Well the day started off with a tedious task… small work that goes slowly.
When you see the Deutsch connectors in the headlight bucket on a Harley, the first question is “how the hell do I get these wires out of here?” Yesterday’s work stopped for me because I could see no way to get the connectors through the holes, and I certainly did not want to cut wires! Well, 10 minutes on YouTube and I had the answer… you need to disassemble the connectors. That’s right – every wire and every pin gets taken apart!
So the day started with the tedious work of using a very small screwdriver, prying up small latches, and pushing out make and female connectors. But before taking out the wires, I was certain to document the wire colors, locations and in the connectors, and what wire bundle goes where. I am certain this will be a PITA when it comes time to reassemble everything.
Actually, the disassembly was not so bad and although my eyesight makes this a challenge, the work went pretty smoothly. The handlebars are off, the headlight bucket is off, and the rest of the major disassembly of the bike can proceed now.
Meh… some days you just don’t feel it. Today was a couple hours of work, but I feel like I accomplished about 20 minutes of progress. Oh well… the back fender is off, front pegs are off, and I took off a bunch of other shit. There are about as many parts on the shelf as there are parts on the bike. I am determined to take it to the frame… so we are moving ahead. I drained the oil, opened the primary, and in general have the bike “dry” now. Next I need to remove the front fender, then drop the front forks. Once the front forks are off, the engine and transmission will come out. I leave for a couple weeks of business travel right after the first of the year – maybe I can get the frame stripped by then. (I knew the day was in the crapper when I dropped my flashlight and it landed in the drain pan full of used oil.)
Next, I need to remove the front fender, then drop the front forks. Once the front forks are off, the engine and transmission will come out. I leave for a couple weeks of business travel right after the first of the year – maybe I can get the frame stripped by then.
OK, I got home from work and just wanted to think through the project. But something is telling me this thing is going to get stripped to the frame, the frame will be sent out for powder coating, and I will rebuild it from the ground up. Meh… could be worse. So – sitting there looking at the bike, I thought “Hell, it won’t take that long to drop the rear wheel.” True enough – brakes are off (another decision to make there… more later), chain is off (the PO loved grease), shocks came off easily (most likely junk), and the rear axle came out easily enough. Probably about 30 minutes with no cussing. The problem is, the bike was unbalanced on the stand. Nothing to do but take off the front wheel.
Front brakes off. Brake lines stowed. Bottom caps off and the front wheel is off. Another 30 minutes, plus time for a beer (maybe 2) and a chat with the neighbor. Hey – Jordan has a flat-head Ford in his garage in some state of rebuild, so how can you not stop to shoot the breeze about important things like this? The lower ends of the front forks are painted (thanks, AMF) with the same shitty paint on the rest of the cast parts. I am thinking it will all get powder coated, but nothing is set in stone. Yet.
So… 5 minutes, 2 hours – who cares? Progress is progress. Oh, and today I ordered the H-D shop manual for this ride as well as the official parts list. Should be here in a week or two… If I spend most of January on tear-down, the spend won’t begin until February! ha.
I have spent enough time looking at this bike. Even though I am not sure of the exact direction I am going with it, this much is certain: all the fluids need draining and the bike needs a thorough cleaning. So we can get started with teardown and clean up. Along the way, we might decide just how far we are going to go with this thing!
Well, the seat is easy – one bolt and you lift it off. Total effort – about 2 minutes. We are rolling now! The seat is a pretty nice Corbin seat and it looks like good quality leather. Some serious care and cleaning and this will go back on when all the other things are done. (I am feeling like this bike needs a sissy bar… more on that some other time.
The gas is old and smelly – definitely a mix of water and varnish in there. I am going to use Kreem to get the tank back in good condition, but first I need to get it off the frame and drained.
Before the tank comes off, the gauge cluster needs to come off. The gauges are definitely aftermarket and not in such great shape. Look like Taiwan manufacture… I guess I will start looking for NOS Harley speedo and tach. And the leather tank bib is a little rough. And if I am going to reuse the gauge mount, then I will need to find a replacement rubber base for it – the rubber is dried and cracked. The gauges come off easily enough, then there are just a few mounting bolts and some rubber hoses to remove. (Those hoses need replacing too… add them to the list.)
After draining the old gas, I realized I am not sure how to dispose of this and the used oil that will be coming out of this thing. I will ask around and find the proper way to dispose of this stuff. Everything in the garage smells now… but at least it isn’t diesel fuel!
Battery Case, Kick Starter, and Exhaust
The battery case needed to come off… plenty of crud caught in behind it and under it. In addition, I plan to remove the oil tank (another day) to drain and clean the oil tank. So getting the battery case off was a simple start to stripping things down to the essentials. The more I remove, the more I think I might take it all the way down to the frame.
The kickstarted has worn the shaft end unevenly. The square end of the shaft is rounded off – it might work a little longer, but I might as well replace it. I will need to look, but I think this shaft runs through into the transmission. If it does, then I will pull the transmission and rework it on the bench. For now, the kickstart lever is off and on the shelf. (I removed the chrome spring cover too… I kind of like the look of the exposed spring!)
The exhaust wasn’t much to take off… one bolt hold the flange on each exhaust port, and the pipes were basic drag pipes. This thing had to be loud as hell when it was running! I like the look of the original 2:1 from Harley – and the rear pipe came forward and looped around the timing cone and cover. I think I will look for a similar style when I rebuild. For now, these tubes can go in the junk pile.
All in all, it was a small start but I validated how much I like the look for the rocker boxes! Getting the engine cleaned up, running smoothly will be a fine milestone – and then it will need to go back in a bike designed to show off the Big Twin!
I don’t really know why, but the gas tank and gauge cluster on this bike leave me with mixed feelings. I am not even certain they are original for this bike – more on that as my research advances!
At least some of the ’79 FXS bikes had a speedometer that went to 150 mph. While I don’t think the bike ever went that fast, it is a cool idea. I will continue to search for the “correct” gauge cluster.
The gas tank… well, talking about the gas tank leads to discussing the paint, and discussing the paint leads to talking about the color of the bike. Hmm. The paint appears to be original factory paint and the fenders match. And the paint is in good condition – no scratches or other problems. It seems like a shame to paint over it. On the other hand… the color leaves me, well… unmoved. It is kind of cool and retro… but not awesome. I need to think about this some more. I don’t see any reason not to paint the entire bike, but I have not decided yet. Maybe as I spend more time working on it and getting to know it better, the direction of the paint will become clear to me.
My biggest beef with the tank is the profile, and more specifically, how it drops down and obscures the rocker boxes. I wanted a shovel because the top end is so cool – so making them hard to see seems counter-productive. (And I am thinking about some special treatments for the rocker boxes… more on that later.) So I need to figure out how to change out the look and profile of the tank.
The engine is going to be the centerpiece of this bike when it is done. This is what makes it cool, and while I don’t want to destroy the original design intent of the Lowrider, I also want to make certain the shovelhead is front and center.
The VIN number is 7G55826H9 – and assuming my references are correct, this verifies the bike is an FXS-80 (“7G”) and it was a 1979 model year (H9). The stamp on the frame (this is the only VIN that matters, by the way) and the crankcase are the same. Since the rolled off the assembly line together, I plan to keep it that way in the future!
The previous owner of this Harley died a few years ago and I bought it out of the estate. Not much information was available, and the bike appears to have been well ridden. I am not certain this is the original sheet metal – the gas tank is a split tank and I think the gauge cluster has been changed. No matter… I see this as a blank canvas to build something new. I don’t feel like there is any need to preserve this bike in any original form, but I do want to take full advantage of the shovelhead engine on this scoot.