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  1. #1

    Default Ironhead and Evo motor good/bad years

    Hey guys,
    First time poster long time lurker looking to pick up a new project.
    I'm stuck between picking up an 85 Evo mated to a 5 speed trans, kick only or a 1980 ironhead. I'm not too knowledgeable about these older engines and what kind of problems I may run into with either one and was hoping to get some insight so I can make a good decision

    Sorry if this is hard to understand I'm borderline illiterate

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Myself, ANY year Evo is a good one. Some BT EVO model years have a cam bearing weakness, but I had that year and frankly, I never worried about it, and it never failed me. Evos with simple routine maintainance are pretty much fail safe

    Ive had a sporty Ironhead, and frankly, I would never have one again. Too small for me, low on the power band, rough on highway speeds. Again, maintenance is the key here, but most previous owners tended to bugger them up over the years trying to keep them running by taking shortcuts. The early evo sporties and belt drive sporties are a totally different story

    I always tell folks get the most bike you can for the money. Most sporty buyers want a bigger bike a week after they own it

    Sorry Sporty guys, thats just me............

  3. #3

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    One last thing. Again, just me: My Evo BT kicker had the stock electronic ignition module and pick up. I shit canned them and put in a conversion kit of weights/points, and it was MUCH easier to kick start. The stock E ignition works fine, but I found it easier to kickstart with points.

    Good luck

  4. #4

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    I really appreciate the response. I'm really pulling for the Evo just playing the waiting game on hearing back from the owner. I'm no stranger to turning wrenches, but up until now have mostly dealt with early Evo sportys and early twin cams. In your opinion do the evos run better with an electric ignition or a points setup? My only worry is that since it's kick only it'll never be a one kick bike with an Ultima ignition

  5. #5

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    Looks like you answered my next question as I was typing it up! Thanks again

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    I have a 1980 Ironhead and all things being equal would choose the Evo. The Evolution is simply a more reliable, lower maintenance motor. The 5 speed transmission is also better than the Ironhead 4 speed which is known to self-destruct. Way more aftermarket support for an Evolution too.

    I built my Ironhead chop because I got the bike for $600. Time came for a rebuild and it was going to cost more than the bike is worth. I moved on.

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    What model is the '85 Evo? If it's in the "4 speed frame" then those are pretty neat. Does it run? Got a title?

    In my opinion the 80s ironheads are the least desirable of all sportsters to me personally. They don't seem to have the old-school cool charm of the earlier years like kick starter, 18" rear wheels, better looking fender struts, etc. If I was looking for an ironhead I'd be looking for 60s or 70s. But if I was looking for a reliable daily rider I'd be looking for a mid 90's to 2003 evo sportster.

    Anyhow. If it checks out, the 85 big would be a cool bike.

  8. #8

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    It was an 85 motor in a frame hardtailed by the previous owner, I'm not sure what model it started out life as. Unfortunately it's been several days without hearing from the seller and doesn't seem like something I'll be able to get my hands on. I've decided to skip the ironhead and continue saving up for an Evo in the future

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    Quote Originally Posted by PutALittleHeatOnIt View Post
    It was an 85 motor in a frame hardtailed by the previous owner, I'm not sure what model it started out life as. Unfortunately it's been several days without hearing from the seller and doesn't seem like something I'll be able to get my hands on. I've decided to skip the ironhead and continue saving up for an Evo in the future
    Early evos are cool. Apart from base gasket leaks about 40k miles, and a precautionary change of lifters shortly after, mine is soldiering on, 37 years old. My 95 evo is solid, but replace the inner cam bearing and plastic breather gear if you buy the later ones.

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    To answer your direct question….

    Imho any year ironhead is not a good year.

    When you say and 85 evo mated to a five speed, are you talking about a big twin evo. If that’s the case then skip the ironhead.

  11. #11

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    I've been hammering miles and beating the shit out of my big twin evo for years. And I have no idea about mileage and abuse before I got it. I have never had to open the motor up at all except when the frame cracked and the top tube rubbed thru the rocker box doing wheelies. I just tossed a new rocker box on and kept going. It smokes and burns oil. I just add oil and change the filter once in awhile. I have electronic ignition and it starts first kick almost every time if im not drunk. Its much faster than all my friends hogs.

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    Evo, all the way, with 91-03 being my preference. There are some deals to be had out there. Shouldn't be too much of a stretch to find something with low miles, still stock and under $3500.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LocoLocal View Post
    Shouldn't be too much of a stretch to find something with low miles, still stock and under $3500.
    Man you sure can't buy a low mileage one that cheap around here.......... That would be nice..........

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    Man you sure can't buy a low mileage one that cheap around here.......... That would be nice..........
    Where do you live? I am hearing that from a lot of folks. I know that everything is getting more expensive these days, even used bikes. But, facebook marketplace and craigslist always seem to be chock full of these 15-25 year old Sportsters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LocoLocal View Post
    Where do you live? I am hearing that from a lot of folks. I know that everything is getting more expensive these days, even used bikes. But, facebook marketplace and craigslist always seem to be chock full of these 15-25 year old Sportsters.
    NC........ I have several friends looking for low mileage nice bikes that haven't been messed with and they aren't out there at that price.... Most are worn out.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    NC........ I have several friends looking for low mileage nice bikes that haven't been messed with and they aren't out there at that price.... Most are worn out.......
    Have them search Richmond/DC/Baltimore area. I just did a quick search and got 11 on facebook marketplace under 3500 and less than 15k miles within a 100 miles of me (Leesburg, Virginia).

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    Quote Originally Posted by LocoLocal View Post
    Have them search Richmond/DC/Baltimore area. I just did a quick search and got 11 on facebook marketplace under 3500 and less than 15k miles within a 100 miles of me (Leesburg, Virginia).
    Awesome I will tell them, Thanks

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