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  1. #1
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    Default How to Document and Preserve a Collectible Vintage Harman Chopper

    I recently took over the task of preserving an original John Harman built show chopper. This bike hasn't been ridden since the early 80's according to Steve Carmack, the previous owner, that turned me onto this vintage collectible. Carmack purchased the bike in '75 from Chuck Long who commissioned John to build the bike for him to enter in the '75 Sacramento Autorama; which I was told it won; although I'd still like to verify this, hence the word documentation in the title. Good or bad I'll be documenting and working through the process of provenance which in this case shouldn't be too awful bad since Anita Harman and Harry Blake have both said that they remember John building this bike and it leaving Anita's house/John's shop. Being the third owner and having picked her up from the second just leaves finding Chuck Long and getting something in writing or on videotape, for future record, either from Chuck if I can locate him or, Anita or, Harry.
    Next three steps are: 1. Photograph and videotape taking her apart. 2. Look for anything that will require immediate preservation, for instance the paint job. The lacquer is checking and some paint is chipping off so I'm in desperate need of a premier painter who has the knowledge to save and preserve this 40 year old custom paint job, hence preserve or preservation in the title. 3. Go through all the boxes that came with the bike; the original 1000 Sportster engine John put in the bike is in pieces in a few of those boxes as are the mid controls, original taillight, what's remaining of the original seat pan and enough parts to build a couple other engines but for now I just want to see what goes with this bike and document that.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_3392.JPG   IMG_3390.JPG   IMG_3391.JPG   IMG_2093.jpg   Tank close up.jpg  


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    Fucking ride it. Make it roadworthy and ride it. Pfft

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sky View Post
    Fucking ride it. Make it roadworthy and ride it. Pfft
    yes!

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    Been riding since I was four so not sure how we came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be riding this one? Anyway, it's just my interpretation of things; if we don't take the time to preserve things we value, over time that value can get lost and the people that took so much pride in their work, could end up being lost to history. This happens in the Hot Rod industry all the time and why folks are really finding a need to preserve certain vehicles, parts, automobilia and the like for historical reference. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by 777ag View Post
    Been riding since I was four so not sure how we came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be riding this one? Anyway, it's just my interpretation of things; if we don't take the time to preserve things we value, over time that value can get lost and the people that took so much pride in their work, could end up being lost to history. This happens in the Hot Rod industry all the time and why folks are really finding a need to preserve certain vehicles, parts, automobilia and the like for historical reference. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    since you are not sure how we cam to the conclusion that you would not be riding it...

    1-We have no idea how long you have been riding, this is your third post, you are very much a stranger.
    2-you made no mention of making it road worthy, your post was about preservation and documentation, not "I can't wait to ride this bad lad", instead you used the terminology "collectable", collectors don't play with their toys, they put them on shelves.
    3-your profile pic is a car.


    as far as the paint goes... it's fucked, you are not going to save it. If collectability is the reason you own it then send the tins off to 4Q (or some other famous chopper painter) and have them go nuts on it. Or, even better, ride it until the rest of the paint falls off, I can think of no better tribute to a builder than having his work in the wind until the bitter end.

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    It's spelt Harmon..............

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    It's spelt Harmon..............
    It's Harman, though it was misspelled at least once in a magazine.









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    If you want to "preserve" it do NOT take it apart - doing so including replating etc = restoration in my mind - sort out what is original to the bike and refit that but understand that whilst its a great looking bike long term never going to be worth as much as a stocker in 100% OEM condition so would be a great bike to sort out and ride occasionally

    Still the best looking long front ends ever made
    Last edited by panheadpete; 07-11-2016 at 11:35 PM.

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    Has the bike in question ever been ridden?
    Some dude commissioned it to win some trophy? Lame.

    Ever heard of in-painting? It's a technique used in the art world to restore"important" works. Basically it's recreating missing sections with archival materials. The new stuff has to be close but different enough for future viewers to differentiate from the original.
    Otherwise it could be considered a forgery of a "mint" condition piece.
    Anyway maybe you could in-paint and then UV clear coat over the whole paint job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by boomboomthump View Post
    It's Harman, though it was misspelled at least once in a magazine.


