Guest Article by DAVID SNOW
ANIMAL MOTHER: After a ten mile run.
Well, that prom dress slipped right off without a hitch, and, yes, it was all I could’ve hoped for! Animal Mother now has 50 miles on her as well as an oil change and all is well. The rides were in 1-5 mile increments, as I’d run back to the trailer and check the bike over and let her cool down. On the third run, a 3-miler, I noticed an exhaust leak on the front pipe. Soot was creeping out from under the clamp. I know I’d socked it down during assembly and when I tried to tighten it I found it was stripped. I removed the pipe, cleaned the soot off the pipe & head, and installed an exhaust clamp that came from a rusty pile of ’79 IH parts I was given a couple of years ago. I also tightened that rear hard line oil fitting and the leak is now just a seep, but I’ll keep on it. I’m still nervous, but cautiously proud. I know this is nothing compared to you fellas that restore complete bikes or successfully stroke an ironhead, but I’m an artfag and the last top end I did was over 30 years ago on my Shovelhead. I must say, the Shovel was a much easier project than Animal Mother, but this was doubtless due to my ignorance back then. I put the Shovel back together on my front porch and was rather cavalier about cleanliness— certainly nowhere near the manic paranoia I’ve endured regarding all of these pristine Ironhead parts I’ve had floating around the trailer. Also, securing the piston wristpin with a circlip on a Shovelhead is MUCH easier than sweating those ridiculous Spirolocks in place on an IH. I was peeved that there was really no substantive advice available about Spirolocks, but I get it now. There’s really nothing you can advise anyone beyond ‘just get in there, get lost, and find your way out.’ It did help to watch Youtube vids of people attempting it, especially the Tatro series.
What also helped were the little things. I had an abundance of blue shop towels and new red shop rags. Plenty of carb/choke cleaner spray to clean parts and fasteners. An endless tube of engine assembly lube. A can of silver engine paint. Lots of ice cold bottles of Miller. A good supply of stray nuts, bolts & washers. Sheets of 320 sandpaper. Lots of gas (92 premium non-enthanol) and oil (VR-1 50 weight) on hand. I had a propane torch which I didn’t need, but it was good to know it was there. I’d over-prepared and overcompensated, but I was never stymied or stalled during the assembly process.
I was really pleased that the bike functioned as if I’d just parked her yesterday. Doubtless it helped keeping her out of the elements and in a controlled environment in my living room. No carb issues (after sitting idle for months), no magneto/genny issues (ditto), no gas tank/fuel line issues, the list goes on. I barely crack the throttle on the S&S E and she’s gone like a cool breeze. With no tach or speedo, it’s impossible to precisely gauge rpms and such, but it’s not difficult to tell when you’re abusing an Ironhead. I’ll continue to be gentle up to 500 miles, and I doubt if I’ll get her on the freeway until after 1000 miles. I know I’m erring on the side of caution and I am well aware of how tough and forgiving a cast iron Harley is, but I have always been paranoid breaking in new Harleys and S&S stroker Harleys. I have always enjoyed great engine life with all my HDs, but this was my first experience with heat cycling. I remember the old saw from back in the day— if you want’em to go fast you break’em in fast— but I’ve always taken it easy.
So this first oil change was clean as a whistle. I plan on the next at 500 miles, then at 1000.