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Hog Wild In The Heartland
By Doug Kaufman
For a state that offers only five months – at best – guaranteed motorcycle weather a year, Ohio is home to more bikers than almost any other state in the Union. Only California, with its 35 million residents has more motorcycles than the Buckeye State. With more than 220,000 bikes registered, nearly 2 percent of Ohio’s population is two-wheel mobile.
The American Motorcyclist Association is headquartered in Pickerington, outside of the state capital, Columbus. There are hundreds of motorcycle dealers, repair shops and parts manufacturers within the state’s borders. And Ohio is home to C&S Cycles and Hot Shot Motorworks, two widely diverse facilities serving the same purpose: providing more powerful, more reliable engine performance to Harley-Davidson owners.
As Harley-Davidson celebrates its storied 100th anniversary this year, these two shops offer an interesting perspective on where the company’s motorcycles have come from – and where they’re going. C&S, in Mt. Victory, OH, is a small two-man operation restoring and servicing vintage bikes and pre-twin cam motors. Hot Shot Motorworks, in Upper Sandusky, OH, specializes in performance work for 1999 and newer motors.
Driving through the cornfields of Amish Country leading to the small shop Mike Wells operates (C&S Cycles) you can literally feel the decades drop off backwards. Pull up to the door of C&S and a beautifully restored 1946 Sportster sits waiting to be driven off into a cinematic sunset.
Wells has been working on H-D motorcycles for more than 15 years, since he began helping his father-in-law, Curby Cochran. Cochran, 75, was a farmer in the 1940s when he decided to try flat track motorcycle racing. Though he was too tall to be competitive, a friend suggested he enter endurance races, and he was soon ranked 6th in the nation, eventually racing 15 years, winning various class championships.
In the late ’50s Cochran became a Harley dealer, and spent three weeks at Harley’s dealer school in Milwaukee ("January in Milwaukee...17 degrees below zero...they worked us pretty hard," recalls Cochran). He operated dealerships in Michigan and Ohio until the late 1960s, when local interest in motorcycles declined and the need to have a full-time income increased.
Although Cochran closed his doors, he never got rid of his tools, parts or excess inventory; it was just stored away in a chicken coop on his farm. When his son-in-law, a full-time firefighter, expressed an interest in restoring some of the old bikes during the late ’80s, C&S Cycles was born.
"Curby can take some of these old engines apart and put them together again with his eyes closed," says Wells. "Everything I know about engines I’ve learned from him."
C&S’s customer base of vintage cycles is spread all over the country. Wells says much of his service involves top end work on Knuckleheads, Panheads, Flatheads, Shovelheads and Ironheads. "A lot of our work involves replacing pistons and increasing horsepower on the older bikes. Most of the dealerships don’t like to work on these older models, especially because they don’t teach them in school anymore. And the newer bikes are so computer-controlled that I can’t quickly and easily do the work."
Wells says that a complete rebuild on his customers’ engines includes bead blasting and powder coating of components as needed and replacement of seals. Head and block work is done by hand or with the use of a vintage Storm Vulcan boring bar. "We’ve modified it to accept pressure plates and the like over the years," says Wells, "but it’s an original. It still does a great job."
When Wells says that, you feel he’s also talking about the old Harleys and the man who used to sell them.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hot-Shot Motorworks works primarily with Harley-Davidson dealers around the country, says Dan Thompson, owner. "We’re tooled for the Evolution, Twin-Cam and late model Sportster engines," he says. "In fact, we get a lot of bikes that have never seen the highway yet."
Thompson says business breaks down thusly: "Probably 40 percent is new engine builds. We use all new parts to build motors from the ground up. Our parts are usually made exclusively for us to about 70 percent finished form. We perform all the final machine work in-house.
"About 25 percent of our work is engine rebuilds," Thompson continues. "And 35 percent is cylinder head porting and performance top-end packages, consisting of cylinder heads, boring the cylinders with higher compression pistons, adding special cam designs, carburetion and ignition packages."
Thompson’s career began more than 30 years ago when he was an automotive engine builder and drag racer. In the 1970s, he left automotive and began offering machine services to local motorcycle shops.
