Harley Engine Experts, To Rebuild Or Upgrade A Vintage Engine

When I’m looking to rebuild and/or upgrade a vintage engine — namely a Shovel, Pan, Knuckle, Ironhead Sportster, or flathead — I go to a shop that’s expert at that type of motor. And though I’ve rebuilt many of these engines when I had my shop back in the day, I want someone with more experience than I have in spinning the wrenches. Truth is, these engines need an experienced hand, one that knows that type of engine’s problems and the correct fixes.

In my opinion, for decades the best all-around vintage engine builder in the New York tri-state area was “Big” Jim McCalley in Beacon Falls, Connecticut. Jim was also a master at repairing broken engine and tranny cases. And though Jim has retired from the business, I mention him because he deserves the recognition.

For a Shovelhead motor, I go to Andrew Rosa at Rosa’s Cycle in Huntington, New York. Andrew, who often does engine builds with us, is a master craftsman of everything Shovelhead, be it vintage restorations, performance work, or a dependable rebuild. And like his mentor “Big” Jim, Andrew is also great at repairing broken engine and tranny cases. Andrew rebuilt the Shovel engine in the boardtracker that Kip Watkins is finishing up for me.

As for Panheads, Knuckles, and flatheads, there are several shops around the country that I personally know do excellent work. For straight-up, restoration-correct rebuilds, it’s the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and Carl’s Cycle Supply in Aberdeen, South Dakota. When I needed to rebuild a 103″ motor consisting of a Panhead lower and Shovel top end, I went to Billy at Departure Bike Works in Richmond, Virginia. Billy was my choice here instead of Andrew because the stroker Panhead lower end would be more of an issue than the big-bore Shovel top end. Plus, Billy’s also a master at Shovels, Knuckles, Ironhead Sportsters, and flatheads. For the 45 flathead motor we will be building a bobber with in a future series of articles, I went to see Billy of B&B Racing in Metairie, Louisiana. Billy and his crew are also expert rebuilders of all the vintage motors I named. In fact, Billy rebuilds many of the classic engines in Dave Perewitz’s customs.

For Ironhead Sportster work, I go to Dan Umstead at D&S Performance in Lake City, Pennsylvania. Yup, this is the same Dan that writes our Sportster Corner column. Dan is a master in all things Sportster, which is why I have him writing that column! Dan will be building an Ironhead stroker motor for another bobber project to be shown in a series of future AIM articles.

Of course, there are many other quality shops throughout the country that are experienced with these vintage and special engines. My intent with this column is simply to introduce you to some of the ones we use for our various builds and projects.

See you on the road, Chris Maida.

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