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Thread: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

  1. #1
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    Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    The article "A History of the Beast Marking Its Spot, Part I" in the current issue of CAI has some erroneous information.

    "I owned and rode a 1938 80" flathead back in 1970. Polluting and oiling dusty roads with venting and surplus engine oil was just the way it was before World War II. This bike had a total loss oil system."

    He also states that he used his left hand to
    "hand pump the oil with a gizmo knob plunger on the left tank when the engine started making too much noise"
    and that his right hand operated
    "a knob on the gas tank that opened a trap door to empty oil from the bottom of the engine case."

    My understanding is that the Motor Company updated all of their sidevalve engines in 1937 (all W and U models) to incorporate dry-sump lubrication, ending the era of total-loss oiling that was common the preceding V and other sidevalve models prior to 1937. I think that Donny is misremembering the year his 80" engine was manufactured. Granted, he owned the bike close to 50 years ago, so it's understandable that a detail isn't remembered correctly. I'm certainly not any kind of expert on old Harleys, and my knowledge of them pales in comparison to Donny's expertise, but it seems to me that he's off on a couple of details in this article.

    Donny also mentions a "suicide foot clutch," which isn't what the bike originally came with, but is something a previous owner of the machine could have installed i

  2. #2

    Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    Always thought that too much oil caused a drag on flywheels and not braking.

  3. #3
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    Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    going to have to check that article out....total loss oiling ended in 1936 V models and 1936 R models, the 1936 E knuck, 1937 U and W flatheads all are returning oil systems. I ride a 1939 U model with modern pistons and rings and use very little oil between oil changes.

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    Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    There is no knob and never was on a VL tank that opened a "trap door" in the crankcase. That is controlled by a lever at the rear left side of the rear cylinder base. Interestingly, I remember quite well what I was riding 50 years ago, and how it all worked. But the majority of his audience wouldn't have a clue anyway. There is crap that bad in official H-D publications..
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    Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark44 View Post
    Donny also mentions a "suicide foot clutch," which isn't what the bike originally came with, but is something a previous owner of the machine could have installed i
    As you stated, Mark; H-D never made a "suicide clutch". That's one of the most abused terms in vintage motorcycling. . . Well, next to "Old School".

  6. #6
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    Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    Quote Originally Posted by Rubone View Post
    There is no knob and never was on a VL tank that opened a "trap door" in the crankcase. That is controlled by a lever at the rear left side of the rear cylinder base. Interestingly, I remember quite well what I was riding 50 years ago, and how it all worked. But the majority of his audience wouldn't have a clue anyway.
    Probably so. In fairness to Donny Petersen, most of his regular Techline articles contain solid information. I don't know what he was thinking when he wrote that his '38 U model was total loss oil system. 1936 was a big year for H-D, with the introduction of an OHV motor, although they had produced some of this type in the '20s. 1937 was also a landmark year, with all models having recirculating, dry sump oiling.

    Quote Originally Posted by axeric View Post
    As you stated, Mark; H-D never made a "suicide clutch". That's one of the most abused terms in vintage motorcycling. . . Well, next to "Old School".
    But the bike Petersen was talking about could well have had a suicide clutch installed by a PO. The jockey shifter he mentioned in the article wasn't stock either. I believe some of the Panhead police bikes had a shifter of this type, but not one that came straight up from the transmission.

  7. Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    I just figured that since it had been so long that just maybe his memories were a little off....no big deal.

  8. Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    Quote Originally Posted by axeric View Post
    made a "suicide clutch". That's one of the most abused terms in vintage motorcycling. . .
    And hardly suicidal anyway, much prefer this clutch action over rockers, converted both Chiefs to spring return single pedals allowing one to flick through gears with a quick stab of the pedal, don’t use the clutch at all on 2nd to third as these machines are dog on those gears and fitted with PowerFlow and TorqueEvenor. On the other hand, with a left ankle impaired by a previous dirt bike crash a day in the saddle of the Knuckle requiring even moderate shifting has become utter misery, would like to source a well made period accessory spring return setup for it as well.

  9. #9

    Re: Likely error in Donny Petersen's Techline article, CAI #364

    Peter,

    I would like to change my Chief clutch pedal to mimick my 4 cyl. Can you post a picture of your set up, please?

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