic hot rod Harley bob job. And I wanted it to be made mostly with old, genuine Harley parts.

I made a list of the basics and began haunting swap meets and eBay. Within two years, I had found a matched set of Panhead heads that had been modified for dual Linkert carbs years before. I bought a complete Panhead engine, a rigid Harley frame, Harley forks and trees, an early Harley three-speed transmission, Harley headlight and wheels, plus a seat post and old Harley police solo saddle. I continued to collect the parts until I had enough to build my bike.

Looking back now, I can see how the fashions and my personal tastes have changed in a decade. We originally built the bike with a lot of red — too much. Red tanks and fender, red oil bag, and red grips and kicker pedals. We wrapped red and white spirals over the cables. We even mounted a set of red rims and whitewall tires.

Over the first couple of years, various mechanical gremlins kept me from riding as much as I would have liked. The engine cases exploded on the first ride (don’t ask!). Then, after a full rebuild, the engine seized from lack of lubrication. I was frustrated with the builder and the bike. I had parked the Panhead in storage until my friend Vito Sabato offered to sort out and rebuild the engine. Anyone active in Harley drag racing in New England in the last couple of decades can tell you how accomplished Vito is as an engine builder!

Vito and some friends took the engine all the way down, shaved and lightened the flywheels, rebalanced the entire bottom end and freshened the top end. Then he got the bike running like a fine Swiss watch. Eventually, the front cylinder manifold cracked and separated from the head. I pushed the bike to the back of the garage to deal with later. At the time, I was spending all my spare time buying, building, and prepping a 1915 Harley for the Motorcycle Cannonball last year.

This past winter, I pulled out the Panhead and brought it to Pete and Maureen Minardi of Precision Custom Motorcycles in Whippany, New Jersey. Pete is a great guy and a talented motorcycle builder. He and I discussed what I had in mind: fix the broken manifold and build a bracket to stabilize both carbs, swap out the red rims and white-wall tires for black, paint the oil tank black, mount the Crocker repop taillight on the pull pin fender, and lose the goofy, cat-face, side-mounted brake light (which I never liked).

After Pete did his magic, I swapped out the police solo saddle for a nice and correct-appearing seat from Worsham Castle that I had from a previous project bike but never used. As I write this, I am looking for an original 1949-era Harley speedometer, and I’d like to swap out the modern red coil for a more traditional black one. And I think the bike needs some pinstriping details.

Almost two years after my last ride on this Panhead, I kicked the bike over, and she roared to life. As it idled in my driveway, I peeked inside the oil tank to make sure the oil was circulating (it was). Then I worked the suicide foot clutch in and out a couple of times, reached behind my left leg to the jockey shifter and eased it into first gear. I gave her a little gas (sounded great!) and eased off the clutch as I rolled down the road. Man, I love this bike! AIM

Text and photos by Buzz Kanter

Story as published in the October issue of American Iron Magazine.

Vintage 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead

Nothing captures the heart of a motorcycle enthusiast more than a crusty old Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Period. They are things of beauty that conjure dreams of the adventure and romance of earlier times when cycling was in its infancy, and they absolutely captivate us with their honesty and integrity. Motorcycles of all types, in original condition, have been leading the pack from a value standpoint for the last number of years, and their newly earned status in our hobby speaks volumes about how far we have come in the collecting world. By original condition, I mean specifically original-paint machines that still wear the factory enamel laid down on the assembly line in Milwaukee, when the bike was brand-new, as well as still retain their original chrome plating, original parkerized parts, original wiring harness, original leather seat and saddlebags, original rubber parts, original tires, original nuts and bolts, etc. Obviously, the range of value varies by condition, the better the paint and plating, and the more accessories and add-ons, the more highly regarded they are by collectors. Look at any eBay auction for old machines, or comb the web for motor­cycle auctions across the country; you will see the large spread between the restored bikes and the original, unrestored machines.

When I coined the term rustoration back in the 1990s here in American Iron Magazine, mainstream collectors were catching onto the idea that a rough, unrestored motorcycle garnered more attention and enthusiasm at meets and shows than its restored brethren. The dignity of age and the unmistakable patina of an original bike spoke volumes about its history and lineage, and an awakening of the preservation movement was at hand. This was true not only in motorcycling, but also in the car collecting hobby and across other disciplines of collecting.

Of course, as with all trends, there are always leaders. In the antique motorcycle circles, my old friend Joe Barber, founder of the 74 Shop, understood the value or these rare gems early on, as did “Doc” and John Pat and other old-timers from the AMCA. Thank goodness they collectively saved many a motorcycle from undergoing what was the trend in the 1970s through the 1990s of restoration and overrestoration of our historical time pieces.

Our featured 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead is another example of a rescued machine that dodged the restorers’ onslaught during that period. Owned by David Monahan of Forest Lake, Minnesota, it has a wonderful history that is as interesting as the bike itself.

Apparently, the original owner was a returning World War II veteran who established himself after the war in a job that paid well and allowed him to pursue his passion of cycling. He bought the bike new in 1948 and rode the wheels off it. He met and courted his wife on it, and they spent many a relaxing day touring the countryside two-up with their knees in the breeze! They eventually settled down into married life. Kinda … it seems every chance he had, he took the liberty of disappearing on his motorcycle til one day the ultimatum came. So in response to his wife’s demands, the bike was parked out in the yard under a tree in plain sight of the kitchen window where she could keep an eye on it and him. There it sat for 40 years, slowly sinking into the ground until the frame rested in the dirt.

Finally, sometime in the late 1990s, the old biker passed away, and his wife sold the bike in a yard sale/estate sale to an antique dealer. The dealer recognized the marketing opportunities the motorcycle held and put it in his antique shop window, where it sat there for another 10 years. David learned of its existence, bought it in 2008, and began its rustoration. He had a lot of talent and practice in all things motorcycle related; as he ran his own restoration shop called Perfect Timing for over 20 years and had restored over 50 machines in his shop by that time. His goal was to preserve the bike in its original state but perform a restoration on it so that it would be a ridable machine. He would leave the wonderful patina but return the insides to factory standards. The motor and transmission were locked up tight; every internal part needed to be replaced or reworked. It was, internally, the worst bike he’d ever seen or worked on. Although capable of doing all the work on the motor and tranny himself, he chose to have his buddy, Jim Long of Jim Long Motors, rebuild the engine and transmission. The complete disassembly of the rest of the machine followed, and attention to every part was mandated. David had a set of old Knucklehead rims that were laced in place of the rotten ones, but everything else is original to the bike plus a few add-ons he had in his collection (saddlebags, balls on springer, shift knob). A Bruce Linsday OE-style wiring kit complete with cloth covers was added and retains the original look and feel. The sheet metal was cleaned and treated to loving care: washing, waxing, etc. I’m told if you stand on your head and look under the fenders you can see what remains of the original paint! What really impressed me was that all the little things were restored to perfection — the throttle is tight and responsive, the brakes have no play in them, the shifting is tight and clean — all signs of a master craftsman at work!

In the past, David’s restoration work has delivered to owners AMCA Junior, Senior, and Winners Circle awards, and probably the highest compliment possible in the antique motorcycle world is that one of his restorations, a red 1947 Knucklehead was featured on the cover of Bruce Palmer III’s world-famous book How to Restore Your Harley-Davidson, the absolute bible of antique motorcycle restoration. That, my friends, is a major accomplishment!

Great job, David, in preserving another Milwaukee marvel for the ages. AIM

Words by Jim Babchak, photos by Buzz Kanter

Story as published in the July 2011 issue of American Iron Magazine.

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