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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Harley-Davidson 1937 Model UL — Flathead

In a previous post, I briefly touched on a remarkable collection of classics in the northwest and how I was most fortunate to interview the family and learn more about an inspirational man with a genuine love of wrenching on vintage motorcycles.

In this post, I’m taking a deeper dive on the first (frame-up) restoration in that collection — a 1937 Harley-Davidson Model U-Series Flathead.

According to Harley-Davidson, the UL production in 1937 was 2,861 units and the motorcycle sold for $395 or the equivalent purchasing power of about $7,100 in 2020.

Harley-Davidson 1937 Model UL — Teak Red

There is nothing more alarming than a motorcycle that has been built, modified or customized by someone of dubious talent and knowledge. All it takes is a quick spin around Craigslist, searching for the terms “project,” “bobber,” “custom” or “café racer” to turn up any number of bikes that will have you saying WTF.

Many times these projects are started with the best of intentions, but the absolute worst are the ones that are started in an attempt to make a quick buck, or resurrect a wadded up bike.

However, this ’37 wasn’t someone else’s project.  It would need help bringing her back to life, but it had all the original sheet metal, flathead engine, transmission, speedometer, leather saddle bags, solo seat and more.

Instruction Manual

Bob spent several years on the identification, collection of manuals and parts search for this exceptionally high caliber restoration.  He completed the motorcycle restoration in 1975 and was often seen riding it at various antique club events through-out the years. The motorcycle has lots of crowd-pleasing brightwork, is an excellent runner with showy pieces of Art Deco styling and old school looks.

A fascinating backstory is the original restoration color on this ’37 was Olive Green with Black striping. Bob loved spending time with his grandkids who were all very involved in taking things apart including motorcycles.  It started with bicycles then mini-bikes and later on with motorcycles and automobiles.  In his workshop, he’d show them how to take apart things and repair them — the correct way — with the correct tools!  Several years after completing this restoration, he decided to work on a project with his grandkids and taught them how to disassemble the ’37 inorder to repaint the sheet metal Teak Red.  Those kids meant the world to him and passing down his tradesman skills might be his legacy.

1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL

The ’37 is an excellent example of the — Flathead Engine — a charming, honest, beautiful bike that doesn’t rely on diaper-shined chrome or flawless paint to impress.  Named for its flat-topped, vented cylinder heads, the side valve-equipped (using tappets) 74 cubic inch V model Big Twin actually came out in 1930, but in 1937 the U-series motors were of dry-sump oil design.

At first flatheads seemed out-of-step or backwards compared to higher-horsepower overhead-valve designs. But, out in the real world, the “flatty’s” broad spread of torque, less clattery operation and cheaper buy-in continued to win over riders.  The 74 cubic inch “F” motor has a 4-speed tank-shift transmission and a Linkert M51 mechanical butterfly carburetor.

The teardrop-shaped fuel tank is adorned with an instrument panel (dubbed the “Cat’s Eye”) that bundled all the gauges into one graceful package. It even has the rare dash panel with the oil and amperage indicators.

1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL — aka “Cat Eye”

The Big Twin model was built in part to compete with the 74 cubic inch Indian Chief.  The U and UL models featured 74 cubic inch power plants, and the UH and the ULH models were outfitted with 80 cubic inch engines. The 80 cubic inch models were produced until 1941, and the 74 cubic inch U and UL models were in production until 1948. The three-wheeled Harley-Davidson Servi-Cars made from the early 1930s through 1975, were powered by flathead engines during their entire run of production.

One of the most notable improvements found on the ’37 U-series, was the new design, which recirculates the oil from the oil tank, through the engine and back to the oil tank. Up until 1936, all Harley-Davidson motorcycles used “total loss” systems, which essentially ran the oil from the oil tank, through the engine and ultimately onto the ground.  Thus the nickname: “road oilers.”

