Page 1   Page 2   Wrecked   Rebuilt   Page 5   Wrecked again   Re-rebuilt
Thanks a million to Jim Bryant, Gerald Gardebled, Lao Tou, Miin Leong, Keith Pedersen, Jeff Pierce, Shao Yiqi and Dave Walczak for their aid with the wreck rebuild.
Death rattle... conclusion: It runs! (But it doesn't idle very well, and the generator has a bit of a whine, both things easily sorted. Oh yeah, and it smokes a bit.) The only casualty was the emblem on the side of the tank which didn't seem to appreciate my vigorous cleaning.
Death rattle, part V: Finished, but will she run? Find out in the next installment.
Death rattle, part IV: Gearbox & final drive back in place, plus a great deal of cleaning, and still much more left to do. Tomorrow, we'll finish her up (and see if she'll run).
Death rattle, part III: There. The hardest part of the project is done. Setting an engine in a frame by yourself is always fun. A cinder bock, a few pieces of scrap lumber and an old tire iron will save your back from permenant damage. We'll do more tomorrow.
Death rattle, part II: Ready to go back on the bike... I think. This engine is a hodgepodge of new and used parts from different motors. I learned that the bolt pattern for the timing cover can vary depending on when and where the engine was made. One size does not fit all. This puppy may not run very well, but one thing's for sureit's not gonna leak any oil!
Death rattlein the form of a bearing. Too bad you have to dismantle so much of the bike to pull the engine...
The picture on the left shows the motor moments after it was removed. On the right is the old motor from my other bike which will be donating parts. With any luck, we'll be back on the road in a couple days.
Crap. The lens in my old automobile taillight has cracked already, so the repro Harley light got recycled. My little sand blaster made light work out of stripping off the remaining chrome. That was followed by priming and painting. All in all, not too bad.
If you look at pictures of vintage Harleys, you'll see that this type of taillight was often painted. Unlike the other taillight, it was meant to be mounted below the license plate. With any luck, this should be the last time I mess around with taillights for a while.
My Chinese-made repro H-D taillight has been retired after only 30 months of service. The chrome began peeling a few months ago, and now the housing is rusty.
Luckily, this old timer was still attached to the original CJ fender in my store room. I wasn't too sure if it would look very good mounted on a Harley fender, though.
Hmmm, not too bad, actually. In fact, I like it better than the H-D taillight. The mount was made from two T-shaped brackets from the hardware store. They were 99 each.
In fact, it almost looks like it belongs on this bike, aside from the license plate being mounted above it instead of below it. (There's a pretty good possibility that the tag will be relocated.)
Today was brutally hot, but that didn't stop my wife and me from spending a few hours on some of best sidecar riding roads anywhere. Just ahead, on the right, is the Oregon Grange building, dating from the 1800s. There has been farming in Steuben County for over 200 years. We live in a large, sparsely populated county.
We always like to take a breather by the old cemetary at Brown's Crossing, on the bank of the Canisteo River. The Norfolk Southern Railway has a line that runs along the north bank of the river, but they don't run very many trains over it.
The view of the railroad from the bridge is pretty nice when there's a train passing by. This was originally the Erie RR mainline to Chicago, dating back to the 1850s. When I was a kid, there was heavy traffic on this line. Not anymore.
Just had my last ride for 2012 since I'll be overseas until the end of January 2013. It was a unique riding experience due to the new rings undergoing their break-in. A couple times I exceeded 35km/h, but just slightly. The bike (and rider) would very much like to be doing 80. After another 900km of breaking it in, we will.
The red bike gets cleaned more often than the tan one as these images show. The tan bike has seen many miles of pavement this year and has yet to let me down. This year, she received minimal maintenance to boot. It's a 1977 PLA bike, and I'm convinced this is why she's so reliable.
