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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2016
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    214

    Default 1978 XLH Ironhead build

    I bought a basket case bike, once again. This time I thought I'd keep a little diary on the build, so I have something to look back on. Hopefully this one will be finished, since my last '78 Ironhead was sold off before I could even ride the damn thing.

    A friend of my little brother hit him up and asked if I was interested in an Ironhead this guy and his friend had bought and stored for a year or so. These guys had heard I was looking for a Sportster to build.
    Curiosity got the best of me and I went and had a look. Took my wife with me, to hold me back and drop me back down to earth.
    The bike was in pieces on the floor of his garage, we had talked about me buying the titled frame and the motor. He threw in some other crap, which is mostly useless.
    Wife fell in love and told me to buy it, I still don't quite know why.




    Frame and motor are both in very rough shape, but I didn't pay a lot for these. The only good thing about the motor is the professionally rebuilt gearbox. Needs a once over on everything. I most likely need to bore out the jugs and get new pistons. The heads need work too. Came with an S&S Super E Shorty, but I would like to throw on a Keihin CV.
    Other stuff I need to do is ignition, pipes and get a whole starter assembly. None of those parts came with the heap.
    I have no idea who, or what, built the frame. It seems to have stock dimensions.

    (Continued in next post, to keep this easier to read)
    Last edited by Down; 08-01-2021 at 11:33 PM.

  2. #2

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    I don't really have a clear vision of what's going to happen to this bike, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.

    I had acquired this DNA 10" over springer just before I got the Ironhead. Seemed fitting to throw it on there. Before you all go crying about DNA, just take a deep breath and sit back down. I've never heard a real life story of them breaking and I know a lot of people who run them with 0 problems. The ride is not as nice as expensive springers, but they're fine. This is not the place to argue about DNA, go start your own thread for that.

    Made a light out of an old taillight and will be making a LED panel to put in there later. The headlight with a H4 and lo and hi beam will be mounted elsewhere.


    I'm building my own springer later on, but I'm not sure what bike that will end up on yet. I'm in the process of 3D printing the parts for mockup right now and I still need to design and draw the steering stem in CAD.

    Had some buckhorns in the garage, threw them on too. Kinda looks like a bike.
    Last edited by Down; 08-01-2021 at 11:35 PM.

  3. #3

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    Jan 2016
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    Wrestled the motor in the frame for mock up. I need to figure out what tabs I can cut off. They've welded weird stuff to this frame and I've cut most of it off already. Will clean up the cuts and sandblast (or mediablast, I don't know yet) and mold the frame a little bit.


    Got a bunch of stuff from TCBros, including conversion neck cups so the front end fits a little nicer. While I was shopping there I decided to go with their sissybar kit. I don't have a good way of bending a sissy in my tiny shed.


    Now I'm at a stand still waiting for wheels. Ordered 19" rear, 21" front and a tank all from TCBros, too. I realised that I don't have a rear axle. I thought I had a 3/4" axle somewhere, but I can't find it. Foot peg mounts are also coming in.
    Next things I need to buy are a rear fender, sprocket cover with kicker hole (mine is busted) and the starter housing. Anyone know off the top of their minds what housings fit a 78?

  4. #4
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    Nice project, Man ...

    Addressing a few of your questions ...

    The starter that the motor came with is a bit outdated, first used in 67 ...
    If the budget can handle it, this one is "Kick-Ass"



    The starter features a 1.4kW compact size gear reduction starter with a self-contained solenoid that simply bolts in place of the original starter/housing assembly ..


    ___________________________________________

    Kick cover ...
    1977-78 are all by themselves ...
    V-T has them ...



    This one ^^ is made for Kick & Electric ...
    "If" you go with the Tech starter, that one is not needed...



    The CH kick cover works super well with the much shorter Tech over the super long Delco of yesteryear.
    Requires a small bit of clearing ...
    Which beings us to another part that goes hand in hand with the CH kick cover ...

    The cam cover,
    Last edited by Dragstews; 07-31-2021 at 1:45 PM.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragstews View Post
    Nice project, Man ...

    Addressing a few of your questions ...

    The starter that the motor came with is a bit outdated, first used in 67 ...
    If the budget can handle it, this one is "Kick-Ass"



    The starter features a 1.4kW compact size gear reduction starter with a self-contained solenoid that simply bolts in place of the original starter/housing assembly ..

    Thanks, man. I've been looking at those, but I'm cheaping out for now. I think I'll mostly be kicking it, since there's a kicker installed. Just be nice to have an electric magic button that starts the thing.

  6. #6
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    Right 0n ....

    Swap meets are a good place to scout for parts ...
    Much cheaper than new stuff by far ..

    Surfing the net sometimes turns up gold ..

    Speaking of that, I have an old truck that I've been wanting a outside Sun-Visor for...
    Been looking for one for many years.

    Was scoping out Facebook Marketplace and ran across a Visor, owner had no clue what it was for or came off of ..
    His ad had the dimensions of the critter, a few photos and the ad said, here it is that's all I know about it ..

    My happy ass grabbed up a tape measure and seen it would work on my truck ...



    Wasn't perfect but was in pretty good condition for being over 60 years old ..

    This photo is after I worked with it ..



