Project Bikes

Old Black

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I suppose the story of Old Black started back in 2009. We were vending at the Carlisle Bike Fest and had our full display of bikes there with us. Brian and Laura Klock of Klock Werks were the Rockstar headliners that year. I do have to admit, I had my opinions about “Bagger people” at the time. I really had not made an effort to go meet the two. Then it happened.....I was just a nobody, trying to sell a few parts and through the crowd I spotted Brian Klock himself picking over the TT Deluxe with a fine toothed comb. Bagger guy or not he is indeed a legendary part of the motorcycle industry. I was more than excited that my work had attracted his attention. We talked a bit, as I stood there giddy has a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert, and I began to get the feeling that this bagger guy was pretty cool after all. The story does not stop there, the next day Brian’s legendary (and beautiful) wife Laura came to the table to ask if I was going to AMD…..as in the World Championship of Custom Bike Building. My initial thought was “yeah right”, even if I could afford a trip like that, there is no way I can compete with the greatest builders in the world. After a little more persuasion, Brian offered to haul the bike to Sturgis for me and even offered a place to stay, as well as his personal shop truck to get me around while I was there. It was a deal I could not refuse. To make a long story short and get to the subject, the bike that could not compete took 6th AMD that year. The entire Klock Werks crew turned out to be some of the greatest people I have ever met. At this point I set a new goal to come back to AMD and do better. That is the beginning of Old Black.

I have to admit that I did put a little strategy into the bike’s design. Sturgis after all is a hill climb, so I decided to pay a little tribute to the event. Not to mention that I have a lot of respect for the work of Jeff Decker who was another great influence on the style of the bike. I really enjoy merging history with technology. I suppose if people today still poured their soul into their work we would see more of that. It is kind of my take on what the old craftsman would do with modern equipment.

I have also said many times in the past that I love teens and twenties era machines. It seems to be a time before we created all the boundaries for ourselves. There was a lot of creative experimentation happening which fits perfectly with how I like to do things.

Also this is the first time I’ve tried to make something that appeals to anyone other than me. I used the American V-twin as the power plant which seems to be everybody’s favorite, although I did stick with my beloved Sportster. I did the back half so that it could be coupled with the British A-10 transmission, hoping it would also appeal to the European crowd as well. Not to mention I got it free from my buddy Clay Rathburn at Atom Bomb.

Ever since my Panster Project I have wanted to do a Knuckster. I have an old issue of Iron Horse Magazine (the real one) that has a feature of a knuckle sportster drag bike done by Arlen Ness, and I really love the look of the exposed valve train. I got the ’76 Iron Head engine from Brad at Gypsy Choppers, but after a little shopping I realized I just couldn’t afford a good set of Knuckle heads. Back to the drawing board, and then I had it, why can’t I just eliminate the rocker box, build a bracket for the rockers, seal it all up, and oil everything with soft feed lines and tappets. So that is just what I did. Oil is fed up from the bottom end to a manifold on each head, which splits four ways to lube the rocker bushings. Oil then drains back out through a hole in the center of the rocker shafts which goes into another manifold where part of the oil is plumbed over to lube the ? and the rest is simply dumped back into the cases to be scavenged and make the trip again. To top this all off I decided to use two rear heads. The one on the front is turned backwards so that I could feed each cylinder with its own Amal carb, yet allow the use of the stock cam configuration. With the help of my friend Lonnie Bible, cast repair guru, I reworked all of the cooling fans, the heads, and cylinders to make them fit together more smoothly.

For the frame I started by machining two large side plates that use the engine case bolts as a mounting point as well as serve to re-unitize the sportster with the BSA transmission. Power is then sent to a jackshaft which drives the two rear Triumph sprocket/drums, one mounted on each side of the rear wheel. In order to pull the drums evenly I had to come up with a fancy balance bar type linkage, otherwise I would only use the drum that was adjusted up closer.

The wheels were from my stock of old British parts, a pair of 19’s, the front hub is a BSA rear and the rear is a later Triumph front hub laced up with Buchanan spokes that I powder coated black. The frontend is a one-off I did for this bike. Just a variation of the standard springer designed to pull the front wheel nice and tight to the down tube, while keeping 4” of trail. It uses a pair of Girling springs and a cut down rear shock mounted in the front leg for dampening. The rear fender was an original WLA military front fender I got from my friend Mongo, who is another story all together. Mongo has always been the guy with all the good parts, but no one will ever tell you where he lives or give you his number. He is a genuine old schooler and you have to just meet him and hope he likes you. Well I did meet him one day at the local “T-Shirt Shop”, we must have hit it off pretty well because it did not take long before I was invited to rummage his stash. Knowing him now I can see that he really gets “it”, hell he might have invented “it”. This guy would go to the ends of the earth to help a friend. The seat, tank, and all other parts are one off designed specifically for this project. Thanks to Steve “Brewdude” Garn for the ceramic coating on the pipes.

I’m pretty partial to raw finished brass, not to mention it always goes good with black, which I am also partial to. The green was custom mixed at E&M paint. We really just added stuff until I liked it. I did the layout on the tanks and stripped them back twice before I was happy enough to continue on with the gold leaf and one-shot.

To come up with a good name for a bike isn’t always easy. I did some looking around for something related to going up a hill. The major one of course was Pickett’s charge up Cemetery Hill during a certain confrontation we had with the Federal Government in Gettysburg, PA. Pickett’s horse…which happens to be none other than Old Black. Since I happen to be a Virginian who understands the true reason for the war, the name was perfect and fitting both in my principals and literally, the bike is old and black.

I will admit that from start to finish this bike exhausted me, every detail had to be perfect, and most of the parts were re-made several times. All in all Old Black was a much of an art project, or a means to challenge my every skill while pushing myself to the next level. I am old enough to have seen the true craftsman at work, folks who work as if it is for the Lord himself. These people and their creations have been an inspiration to me. I have always wanted to grow up, using tools, fixing things myself, while creating things that are beautiful as well as useful. I am also young enough to see the generation of computers, people who do as little as possible to rate a paycheck, and people totally dependent on cheap disposable foreign goods who think that only ignorant people have dirty hands. We all know building motorcycles isn’t the best way to make a living, but for me it is the drive to hopefully inspire just one person to pick up a tool and learn how to use it. That keeps me doing what I do.