Classic 1945 Harley-Davidson 45″ Flathead
1945 Harley-Davidson 45″ Flathead
By Jim Babchak, photos by Don Kates
Harley-Davidson’s 45″ flatheads are one of the great mainstays of any antique motorcycle gathering, on any given weekend, in any part of our great country. That’s because these indestructible, rugged, and reliable motorcycles were made in great numbers, were easy to maintain, ran well even in the worst of tune, and represented a fun and inexpensive way to get into motorcycling. They are as revered today as they were 82 years ago when they joined the 1929 lineup in the form of the RL.
45 Flatheads run the gamut from stripped-down bobbers to fully restored hardtail springers, with Class C racers, and ham-and-eggs bikes thrown in as well. I particularly love the ham-and-eggs bikes, those great old machines that are built from parts that often carry a Servicar G model engine and reverse transmission slung into a two-wheeler frame. Whenever I see a 45″ machine, I smile, and because of the surplus parts made for the WWII effort (original spares are still available, and reproduction parts as well), these wonderful old machines will continue to run well into the next millennium and beyond!
Even with the large number of surviving 45s out there, seeing one restored to the level Dwight Weisz’s featured American Iron Classic is rare indeed. In fact, when I was forwarded the studio images of this pristine 1945 Harley, I was blown away by its level of detail and overall perfection. Dwight is the fourth owner of this machine and can trace its ownership all the way back to the original owner who purchased and rode it around the Wilton, North Dakota, area back in the 1940s and ’50s. A friend of Dwight’s named Gary Bosch was the second owner, and during his tenure, the bike sat in a bike shop and was scavenged for parts. Circumstances forced him to sell it, and George Kulish was to become its third owner. Again, the bike languished with no movement toward its redemption. Now, apart and contained in four large cardboard boxes, it was again sold in 1990. Here, the story takes a great turn for the better, although not right away.
Dwight obtained the bike and was full of energy and enthusiasm, setting the goal of restoring the bike over the next two years. But, as you know, the best-laid plans can get waylaid as life intercedes. He describes the bike as looking like “the Scarecrow from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ just after the monkeys were done with him.” In 1994, a new home purchase meant the bike had a place to rest in the basement, and Dwight spent a lot of time researching and getting to know the machine. Parts were “collected and corrected” in preparation for its restoration. Bruce Palmer’s book How to Restore Your Harley-Davidson became a guidepost and work began in earnest in the late 1990s.
Carl’s Cycle Supply in Aberdeen, North Dakota, rebuilt the motor to factory specs. Mike Rauser of Midway Harley-Davidson rebuilt the carburetor, transmission, and wheels and was a great help with his time and advice. Jim Grenz of Tempe, Arizona, painted the sheet metal, and, oh, what a beautiful job he did; although it was not without some pain and suffering! It seems Dwight obsessed over the color for two years, to the point that everyone was tired of hearing about it, but he finally made his decision, and it was all worthwhile as this key element really defines the bike. It is a Candy Metallic Green from House of Kolor offset against Ford Sea Foam Green panels. Leery at first of the Dead Man’s Curse (which states that any bike that is green will be lost in the background, and the rider run over and killed because of said lack of visibility), all now agree it is breathtaking and spot on.
All the black you see on the machine was done at the North Dakota State Penitentiary (gotta keep the boys busy!), and the chrome is by Brown’s Plating. Once all the parts were done, everything made its way back to Dwight’s home, and he began reassembling it all. This painstaking process took months, and you can imagine the level of meticulous detail and caution it took to complete this undertaking. Dwight rewired the bike with an exact replica cloth wiring loom and harness, and every nut and bolt is as original.
The results speak for themselves, and again, I have not seen this level of restoration on a 45″ machine in a long time. The endgame was never to create a show bike, but only to “get it right.” That said, Dwight was talked into showing it. At its first outing at the Freedom Riders Motorcycle Show in Bismarck, North Dakota, it took four firsts: Best In Class, Peoples’ Choice, Judges Choice, and Best Paint. Wow! That’s a lot of firsts! Word got around, and soon Dwight was invited to all the shows in the surrounding states.
The bike is ridden occasionally and runs as good as it looks, but the vision is for it to be passed down through many generations of Weiszes in the future. AIM
This article appeared in the March 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine. To order a back issue, visit Greaserag.com.