December 16, 2009

New Plans For My Old Harley J Motorcycle Cannonball Bike

Well, it seems I’ll be building, rebuilding and prepping my 1914 Harley-Davidson for the big event next year – the Motorcycle Cannonball Run in September.

Looks like I will not be taking delivery of the old Harley twin until sometime after the new year. In the meantime I have been speaking with all sorts of people with more knowledge about these very early Harleys than I would even have. Among the many experts (my description, not theirs) I have been chatting every day or two with Dale Walksler of Wheels Through Time Museum , Dave Fusiak of Flatout Vintage Motorcycles, and Fred Lange about what I have, what I need and what are my best options.

My 1914 Harley-Davidson "Narrow Case" Engine

My 1914 Harley-Davidson "Narrow Case" Engine With Newer Linkert Carburetor

Basically they all agree that the apparently correct and accurate 1914 Harley engine is quite rare and valuable but probably not the best choice for me on the Motorcycle Cannonball Run. Because it is a “narrow” case engine it would be difficult to get spares and repair on the road if there are any problems. And there are not many upgrades available by using “newer” parts from the mid to late teens like better camshafts.

When you think about it, the folks at the Motor Company (or any other motorcycle manufacturer) didn’t know much about cams as they had barely moved beyond the primitive suction valves. Starting around 1915 the engineers learned a lot about cam profiles and timing, so I suspect a number of the Motorcycle Cannonball Run machines will sport camshafts from designs newer than 1915. This would not be an option for a narrow case 1914 or earlier Harley engine.

Because the bike is already a mixed year machine I am OK with swapping out to another year engine, as the 1914 is too old from this possibly 1919 frame. As I have explained to a few people I few this project as building a tool more than a restoration. I want it to reflect its era but will not be a purist as it is neither practical or necessary. I want a cool looking teens or pre-teens bike that will carry me safely across the country.

I learned Harley-Davidson moved up to a superior “wide case” design in 1915 which is stronger and better designed and it allowed some easy updating to newer components including camshafts, flywheels and connecting rods in the lower end and better breathing cylinders and heads from the later model J series Harleys.

So the experts all agreed I’d be better off buying or building a 1915 Harley twin engine for the rolling chassis I already have and pulling out the rare 1914 engine, as a spare or to swap or sell.

I need a 1915 Harley twin engine like this or at least a decent set of 1915 Harley cases to build one.

I need a 1915 Harley twin engine like this or at least a decent set of 1915 Harley cases to build one.

So now I am on the hunt for the components to build a 1915 Harley twin. So far I believe I have found a set of decent heads & cylinders (they are cast one piece per side), I have a manifold and slightly newer Linkert carburetor, and pretty much all the guts of the engine, meaning flywheels, rods, valves, ect. Plus I can get a reproduction oil pump from Fred Lange. So now I am searching for a decent set of 1915 Harley V-twin cases. All leads are appreciated. More to follow as I continue down this path…

Filed under Buzz Kanter Classic Motorcycle Blog, Cannonball Motorcycle Diaries, Engine & Transmission, Motorcycles, Tech by Buzz_Kanter

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