My Lifelong Toy

Thought some of you might like to see my lifetime toy and perpetual love affair. Not really related to cars but did have car parts on it at one time. It was a chopper when I bought it in 1974 with an allegedly trashed transmission for 450 bucks. Nope; just a poor clutch adjustment. The bike is a 1944 U Model Sidevalve; a.k.a. flat head.

It had an extended Harley spring fork on it at the time. Extending the legs with Ford Model A radius rods was common. It had a VW Bug 6 volt generator and I re-ringed it one time with Ford flat head piston rings.It’s going back to the way it came out of the factory in 1944. Mostly. HD built less than 500 U’s out of an 18,000 bike production run. Most went to the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy Shore Patrol, and the rest to Lend Lease; as in Russians, South Africans, and Aussies. Currently in the process of wrestling a reproduction braided cotton wiring harness into place. Engine lower end and top end rebuilt; just need to mate them up.
The gray box with the snout by the bike is a NOS military oil bath air cleaner found on eBay It uses a copper mesh which is washed and oil coated along with 2 paper elements. It even came with a pair of extra paper elements. Can’t buy those at AutoZone…


Looks stunning even now as yet incomplete. Going to be a great ride.

Nice work!

I’m not a motorcycle guy but that’s a very nice looking example. I hope you’ll update us when the project is complete.

Thank you. Everything done by me including the paint and upholstering the seat and hand painting the tank emblems. One sacrifice I made was to use foam instead of horse hair for padding. Bikes have come and gone (early 50s AJS, 3 Triumphs, 2 Sportsters, 2 shovelheads, and a 1941 Harley Servi-Car but that flathead and my panhead have always remained with me. That bike is just sheer joy to ride. I even ran that bike in a quarter mile once just for giggles. Turned near 20 seconds which is somewhat slow but that’s also with a heel/toe clutch, tank shifter, and a non-synchronized transmission
My late wife used to say I loved that bike more than her. She was correct of course. The bike is less cantankerous and is cheaper to ride… :wink:


Very nice. I just can’t remember anymore but seems to me the kid across the street had one something like that for a while. Would have been about 1958. It would have been orange or red though, before he got the Cushman scooter. Was that the original color combo? I think it looks like the military surplus bike that Barney in Andy Griffith had on one of the shows. His was olive drab.

Good to see someone else out there who’s living with a motorcycle addiction. I’m not a person who stays loyal to one motorcycle forever, but when I’m neck deep in something I think about it all the time. Right now I’m at the naked frame, parts in boxes all over the place stage with a 67 Honda CB450 Black Bomber. Looks like you’re doing really fine work on your bike.

Beautiful. Just beautiful. I know they are meant to be ridden but I hope that one just goes out on sunny Sunday rides.

Not a motorcycle person myself either, but always appreciated some old machinery and the love and sweat that goes in it.
This one deserves to be in an old movie.

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Wow. That looks very nice.

I know nothing about motorcycles except what little I’ve managed to glean reading discussions here on the forum over the years. And I’ve never even ridden on a motorcycle. But I do appreciate seeing a classic looking machine.

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VERY nice, ok4450!
Please keep us posted via pics as you complete the restoration process.

For those wondering about color; almost every bike HD built back during WWII was in OD Green.
Most of those bikes were the 45 cubic inch models and they were called 1942 WLAs. Bikes built in 1943 and 1944 were also called year model 1942 WLAs.

The Big Twin flathead (74 cubic inch) are rare and the bulk of those manufactured went to the U.S. Navy after being painted gray.
It was near impossible for a civilian to get a motorcycle during the war years. For the very few that did manage this there were no options on color. Gray or black; you took what they gave you.

This one will get ridden. I’m no fan of trailer queens. It went through some iterations over the decades and I decided to put it back in stock appearance after a frame incident.
The bike when I got it was typical 70s chopper. Cleaned frame, raked, front frame legs extended, extended front fork, molded with Bondo, and a 2 tone metal flake paint job.

One night on the way home about 20 miles from the house the kidney smashing ride disappeared and the bike rode smooth. WTH I’m thinking…
Next day exam showed both front frame tubes cracked apart umder the steering head. After chipping the Bondo off I discovered that someone had extended the tubes with 1/2" plumbing pipe. Still had the pipe threads on each end and so that frame was gone and the search for a clean one was on.
Whoever did that was insane or 100% stupid beyond belief.


I am not a biker I may have been on one maybe half a dozen times in my life but I am a fan of the older forms of transportation be it cars trucks or bikes and the more stock the better, You are doing a great job on that one the bikes I don’t like to see or hear is the modern day crotch rockets. Keep up the good work and thak you that brief history lesson.

That heal and toe clutch has a tall learning curve. Fifty years ago I could handle one on level roads but even slight inclines at intersections were avoided. Yours looks like a grand ride in progress and I hope you enjoy some good miles on it.

Was there ever a larger OHV engine with hand shift BTW? I was only ever familiar with 45s and 54s back in the day.

I’m definately not a biker but that is one beautiful project and a historical treasure.

I’m so glad that you’re giving it the attention it deserves by restoring it to original, hope you enjoy many happy hours and look forward to seeing the final results but be sure your spouse, children, grandchildren or heirs understand exactly what this is.


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I got closed for factory mushroomed bolt removal suggestions, be it on boat, Cycle as pretty as it is does not look like a car, but not suggesting it get closed. All in favor of varied discussions, car or not exactly. Yeah I suppose I am a grouchy old fart and stay off my lawn!


It’s that time of year. If you would just put the boat on a trailer, it would be the same as the cycle.

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Got a motor, transmission, carbs etc. spark plugs I guess, but not a car. My Fail.

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Amphicar? It goes on the water and with the trailer goes on land too. What’s the diff?


The 74 cubic inch panhead from 1948 also had a foot clutch/tank shift until the foot shifter came out in 1952. The foot shifts used what was called a “mousetrap” to operate the clutch.

Seventy four cubic inches was the biggest of the old ones except for the 1937 through 1941 flat heads which could be had in 80 cubic inches. Same everything except for cylinder bore.

I’ve actually got 2 of these old beasts with the other being a 1950 panhead which in a prior life had been a cop bike. Frame, tanks, fenders painted white but most were in Police Silver. No assembly at this point. I have the foot operated siren, police lighting, police radio, and the speedometer hand lock which was NOS and given to me by a guy I dealt with.
The hand lock was used to pace speeders as radar was not in use then.

Motorcycles on a car forum! Lock up your wives and daughters! Don’t be surprised if the sheriff is suddenly gone fishing because he and his 3 deputies are scared to death to confront these guys. The last town they rode through, the Homecoming Queen was going to get married the next day and instead got on the back of one of the bikes and hasn’t been heard from since. And the wedding coordinator, caterer, and flower shop had been paid in advance.

For those lucky enough to be able to go to Maggie Valley North Carolina the greatest gearhead museum in the world is there, Wheels Through Time. The great and recently late Dale Walksler stocked a huge warehouse with every sort of motorcycle ever built and added some classic cars for good measure. How many people know that in the '40s Harley sold a motorized surfboard? And Dale got one for his museum!