September 2000 Bike Feature 
Home / Features / Stan's Chief Project, part 4
  Chief Project
   By Stan Jessup
Well, last issue we went over the $10k mark! This bike should come in between $17-18,000 when finished, which isn't too bad for a skirted Chief. As I've said before, I could have purchased a complete bike for roughly the same money, but I like doing the work, and I spent more money than necessary on things like the top end and brake system. Also, keep in mind I still have a fresh set of flywheels, cylinders and pistons, a good generator, and front wheel assembly from the original bike. I could have saved about $3000 by using the original cylinders and pistons, and leaving the bike as a 74" engine, but that wouldn't have been much fun, now would it. So far, we're pretty well on target. The front end will exceed my estimate, but for safety purposes it was best to make sure everything was in excellent shape since the damage from a fork failure can be extensive (not to mention painful). I also had to consider the added stresses on the fork legs from the disk brake system, which justified the extra expense. Lets just hope the painter is reasonable with their part of the work. Click on pictures for full size

This is how it all started...

Because the tanks I am using were some what "ventilated", I soldered up the major holes, and then applied the sealant lining. I intend to do another coat of sealant after the body work and paint, but I tested them after the first coat, and the left (worst one) tank failed a static water test. The leak was minor, but none the less, it was a leak. So, I decided to re-coat the left side again, prior to paint, and both will get a final coat after paint. This is usually not required, but in this case, it's much better than spending $500 to completely restore them. The product I use is called POR-15, and is available from most of the dealers, or direct from the company via their web site.
Fitting the tanks.
At this point, I am waiting for the internal engine components, and fork parts. When they arrive, I'll start the fitting process, which will allow fabrication work to start on the front brake system. I'm only short a few small components, most of which are final assembly items, so we're in pretty good shape.

Chrome parts are now stripped, Cad plating is done, Powdercoating is done, and the lower fork legs are on BACKORDER. I had to send the upper fork legs out to be polished, since I don't have a lathe big enough to spin them. The 600 pound gorilla that destroyed the lower legs, also saw fit to beat the tops of the upper legs up a bit, so I had to do a bit of work to make the threads in the cap nut holes usable again. The area that is tapered, which fits into the upper triple tree, is another good place for anti seize or lubricant, to aid in future disassembly. At this point, most of the work that will need to be farmed out is done, except some machine work and the painting. Once the fork legs are back in stock, and the BACKORDER is filled, I will begin the first dry assembly of the bike, and fit the sheet metal.

Fitting Chain guard.
I should mention that any bolt, nut or parts with threads should always have a tap or die run over the threads before reassembly! This will remove any old dirt, glass beads, or caked grease, and in the case of newly plated or painted parts, it will help ensure a good thread fit without binding. As an example, if you have the head bolts replated, the threads have become slightly coated with Cadmium, and you will encounter binding when you go to torque the heads, which will give you false readings. A worse case scenario, would be that the bolt binds, or breaks off in the hole and you have to disassemble everything to remove the damaged bolt. Also, two parts that have fresh plating can literally weld themselves together from galling of the surface plating. In most cases, I use Anti Seize compound on the threads, especially on head bolts. Recently, a list member wrote in saying they just assembled their engine, and at first firing blew a (copper) head gasket. I suspect that the threads were not clean, they didn't use Anti Seize (or similar), substituted thin head washers, used non standard bolts (too long), or any combination of the above. Rethreading bolts and nuts isn't much fun, but it beats the alternatives..... One other warning: ALWAYS check the thread pitch! Indian used some 24 thread per inch bolts, while the current standard may be either 20, 24, or 28, depending on the bolt size. Don't assume it is "standard". Very few bolts on an Indian are coarse thread, but there are a few, so pay attention. A good "rule of thumb" is, if it threads into aluminum, it is coarse thread. Everything else is usually fine thread. Pay strict attention to the parts books, because there are a few that are hidden from view (the only primary bolt without a nut is course thread because it threads directly into the transmission case) and often, someone has already messed up the threads.

I spent a couple hours working on the valve covers, to help ensure a good fit and less swearing when trying to fit them to the engine. Since I am using original covers, they were somewhat deformed from improper tool use. The more time you spend on these before final assembly, the simpler your life will be during assembly. Another area that should be taken care of, is the cylinder studs. Run a die over the threads and make sure you can spin the nuts on freely. These will become a major frustration later if you don't take care of it now. Pay special attention to the studs on the valve side. For the front and rear studs, which are very close to the push rod guides, I have an old round die that I have sanded the outer diameter down a bit, so it will clear the guide body. This will allow you to clean the threads easily if you didn't need to remove the push rod guides or studs for any reason. While you're there, disassemble each push rod, and clean the threads on the three pieces of each rod. Again, a little effort now, will make life easier later.