Time for another ring job since the last set didn't seat properly, thanks to my inability to take it easy on the first 1000km. As much as I like James Bond movies, there's really no need to lay down a dense smoke screen everywhere we go. So, here we are, getting ready to install some new rings. Many thanks to Dariusz Wiecha and Shao Yiqi for parts support!
Pulling that starboard jug is so much easier when you have room to work. I disconnected the upper sidecar braces and loosened the clam shells so the bike could be tilted away from the sidecar. It will probably be necessary to take this a step further when the jugs go back on.
The port side was a piece of cake. Here it is, all buttoned up.
And here's the starboard side, waiting for some attention. Things on this side can be more challenging since there's less space to work in.
With the sidecar removed, there's now plenty of room.
The jug is ready. See the gasket on the side of the motor? It's made from cork gasket stock.
And it has a thick coating of this stuff on both sides. These gaskets do not leak. I use this stuff on the copper head gaskets too,
Usually, you can squeeze CJ rings with your fingers, but occasionally, something fancier is needed. Here's a band clamp being used as a ring compressor. Worked like a champ.
Jug back in place.
I use these thin 23mm brass washers on the heads. The brass is soft enough that it forms a nice seal once the head bolts are torqued. They also look good.
Starboard side complete. I used this opportunity to some some other stuff like decoking, adjusting valves and installing new spark plugs. Haven't started it yet, but will very soon.
One thing this pictures doesn't convey is the temperature, 26F, but that's never been something to prevent me from going for a ride on a sunny afternoon. As it happened, the cruise lasted close to four hours... and it was repeated the following day!
This '34 HD illustrates the look I was hoping to capture. We sort of succeeded on one end of the bike. Perhaps a genuine HD front fender is in order since they were designed for fat tires.
Anyway, it's raining and snowing today, but that didn't stop me from rolling the bikes out for family photos. (I've never been shy with a camera.) Heavy overcast always gives my pictures a blueish cast as you can see below. The red bike has been out on the road for a few hours and behaved quite well, considering that it was her maiden ride of the season. The hybrid fender look is growing on me.
And so it goes. The front HD fender is too narrow for my 4" tires. End of story. So, we're back to the old CJ fender which doesn't exactly match the rear fender, but at this point, I don't care. I'll try not to dwell on the time, expense and effort that went into this abortion. I'm pretty sure I can make myself happy with the outcome, though it may take some time.
Another detail made itself apparent once the bike was outside in the sunshine for the first time. The paint on the rear fender is slightly pink compared to the rest of the bike. I suppose there's always the possibility of putting the CJ fender back on. Time will tell.
Below: There's always something... I got the wheels back on the bike today and did a little paint touch up. The bike's ready to ride except for one little detail—the front fender rubs against the tire. That means I'll be fabricating some longer brackets in order to get more clearance. That little task will commence today with the purchase of some steel.
Look Ma, no holes! The four holes for the cargo rack have been filled with metal. Once the wheels are back on, I'll get the bike outside and take some proper pictures. This detail makes a big difference in the overall appearance. Some later Chinese fenders are too flimsy to mount without the added support, though. They'll flex until they crack.
A Harley fender practically screams for a Harley taillight. This particular type is a prewar style. The license plate is illuminated through the top of the housing. Personally, I think it looks better than the classic Harley-Davidson tombstone taillight.
The front fender got a H-D running light. Since there's no good way to run wires, this is just a decoration.
Sorry about the picture quality. The bike's done except for the tires and touching up the paint here and there. I'm still waiting for my new inner tubes to arrive and suspect they won't get here before I head back out to sea on Monday. Meanwhile, the bike will remain single-tone until I finally decide what I want to do... something that may never happen.