    LOL Well DAMN were both right............... That doesn't happen much......... LOL

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    Quote Originally Posted by panheadpete View Post

    Still the best looking long front ends ever made

    And the best riding.............. By far...........

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    Original patina counts for a lot. There being a shitload of motorcycles out there it's no sacrifice not to ride one or ride it much, especially Ironheads or old British bikes which are very pretty but unreliable on a good day when they were new.

    Since it is being preserved/curated as folk art (which chops certainly are) I suggest not molesting any surface that isn't outright fucked (like the tank) up and focusing on detail instead. Jockey Journal is a good resource for that sort of thing.

    I suggest taking professional quality (not point-and-shoot shit) photographs of every part including the bottom of that motorcycle in high resolution. You can zoom those on good LARGE computer monitor to capture details you couldn't see with a magnifying glass and a bright light. (This works for visual casting crack inspections too.) That portfolio should be preserved with the motorcycle.

    If you need dimensions, a cloth dressmakers tape is cheap and can safely be draped across painted surfaces and/or taped to them with painters tape to give proper scale. Complex sections of paint could be traced using tracing paper making the equivalent of tattoo stencils. I'm not a pro so I'd look for one. Horror Fright make a plastic digital caliper you can use without fear of scratching if you need that.

    If you rebuild the original engine I'd build it as soft as practical with low static compression. It's folk art that incidentally has wheels and if you keep it very easy to start that's less hassle when you do fire it up and leaves more money for the rest of the bike. The only reason people hotrodded show bikes is so the spec sheet would look sexy.

    There are plenty of other Ironheads out there to slap together and wear out again. Given that much research ya may as well clone the thing in parallel as you go if you want one to flog.

    Digital levels are cheap so you could easily get all the frame dimensions and angles. Sketch frame on wall, write as you go. Capture enough data and you might interest someone in cloning that nice girder. It's coming down anyway for inspection. If you have a CAD bro he could model it.

    Hang out in antique car restoration forums, AMCA forums and anywhere else focused on restoration.

    Search "photogrammetry software". I'm not a photographer but knew photogrammetry exists because military Intel folks use it to figure the size of an object then an assembly (like an aircraft or tank) using known nearby objects for comparison. It's come a long way but I don't restore or molest bikes nice enough to restore so I'm not current. It should be practical to image the paint job and use any earlier pics of the bike to get precise images to work with and color match. Old pics may determine parts orientation etc.

    The supply of intact classic motorcycles is drying up as the fleet ages. The old stuff is coming out of the woodwork but there's so little left the classic show chops are IMO worth preserving. There are still plenty of ragged old bikes and parts for chopping, and since chopping means shitcanning most of the motorcycle and usually refreshing the motor doing it that way ADDS another bike to the population. Model T Fords were once the daily drivers of America. They aren't any more but people still preserve (and make when a resto isn't feasible) "gow jobs" for fun.

    Show bikes and their international exposure are why people still build chops. Restored that Harmon's a blast from the past. Re-used differently it's just another old bike.

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    Farmall, wow-thanks for taking the time to write that guideline out! I'll definitely be looking into a couple of the suggestions i.e. photogrammetry software. Much appreciated. I'm taking care of the Sandy's Muffler Shop roadster too so I've kinda, sorta, been through the preservation/ conservation/ restoration ringer on the Jalopy Journal and Ford Barn. Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	70993 At GNRS and pretty damn close to how she was last raced in '42. I do drive her as Sandy intended, on a nitro blend, as a matter of fact were re-jetting her to race Pismo TROG latter this year. Looking forward to your input in the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sky View Post
    Has the bike in question ever been ridden?
    Some dude commissioned it to win some trophy? Lame.