Project Cost Chart 

Last Month: 
Cost Specification

Dry fitting engine and wheel.

Stan's Chief Project so far:

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here

I laced up the rear wheel, which is always a lesson in patience, since I never remember the sequence that works without several attempts. By the time I have to do it again, I'll forget the process all over again! Since I am using a Harley front hub which I can't fit without the fork being complete, I couldn't lace the front wheel yet. The interchangeable (late model) hub uses four different spokes. Basically, there are two different lengths (actually 4 lengths, but they are very close), and two different tip angles, and you don't want to mix them up. If I remember correctly, the longer spokes with the most tip angle are the outside spokes. Since I am using new stainless spokes on the rear, they all came separated, so it is just a matter of figuring out which sets to start with, and keeping control of the ones you aren't lacing at the time. The system I like, is to install all of the inner spokes (both sides), lace one side loosely, flip it over, and lace the other side. Then install the outer spokes for one side, lace it, flip it over and do the other side. I've seen people put all 40 in at one time, but that makes control of the loose spokes a bit frustrating for my taste. Typical patterns are "cross 3", and "cross 4", which simply refers to how many times a spoke crosses another spoke. Indian 16" wheels are "cross 3", and the outer spokes radiate out from the hub in a clockwise direction. As I recall, Indian 18" wheels, and Harley wheels, usually use the "cross 4" pattern.
Lacing up the rear wheel.

More on wheel lacing here!

Since the #%@^*$! lower fork legs aren't here, I can only fit the rear fender and chain guard. I'm using some used fenders, so I have extra holes, which of course won't line up.... For those that have never had the pleasure of fitting new fenders, DRINK HEAVILY (it may help your nerves, and you can always weld up the extra holes you drill). Take your time, and make sure you fit the chain guard with the rear fender at the same time, because one will affect the other. Of course, this means the engine and transmission need to be in place to fit the chain guard. I'm using a reproduction steel chain guard, which came with the front mounts shipped loose (it's a kit). Don't drill and rivet the front mounts until everything is exactly where you want it to be. Just let the chain guard hang from the 3 rear studs, but keep checking the sprocket clearance as you make fender adjustments.
Fun with Fenders...
I finished the first fitting of the rear fender, and I'll fit it again after the bodywork, but before paint. I started assembling the handlebars, and realized the horn hole was going to be lost because of the brake master cylinder. After I examined the master cylinder cover plate, I decided to see if I could reform the horn button cover, and mount it to the cover plate. Well this turned out to be a real bitch of a job, but it functions. The button cover is stamped to fit over a round surface, and didn't like being forced to work on a flat one.
Master cylinder with horn button.
Earlier, I mentioned using "replacement" parts versus "reproduction" parts. I decided to order a "replacement" ignition switch to save about $100. Big mistake.... (see photo) it gets shipped back. This is where sending orders by fax is a bad thing. You have the disadvantage of not being able to ask questions, but I still prefer faxing orders so I have a record of it. The dealer  had no problem with my returning the switch, so there was no real harm done. The other part in the photo is the brake return spring, which looks nothing like the original, and it went back too.
"Replacement" switch and spring.
When the May issue of the VI magazine hit the "stand", I immediately spotted yet another new part being made by a VI lister. Rob Olsen and the infamous Duffy, are building new hi-tech fiber clutch disk sets, so I got in touch right away, to put my order in. The Qua clutch would be nice too, but I just can't justify the cost. Roger Long, is selling a new reproduction 48-51 speedometer, but since they didn't let me know before I bought everything for the Corbin unit, I have to pass on using the later dash set up. Now if they could come up with a gear unit and cable to work with my Corbin rear wheel speedometer drive, I would jump on it, since this is really a 1950 frame bike.
KING clutch update
The new hi-tech KING clutch plates arrived, and I can honestly say I'm impressed with them. Very nice workmanship, and fit. While playing around with them, I noticed a tight spot in my transmission rotation, so I started investigating. All of the clearances were right, everything fit well, but something was causing a minor bind. After playing with different positions, I found that the problem was with second gear. When I pulled the transmission apart, there was nothing obvious, but I began to suspect a warp in the main shaft. I chucked the shaft up in the lathe, set up a dial indicator, and rotated the shaft by hand. Sure enough, it has a very slight .003" bend to it. First and third gears were smooth as silk, but second had one tight spot. I've heard of this happening, but I have never had a bent shaft myself. The .003" may sound pretty minor, but when the transmission is being spun by the engine, this would cause all kinds of excess wear, vibrations and possibly destroy the bearings. Guess I'll have to order a new shaft...... This may explain all the new gears, and the weld in the transmission case. I suspect that someone had grenaded the gear box, which required all new gears, but they didn't check the shaft. I almost made the same mistake but fortunately, I caught it. 
We're a little behind "real time" here. Since writing this part of his story Stan got to try the KING clutch plates in his '48 Chief and was so impressed with them that he became a dealer!
Click on the picture to go to Stan's KING site for more info -or to get a KING clutch of your own.
You may notice in the picture of the engine that the cases appear to be bead blasted, and left raw. They're actually painted with silver/gray engine paint from Harley Davidson (P/N 98606-EL). The can says it's metallic, but it doesn't come out that way. Painting the exterior makes fuel and oil clean up very easy with just a rag. Purists will want to leave them raw, as they came from the factory, but to me, low maintenance is a bigger priority than being correct.
Dry fitting engine. Notice paint.
I finished the measurements of the original front axle, and made a rough sketch of it with the required changes to adapt the HD front hub. Then I sent it off to a couple of VI listers for evaluation, and estimates. The only part I can't finalize on the axle is the spacer width, so I just made it extra long so it can be cut to fit as required. Since the new hub runs Timken bearings, it doesn't require a hardened surface like the original, which had roller bearings running directly on the hollow axle outer surface. The original axle was 5/8" diameter, and the new one will be 3/4" to accommodate the Timken bearing, but turned down at the thread end to use the original 5/8" axle nut. Tom Keene provided a draft drawing that he made up with a CAD program. Some changes were required due to an error in one of my measurements, but the drawing was pretty close. Tom then produced the axle and spacer, which fit the hub and bearings like a glove. Thanks Tom, you did a beautiful Job.
Original and new axles.

