Somewhere in the Clinton, Iowa, area, there's a shop with a unique specialty. It's an unobtrusive place where owner Dave Ohrt goes about his daily business of restoring pre-1915 Harley-Davidsons. That's right-he specializes in Harley bikes that predate the V-Twin motor we all know and love. Now, before you call up Frank Kaisler at our sister magazine, HOT ROD'S BIKE-WORKS, and start demanding a "Shop Crawl" on this facility, you need to know that Dave's a bit reclusive about his operation and extremely modest when talking about the work he does there.
But in the case of this red EL, he made a few exceptions. First, it's a couple of decades newer than the machines he usually works on, and second, he let Pam Proctor do a photo shoot on it for us.
So why'd he step forward in time from Silent Grey Fellows and Peashooters to a knuckle? It seems that his "hobby" is working on early V-Twins such as knuckles and pans, restoring or customizing them in the same styles that were in back in the day. In fact, he owns six knuckleheads, including this one, a '37, and three '46s. The last one is a '49 he got from a guy who'd bought it new and retired it under a blanket in his farmhouse after his wife told him, "No way, no how she was gonna let him get himself hurt on one of these two-wheeled contraptions."
This knuck, however, wasn't nearly so pristine when it crossed Dave's path. It was a beatdown zombie of motorcycle in need of some serious lovin' if it was going to live again. Some parts needed some cleaning, others a little more than that. And some, such as the tires, seat, and exhaust, were beyond all hope and needed complete replacement. Dave, modest guy that he is, told us, "There isn't much of a story to tell. I got it from a buddy and it was in disarray, so I brought it back to life."
He also made it sound as if the resurrection was a simple process. While it's true that he didn't replace many of the parts on the bike, the motor and transmission had to be taken apart, inspected, cleaned, and rebuilt. As the V-Twin went back together, Dave crowned it with a set of Superior upsweep pipes with trumpet mufflers for style.
Although he downplays the work on this bike somewhat, he also told us that his brother Mike put a lot of work into molding the frame. A lot of folks might have taken this chance to re-rake the neck or stretch the chassis to better suit their own tastes, but Dave, being pretty happy with the way it was and not wanting to fix what wasn't broken, left those aspects alone.
But this isn't to say the whole bike is stock. The front-tire skin was tossed out, and its rear counterpart lost its job to a Triumph fender. In the tank department, the gas holder is of the classic peanut persuasion. And when it came to the controls, a set of apes sits atop the chopper's Springer fork set. All of these comprise the bike's chopper look. But perhaps the crowning jewel is the seat. When Dave got the EL, it already had an original Bates leather seat, but the butt rest was decayed beyond recovery. Dave searched swap meets and antique bike shows for six months until he was able to find another original Bates to take its place (it wasn't perfect, however; the springs were too stiff for Dave's taste, so he swapped them out for a softer set).
As for the finish, Dave turned the venerable machine over to Mike again, who painted it in Candy Apple Red, and then it was on to final assembly. Bringing this chopper back from the dead took about six months, and, based on what Dave's told us about his work, you might suspect he plays it low-key with this machine, but the truth is far from that. He made it his daily rider-not because he craves attention from onlookers, but because he just loves to ride it. And that's the best reason of all to throw a leg over a bike.
|BUILD TIME:||SIX MONTHS|
|AIR CLEANER:||'60S AFTERMARKET|
|EXHAUST:||SUPERIOR UPSWEEPS WITH|
|FINISH:||CANDY APPLE RED|
|WITH CRUSHED GLASS|
|CALIPER(S):||H-D DRUM BRAKE|
|CALIPER(S):||H-D DRUM BRAKE|
|COLOR:||CANDY APPLE RED|
|POLISHING:||THE CHROME SHOP|
|AND CAP(S):||H-D PEANUT TANK|
|LICENSE MOUNT:||SIDE MOUNT|
|SEAT:||ORIGINAL BATES LEATHER|