Custom Harley-Davidson WLA Covered in Stainless
By Harry Dubno • Photos by Mark Velazquez
American V-twins seem to be a rite of passage for motorcycle builders. Look over your neighbor’s fence, and you might find a Harley project collecting dust or hibernating under a cover. We pour our hopes and dreams into these project bikes. It becomes the reason we save our extra pennies. We build bikes to our own standards, meeting our own aesthetic and performance demands. These standards have origins, however, as we derive influence from what we’ve seen elsewhere. Our style is an echo of what we’ve seen, heard, and experienced, but what makes our builds so unique are conclusions and agendas we set forth.
Many builders espouse phrases like “spare no expense” or “1500 working hours” to illustrate the point, to describe the gravity of the bike build sitting in front of onlookers. We all say we’re in this to only please ourselves, but that’s not entirely true if we derive a great deal of our style from others.
Opportunity presents itself in the form of bike shows and magazines. We flip through the pages and pound the pavement and grass hoping to see something new and original. As much as most of us would never dare copy another builder, we digest and categorize what we’ve seen and maybe implement a style point or two. Our creativity is perpetuated by our surroundings, and those surroundings are in an interesting place right now. It’s the only industry I can think of that constantly looks toward older styles while simultaneously striving for modern cues. Pre-war bikes are rolling around with radical front ends, radial laced front wheels bolted up to titanium nickel hydrate fork stantions. It’s a wild time in the motorcycle industry. The question is this: what will influence your next build?
The idea is to illicit an emotional response from your fellow builders. Patience and some good ol’ American ingenuity have brought Brooklyn builder Tim Harney to these very conclusions. Tim is a seasoned builder hailing from of Brooklyn, New York. And, like most New Yorkers, he seems to find a way to complicate even the simplest things. With a background in architecture, Tim utilizes a lot of structural elements in his build. The front chromoly girder fork that he made is pinned together by a stress-membered fender. Follow the fender, and you’ll find a small halogen light classically inlaid into the arch of the fender. Although beautiful, this is a gusset for the fender to deflect most, so it also functions as a front end structural element. The entire bike is peppered with similar hidden-gem details.
That sheeny, shiny stuff you see? That’s 304 stainless, 12-point ARP bolts and nuts, along with greased elbows at every moving component. The bike started as a 1945 WLA Flathead Servi-Car, but Tim says, “Sadly, not much of it was in one piece.” He got a milk carton of parts from a friend and a brain full of good intentions, planning to pay homage to the flathead’s history while not ignoring his agenda of making this a daily rider. He started with a paper template, a frame jig, and numerous wire frame models. Finally, he settled on a 4″ rear and 2″ drop in the rear paired to a set of old British steel-stamped rims. He cut the entire rear of the frame and made it into a solo with his version of a pogo seat, using a Ducati front fork spring and some nicely turned connections. While many elements on this bike are not groundbreaking, they are interesting. He took a side-mounted three-gear jockey shifter and sliced a hole straight through his gas tank for the shifter to reside. He paired that with a pulley-actuated foot clutch; this is also completely adjustable to accommodate rider height and riding style.
To maintain some of the unhindered classic lines, Tim decided to not run a front brake, instead opting for a four-pot caliper on a modern floating rotor in the rear. The rear fender is just as interesting as the front. The bike’s oil tank precariously hangs off the rear fender, which also acts as a reinforced stress member to allow for flex to deal with vibration from riding. The oil tank is part of the rear structural fender that also houses a 12-volt LED taillight from a random ’60s-era chrome turn signal he found on an old Buick. The primary is functionally accented by slash guards, and the frame has been nickelplated by the same guys who plate the Oscars (yes, the Academy Awards
The entire engine has been blueprinted and built with original deadstock parts, parts that took Tim almost two years to find. He kept the motor at stock bore and stroke but added a Mikuni round-slide carb, some stainless pipes, and a set of brand-new hardened valves/rollers. The lights run on a brand-new generator, and the ignition operates thanks to a Fairbanks Magneto. He claims it’s a one-kick bike (but anyone who’s had a Fairbanks Mag would tell you that doesn’t sound right!).
All in all, it’s great to see new faces building these sorts of bikes. Tim seems to have a good handle on what he wants to achieve with his builds, and it looks like he’s got a big smile on his face while he’s doing it. Look forward to seeing the next build, Tim! To check out Tim’s work go to TimHarneyMotorcycles.com. AIM 359
This custom Harley-Davidson Flathead was featured in American Iron Magazine issue #359.