This winter hasn't been good for riding at all due to bitter cold and huge quantities of road salt. Cabin fever has been especially acute this year. Luckily, I have other hobbies. One of them is vintage model steam engines. Here's an old Weeden vertical boiler.
But finally, after weeks and weeks, the fenders are done! The shop did a magnificent job on them, and they'll be mounted on the bike tomorrow. The two-toning will be done by me if I can ever decide.
Finding the motivation to get cracking on bike projects isn't always easy, especially during winter. But, once I get started, it's full tilt until things are completed. Here's the bike undergoing rewiring. New tires and fenders will soon follow.
Returning to work offshore before all the projects were completed was a bit frustrating. I'm at the mercy of the body shop where the H-D fenders are being repaired. Here's where things stand. This picture comes from eBay. It illustrates a clever idea where wingnuts are used to secure the rear fender. My bike will use similar brackets so we may give wingnuts a try.
Here are the fender brackets, front mudflap, license plate bracket, H-D taillight and front fender running light. The paint job on the fender brackets turned out better than expected.
The electrical system on this bike will be identical to the setup on my other bike. The first picture shows the Delco-Remy 575 regulator. The second one shows the ammeter, mounted the best way I could come up with. My only concern is vibration from the engine.
These are the brackets for the new fenders. The metal was full of pits so the primer is going on thick. They'll be wet sanded and reprimed until there's a smooth painting surface. The fenders are at a body shop where holes are being filled and big indentations are being removed.
In deciding how to go about painting the H-D fenders, I took an old picture of TK's bike and tried some ideas with Paintshop.
When Thomas Koehle decided to retire the H-D style fenders on his Chang, I purchased them. I also bought the taillight (but not the luggage rack.)
The fenders and mounting brackets arrived today and may be going on the red bike this winter. They'll need to be repainted first, regardless of which bike they end up on.
Here's the front fender. These were often two-toned on Harleys, and that's a possibility here. Luckily, I have a couple months to think it over. I'm not 100% sure I love this fender, but we'll see.
The rear fender is a different story, however. I most definitely love it.
This is the lighting I'll be using, H-D repro. The taillight bezel may end up painted, but the front fender running light will stay chrome.
These Harleys were the inspiration. The black one is a 1940 knuckle and the other is a civilianized XA. I wish there was a way to put big fat 16" tires on a Chang.
Below: This is where eagles fear to tread, and if I had a normal sized brain, I would too. It's the west end of the beautiful Canisteo River Valley. I've been using Google Earth (and Chang Jiangs) to scout land for a retirement homestead. This network of logging trails was worth a look, but it was total hell on my poor bike. The red X is as far as I got before common sense kicked in. The trail was extremely rough and pretty steep in places, but the old girl prevailed once again.
The enlarged views give you some idea of how inhospitable the terrain is, but what a view! The foliage is unusually colorful for September. The doldrums will start kicking in once it's all gone.
Jimbo's M5 wheels were made for situations like this. Without them, a dozen spokes surely would have snapped. It's the roughest trail I've ever ridden, and the Chang took to it like a duck to water... but there's a limit to what these bikes can take, and that's why I decided to turn around.
Today's ride to Canandaigua and back was not uneventful, but luckily, I was ready for whatever fate had in store. On the way up, the starboard side started spewing blue smoke. It looked like the rings didn't seat properly which stands to reason since even though I've been "taking it easy" during the break-in period, keeping it below 35km/h is just beyond my capability. Heck, I've got more rings and I'll just re-hone the cylinder... but, after 20 minutes or so, the smoke stopped, and it has stayed stopped since. Whatever it was, it fixed itself.

