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  1. #1
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    Default 1978 Shovelhead Chop - Replacement Build Thread

    My original build thread was lost, so I finally got around to replacing it.

    In November 2020, I decided to build a Shovelhead chop. What I wanted was a kick-only hardtail with an open primary and a springer front end. Apart from that, I was just going to figure it out as I went along.

    It didn't take me long to find someone selling a bare, titled 1978 frame in Ohio. It was dirty, but otherwise in really good shape. I decided to go with the Voodoo Vintage hardtail.

    Here's the frame:

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    After chopping the back half off:

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    How the hardtail arrived:

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    Prepping the frame for welding:

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    Hardtail tack welded in place:

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    After I had the hardtail tack-welded into place, I took it to a local professional welder to finish weld it. He did a really great job and made sure that he took his time so the frame wouldn't get warped out of alignment. Regarding alignment, I don't have a frame jig, so lining up the hardtail was done entirely with string, a tape measure, a level, and a laser.

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    I picked up a 1978 74" motor from a different seller who also sold me a 4-speed transmission. They were off a salvage bike that had a carb fire. The front rocker box was toast and it had mis-matched heads--one was the original and the other was from a 1981. So, one o-ring and one band. I took the motor down and found that the bottom end was still really tight.

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    Here's what I found inside one of the heads:

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    Yeah, that's a blob of aluminum that had melted off the rocker box. I was really worried that the aluminum had gotten into the oil passages. The guy I bought it from had bought it as a salvage, and he told me that he was told that the previous owner shut the motor off as soon as the fire started. Once I had the motor completely taken down, I was able to confirm that no aluminum got into the oil passages fortunately.

    I took the top end to Delzani's Cycle in Rocky River, Ohio and took some of the other motor parts to Grafton Metal Polishing. They both did a really good job:

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    Default

    Great! Looking forward to seeing more. I'm tuned in.

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    One of the problems with recreating a build thread is that I forgot what order I did things in until I started looking at my photos again.

    I also mocked up the oil tank I went with and had that professionally welded. I went with the oil tank made by the Gasbox here in Cleveland:

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    It's a really heavy-duty unit that matched up exactly with my frame.

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    After I got my frame back from the welder, I mocked up my rear fender and welded on the tabs.

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    I went with a classic 5" trailer fender, but I got it from TC Bros who claimed that the radius was correct for a chopper tire. That turned out to be pretty accurate. I didn't have to adjust the radius at all. On my last chop, I bought an honest-to-God trailer fender and had to use 2x4s and shit to adjust the radius.

    I do have a rant, though. Why don't companies selling weld-on hardtails also sell the axles to fit? I had a hell of a time finding an axle, mostly because JP Cycle's search function for axles sucks.

    Another aside, where I used a good product/vendor, I'll give their name. I didn't mention the name of my welder, though, not because he isn't awesome but because his insurance doesn't cover vehicle mods.

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    Mounting the fender is pretty straight-forward in case you haven't done it before. I taped a garden hose to the tire (Avon) and taped the fender onto that. Then, it's just line it up and weld the mounting brackets in place.

    Along with mounting the fender, I made up my own sissy bar. I used 1/2" bar and bent it on a home-made fixture. For the one large radius bend at the top, I used a charcoal fire in a hibachi to heat a long enough section red-hot. (I don't have an oxy-acetylene torch)

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    Here's some more pictures of fabbing up the fender and sissy bar. I also went with a Lowbrow Customs Frisco Sporty tank, which was good quality. It took some molding to get it smooth, but it is heavy and well-made.

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    You can see my 1980 Ironhead in the background. The reason I started the Shovelhead build was because last year, the Ironhead really started burning oil and needed a need top end. I also really wanted a springer front end. I was talking to my wife about what I wanted to do with the bike and how much it was going to cost and whether it was worth putting the money into, and she suggested I just get the bike I really wanted.

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    Back to the motor and transmission.

    I got the top end back from the shop and reassembled my motor. I went with brass rocker nuts and such, just because they look cool.

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    The magnets in the alternator were toast, so I replaced everything with Cycle Electric parts.

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    The hardest part about the motor was cleaning it! Man, I tried everything and even talked to a guy about blasting it with dry ice. Elbow grease and brake parts cleaner did the trick, though.