    Ever heard of in-painting? It's a technique used in the art world to restore"important" works. Basically it's recreating missing sections with archival materials. The new stuff has to be close but different enough for future viewers to differentiate from the original.
    Otherwise it could be considered a forgery of a "mint" condition piece.
    Anyway maybe you could in-paint and then UV clear coat over the whole paint job.
    From what I understand the bike was ridden from '75 to somewhere in the early '80s by the second owner who was a high school friend of John. I guess or suppose Chuck Long either didn't have the time or know how to build it so be paid for it? Or maybe he just wanted John to build it for him? Hopefully he's still around and I ask if I find him. I am familiar with inpainting; I had this type of work done to a pre-war hot rod roadster that also happens to have a unique place in Americana. That paint was soy bean based and Lil' Louie in Riverside handled that job; we spoke about something along the lines of what you described today for this bike. Louie said he did all the early Denver Choppers, and just finished the preservation of the paint on the '68 Honda 305 Scrambler painted by Von Dutch and previously owned by Jim Morrison, I didn't even know he rode? I appreciate the suggestionClick image for larger version. 

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ID:	70994 thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keeleyvision View Post
    since you are not sure how we cam to the conclusion that you would not be riding it...

    1-We have no idea how long you have been riding, this is your third post, you are very much a stranger.
    2-you made no mention of making it road worthy, your post was about preservation and documentation, not "I can't wait to ride this bad lad", instead you used the terminology "collectable", collectors don't play with their toys, they put them on shelves.
    3-your pics a car


    as far as the paint goes... it's fucked, you are not going to save it. If collectability is the reason you own it then send the tins off to 4Q (or some other famous chopper painter) and have them go nuts on it. Or, even better, ride it until the rest of the paint falls off, I can think of no better tribute to a builder than having his work in the wind until the bitter end.
    1-Fair enough.
    2a- I hadn't gotten that far yet, I was only at step three and personally I enjoy the research/history and finding out about the people that built cutting edge things, like Harman. For me working with those same parts really connects you to that person's thought process. Anyway just the way I'm wired, truthfully I haven't thought about riding her much yet; I'm more focus on the engine in pieces.
    2b. Not all collectors sit their toys on shelves; I collect muscle cars and hot rods and regularly beat the crap out of them, so much so that I build running gear so I can power shift them without worrying about destroying original parts; and since the 1000 in this bike has ported heads and other performance parts that have seen better days I'll likely re-assemble and box it up and have Torgeson build a "small" engine so I can easily get that front wheel in the air because I think John would have wanted it that way. I do agree though that from my experience most car collectors don't understand what they own.
    3a. Corrected this was drawn by Harry Blake, Harman's original business partner. Still kickin, he was at the house when I picked this bike up.
    3b. Previous post I mentioned Lil' Louie in Riverside; from a preservation stand point you can always slow down the aging process to preserve something. But to look like new I agree a complete is the only way to go; I just happen to lean to the preservation side because as they say it's only original once and there's no path back to the past.
    Last edited by 777ag; 07-13-2016 at 1:05 AM.

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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	71015 Took a little Brass-o to the neck and triples today just to get an idea of the condition of the chrome.
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ID:	71016 The rear mount and the starter block off plate with fabricated coil mount.
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ID:	71017 This Harman build has both mid and forward mounts.
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ID:	71018 6 dividing lines added to the hexagon oil bag.
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ID:	71019 Rear pegs and the fender mounts

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    These look like DBE Manufacturing to me but help identifying them would nice too

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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	71022 Please help identifying this rear hub

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    I'm familiar with that mans build back in the day. Frankly, IMHO, its a vision that belonged to yes, a talented person, but it is really nothing more than that. It it means the same you, good deal, and do what you want. But in practical means, it will be difficult and expensive to get back to the original shape it was in. And even then it wont be the "original build"

    Money wise, overall, it isn't worth all that much more than any other custom build. However, it would be worth something to very small crowd that likes that particular builder

    What you have is a "survivor" custom build. Once you go to restore, it is no longer the original/custom build

    Enjoy it.......

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