On the way home, the condenser bit the dust. (I'll be stocking up on VW condensers tomorrow.) This took place in an intersection just as the light turned green. I jumped off and pushed the bike out of the road and commenced to changing the condenser. A Harley rider stopped to offer assistance, but I was okay. While changing the condenser, I couldn't help but think about how inconveniently they're located. On a 6V Chang, you have to pull the distributor off completely to access the condenser. Since condensers fail from time to time, I decided to relocate it in order to facilitate faster swaps instead of the usual 20 minutes. It was very easy, and utilizes crimp connectors for quick disconnecting. The condenser is in a bracket, screwed to the side of the distributor. (You can read more about that in the Toolbox.) I can hardly wait for the next roadside condenser failure!

And lastly, the bike repeated one of its earlier tantrums a couple miles from town. I had to manipulate the spark advance lever to find a spot where the bike didn't cough, sputter and backfire. That's how she behaved the rest of the way home, and the problem turned out to be exactly what I expected—a freewheeling rotor. Yep, it was that old chestnut. You see, one thing I didn't have in the toolbox was Loctite, so the rotor screw went back in dry after I replaced the condenser earlier in the day. I sure didn't expect it to back out as quickly as it did, though. Oh well, everything's sorted.

And here's a picture of what I went to see in Canandaigua—some awesome old machinery.

The big shakedown turned out to be a mini-shakedown thanks to rain, but it was enough to convince me that the bike is indeed ready for the road. As a matter of fact, I plan to ride it to the New York Steam Engine Association's 50th. annual Pageant of Steam in Canandaigua, barring more rain, of course. And, just to make for a more interesting day, the route will consist almost entirely of back roads. There are several reasons for that, one of them being the need to run slow while the rebuild is broken in. The back roads around here are scenic and free of traffic. Plus, all the little podunk places along the way have mom and pop stores where you can get a grape Nehi and chat with whoever's admiring the bike when you leave. It should be a really nice day.
It's a done deal... until the next time, that is. The red bike is back together and running like a Rolex. (Well, idling in the driveway, anyway.) The shakedown will be tomorrow, and I'll be packing tools, parts, a cell phone and my trusty old Triple A card (based on past experiences). Actually, I think she'll be A-okay. Dan Cason provided some of his legendary technical expertise with regards to valve timing, all very much appreciated. For anyone who's interested, you should always use a timing gear that's matched to the shaft. The location of the keyways can vary, and therefore the location of the timing mark relative to whatever shaft it's going on. Yes, believe it or not, these parts are not standardized in this respect. Hard to imagine, but seeing is believing. This is a potential cause of untold heartbreak for someone who's not hip to it.
The crankshaft and cam for the red bike arrived yesterday. Although they're used, they're in excellent condition. After dinner, I started reassembling the motor, and ended up staying out in the garage until midnight. Getting the motor back in the frame will be a chore, but I'm looking forward to it. Another day or two and the red bike will be back in action. Many, many thanks to Shao Yiqi and Miin Leong for their assistance with the parts.
After seven years of fairly hard use, something like this was bound to happen. Oddly enough, this didn't happen all at once, yet there were no symptoms leading up to the failure. The bike motor still ran when I tore it apart, but you could certainly tell there was something seriously wrong. The pistons and rings didn't look too good, either.
Funnily enough, the cylinder bores look fine aside from being glazed. A good honing will take care of that. While I wait for the new crank assembly and bearings to arrive, I'll get everything else cleaned up. Here's the engine case.
Oh baby, new rear fender reflectors, courtesy of eBay.
And, thanks to Jim Bryant and Shao Yiqi, both bikes now sport handsome, medium sized saddle bags in heavy black leather.
But wait, there's more. Check out the metal bulb horn mounted on the handlebars. It came straight from Hong Kong, $2.99. Don't ask me why it's on the bike... I really don't know.
Older motorheads will recognize these babies. They're little license plate reflectors. These particular ones have domed glass reflectors. They're getting hard to find for realistic money, sometimes offered on eBay for $15 each! I found a place that sells them NOS for $4.
Tada! My beloved Model-A Ford DUOLAMP taillight now has a genuine, antique metal STOP insert. Finding the correct size took a year.
Below: Glass is class. The plastic "beehive" lenses on both bikes have been replaced with antique glass lenses. They're shinier, and the red lens has deeper color. I have extras if anyone's interested.
Giant handlebar installation complete. After riding the other bike with them for over a year, I consider them a big improvement for looks, comfort, and handling, especially at low speeds. This set came from Luke's, as did the cables (except spark advance which I made.)
The giant handlebar installation is nearly done. All that remains is connecting the throttle cables to the carbs. Since the weather is lousy and there's still three weeks to kill, I've been doing just a little at a time.
The pictures below show my new giant handlebars in position, but still awaiting the throttle grip and levers, etc. I'll make a spark advance cable by cutting down a spare throttle cable. The new risers came from Jimbo's. These images also show the straight pipes I made today. Since this bike has 28mm carbs with 1.1mm jets, straight pipes are definitely in order. Although I have a set of full length header pipes, they're chrome and would need to be sand blasted. Screw that. Instead, I used 34" lengths 1" ID copper pipe. They're notched to slide over the tabs for bolting the headers to the frame. I flared the ends then sprayed them with 1200F heat paint.
I've been swapping stuff around with the other bike and, in the process, found this nifty glass taillight lens that fits the Model A bezel perfectly. The brake light portion is amber while the running light portion is red. Will it pass inspection? Will the cops dislike it? Guess we'll see.
How do you like the tank emblems? They say Chang Jiang using the traditional "Chang" character instead of the simplified version. Nobody's gonna confuse CJ with "kit" anymore.
The unthinkable has happened. The tan bike now sports a chrome headlight bezel instead of the painted visor. The red bike provided the inspiration for this and other paint mods that will happen this winter.
It was snowing and raining today, so no riding. I rode all day yesterday but didn't dress quite warm enough. Being cold takes some of the fun out of it. Anyway, both bikes were in the driveway while I was sweeping out the shop... might as well take photos.
I wasn't 100% sure that red was the best choice for the new color, but I am now. Once I get some black saddlebags, the bike will be considered complete.
Shakedown II

