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Thread: 1946 Chief Front Fork Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    13

    Default 1946 Chief Front Fork Question

    HI Everyone ,
    I was thinking to use Front leaf spring fork for my '46 Chief . Can I use forks from '45 and prior and do I need any modifications and adjustment in to properly fit and set up .
    THANKS

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Sarasota, Florida
    Posts
    4,176

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    The steering head forging is 1" shorter in 1946, so you would have to come up with some kind of spacer to make up the difference. Or make a new fork stem for your rigid leaf spring fork. There could be handlebar issues as well, but there is nothing on earth that can't be modified.
    Eric Smith
    AMCA #886

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Oak View, CA.
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    65

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    Shaha, Be sure you aren't biting off more than you can chew here... There are several differences between model 344-345 and the earlier model front ends. There are at least 5 different versions of 'leaf-springers' dating back to '24.

    What front fender are you planning to use? Building a "Bobber" ?? Alot to think about here... references- http://www.Indianriders.co.uk/Leaf-Spring%20Forks.htm

    Do your homework, and be sure you can find a front end with all the right front brake pieces. It may be easier to find the shorter, narrower '38-'39 leaf spring front end... more were produced than the 344-345 models. I also have a '47, and I hate the front end on it, so I'm looking for VARD Reproduction (very pricey). I am restoring a model 345, and I discovered I had a '39 backing plate on my 345. The incorrect axel spacer was the first clue I had the wrong part on my front brake. Second clue was the cable adjusting screw fitting on the backing plate.

    Like Exeric says, you can get anything to fit, but its the task of finding the "correct" parts that may be daunting. I have learned to live with the wrong brake plate for now, but someday I will find the correct backing plate. A very minor difference (the outer edge of the backing plate and the brake cable adjusting screw), but any good "eagle-eyed" observer would surely spot it !! It's just me, but I get pissed when someone points to my bike and says "thats not the right part", unless I KNOW IT first. Thats part of the 'restoration' criteria, isn't it? To know what is correct or not. At least you will be able to battle the critics.

    I thinkI found this info on the old "VirtualIndian.org" website... If you're not familiar with this site, its worth a look.
    Good Luck, C2K

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    486

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    The later leaf spring fork is wider and longer and I believe would be the one you want if you are running 16" wheels.If your running 18" wheels then the rigid frame fork would work,although the later plunger frame fork is probably the better length.
    Not sure if your decision is looks or using what you got but I think the 46-48 fork was Indians best,with the 46 and its longer rake reported even better than the 47 and 48.I have a 47 but never rode a 46,but my next 47 progect is getting 46 shackles and spring mounts.The 46-48 is also the easiest to rebuild,and most likely the least expensive.
    Tom

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Oak View, CA.
    Posts
    65

    Default

    Well, Mr. 'tfburke', I completely disagree with you assessment of the girder forks '46-'48. Here's most of the reasons why I don't like this front end. I think this front end was designed with WW2 production, hoping to procure a contract for the model 841, factory employees were kept busy through the war effort assembling the parts-packed front end(possibly to help keep the factory doors open,keeping workers employed). Alas, the Govt' opted for the venerable JEEP instead. Post war, the factory was still tooled up for the girder, and couldn't afford to re-tool or look back. Moving forward with the 346-348 didn't help the cause much, as the factory was going broke, albeit slowly... painfully. We all know 'the rest of the story', as Paul Harvey spoke of so well. (I miss that radio broadcast, don't we all?)

    Beginning with all the numerous parts, around the triple clamp area. Lets start with the headlight bracket... flimsy, & prone to breakage (I've seen lots of 'em). Then, the handlebar risers, rubbers and tensioners, and the top triple clamp, easily bent (don't hit a pot hole!!), the soft steel vs. hardened, shackle bolts, and the needle bearings vs. bushings (don't mix and match these), the bottom triple clamp, vulnerable to bending also. The springs are not easy to put together, even if you know all the tricks. The proper bottom fork-spring seats (matched with the proper top shackle links), the links themselves (tapered, subject to excessive wear. The adjusting nuts and washers (these MUST be properly adjusted). The steering dampener, (i've seen several dampeners simply fall apart from being adjusted too loose (perhaps seeking a smoother ride (?). The shock absorber (does it really even help absorb much?). Assembling one of these front ends is a bit of a challenge. I've put together several, and it never gets easier. Even with a helper. The actual legs of the girder, sometimes get bent, and it doesn't take much either! The front brake backing plate, lots of these are cracked due to loads above what the aluminum is rated for (especially around the mounting holes).
    Both the short and the longer links. Use the Wrong links, and you'll put a dent in your fender with your horn, when you hit the 'pot hole'. But your bike will feel like it rides better... not worth the difference, in my opinion. I don't know if the judges will deduct for the links, but this is a big deal if you don't want to dent your fender. Simply put, the girder front end has way too many (wear)parts, too many modifications after several yrs of production and still, not as firm and confident ride as the (admittedly heavier) leaf spring type forks.

