Posted on Saturday, Mar 08, 2008 by Steve Natt
One of the best things about the vintage motorcycle community is that it is just that – a community. There’s something about thrashing wonderfully wonky old bikes for all they’re worth that brings together like-minded people. And it crosses brand lines in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen among street bike riders. Here, for example, I saw Harley guys pitted next to Indian guys, and there wasn’t even one fistfight.
I’m kidding of course, but you get the idea.
This entry is about a really cool H-D that caught my eye… a certain 27x. At first glance, you’d be right to think it’s a 938 H-D WLDR 45” flathead. But six weeks ago -- it just didn’t exist. It was hauled down here by the guy who built it from parts, Tom Faber of Faber Cycle in Greenville, Michigan. “This was a pile of parts that had never met each other before,” he told me. “We have an antique motorcycle club and we pooled our parts together.” Apparently this happened over several meetings and phone calls and was sort of like that old Little Rascals episode where someone said, “I have a costume,” and someone else said, “I have a barn” and they all yelled, “let’s put on a show.”
Of course he wasn’t shooting in the dark here. Tom has restored a bunch of hand-shifters over the years, and he has a full machine shop to fab-up parts he might have trouble finding. Since this one was designed from the ground up to be a race bike, he knew it had to be good. “It has KR cams and intake from a later model. It looks old but we did some major modifications to get it to work better. It’s all legal in this class – as long as they’re flathead parts, it’s fine.”
So how’s it go? Pretty well actually. The exhaust note is a nice, bass-rumbling potato-potato with a bit of a sting on the end of each pop, thanks to the straight shot pipes. And according to Tom it doesn’t just make a cool sound -- it’s a pretty strong runner too. “Rear wheel horse power is 26hp which is BLISTERING for one of these motors – and it’s about 5 more horsepower than most people get out of one of these. We did have it up to 104mph on the dyno. So if you have a 45” bike and it goes over a hundred, you have a racebike. That was at 5800 – we’re balanced for 6500.” Think about it fellow gearheads: that’s serious RPM from any aircooled twin, let alone a 70 year old design.
At the helm is the rather kooky Ross “Roscoe” Tuffli. He’s all smiles and warm handshakes in the pits, but on the track -- he’s “da bizness,” winning last year’s production lightweights championship on another brand bike. But Roscoe is all about old school. He rolls his own cigarettes like a cowboy, and his ONLY streetbike is a 1933 VLD – really rare model, so he’s very comfortable on these old hand-jammers.
Tuffli's first time on the bike was last weekend at Roebling Road Raceway in Georgia, and the bike wasn’t quite ready for prime time. “The bike was ice cold and brand new,” he admitted. “So I get out there and almost right away I have no front brake. I had to kind of throw it in sideways to scrub off speed. We’ve been ice racing so I was used to doing that, and got a 4th place.”
I asked him how it felt to be out there on the banks of Daytona, in full tilt boogie, on such an old bike. “As far as how it handles, compared to modern bike it makes transitions nicely, but with no rear suspension it kind of moves around a lot at speed. There’s way more bobbling and wallowing. It’s hard to see because my eyes are jiggling in my head, but so far here at Daytona it's pretty good."
More to come.
Posted on: Tue, Mar 11, 5:34 PM by Tony
I've been to Bike Week several times and have hit all the hot spots. By far, the best thing I've seen was the Motorman's rider skill show at the Harley demo area. Whoever decided to hire Jerry Motorman Palladino deserves a promotion or a raise. His rider skills demonstration were both informative and entertaining. Seeing Motorman and especially the two tiny women riders in his show handling their 800 lb. Harley-Davidsons with such ease was truly an inspiration. I purchased one of his Ride Like a Pro DVDs that he graciously autographed, I must say, it's the best money I ever spent on my motorcycle. I'd like to add some pictures of his show, but once I figure out how to add it to the site, it will be done. Thanks, Tony