Two hours in the saddle is all it took to find the remaining bugs, and there were a few, but all in all, the bike runs as good as ever. An hour or so into the ride, the left foot peg was getting a little slippery, and, for that matter, my left boot was covered with oil. Turns out, the pushrod covers were both leaking, but the left side was like Niagara Falls. In one way, that's good because it tells you the valve train is getting lubricated. Anyway, that's all sorted now. I replaced the cork gaskets with high temp silicone, and did the screw heads as well. It's now bone dry (unless there's leakage at the front of the dynamo... and I suspect there is. We shall see.)

The other bugs were all little stuff. The rear brake and clutch needed some adjusting. The idle speed needed to be increased slightly. The mirror needed to be angled out a bit morewhich is kind of an anecdote in itself. The original lefty mirror got trashed in the wreck, and all my spares were righties. I had to make a lefty from a righty by heating the stem with a torch, and reversing the bend. I just didn't bend it quite far enough. Looking at your own shoulder in the mirror doesn't serve much purpose, so I had to bend it some more. I took it off the bike, stuck it in the vice, heated it to a couple million degrees, then decided to reposition it before I started bending. CRAP—and duh. I grabbed the hot part which made a sizzling sound. I called myself some names, sprayed my hand with soothing Windex, and finished the task. Man, that really smarted.

The bike is hereby pronounced RFA (ready for action).

On a less positive note, I noticed a sag in the paint on the gas tank which really, really bugs me. It can probably be buffed out, but if they break through to the primer, the tank will need to be resprayed. I'm not sure I can live with such a defect, especially in light of what I paid for this paint job. I'll be paying a visit to the body shop this week. I know they'll make it right.

And, on a final note, something I've been meaning to mention here for quite some time. You older gents who take on these big projects—let me ask you something—just between you and me. Do you ever find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time looking for the item you had in your hand a moment ago? I sure do, whether it be a part, a tool or the &%$# flashlight. I've developed a knack for losing things right in plain sight. Not only is it frustrating, but it adds considerable time to the task at hand. I sure hope it doesn't get worse as time marches on.

Post-rebuild shakedown

No pictures today, just words.