    The transmission that came with the motor was some odd after market unit with no brand on it. It seems like it was made to accept either a ratchet or cow pie top. The gears in it were brand new, but again, I had no idea who made them.

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    The tranny ran through the gear well enough, so I figured I would try it out. It didn't have a kicker, so I bought a cheapo V-twin unit (more about that later).

  7. #7
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    Mock-up time!

    I picked up a BDL 1.5" open primary and replaced all the clutch components. I went with a 5-stud clutch hub, and as you can see in the photos, I originally planned on going foot clutch, hand shift (that will change).

    I also took a lot of time trying to decide on what front end to go with. I'm naturally a cheap bastard, so my inclination was to go with one of the Taiwanese re-pops. After reading as much as I could find, I broke down and ordered a custom-made narrow springer from Paughco. Good choice. It is really beautiful, and the guys at Paughco were great to work with, Ian in particular.

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    Here's some pictures of the mock-up:

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    I also welded on an oil filter from Lowbrow Customs behind my oil tank.

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    The hardtail from Voodoo Vintage has a little more stretch than others, so there was enough room in there.

  8. #8
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    Seat building time.

    I decided to try to build my own seat this time. I started with a pre-made seat pan from Prism Supply because I didn't think I'd be able to make the right bend to match my fender. The seat pan is nice, but is sized for a smaller frame than a Shovelhead. I made my own base and welded them together. Then I taped on some plastic around the edges.

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    I used two layers of blue camping mat foam and some neoprene sheet to build up the seat. Shaping it was pretty easy, but made a huge mess.

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    Luckily, there is a Tandy Leather store near me, so I bought all the supplies I needed to cover it in leather. "Casing" the leather was a chore, and I had to go buy a shit load of clamps.

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    I didn't want to go with basic black, so I died it a "medium" brown. It came out darker than I though, but I still like it.

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    I took the seat to a local show repair shop, Westlake Shoe Repair, to see if they could stitch it for me. The owner put the seat in his sewing machine and told me that he could not get the stitching right up close against the seat pad. I was disappointed, but then he offered to stitch it by hand. I guessed it was going to cost a few bills, but agreed anyway. He then said it would cost $40 !!!!! No shit, only 40 bucks!

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    I think he did a great job.

  9. #9
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    Default Paint!

    I was ready to paint, so I converted my garage into a paint booth. I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do, so I bought a bunch of different paints and sprayed test boards. I used rattle cans. I've done stripes and flames before, but this time I was going with more of a geometric design, so I knew I had to be a lot more precise with my tape.

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    It didn't come out perfect, but pretty good for me. I laid down a few coats of 2-part clear to finish it off.

  10. #10
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    Default Final Assembly

    After the paint dried for about 2 weeks, I started the final assembly. Everything went together very well.

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    I also got my sissy bar back from the chromer.

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    On the recommendation I got here, I sent it to The Finishing Touch in Chicago. I got it back in two weeks and at a competitive price. The Cleveland area chrome shops were telling me I would have to wait at least 6 months.

  11. #11
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    Default Issues

    Here's how the bike was looking as I was almost done with the final assembly, wiring, running lines, etc.

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    Then I started running into issues.

    I went with a CV carb, but had trouble mounting it because I also installed the Old Stf brass oil lines. The oil lines work well enough and really look nice, but they really interfere with a CV carb. I had to install a 1" manifold spacer and still had to trim back the throttle bracket significantly.

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    Then I had a mysterious oil leak once I got the motor running. Turns out I simply forgot to cap off the primary oil feed from the oil pump.

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  12. #12
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    Default More Issues

    Then I ran into a big issue. I stripped the cheap-ass kicker gears (key sheared off) and had to replace them with a set of Baker gears. Even after, I was having a lot of problems with the gears engaging. So, I also installed a S&S kicker cover and Jims shaft. Even then, I still had problems with the kicker.

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    So...I bit the bullet and got a Baker 6-in-a-4:

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    This presented a whole bunch of new issues, though. First, I couldn't use the hand shifter I had and would have to get something else. Second, and more importantly, there was not enough space between the top of the Baker and the bottom of my oil tank for the Baker clutch arm to fit.