"We also started racing a Harley XR750 on the dirt track circuit," Thompson says. "We found we needed better machines to do the work we wanted, so we kept updating our equipment."
Today, Hot-Shot Motorworks is home to a complete state-of-the-art machine shop with the latest surfacing equipment, hones, mills, lathes, boring bars, balancing equipment and test equipment. Flow benches and dynos help in the shop’s R&D efforts.
Although he handles only Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Thompson’s complaints of his business woes sound familiar to automotive machine shops. Poor quality parts, lowball pricing from competitors and offshore crate motors have combined with a poor economy to hurt his profits. But the efforts he has made in building his shop continue to pay benefits.
"There are a lot of shops out there, but I feel there are only about three in the country who offer what we can. The average shop doesn’t have our capabilities."
Helping the Eagle Fly Higher
There are a lot of tricks to correctly rebuild or add performance modifications to the Harley-Davidson engine. Learning to do these tricks isn’t rocket science but consulting with someone with years of experience working with these engines will speed your learning curve.
As far as performance is concerned, there are more parts available for Harley Davidson engines than the small block Chevy – carbs, pipes, cams, blowers and turbos – you name it and there is an aftermarket supplier out there making it.
The photos included here illustrate some of the unique characteristics of the Harley-Davidson engine.
Photo 1: These HD crankshaft pieces are S&S stroker pieces (photo also shows a set of Eagle H-beam rods). The pieces consist of two flywheels with a sprocket shaft on the left and pinion shaft on the right. The sprocket shaft has two Timken-type taper roller bearings with a spacer between them to set the correct clearance. The pinion shaft drives the cam and oil pump, and carries pressurized oil to the crank pin, lubricating the connecting rod rollers. The shaft is supported by a needle roller bearing.
Both shafts are fitted to the flywheel by a taper and large nut. The pinion shaft is keyed to align oil feed holes.
The rods ride on roller bearings that must be assembled in three cages. The female rod has two cages with short rollers. The male rod has a single cage with longer rollers.
The crank pin is held into the flywheel by a taper with large nuts torqued to 180-210 ft.lbs. The right side of the crank pin is keyed for oil feed alignment.
The easiest way to rebuild the assembly is to buy a rod kit that has the crank pin and crank pin rollers all fitted. Or, the rod big ends can be honed for oversize rollers. Or, the big end race can be replaced and fitted.
Photo 2: When assembling and torquing the crank pin nuts it is easiest to hold the crankshaft assembly between two big V-blocks in a press. Then torque them in stages, releasing the pressure after each torquing, so the flywheels can "settle in." You can use thread locker on the nuts on the shafts and crank pin. The rod side clearance should be checked as well. You don’t want the clearance to be too tight (.005˝-.025˝ is about what you should have).
Photo 3: Next the crankshaft assembly goes between centers with the indicators on both sides where the bearings are. Under .002˝ per side is considered acceptable. With the V-block method of assembly it’s common to get close to this but I like to take the time to get them less than .001˝ per side (of course zero is what we strive for). Corrections are made by hammering with a brass mallet or by squeezing and spreading the flywheels. This is the part where experience makes a difference. Sometimes it takes a few minutes but every now and then (especially with older flywheels) you have to fight with it to get it true.
Photo 4: Aftermarket kits are available in many engine sizes. Strokes from 3-13/16˝ (stock 74 cid) to 5˝ are available. Bores from 3-1/2˝ (stock 80 cid) to 4˝ are available. Larger kits require aftermarket cases and other special components.
Photos 5-6: There are many types of cylinder heads available in the aftermarket. Even a 4-valve conversion. For a moderately modified street engine, I have had quite good success modifying the stock heads. Oversized valves and correct porting can give healthy horsepower gains. And for high compression engines, compression reliefs can be installed.
Torque Specs for Harley-Davidson engines:
Pinion Shaft: 140-170 ft.lbs.
Sprocket Shaft: 290-320 ft.lbs.
Crank Pin: 180-210 ft.lbs.
Note: with aftermarket flywheels and/or shafts, use the manufacturer’s torque specs.
Contributed by Dana Johnson, Import Machine Service Inc., Framingham, MA.