Past summer I went to the south of Belgium for a photoshoot for Bigtwin Magazine of David is fully rebuild Ironhead. Loaded with my trustworthy camera and a shitload of water I drove through Belgium to take a closer look.
David’s passion for vehicles goes very far. In addition to his job as a car mechanic, he spends almost all of his free time tinkering with various cars and motorcycles in his shed. His greatest pride is the old Toyota Land Cruiser BJ40 that belonged to his father and which he has been sitting in since birth. Coming in a good second place are his two Harley’s and the Ford F1, which we have also brought along for convenience. The old pick-up turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing as we struggle to keep up with David through the winding roads in southern Belgium. Later it turns out that this old beast is less original than expected and under the dull black paint looks more like a Ford Mustang GT350 than the original F1. He therefore affectionately calls him his “Beast”
This Ironhead’s journey started as a real wreck. After years in the barn with someone, he came into contact with the owner through a friend. David had been looking for an old Harley for a while next to his reliable Heritage. The wish list of this one was quite short; it had to be a right side shifitng, kick-only Ironhead and he had to have the same year of birth as his new owner. The old owner only really did not want to give up the engine at all, but after a good offer and the promise to take good care of the engine, he could still take the old girl home. When they returned home, no time was waisted and the Ironhead was literally taken apart to the last bolt for a full rebuild. In addition to making the bike unique, David also wanted it to run smoothly. That is why the engine was first completely overhauled and each bearing subjected to a thorough inspection. For a little more power and better combustion, a set of Andrews camshafts was used along with an Electronic ignition and an S&S carburettor.
The original engine was only equipped with a kick start and right shift. A kickstart is a lot of fun, of course, but it turned out that this was not physically possible for David. The engine was therefore supplemented with an optional starter motor in 1974 so that starting could be done at the touch of a button, but the kicker can still be used. Unfortunately, this required a larger battery in the frame and the specially made glass oil tank with external filter the he had made, had to make way for a more original one. Converting to the left is a very major intervention for shifting right. David therefore chose another option that requires you to think a little more and thus reduce the chance of you stepping on the brake instead of a different gear. The existing forward controls were therefore equipped with a Jockey Shift. With this, the engine still shifts on the right side, but the shifting experience has become a lot bigger. In addition, a jockey naturally looks super cool 😉
With the reliable heart of the bike back in top condition, the rest of the bike could be started. David wanted to keep the frame as original as possible so it was only provided with a fresh black layer along with the old swingarm. The wheels that were under the bike could no longer be used so a diligent search was made for a rear wheel with brake drum. Nowadays orderable through most dealers but when David started they were nowhere to be seen. After a long search he came across a completely new rear wheel where he could put his original anchor plate. For the front wheel there is still a desire to mount the original brake drum, only these prove to be even scarcer than the rear wheels. For now a 19 ”model from a later Sportster in the completely revised 33.4 mm fork will do the trick.
The basis for the Ironhead was laid, so it was time for a face of its own. David wanted a look with some elements of a Hardtail without the “comfort” of a hardtail. The rear mudguard was therefore secured to the swingarm using the ready-made Sissy so the space between mudguard and tire is minimal. The icing on the sissy bar cake was an old taillight of a Citroen Rosalie that perfectly matched the style of the bike.
The engine had to remain slim so a nice but pricey tank from Lowbrow was ordered from the states together with a Chopper Kings T-bar. The base of the bike was now ready so it was possible to look at the details on the bike to give it its own face. Under the Biltwell saddle, David himself made a set of flames that still give a subtle twist to the otherwise simple saddle. For driving safety, a suitable solution for flashing lights was sought without immediately hanging a set of luminous bricks on the engine. Of course there are very nice little lights from Kellermann in circulation. But in addition to the fact that these small lights cost tons on money, they are also quite “standard”. The solution was found in a license plate light. These small LED lights are powerful enough to be seen when they need to be seen, but are not noticeable.
It is clear that a lot of love and time has gone into this Ironhead. For 2 years, almost every free hour has been spend in this motorcycle. Not only building took time, but at least as much time was spent looking for the right parts. Ultimately, the engine was assembled with parts from all over the world and built with the utmost care. It is therefore only logical that this engine occupies a special place in David’s house. As soon as the weather is no longer drivable, it is stored warm and dry in the living room. When it’s that time of the year again it’s turned into an alternative Christmas tree. With so much attention for an bike, it’s no longer a hobby, but it is clearly pure passion.