There were indeed some teething problems, as expected. The new battery set me back $95! (I consider that a major teething problem.) It's a big honkin' car battery, the same model as before. With it mounted and the trunk wiring all connected, it was time to switch on the lights. Boing! My new Chinese sealed beam blew instantly, and neither of the sidecar lights worked. Crap. So, I got a Wagner headlamp from the local NAPA. As for the sidecar lights, I was convinced it was bad wiring, and wouldn't you know it? The battery in my Fluke meter was dead. I ran to the store for a new battery and resumed puttering. Well, there was indeed juice in all the right places. Turns out, both bulbs were bad! What a relief. Luckily, I have spares. I sure didn't want to do any rewiring. So, with all the lights finally working as they should, I started the bike. I figured it was gonna take half a dozen kicks, but I was off by maybe 100 or so. Both jugs were badly flooded due to the stupid plastic floats that I had forgot to switch over to brass. After making the switch, the bike finally fired up and boy howdy, did the paint on the jugs ever stink! It was that rust killer stuff I used under the stove paint. It's nasty! The bike seemed to run just fine, once it was unflooded, that is.

Off to the insurance guy, then the DMV, and then for the dreaded shakedown run. "Shake" is a very good word to describe it because the front rim turned out to be bent from the wreck. No big deal, I'll just ride home and stick the tire on my last, decent stock CJ rim, and swap that wheel with the one on sidecar. Well... crap. The valve stem in the tire wouldn't let the air out of the tube, no matter how much I fiddled around. No big deal, I'll just buy a new tube. A few telephone calls confirmed what I already knew, the nearest source is 20 miles away. So, off to the H-D dealer in Gang Mills for an MM90 tube. The new tube is a Dunlop and it's by far the best one on the bike. It cost more than some of the tires did. Anyway, I got that mounted, and then noticed a growing gas puddle under the bike.

Yes, there was gas leaking. It was leaking from the petcock, balance tube and both fuel lines. In other words, just about every place it could leak from. Crap. Today's first lesson:

  • Do not use vacuum hose for fuel lines, no matter how nice you think they look.

To address this problem, I had to drain the tank, you know, the one I had just topped off. Running a hose from the petcock to the gas can and waiting for what seemed like hours, and making sure the second can was ready before the first one overflowed. Eventually, I was able to change all the hoses with proper fuel lines. I had these on hand and can't really say why I didn't use them the in first place. Whatta jerk. I also used six little hose clamps.

Now, the leaky petcock. A close inspection showed that there was fuel seeping around the threads where it screws into the tank. One more turn with the wrench should fix that. Crap. Snapped my beloved PLA petcock right off, flush with the tank. Now the tank has to come off the bike, but not until removing the new balance tube and fuel lines.

On the bench, I tried a number of things to get the petcock out, and I'll only tell you about the one that worked. What you do is drill a third hole in between the two existing holes. Then use the drill to ream it out so the three holes merge into one oblong hole. Now stick a flat tool (like a tire iron) into the slot and crank on it with some vice grips. The broken part will spin right out. Anyway, I had some drilling debris to clean out of the tank before installing another petcock.

Crap. The only spare petcock I had was an old one I had made from brass and copper fittings from the plumbing store. (Click here to see it.) Come to think of it, it's a fine petcock, just not very pretty. And it has a terrific brass filter inside. What the heck. I stuck it on the tank, stuck the tank back on the bike, stuck the hoses back on the tank, stuck the clamps back on the hoses, and stuck the gas back in the tank. No leaks, but by this point, I was all CJed out for one day.

The shakedown will continue tomorrow.

Almost seven months to the day, this bike tumbled end over end down a pipeline trail, and back in June, 2004, she got clobbered by an Oldsmobile. I wonder what's gonna happen next. If there is another incident, we'll see how she looks in powder blue. For now, she's red. I rolled her out for an unveiling even though she's technically not finished. The battery must have got damaged in the wreck as it seeps acid out the bottom. Monday, I'll buy a new one and finish the wiring inside the trunk. I'll also be visiting the DMV for a new license plate, and then we'll really see if she's as good a runner as before. I expect a few shake-down issues, particularly with the 28mm carbs since they're brand new and have never been run.