1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL

The valves are actuated by four gear-driven camshafts (one per valve) and used adjustable tappets to maintain precise spacing between the cam lobs and the valve stems. Although the cylinder heads don’t contain any moving parts, they do play an important role in cooling the engine. Initially Harley-Davidson outfitted the U-series motors with cast iron cylinder heads, but soon switched to forged aluminum alloy heads with deeper cooling fins for improved cooling. The engine has brass spark plug inserts added to address the former engines’ problems of stripping threads. This motorcycle doesn’t have them, but at the time customers could opt for optional silicon aluminum heads.

1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL

Fuel and air are fed into the motor using a single Linkert carburetor, which is positioned on the left side of the motorcycle. Harley reversed this arrangement for its overhead motors, which all have right side carburetors. Exhaust was routed and expelled via a single fishtail muffler on the right side.

The primary chain, located on the left-side,  transmits power from the engine to the 4-speed transmission. The transmission is hand shifted via a lever mounted on the left side of the fuel tank and the clutch is controlled with a foot pedal. A secondary chain transmits power from the transmission to the rear wheel using a brake drum mounted sprocket.

The front and rear drum brakes are engaged manually with no hydraulic assistance. The front uses a cable to connect a right side mounted hand lever to the left side mounted drum. The rear uses a series of adjustable rods to engage the motion of the right side brake pedal through the frame and out to the left side mounted rear drum.

1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL

The ’37 Model UL rides on a “hardtail” frame.  Basically, there is no rear suspension. The sprung solo seat helps offset the lack of any rear suspension, and the “Springer” front end is the main suspension on the Model UL.  It’s a two piece element that uses six external springs on the top and moveable rocker arms on the bottom. The springs absorb impacts while the rocker arms permit vertical movement of the front axle.

The left hand grip operates the engine timing, allowing a rider to retard the timing for easy starting and advance the timing for normal running. The horn button and the high/low beam switch for the headlight are located on the left side handlebar as well.

1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL

Shifting the 4-speed transmission is accomplished using a hand lever that is attached to the left side of the fuel tank. A shift gate helps the rider find the gears without skipping gears when shifting. The foot operated clutch, known as a “rocker clutch” is used to engage and disengage the clutch. All Harley’s use the “toe to go” set up where pressing the clutch pedal forward with the toe engages the clutch and pushing the pedal back with your heel disengages the clutch. A friction disc is used to keep the clutch pedal in the heel back position, so that the rider does not have to keep their foot on the pedal when the motorcycle is stopped.

It’s challenging to explain the ’37 Harley-Davidson Model UL mystique.  There is both excitement and apprehension in managing the technique of a rocker clutch and tank mounted shifter.  Adding to the rider challenge is counteracting the heavy Springer front-end during a corner. Stability, if there is such a thing on this model, is a complicated matter and the manufacture of motorcycles in the 1930’s were very reluctant to talk about it.

In the fast moving world we live in today, it’s difficult to wrap your head around the bicycle-like origins starting in the Davidson family’s backyard more than 116-years ago.  If we had the luxury of going back in time, we could ask the young inventors, but I’d anticipate the founding group would be exceptionally proud of Bob’s restoration treasure and the enduring craftsmanship on “their” 1937 Model UL.

UPDATED: March 8, 2020 — The third post on this vintage motorcycle collection is: Every Restored Motorcycle Has A Story — The 1913 Single

Author Comments:  Although my name appears on the post, it takes a “village” to pull together this type of information.  I’m not only delighted to be working with Bob’s family, I also get the honor of thanking them here.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Harley-Davidson.  

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Maya Hansen at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week — Madrid

Valentine’s Day…

Have you noticed that Barbie beauty standards have wormed their thick smoky eye shadow and shimmering red lip gloss way into the world of motorcycling?

It’s true, companies use scantily clad women in sexy poses, draped over the fuel tank to sell motorcycles.

Clearly, the advertisers think if you’re a male in the market for a motorcycle, then a woman fixing her hair and makeup in the chrome reflection, while wearing lingerie, a bikini or underwear is as important as the size of — the engine combustion chamber.  It’s the kind of situation in the dealer showroom one could only hope to find oneself in when purchasing a motorcycle.

Right?

