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  1. #1

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    Default 72 XLCH Basket case

    So I bought this 72 ironhead in totes from a guy in Mass, motor on frame, missing both heads and the front piston is gone. The motor also had cam cover off and strewed throughout the totes. Now my question is, should I just look for a replacement engine? Or piece this one together from the boxes of parts? I currently have the Hardtail on order, a springer front end from a customer of mine at work from the (70s?), would love some insite on what engines would work, would prefer not a right side shift, but I could make a crossover correct?

  2. #2

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  3. #3
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    Ugggh, the days of just buying another motor, and Ironhead at that, sticking it in there and riding off into the sunset happily are long gone. There ARE motors out there, but range from junk internally to perhaps servicable but still need to be gone thru.

    I went thru an Ironhead period, Wished I would have kept a very tidy little 1960 I had as well. For a while, in early 90s during the build up of the Harley fad, A partner and I were buying blown up or abused Ironheads and turning out nice bikes and making a little for our trouble. But anyone with any sense buys an Evo Sporty which, are 10x the motor the Ironhead ever was.

    We ran into, and made money off a lot of guys who would say......."Check out this Ironhead I bought, its totally rebuilt!" and we wagered how long before it blew up and what part of blew up. IE: A) Crank/rods B) Holed piston C) Head problem or dropped valve C) And the one that killed more sporties..... Trannies. Often blowing out a big chunk of the case

    Here is a fun fact. They are a rude-crude farm equipment motor & trans. However it is CRITICAL the cams are set up right, the crank and rods are done by an expert. (An art form, but by all appearances a blacksmith from the 1800s) and finally the trannies have to be done just right or KABLOOIE!

    I have seen some competent back yard mechanics rebuild an Ironhead... but thats few and far between. The reason they got a reputation as Junk as some knuckle dragging mouth breather with a "Live to ride" or worse,,,a WOLF T shirt thought he could rebuild a IH Sporty and consequently it ran long enough for some rube to ride off after being deprived of his cash.

    But, the Ironheads have come back a bit, seasoned bikers still cringe,, But starry eyed hipsters fall in love with them because they are older than they are, and their mom said they are dangerous.

    Either go thru what you got with a very trustworthy guru, Not the drunk at the bar,, but someone with a actual track record and the special tools. Or, farm it out to someone who has those skills.
    We farmed out ALL bottom ends to a old guy in the area who was a very skilled machinist. ALL the regional shops used him. Sadly,, he retired back in 2002 and died not long after. My partner was an expert at setting up the cams and trannies and I did the rest of the bikes. But there is not a lot of people with those skills who can still form a sentence, have all their teeth and did not succumb to drugs & alcohol.

    There IS a guy on here who DOES do some nice builds, but shipping yer engine to Florida might be a deal breaker.

    My advice??? Sell it, and go buy a Evo sportie. Helpful aint I??? Damn things are like Hondas,,, they dont need much, and just run! **

    Will a Evo Sportie motor fit? Probably not. They are a tad bit taller so you CAN swap one into a 1980s Ironhead frame,, but not a 70s or 60s one unless its an after market chop frame and even then, probably not.

    Best Evo Sporties in MY opinion are 98 to 2002. All the best shit on them. I have had over 30 sporties, currently have 3 non running ones and 2 runners and a bunch of Buells, of which are a class all their own.

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    I will echo D's sentiments above. But there are a few of us left who can and do rebuild ironheads from the crankpin up. It's just so freakin' expensive to do it that it is not cost effective. North of four Gs here, and could go over five in the case of an early 900 or an incomplete basket case.

    To answer the question of a motor swap, anything from '76 and earlier is a bolt-in. '77 - '81 is a bolt-in to the motor mounts, but the cross brace on the lower frame rails between the footrest mounts must be cut out and moved back in the frame to clear the motor sump. '82 - '85 can be used with the same mod to the frame, and an earlier rear motor mount installed on the motor case. That is NOT easy, as the three motor mount studs must be removed to replace the mount if the motor is assembled.

    By the way, Rook, we share the same birth date, you are the third on CC that I know of. Unusual, because I don't meet anyone with my birth date, only one lady in all my 68 years.

    Jim

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    Looks like that might be an AEE square springer:

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  7. #7

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    That does look right! I can’t seem to find any numbers on the front end itself. The old buck I got it from doesn’t know anything about it either

  8. #8

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    Thank you for the reply! I appreciate the help. I was able to find a few engines for under a grand that are totally complete and “gone through” as you said though it’s hard to know how reputable the builder is. I think I’m going to stick with the ironhead just because it’s my first build and I don’t want to abandon it haha but all the help is much appreciated!

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    It would be wise to find a top end that is from a L-73 and up ...
    The 72 and E-73 models was made to allow only a .030" overbore ..
    The latter can go to .070" over ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragstews View Post
    It would be wise to find a top end that is from a L-73 and up ...
    The 72 and E-73 models was made to allow only a .030" overbore ..
    The latter can go to .070" over ...
    Must change cylinders AND heads for that upgrade. All else is the same.

    Jim

  11. #11

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    Im an Auto mechanic at a small shop in Langdon so I’m trying to reach out to some of my customers who would have parts. Should I be looking for a while top end opposed to just both heads?