If you need parts made, Tom Keene's got a page on the VI Exchange. He's looking for 741 parts in trade for work.

With everything else on hold due to parts delays, I decided to fit the dash, and do the rough wiring. Since I am using an alternator, and incorporating a pre 48 dash, I'll have to modify the wiring slightly to accommodate the alternator and ammeter, but the wiring is fairly straight forward. My practice has always been to add at least two more ground wires than the factory used. I like to add one from the generator (alternator in this case) to the transmission, and one from the frame to the transmission. The factory grounds the battery to the frame, but this doesn't guarantee a solid ground to the engine and charging system, which is important. Poor grounding is probably the single biggest cause of electrical problems, so I make dead sure this isn't an issue. While I'm at it, I install a two wire polarized connector for charging the battery. This simplifies the connection of a battery tender, and makes it a simple plug in operation. There are lots of opinions out there about generators and alternators, but for final wiring decisions, I took my information from Dave Clements, John Welch and Mike Burns. From watching their electrical comments to other listers, I believe in the fact that they all have a clear understanding of the electrical and charging circuits. Wiring on an Indian is very simple, but it is easy to overlook things when making changes, so I chose to run my questions through the VI list before finalizing the connections. This proved to be very helpful, and pointed out some errors, which would have caused an excess amount of fiddling around to resolve. Thanks guys.
Here are Tom's drawings of the original and new axles.

VI Generator Page here!


I incorporated a 20 amp circuit breaker at both the battery end, and the alternator end, for added security. Unless you want to hide them between the tanks, there is room to put them on the upper frame cross member where the fender mounts. To do this, I bought 2 circuit breaker brackets, and pop riveted them under the cross bar. The brackets are used on late 70's HD Sportsters, as well as other models, and they are readily available. Some circuit breakers come with brackets on them, but they run the wrong direction, and would have been really ugly.
Circuit breakers.
As always, any questions or comments are welcome. Feel free to email me anytime. Due to the natural delays between construction, writing and publishing, this project is further along than the articles would indicate. Actual construction should be completed by around September 2000, when break in and testing for durability will begin. This will allow several months for working out any flaws or weaknesses, before I transport the bike to Riverside, CA. for the Century Ride to Springfield, MA. in July 2001. See you there. Stay tuned for the Century Ride Home website coming soon... 'Ride' info in the VI here!
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