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Thread: Rebuilding the Q-ship; a 1964 Harley Davidson Sportster

  1. #21
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    However, we bought this project for a reason. Chuck already has a stock 1959 XLH he rides regularly. It is a great bike and a delight to motor down a country lane. With the Q ship, Chuck wanted to up the fun ante and do something that is rarely done these days – build a big inch bike on a 900 ironhead platform.

    The core of such a bike is the crankcase. If the cases aren’t top notch – then everything is a compromise from that point forward. Compromises on a stock bike won’t generally cause trouble – on a high performance machine they can turn the bike into a nightmare to own. When evaluating a set of cases, we want to find a set that is as unmolested as possible. The Q ship is one of these motors. On disassembly it was clear the bike had not had treated badly by previous mechanics. Most everything was as original and in very good shape. The mating surfaces were clean, true, and flat.

    Taking a close look at the primary and transmission cavities shows no signs of cracking or previous repairs. There are some tool marks from the transmission being pulled -- but nothing unusual or concerning. We also examined the cylinder studs and all the threaded holes. Everything is in excellent condition, especially considering these cases are almost 56 years old.

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    IMG_2005.jpg

  2. #22
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    One of the fun things we discovered in looking at the cases is the date codes. Remember, these are cases that came together from the factory and were machined in the spring of 1964. If you look at the left case, you’ll see the date code just above the transmission trap door – it is marked 6-63; meaning it was cast in June 1963. On the right case, the date code is 12-63; meaning it was cast in December 1963. This means the two halves of the case were cast six months apart and not machined for a few months into 1964. Just more fun stuff showing how the factory did things.

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    As we noted in the last installment, these cases are being handed off at the Davenport meet to have the case opening enlarged for big bore cylinders. To get the cases ready, we washed them down with mineral spirits, followed by a scrubbing in a 50/50 mix of Simple Green and hot water, and two trips through the dish washer. The final step was wiping down the surfaces and the bearing races with WD40. The only downside of doing it this way is that it tends to darken the cases. Because this isn’t the final wash or finish, we just wanted to get them clean. No machinist likes being handed filthy parts.

    The last thing we had to do to get the cases ready was to find the original hardware. Someone had started replacing the original bolts and nuts with aftermarket chrome bits. Thankfully, they didn’t toss the original hardware. Rather than spend a long time hand cleaning the hardware, we employed one of our favorite secret weapons, a vibratory tumbler.

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    The tumbler is loaded with coarse walnut shells and talcum powder. After 48-72 hours in the tumbler, the hardware comes out looking as close to new as possible. Not a bad deal for flipping a switch. If you have a lot of parts to clean up or do a lot of restoration work, a tumbler can be a very good investment.

    Now, we are ready for Davenport. We have cases to drop off; a front end to pick up; folks to BS with; and a list of parts we are hunting. It’s going to be a fun Labor Day weekend.

  3. #23
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    Aug 2004
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    Beautiful Northern New Mexico
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    Since you have to repair the wheels and replace a rim why not make them correct instead of those '70 up rims?
    Robbie Knight Amca #2736

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rubone View Post
    Since you have to repair the wheels and replace a rim why not make them correct instead of those '70 up rims?

    The rims will be shouldered alloys.

    I'm on the fence about original rims vs. repo.

  5. #25
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    If they are the correct profile those spokes won't work.
    Robbie Knight Amca #2736

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rubone View Post
    If they are the correct profile those spokes won't work.
    You'll be pleased to know no 70-up alloy rims fell into my hands at Davenport. So, we'll be ordering up Borrani repos and appropriate SS spokes/nipples later on this year. The spokes from the current set will just get cleaned, bagged, and likely sold off to someone who needs them.

  7. #27
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    The Davenport meet treated me very well and I was able to find just about every single major part I was looking for. We now have about 90-95% of a motorbike -- save things like hardware and some sundry items. The vast majority of what we found at Davenport is of the correct year for the '64CH -- though a few items are from earlier than '64. All in all; because this is a bike that isn't being refurbished with judging in mind, it's a good haul of OE parts.

  8. #28
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    Default The Q Ship Saga Part 5: Stroker Piston Choices

    The Q ship Saga

    Part 5: Stroker Piston Decisions



    We finished the last installment by describing how we evaluated and prepared cases to go out for boring. It is important to note this is totally unnecessary for a stock rebuild. Instead, we decided to build a hotrod sportster in a fashion very similar to what would have been done in the late 1960s.

    Let’s start with a quick and dirty overview. Ironhead sportsters can be split into two major motor groups: 900s and 1000s. 900s were produced from 1957 to 1971 and have a 3 inch bore. 1000s were made from 1972-1985 and have a 3-3/16 inch bore; though 1972-early 1973 involves some uniqueness. If you are thinking about a stroker, it is far easier to build one on a set of 1000 cases than a 900. This is for a variety of reasons, but today it comes down to one critical factor – pistons.

    Put simply, off-the-shelf supplies of 900 stroker pistons dried up decades ago. This leaves us with five options for achieving our goal.