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    Quote Originally Posted by J

    BinNC;855453
    Must change cylinders AND heads for that upgrade.

    Jim
    That's what "Top-End" means ... Isn't it ..

    Last edited by Dragstews; 11-25-2020 at 10:45 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragstews View Post
    That's what "Top-End" means ... Isn't it ..
    Yes, but this is Rook's first bike project. See post #11 for the case in point.

    Jim

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    I’m aware of what “top-end” means. Wondering if it is advised to search for a later top end or just the heads for the cylinders I already have. Which would be easier to find was my question.

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    With him being a wench, I'm fairly sure he would know that the "Top End" consists of both the heads & jugs ....

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    If you are going to change motors it's a moot point. As D said, you can only bore the '72 - '73 cylinders to +.030, so they get used up. The head bolt pattern is different on the '74 and up 1000 so the cylinders and heads have to be replaced as a set.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by RookNH View Post
    I’m aware of what “top-end” means. Wondering if it is advised to search for a later top end or just the heads for the cylinders I already have. Which would be easier to find was my question.
    The first years of the 1000cc Sporties was the Mo-Co trying to make it work ...
    After those two years of the 1000cc run they seen the need for a better design that would allow more bore jobs done on the jugs ... Hence in mid year (73) they moved the head bolt pattern out more ...

    If you intend to run the "Bastard" year top end and need jugs due to going over the 0.030" max bore, after market does have em available or you can sleeve yours back to Std bore ..

    Last edited by Dragstews; 11-25-2020 at 11:04 AM.

  18. #18

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    Thank you guys for all this information! This is awesome. I know a few knowledgeable folks in town but they’re all cooped up for the winter so I haven’t been able to rattle there cages! Thank you again

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    Quote Originally Posted by RookNH View Post
    Thank you guys for all this information! This is awesome. I know a few knowledgeable folks in town but they’re all cooped up for the winter so I haven’t been able to rattle there cages! Thank you again
    Anyone with any sense is cooped up and wrenching. Your education path is going to be long on some of these details, And most Ironhead stuff you find, even alleged rebuilt motors its anyones guess what someone cobbled together. Every once in a while you crack something like that open and its clear it was well built or competently done. But thats in my experience, 1 in 100.

    I have a simple rule, Unless its a really well known builder with impeccable credentials, Assume any rebuild or work is suspect. I consider most any vintage bike or car to be a core. I *WILL* tear it down and inspect. If the planets align, I am only out time, some gaskets and seals. But the peace of mind is priceless.
    But generally I find either shoddy work, or bad parts and I saved it from total destruction.

    Keeping in mind some makes and models you can get killed if a motor locks up, or the tranny explodes and locks the rear wheel. (Nortons had a defective gearbox bearing,, Seen a guy lock up at 70 mph and clipped a freeway cement barricade. He made it, but sure did have to clean out his tighty whities afterwards.) Sporties usually grenade the cases when the trannies get sloppy. Its so common to see them for sale that way, or cobbled up welding on the cases.

    I used to print copies of period '70s chopper guides,, Sold a LOT of them to Japan. AEE Chop guides, Jammer Chop guides, Various Triumph chopper guide, Sportster chopper guide, Honda chopper guides, etc etc. I was looking at doing a test run of some of these since its been many years. Maybe 10 copies of each and see if there is enough interest to produce them again. You can sometimes find old crusty copies online. A few, someone might have scanned and have online somewhere you can download them.

    You WILL of course need the proper factory parts manual (They are illustrated with order of assy and part numbers. critical tool) and the factory workshop manual. Since you claim to be a wrench already, should not have to belabor that point, But accurate tech data is your first step.
    *IF* You mix and match different years, Then you need parts manuals for each years parts.

    I have paper copies of most years, But at a swap meet bought a CD Disc with every year manual and parts book for Sportsters. I believe several vendors on ebay sell the same. But for shop work I prefer a clean copy in plastic page protectors, not staring at a computer screen.

    Dragstews and a few others have some good build threads on engines/trans in the American section, click on the top where it says "Everything Sportsters" Read up on their builds of those engines to see what you are in for. One,, i somewhat follow is very detailed but shows all the worn out or mismatched stuff you run into.

    I place a very high value from learning from others mistakes or experience so some of those threads can be very educational.

    JB,, I did not mean to imply you or others are not skilled in these, I just meant to convey fewer and fewer guys like you around. You have posted some real gems of knowledge and its appreciated.

    I still think you should dolly up what you have and sell it to another dreamer and build a evo chop or custom and you would be time & money ahead for a first build. But if you persevere with a Ironhead, you will come out the other side with a heck of a lot of "Teachable moments" and experience.

  20. #20
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    If you want a feel for what you're getting into, you can search "Tatro Machine" on youtube and watch him rebuild many sportsters there. Engines. Transmissions. He kind of does it all.

    It'll key you in to specialized tools you will require also and help familiarize you with your bike.

    One big difference from cars is just how much hand fitting goes into a Harley that doesn't happen in car world. So, it is nice to get a heads up.

    You CAN do it in your garage if you want to invest in the tools to pull it off. I did everything but the heads and it was a great experience. Expensive, but worth it if you love to fix things.

    Best project ever!

    Good luck.


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