Summer 2002 Bike Feature
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 Project Chief, Part 8
By Stan Jessup

Once I set the power plant in the frame, I started to fit Kiwi's new stainless steel exhaust system (VI archives under new parts 1999). These are polished stainless, which has a finish that rivals chrome, but it's much more durable, and is less prone to bluing. Stainless exhaust turns a nice muted gold color when it gets hot, and it can always be re-polished to a high luster. Once chrome is damaged, there are few options, short of sending it off to be re-chromed, which is very expensive and usually takes a month or more to get it back. These systems are CNC bent, for a consistent fit, and they're only made in the late Chief configuration. Even though the CNC system is used to form the header, it's rare to find two bikes where everything lines up the same, so take your time, and fit the header early. I didn't have any trouble with the header fit, but I'm not using stock cylinders, so I can't say how much fitting will need to be done with iron jugs. I hope to fit a set of these to my stock 48 Chief sometime in the near future for comparison.

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Aluminum cylinders installed.

More (from the VI Mailing List) about the aluminum cylinders here!

With the basic chassis and drive train finished, I have to turn my attention to the sheet metal and finish work. This is the area of restoration that I dread the most. With that said, I decided to increase my agony by doing it myself.... I've done my share of body work, and painting, but let's just say it isn't one of my strong points, and certainly not an area of restoration I enjoy.

The first question my wife asks when I start a new project is, "What color is it going to be?". Well, that's usually something I don't decide until the last minute, other than the fact that it WON'T be red! Women tend to focus more on form, and my focus is always function over form. There's nothing wrong with either approach, but everyone has to make the choice for themselves, so I would choose to spend the money making this an 80" engine rather than spend the same amount on a flashy paint job. I think skirted Chiefs will draw sufficient attention, even if you rode it around with nothing more than primer. You should be able to paint any bike for about $150 in materials, assuming you use common products. Painting a Military bike requires finishing well over 100 separate pieces, while a civilian model will only have about 8-10 pieces, assuming you powder coat the black parts, so the space requirements are radically reduced. The down side is that the finish is much harder to control when using high gloss products versus flat lacquer.

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About Stan's Project VI Chief
"Since this is a Virtual Indian project topic bike, I decided to use parts that were made by VI list members whenever I could. Commercial dealers that have made VI aware of new products that I can use, will supply those parts so that I can evaluate the fit and function. All of the parts for this  project are paid for,and not donated by any of the dealers. If they work, I'll say so. If they don't, I'll tell you that too, along with what I didn't like about the product, or what needs correction."
For more detailed information on body work and painting, look in the VI archives. There is an article by Jake on body repair & paint, and Jim Jones' Scout restoration (part 4) under the "bikes" heading. I always strip the sheet metal down to bare metal so I know what I have to work with. I try to tap and shrink out as many dents as possible, to minimize filler use as much as my ability allows. Indian fenders are a very tight fit, so if you add thickness to the sides, you'll have trouble getting them back on the bike, so be careful with the fenders. I like to use etching primer for better paint adhesion, and I use gray primer for light finish colors, or red primer for dark colors. Click to view full size
Sheet metal in primer.
There is more painting info here
and here.
It's currently Christmas eve 2000, and all the body work and priming is done (finally). It isn't perfect, but it's pretty good for a hack body man. Anyway, I have to take the next few hours to clear the layer of fine dust that covers everything in the shop! My dog finally gave up wanting to be in the shop with me when she came out covered in sanding dust, and sneezing (me too). That and the fact that Great Danes don't usually care much for baths, any more than I like giving her one. Now, she stays inside where it's warmer. That, coupled with the fact that my shop doesn't have a couch pretty much convinced her that the shop wasn't a fun place to be right now.

With everything cleaned up, I can turn to the finish paint, assembly and finally after almost 12 months, firing the beast up! This is the point where I start to lose sleep, going over ever inch of the bike in minute detail, to see if I have overlooked anything. There are always some final adjustments to make, and fasteners to tighten, but I try to concentrate on the things that can cause real problems first. The only part of this project that isn't complete is the oil pump, as I'm still waiting for the gear set. I'm told they are going to arrive by the first of the year, so they should beat the final assembly date. Since the pump is easily accessible, it's not a big deal at this point.

I've chosen the color now, and I've done the test spray to get the settings down for the color application. After painting all the parts, I carefully wet sanded everything to take out any bumps or ridges, with VERY fine paper. I wasn't happy with the first coat, so after sanding it smooth, I shot everything again. Now it's time for the final hand polishing, and flushing the tanks. I used Centari single stage enamel, because I'm a hack at body work and paint, and it's easy to apply. With this done, I'm down to assembly.

Part 1
Basket Case

Part 2
Disassembly & Inspection

Part 3
Frame & Parts

Part 4
Sheet Metal, Weels, Electrics

Part 5
Front Hub, Oil Filter, Battery, Alternator

Part 6
Front forks, Disc Brakes

Part 7
Engine and Transmission

When installing the fenders, I wrap the contact areas of the frame, to avoid contact with the paint during installation (it didn't help, I still installed several scratches). The fenders are easily scratched during installation, and this helps avoid it until they are in place. I only boogered the paint in about 10 places during assembly, but that's what air brushes are for, right? I like to fit all the lights, trim and wire while the fenders are on the bench, which makes it less likely that you'll scratch the finish paint (yeah, right) while putting them on with the fenders are on the bike.

With the fenders installed, I have to finish up the wiring and install the heads before I can install the tanks. I used full enclosure steel thread inserts in the head bolt threads, and I was told to torque them to only 40 lb/ft, rather than the common 55 lb/ft. This seems light, but due to expansion, you run the risk of having the inserts pull out. I used the thin wall type, so if I have trouble with this, I can install the heavy wall inserts at a later time.

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Project Cost Chart.

If you use MS Internet Explorer, you should be able to view Excel sheet by clicking on thumbnail image. Otherwise try opening Excel on your computer, open the web toolbar, and paste the link below into the address window.
Project Cost Details
http://virtualindian.org/11chiefchart.xls

I didn't spend a great deal of time on the tank finish since I already decided to use new repro tanks, but at this point they aren't ready, so I used the original set that I had. In the past I've used Yellow Spear tanks, and while they are well built, I wasn't happy with the amount of warpage caused by the welding. At Davenport, I was able to look over the new offerings from Iron Horse Corral, and the display units looked very nice, so I'm currently waiting for those to become available (which they have since the time of writing). I also understand Starklite is selling new units that are made in New Mexico, but I haven't seen them, or heard any reports on the finish work. I'll give my impression of the IHC tanks when they arrive, and I've had a chance to work with them.

Everything is currently assembled, but I still don't have the new oil pump gears, so firing the bike up on New Years day is out....... Once the gears show up, I only have a couple hours work, and we'll see if I can kick some life into the beast! I guess that has to wait till the next article.


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Almost done...
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