    I sold my '46, but still have my '47 Chief, ride it often. I also have a pair of '36 Chief's, one very correct, and the other a Bobber (my daily rider). Currently restoring my '45 Chief, with the last edition of the leaf spring (it's wider and heavier, yes!). The leaf-spring front ends go together with out much effort. A few bushings in the rockers, the head bearings, top clamp (most have intergrated handlbars and thats about it. Mounting the fenders isn't too much trouble, either. The horn won't get in the way with any of these front ends. The ride feels like you're riding on a rail, (look Ma, no hands!!) they are smooth and steady. These front ends are used on 'wall of death bikes', for a reason. They're rock steady, track true and can handle the roughest of road conditions... you don't see many girders on the hill climbers,eh? just sayin' !! I have 18" wheel/tires on all my Indians (chiefs).

    Although, I see we live on opposite ends of the country, and very different conditions where we ride. I'm sure you are a seasoned rider, have many of experience, yet your preferences are quite different than mine. I respect that. I just wanted to point out the 'why' about my total disdain for the later model girder front ends. The Indian factory must have felt the pain...
    They introduced the telescopic front end in 1950. HD introduced the duo-glide in 1949, while Indian was deciding to enter the lightweight market (no chiefs produced). VARD made bronze triple clamp aftermarket telo-forks as early as 41-42 for both Harley and Indian frames, (and a few experimental European lightweights). I've seen a couple on Indians... now aftermarkets are being made here in California, but are way out of my budget.

    Good Luck with all your projects, I follow most of them here on this forum. I've learned alot from so many here.

    C2K

  6. #6

    Default

    Coil springs are accepted as superior to leaf springs for ride and travel, that is reason Wigwam and automotive industry never went backwards. I love the look of 40/41 models and have ridden but won't agree they ride better than a 48. IMHO

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Vermont
    Posts
    753

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    Right... I've ridden both (not much on a leaf spring version however) and I can agree with C2K that the leaf sprung ones seem "rock steady", but the girder forks are good too! Only thing I can add is that I have hit a few huge potholes with my girder fork with no ill effect, nothing bent, other than a loud BANG and a dent in the shock absorber!
    Pisten Bulley is Harry Roberts in Vermont.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    486

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    Mr"tfburke"? Feel free to use my first name .its how I end my posts.Tom works.
    You list lots of reasons to dislike the girder.I like them.
    I think they are easy to rebuild.all parts are available to bolt on.I like the adjustable link clearance,the shock,and the only stock steering dampener.The axle inner bearing race not so much.
    Leafs are nice,I have several.Rebuilding usually requires welding the waddled out rocker holes.Easy but drilling the new ones in exact alignment is trickier.Worn stem threads and you are welding and machining again.Steel rocker pins with steel bushings require constant greasing,and still wear out fast.
    Ever go down a wash board road and the leaf starts to pogo?Only thing to do is slow down until it stops.
    The areodraulic forks are in my opinion, and I have a really nice low milage one, the worst of all,probably rushed to compete with the 48 harley fork.
    Steel bushings on the tube bottoms to ride in a steel bore in the lower leg.Worn cad plated tubes have to be replaced.The hydraulics are crude and barely work even after precision fitting the piston to the flimsy cylinder tube.The lack of available relacement parts is negative but even a nice original example is flawed.
    Looking forward to a girder with 18"s.(in a rigid frame would be nice)
    Have fun
    Tom

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    13

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    For someone who it trying to build his first bike I really appreciate all the help I can get and thank you all will your relies.
    I am trying to build Bobber with front disk brake and 18"rims , I am not into " correct or period " parts for majority or at least half of the bike . I know once bike is done it will not bring as much money as 100% correct bike if I decide to sell it one day . So now I am on the fence line between modern and newly build spring leaf fork made by and offered by few companies in US or to go with pre '45 or pre '39 for that will be best suitable for this project.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Sarasota, Florida
    Posts
    4,176

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    Being a custom bike, I would opt for the new made reproduction spring fork. I believe it would have to be more affordable than an original, most likely safer, and no guilt about modifications. Personally, I love leaf spring Indian forks and think they are much better looking than the later girder, and hydraulics. As for performance; who cares. Build it to your aesthetic, and adapt to it's (good, or bad) handling characteristics. Have fun, Sasha.
    Eric Smith
    AMCA #886

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