    Option One: NOS 900 Stroker Pistons – First, this is a game of luck and patience. These pistons are out there, but they don’t often come up for sale and if they do; it is relatively rare for them to be truly NOS. If you do find a set, they are most likely to be Dytch, Axtell, TRW (S&S), or JE (Jahn’s). They can be in a variety of compression heights and so you have to measure carefully to determine if they will fit your needs. Rings “may” be an issue depending on the oil ring used.
    Pros:
    they will fit if you did your homework
    When broken in properly, they have a long service life
    Light weight, in most cases

    Cons:
    you may only get one set
    Replacement may be impossible
    Rings maybe difficult to source
    May not be the bore size or compression height you need
    Ring lands may be too close to top of cylinder

    Option Two: Use stroker plates and cut down stock pistons. This is the original way of making a stroker. This works surprisingly well, though you leave displacement on the table as you can only go so big on the stroke.

    Pros:inexpensive – you can use readily available pistons and ring packs
    Easy to build and live with
    No lowering of oil holes in many cases
    More piston choices

    Cons: Thick stroker plates may cause head to frame fitment issues on the rear
    Thick plates may require longer cylinder base studs
    Thick plates are easy to spot and “spoil” the motor’s appearance
    Depending on cylinder height; manifolds and pushrods could become issues
    Leaves power on the table

    Option Three: Custom pistons. Over the years, we’ve ordered pistons from JE, Ross, and Venolia for various projects. Service from all three has been excellent and the pistons have been exactly what we ordered. The process is not as complicated as you may think. You simply fill out some forms with your specifications and 8-16 weeks later, pistons arrive.

    Pros:Pistons are made to your exact specifications
    They will fit – provided you measured correctly!
    Can take advantage of tech advances in rings, pins, and forgings
    Can have custom dome shapes, etc.
    Generally made from higher quality (tougher) materials than stock pistons

    Cons: Cost – you generally buy 4 pistons at a time at $150-200 per piston
    Generally all 4 of your new custom pistons will be the same size – meaning if you destroy one AND need an over bore – you’re ordering new pistons
    Long lead times, often 8-16 weeks for pistons to arrive

    Option Four:
    Adapt the 900 cases to accept 1000 top end components. It is not easy, but it does allow you to take advantage of 1000 stroker pistons which are readily available (at the time of this writing) from S&S.

    Pros: cylinders are readily available
    Brand new stroker pistons are available from S&S
    Simply moving to the 3-3/16 bore nets a 10% displacement increase
    Can be combined with a shorter stroke choice to utilize stock pistons

    Cons: Requires the most machine work.
    You have to buy a lot of new or very good used parts
    You have to find a really good machinist if you want the motor to last
    Not as “cool” as NOS or custom speed parts

    Option Five: Dytch, Axtell or Trock cylinders with matching pistons. This is the deep end of the pool. Most everything becomes “custom” to some extent when going this route – made more difficult by the fact these parts have been out of production for the better part of 40 years. They also were never sold in large quantities and most were bought by guys who blew up more than one motor. As a result, finding survivors in good condition can be challenging. The results, however, are often worth the quest.

    Pros: Stronger cylinders that are tough and more wear resistant the OEM.
    More bore choices
    Sleeving options
    Length options
    Oil holes are already lowered.
    Hard to spot to the casual observer.
    3-3/16 and 3-1/4 cylinders can often use S&S 1000 stroker pistons.

    Cons: Cost. Finding good cylinders is neither cheap nor easy.
    What you find may not fit your needs.
    Cases must be bored to fit
    Heads must be bored to fit
    You may never get a second set


    It all comes down to pistons. They are our deciding factor.

    After weighing the options, we decided to stick with those solutions that allow us to use S&S stroker pistons. These pistons are sized to work with up to 4-5/8 strokes with either no or very thin stroker plates. This is good because we do not want to stress the cylinder base any more than necessary, nor do we want to disturb the original cylinder studs unless we must.

    So, really, why would we bother with all this? It comes down to two words: fun and displacement. The fun comes from the extra horsepower, which is provided by a serious knock upwards in displacement. In this case, we’ll be using a 4-5/8 stroke and 3.25 inch pistons to give 76 inches. This is a whopping 21 inches or 40% more than the stock 900’s 55 inch motor.

    IMG_1758.jpg

    In the above photo, that is a stock 3" 900 piston sitting in a 3.26 axtell bore . . . Just a wee bit of daylight around the edges.

  9. #29
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    Default Part 5 - Pistons

    Let’s stop for a moment and look at different pistons. Dr. Dick was kind enough to share with us his collection of pistons and piston sectionals. He kept all these because they clearly show different types of solutions to the same problem.

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    Let’s start with looking at stock 900 pistons. These are cast aluminum with reinforcing struts and substantial pin bosses. The weight is distributed well between the crown and the skirt, making for a stable piston.

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    When you flip them over, you can see a couple of critical things. First, notice how the underside of the crown is an even, dark brown/black. This is a heat mark. It shows this piston was transferring heat evenly to the top ring and that the oil flung on the underside was clearly stopping at the oil control ring.

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    When looking at the oil ring land – you can see it is slotted, not drilled. This is great for a stock bike and works well with a variety of ring packs. However, you can easily compress the piston in a high output application. In terms of weight; this piston is .020 over. With its pin and keepers, but without rings, it weighs 501 grams.

  10. #30
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    Default Part 5 -- pistons; Axtell/Dytch vintage pistons

    Next up is an Axtell 3-1/4 stroker piston. In just looking at the piston, you can tell something is different. The crown is similar to later 1000 pistons and the skirts are very different. These are also cast pistons and intended to move the compression up to 10:1. As such, when put on the same pin as a stock piston you can see they have the same compression height, but the ring lands are at different heights.

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    IMG_1816.jpg

    In the last photo; that is our stock 900 piston on the left and the Axtell on the right

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