We’ve all seen these so-called “perfect biker babes.”  They strap themselves into black leather bras, lean forward and pout with cherry red lipstick.  When they disembark the motorcycle they shake out bouncy platinum hair, adjust their cleavage and scan the area for a Glamour photographer in hopes of a modeling contract without even smudging their red lipstick.

Maya Hansen Clothing Line and NZI Helmets

Let’s transport back to the real world.

Photographers from Glamour are nowhere to be seen.  Because in reality, most women don’t spend much time draped across a fuel tank semi-clothed on a random motorcycle. Especially if there’s a camera around.  In all my years of riding, I’ve never seen a woman get off a motorcycle, shake out her hair, and be offered a modeling contract!

Breaking the stereotype — nobody looks twice when they see a woman riding a motorcycle these days.  Women don’t want to be objectified for any purpose and especially not for hawking a motorcycle.  The public’s perception that motorcycle riders are predominately male is ‘long gone.’

In fact, according to a 2018 national survey by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), they found that among all age groups, women make up 19 percent of motorcycle owners, compared with less than 10 percent less than a decade ago. The survey found even greater ownership among younger generations.  With Millennials, 26 percent of motorcycle owners were women. Among Gen X, 22 percent were women.

Advertising sells products, but the ridiculousness of women draped over, like melted candle wax, awkwardly positioned a-top a motorcycle – is perhaps an easy way to grab attention to try and sell something – it’s not necessarily the best approach.

For equality, here is a similar motorcycle photoshoot, but with “perfect” men.

Photos courtesy YouMotorcycle, Maya Hansen and NZI Helmets.  Photos taken at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week — Madrid, Spain.

Disclaimer: As I’m sure you can imagine, the internet knows no mercy when you misstep to be a perfect model of a human.  I mean no disrespect if you are, or are not perfect and certainly not looking for a stampede of angry followers accusing me of being tone deaf for the sake of generating clicks.  If you ask, I’ll candidly admit that I don’t have a clue about “What Women Want” when it comes to fashion.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Last spring I happen to be in Hollywood on a work gig and got a Sunset Gower Studio tour.  Sunset Gower has been part of the Hollywood film history since there was a Hollywood.

While wandering through the writers’ suites and the studio lot I walked down this hallway and came across an Easy Rider poster.  The Sunset Gower sound stages were used for the movie.

No one could have predicted that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s small budget film, fueled by motorcycles and amazing music would redefine pop culture.

In fact, it’s impossible to even think about this film without the opening riff of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” echoing in your head.  In the movie industry, it’s rare that a film and its soundtrack break through to the masses.  Easy Rider was an incredible success commercially and culturally (it inspired an entire genre and a hundred knockoffs), and the impact of the soundtrack was revolutionary.

“The idea was to have the music which accompanies the cross-country cycling scenes reflect current times,” Peter Fonda told Rolling Stone in 1969. By compiling prerecorded tracks and music specifically created for the film to make a “musical commentary” and companion to the movie.

IMG_2785Additionally, the Easy Rider soundtrack laid the groundwork for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Pink Floyd-led Zabriske Point the following year and nearly every classic film soundtrack of the next four decades, from Singles to Forrest Gump to Drive.

The soundtrack paints a picture of the counterculture on the brink of the Seventies.   Steppenwolf’s get-on-your-bike-and-ride anthem along with the bluesy dealer epic “The Pusher,” and the classic cuts from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Holy Modal Rounders and the Byrds (whose Roger McGuinn also scored the film) makes an epic film.

As the story goes, Bob Dylan was recruited by Peter Fonda to pen the film’s theme “Ballad of Easy Rider,” (soundtrack) and after jotting out a few lines, told the actor to give the lyrics to McGuinn to flesh out.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Sunset Gower Studio and Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson Out-Performers

The 1970 Harley-Davidson Out-Performers

In the last few years Harley-Davidson has been known to confront stereotypes in their advertising.