    The Stainless trim was beat to hell and back, but after a few weeks of working with it, got it back from the dead ...
    Last edited by Dragstews; 07-31-2021 at 2:05 PM.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Down View Post
    Thanks, man. I've been looking at those, but I'm cheaping out for now. I think I'll mostly be kicking it, since there's a kicker installed. Just be nice to have an electric magic button that starts the thing.
    Another possibility is the All Balls replacement starter motor, using the same Denso motor, but mounts to the factory starter and solenoid mount. That Tech Cycle starter is a good 'un, but $$$.

    Jim

  8. #8

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    This sounds crazy I know, but I just pulled the trigger on a Tech unit. Oops.
    I found one in Germany for a good enough price. I'm all the way over in Finland, so importing a V-Twin MFG starter kit would've cost a lot more.
    I have 0 of the parts related to the starter, except for the ring gear, so this seemed like the easier and better looking option by far.

  9. #9
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    Looks like a fun project.

    This may be helpful; 7 chapters of a build:

    How to Build a Sportster

    (from a pile of junk)


    Introduction

    https://www.ironheadcycle.com/pages/howto1.html

  10. #10
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    Love me an Iron Head Sporty. Nice score, looking forward to your build.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by TriNortchopz View Post
    Looks like a fun project.

    This may be helpful; 7 chapters of a build:

    How to Build a Sportster

    (from a pile of junk)


    Introduction

    https://www.ironheadcycle.com/pages/howto1.html
    Thanks, man. I've read that a few times years ago, thanks for reminding me about it!





    Quote Originally Posted by DoomBuggy View Post
    Love me an Iron Head Sporty. Nice score, looking forward to your build.
    Thanks! I really like your Sportsters.

    I should have wheels and gas tank this week, but no idea what day I'll get them. Customs decided to do a thorough search on my packages and they're being held for an indefinite time. I guess placing four fairly large orders to the same US web store and importing that many motorcycle parts within a two month period seems suspicious.

    I've been slowly filing down and shaping the welds on the sissybar.

    I did get the 3D printed parts done!


    Assembled a rough mockup, this is 10" over at the moment. I have some clearance issues, so I need to redraw the lower tree to make it a little smaller.

  12. #12
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    I love the Ironhead. They have the benefit of being undervalued at the moment, and the only antique Harley left you can still build on a budget.


    Looks like you're off to a great start.

  13. #13

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    Tore into the motor today and found a pretty nasty gouge in the rear cylinder. The cylinders are already bored .020 over and I hope there's enough material to take off to save these cylinders.
    I'm thinking of going for a little more performance, so what cams would you guys with experience suggest?

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Down View Post
    Tore into the motor today and found a pretty nasty gouge in the rear cylinder. The cylinders are already bored .020 over and I hope there's enough material to take off to save these cylinders.
    I'm thinking of going for a little more performance, so what cams would you guys with experience suggest?
    Check Cooldean's thread for a discussion of gouged up XL cylinders. Your cylinders can be safely bored to +.070.

    The stock P cams, which your motor should have, are actually pretty good. The Andrews R5 grind would be the next step up. For any cam, you will have to do valve travel and valve spring set-up. The stock springs are good for 7000rpm, but yours are 40+ years old, so a fresh set from PM or Manley would be a good idea.

    Jim

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinNC View Post
    Check Cooldean's thread for a discussion of gouged up XL cylinders. Your cylinders can be safely bored to +.070.

    The stock P cams, which your motor should have, are actually pretty good. The Andrews R5 grind would be the next step up. For any cam, you will have to do valve travel and valve spring set-up. The stock springs are good for 7000rpm, but yours are 40+ years old, so a fresh set from PM or Manley would be a good idea.

    Jim
    Oh, thanks for the info! Didn't know there were good cams in these motors. I think you're right about the springs. I will have a look at what's available. While I'm spending all this money and have the power starter motor on the way, why not bump up compression while we're in there? This build just turned into a money pit.

  16. #16

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    10:1 would be good. Stock is 9:1, with the .015 head gasket.

    Jim

  17. #17

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    Dropped of the cylinders at the only shop I trust with hotrodding Harleys. I'll have them back in October, these guys had a really long machining queue. The owner of the shop said he would do some research on what the best 10:1 pistons would be and would have a couple of options for me to choose from.

    Now I'm patiently (not) waiting for FedEx to get their heads out their asses and getting my wheels out for delivery. They still don't have any info they can share with me about what is taking so long.
    Last edited by Down; 08-11-2021 at 8:36 AM.

  18. #18

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    After many fuck ups and screw overs at FedEx's end, they finally got their heads out their asses and delivered my wheels and tank. It's a roller!


    19" rear, 21" front. Dirtbike tires are temporary.
    I like the stance a lot.

  19. #19

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    More funny stuff I found. Someone had just put in a set of Andrews PB+ cams before the motor gave up. They look brand spanking new. Can I run these with stock valve springs. I'll be getting new springs anyway, so might as well go with whatever is best with these cams.

    Pistons are scored on front and back sides, both cylinders pretty much the same and really badly. What would cause this? Low oil pressure? Bad oil pump?

  20. #20

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    This story ends here, for now at least. The frame is tweaked and I really don't have a clue how to straighten it out without a jig. I found this out while I was trying to make steering stops. Turn to the left and it hits the stop, center the stop and swing the front the other way. Hits almost 1/2" later. What the hell. I start measuring point to point on both sides, multiple points and it's always way off.. The frame is a corkscrew. The motor is fucked. Guess I just paid money for a literal pile of garbage?

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