Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hellbound..The building of a killer XLCH chop...




The build of Hellbound began when I purchased an XLCH engine from a wrecked bike we had originally built at my chopper shop. The motor was 100% chrome plated and had low miles when wrecked but the fins on both heads and barrels were broken. I found a set of stock heads and barrels at a cycle salvage shop another friend owned. Arlen offered to hex cut the barrels and remove the lower three fins before sending them out to the chrome shop. You can't see it in the photos but this was something we were doing to Sportsters in 1976. We also cut the rocker boxes into two parts and rerouted the top end oil lines. Countersinking the rocker box allens also also made the engine appear smoother. One of the design themes we followed was make everything smaller or eliminate it if possible. For example, we cut off the first 1 inch of the rubber handlebar grips and shortened the stock clutch lever removing the ball end and about 1 inch of the lever itself. Magnetos meant no batteries and spool 21 inch front wheels meant no brake lever,cable or brake drum. We even trimmed the license plates which really pissed off the CHP. I bought a stock frame from another friend and had Jim Davis, Arlen's frame builder, install one of his latest gooseneck front sections. The radical 45 degree rake was Arlen's idea and his 6 inch over stock springer barely made the bike level with the short struts used to replace the shocks.

The night I assembled the engine Arlen came over to help. He had done the work on the barrels himself and then had them chromed. I had them bored .060 over and fitted forged pistons. Arlen held the barrel while I compressed each ring using my thumbnails, squeezing the ring with both hands. One by one we worked the barrel down over all three rings. Then he worked on one side of the motor installing the magneto, oil lines etc. while I installed the clutch, primary chain etc. Together we fitted the manifold, o-rings and carb. It was after 2AM when we finished to motor and Arlen had a 90 minute drive back to the bay area.

The first paint job was black with gold and silver leaf scroll work. I rode the bike to work daily and had to fill the 1.75 gallon tank each afternoon or or I wouldn't make it home from work the following day. On a weekend run with friends I let a guy ride while I drove the chase truck. He ran out of road on a curve and laid the bike down causing major damage to the paint and chrome on the springer. A rebuild followed and I changed the color to cobalt blue pearl as shown in the photos with this story.

I rode the bike the following summer and fall, then entered it in the famous Oakland Roadster Show that winter with the understanding Arlen would pick up the bike after the show and put it in his shop for sale. After the show it was common practice to start the bikes and ride them out of the building. Turns out that Arlen's employee was drunk and decided to do burnouts in the parking lot showing off. He flipped the bike end over end and wrecked it a second time. I had already purchased a 1978 XLCR which I was riding, so had wheels while rebuilding and repainting Hellbound for the third and final time. Shit happens, I was always building a bike while riding the one I just finished and the rebuilds went quickly each time.

We were all riding and building in our garages, helping each other with the work. I was the paint guy, others did the welding or machining. Some, like Bob Munroe and Jim Davis were fabrication guys and could make anything. We rode on weekends, often on overnight runs with groups of 40 or more bikes. Sleeping on the ground and holding "safety meetings" in what ever tavern we came across. Bowling Alleys were always good for biscuits and gravy to "grease up" for the drinking that was to follow. When we rode on the highways the CHP usually shadowed the group and radioed ahead. Local cops met us at the city limits and watched us until we left their town. Occasionally the last bike in the pack got pulled over and issued a bullshit citation for something. New guys had to ride in the back. During the chopper boom of the 70's almost everyone worked on their own bike. Chopper shops like mine and Arlen's sold parts only, no installation work preformed, this was common at the time.

Thanks Jeff..

2 comments:

Juan Carlos said...

Great Post. Thanks for the history Jeff!

nicholai said...

"themes we followed was make everything smaller or eliminate it if possible. For example, we cut off the first 1 inch of the rubber handlebar grips"
Awesome stuff thanks for sharing