Think “E Pluribus Unum” campaign which means “Out of many, one”, and it is promoting the uniqueness of the Harley-Davidson riders.  Or how about the “No Cages” campaign which puts “real” Harley riders in the spotlight, to reinforce the image of what you think about motorcycle riders.

If nothing else the motor company should get credit, it does have a highly developed capacity to adapt their business to change.  In the mid-70’s, A.M.F. went too far when it replaced the Harley name with its own.  Apparently unaware of the magnitude of that marketing decision.

What kept Harley going in those dark days, and what is driving it now, is the fact that the motorcycle it makes is not just a product, but rather the centerpiece of a lifestyle, “Hook”.

So on #TBT (Throwback Thursday) here is a 1970 advert about how Harley-Davidson was Out-performing!

Photo courtesy of H-D and Adbranch.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman

“I’ve got to run to keep from hidin’
And I’m bound to keep on ridin'”

The 1973 reference is when the Allman Brothers were the biggest band in the country.  Duane had died two years before, but the band carried on, ate a peach, and emerged with the “Brothers and Sisters” album that was so prevalent we were all ramblin’ men and women.

Remember 1973…  scratch that, you probably weren’t even alive back then. The preoccupation of young males was the stereo shop on Saturday afternoon followed by some tuning of your ride.  Back in the day music used to be a commitment.  You actually had to step out of the house and go to your local store to buy the vinyl album.  After paying with hard earned cash you returned home to the Marantz amplifier and Advent speakers, dropped the Dual turntable needle and digested it.

America has a bit of an outlaw culture.   Boomers understand this as the great American pastime was to get in a vehicle or put some wind in the face and set off across this great country of ours, where no one knew where you were going, or where you were, which is exactly how you liked it, because we don’t really want to be boxed in, we want to be free.

So, today I’m driving north on the spot where all commuters know traffic grinds to a halt, pushing the buttons on the satellite radio and I hear “Midnight Rider.”   It’s the track that got all the airplay from the “Laid Back” album.  And I’m instantly transported back to that high-school swagger in art class with this playing in the background.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ve become a member of the over-the-hill gang.

Probably, but I’m past the point of caring.

Do we really have any choice but to keep on keepin’ on?  We keep on ridin’ because the road really does go on forever.  Around every bend are not only unforeseen potholes, but a lot of pleasures.  And just like the hopeful grooves in those old vinyl favorites they are as powerful today as it was back in 1973.

Older?  Yes.  Over the hill?  Hardly.

We’re still ridin’ and groovin’.  We’ve got the wind in our face, the power of music in us and no one is going to catch us midnight riders!

Original version of “Midnight Rider
Alternative version of “MidnightRider” with Vince Gill, Gregg Allman and Zac Brown

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson Advertisement

Harley-Davidson Faux Advertisement

It makes a lasting impression in only seconds.   It’s provocative.

I’m talking about ads.

We see them every day, everywhere we go, whatever we do… advertisements for products and services plastered in front of our faces.

Good advertising “tricks” the average person into believing that they need a product or service even when they don’t, and the tricks are usually well-constructed.

This advertisement came to me via the Northwest Harley Blog Daily.  It is sublime and will have many motorcyclists wondering if they’ve gone too far.  After clicking on the “play” button my immediate thought was… “What am I watching?”  “Should I look away before something happens that I won’t be able to forget?”  Then you’re left wondering.

I can’t recommend watching it, but if you must the video advertisement is HERE.  The ad seems to focus less on particular features of the company’s products and more on the way these products are used.  Maybe it’s different in your part of the world, but I’m not exactly sure the message or what product is being “evangelized”…  it’s likely I missed the point, but some of the choices might be:

  1. A Harley will make a man out of you!
  2. Even a cross dresser wants a Harley?
  3. Someone who adopts the dress of the opposite sex wants a man or woman on a Harley?
  4. A new stylish dress and Clothing line launch for Ladies of Harley®?

There are times when I can be influenced by advertising techniques.  Although creative, this is not one of them!

Photo courtesy of Jung Chantme.  Harley-Davidson has stated they are targeting all demographics, but the odds of this being an officially sponsored deal is remote.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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