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    I tried three different stock and aftermarket clutch arms that I tried, but none would work. They would hit the transmission cover.

  13. #13
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    The solution was to go with a standard hand clutch, foot shift set-up. I had to bend up my own clutch arm from the longest aftermarket one I could find. It was a long trial and error process to get it right.

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    I was able to finally get the bike on the road, get it tuned right, and even rode it to work a few times. Everything was running great! The only problem I had was that my air cleaner stuck out too far and my knee hurt from bending my leg around it. I swapped it out for a Gasbox dog dish cover, and that fixed the problem.

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  14. #14
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    Default Figuring Out Kickstarting the Hard Way

    This is my first kick-start only bike, and I really didn't know what I was doing. Sometimes I would get it started on the first kick, other times not. After swapping out the air cleaner, I took my bike for a short trip around the neighborhood to heat the motor up enough to check the tuning. Unfortunately, my multiple kicks had run the tiny battery down, and idling around the block didn't let the alternator charge the battery up. So, it died at the bottom of a hill and I couldn't kick it back to life on a dead battery. Of course it was the hottest time of the day on the hottest day of the year, and I had to push it home--stopping in every piece of shade.

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    After that ordeal, I double-checked my charging system, and everything checked out. I also figured out the right starting procedure, and now I can get it started every time with one kick after two priming kicks.


    The bike is essentially done, now, and I'm very happy with how it came out. I'm a total amateur, and my project shows that anybody with basic tools and the will to get it done can tackle a chopper build. I got a lot of help and inspiration from people on this board, both directly answering my questions and from just reading other peoples' posts. Thank you all.

  15. #15
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    Default Tech Sheet

    Frame: 1978 Harley Davidson FLH
    Hardtail: Voodoo Vintage
    Motor: 74" 1978 HD FLH stock cam, hydraulic lifters, 8.5:1 compression
    Engine Work: Ed Delzani, Delzani Cycles, Rocky River, Ohio
    Paint: Rattle can - me
    Electrical: Cycle Electric alternator and regulator
    Drive: BDL 1.5" open belt
    Transmission: Baker 6-in-a-4
    Forks: Paughco narrow round leg wishbone springer
    Bars: Lowbrow Customs 8" t-bars
    Front MC/clutch perch: GMA
    Grips: Lowbrow Customs aluminum
    Mirror: Biltwell
    Headlight: Lowbrow Customs 4 1/2" early style
    Front brake: Performance Machine
    Wheels/tires: 21" laced front, 16" laced rear, Avon Speedmaster
    Rear brake: Lowbrow Customs bracket, Mid-USA caliper
    Foot controls: Throttle Addiction Mid-USA
    Seat: Me. Stitching by Westlake Shoe Repair
    Gas tank: Lowbrow Customs Frisco standard sporty
    Oil tank: The Gasbox
    Oil filter mount: Lowbrow Customs
    Ignition: Points - American Prime advance; Blue Streak condenser and breaker
    Brass oil lines and nuts: Old Stf
    Carb: Harley CV
    Air cleaner: The Gasbox
    Pipes: V-twin 2-into-1 with cocktail shaker muffler
    Sissy bar: me
    Chrome: The Finishing Touch, Chicago
    Polish: Me and Grafton Metal Polishing, Grafton Ohio
    Taillight: Unknown. Some old one I had lying about that cleaned up well
    Rear fender: TC Bros 5" trailer fender
    Last edited by TomK; 09-05-2021 at 1:37 PM.

  16. #16

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    How did you like the voodoo hardtail? I've been going back and forth between it and the throttleaddiction/Hailey brothers one.

  17. #17
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    I have no complaints about the hardtail. Dimensionally is was perfect, and the welding was great. It adds a few inches of stretch which you may or may not want. The biggest difference between the Voodoo Vintage one and the Haifley Brothers one is the axle plates. Really depends on what look you want.

  18. #18
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    Damn. That turned out really nice. I dig the color scheme. I think I like the look of the Voodoo Vintage hardtail the best out of the ones I've checked out.

  19. #19
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    Awesome work man, beautiful bike! Love everything except the radius of the flat fender.

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