Project Generator(s)   
Updated 11/99   Home / Archives / Generators
This page was kinda getting a little out of hand, so I've rearranged the info already here + added some more. Let me know how you like it!

For today's riding conditions (and maybe some of us getting used to the performance of modern bikes?) the electrical system, and the battery charging in particular, must be one of the items most often complained about. There's lots that can be done about it, besides making sure the stock system is in good shape.

Here's a presentation of some of the options, including the Cycle Electric 12V Chief replacement generator that came about as a result of a VI project! This is a pretty long page, so I think it's easiest to navigate using the blue links.

1) Cycle Electric: New 12V DC. Development story.
2) Bosch 12V DC, from VW/Opel cars, direct fit on Indians.
3) Kubota 12V AC: How to fit one inside an Autolite Indian generator! New 11.13.99
4) Suzuki Samurai/Chevy Sprint/Geo Metro 12V AC car type alternators. Updated 11.14.99
5) Alton. French 12V AC replacement for Chiefs & Scouts.
6) Police Special 6V DC (but lots of amps!); optional Indian generator.
7) Fritz's adaption of the SF 12V AC for HDs.
8) How to convert your stock Autolite to 12V.

And here's the dimensions of the stock Autolite generator (handy if you're going on a scrap yard safari) + some conversation from the VI mailing list on Indian generator basics.

1) CE Generator. Developments so far (newest entries on top, so read bottom-up).
Here's a picture of the CE! Retail price probably less than $200 and around $240 with the endmount regulator (which will not clear Chum-me seat springs). Uses stock pulley (not included). Talk to your local Indian dealer - or Cotten's shop, Liberty Motorcycle Specialties! (phone number below, or email him).

I have already urged Cycle Electric to start a volume run of the new units. I hope that the distributors such as Starklite and Kiwi will do us all a favor and fuel the fire with requests also, and make them available to the general public. There should soon be appropriate regulators and mounting hardware available also, although the Bosch unit riveted to the dust strap worked well. The only rub: the End-mount regulator version that they offer will not allow for Chumme assist springs, but a stock Chief would look funny with that space-age unit anyway. Great for a Bobber though!
If you would like a real-time conversation, call me at the shop (309-246-3509 any weekday afternoon CDT) Cotten

Please note that Cotten's got a new email address! I may not have found all the old "mailto" links to him & corrected them.
My apologies for being away so long, but I moved to a serverless void in the cyber-cosmos. Just as Mr. Kieslers' end-mount unit installed easily, so did the basic unit: As noted before, a mechanical regulator was used on this prototype, just to avoid an anachronous appearance (and to be cheap, since dead Sportsters abound hereabouts). Similarly, a tired (but fully charged ) stupid-glide YB16-B battery was hastily blocked up to the hold-down frog. With a 'flash' for polarity, the system works beautifully even at a relaxed idle.
We can all inspect them at Davenport, although production scheduling may not get marketable ones to me in time. CE has not informed me of a retail price as of yet, either. Cycle Electric sells wholesale only, so those of you who would be interested in ordering should catch me at my booth (W-02) or bug your local dealer to contact them directly. When time allows, (and I re-familiarize with a new cpu, isp, etc.), I shall post photos and hopefully some rpm vs voltage readouts. Cotten

Cotten has received the prototype generator from CE for testing on a Chief. Stay tuned for the results!

The Cycle Electric generator is almost ready for testing.

(3.20.99): Cotten writes: Carl at Cycle Electric has indicated that the first prototype for chassis testing shall be arriving at my shop soon, as well as units for those of us from the List that have requested them! As soon as I have it installed into a client's 348, I shall be doing rpm vs output readings to verify streetability. The main concern is the effect of heat off of the motor, although data for CE's H-D replacement would imply that only Death Valley (or a regulator malfunction) would push the limit.(Consider also the heat that a H-D unit must endure from conduction direct from the motorcase). My own bias prefers a unit without internal regulation, however the first requests from others on the lists have been for end-mount anachronisms. Oops my bias slipped through again. CE prefers 'end mount regulators also, as they would not want to warranty a unit that failed because we used an Acc*l piece of ***. (MY OWN WORDS, not CE's; I could have easily substituted 'CCI piece of crap'. Personally, I suspect that a decent Taiwan regulator or Bosch-style mechanical coupled to the appropriate battery will be perfectly serviceable, but undoubtedly will endanger your warranty.) When you do order from CE, they will be more than happy to produce the regulator configuration proper for your battery of choice. I shall need suggestions, however, as to what battery configuration will be best for general application: What 12v battery fits best in the 'fake cases', and/or what alternatives are available? Feedback please!
Once again, gear-driven Scout models require a different armature drive-end, and we need a core to copy. Internal polarity is no problem. Thanks again to John for his patience in lending the relics to be studied for this project.

(3.4.99): The CE is coming along nicely. While not a real Autolite replica, the CE at least promises to be suitably old looking. It is also a piece of traditional high quality american equipment, and spares will be readily available, as the internals are CE's well known HD parts. The end of the shaft is specially made for the Chief pulley.

There are 2 generator projects as such running at the moment: Cotten & John's effort with CE for a 12V DC generator, and the Alton 12V AC generator (alternator) in France. None of them are "grounds up" VI projects, so there's no Project Page for them. Updates will be posted here + on the VI mailing list.

Cotten and John are investigating the possibilities of Cycle Electric (makers of high quality 12V generators for HDs) mounting their internal parts in stock Autolite shells.

(2.14.99): Cotten writes: I called Carl at Cycle Electric about Autolite progress: He feels it is viable, but is tied up with the impending Indianapolis Dealer Expo. He indicated that he would measure and return at least the armature next week. Patience. Cotten

(1.20.99): Cotten and John are encouraging Cycle Electric, Inc., (makers of high quality replacement generators and SS regulators for H-Ds) to develop units to fit stock mounting hardware. John has graciously loaned an example to sent for copy. It is hoped that this effort will spawn reasonably priced, contemporary versions with vintage appearance, and requiring little engineering at home; a "bolt-on for the masses."

Listers! I called Carl at: Cycle Electric, inc, P.O.Box 81, Englewood, Ohio 45322. Tel 937-884-7300 or 800-523-2645 (sadly, no e-mail)
He assured me that he had recieved previous requests for Autolite replacements, but the "dead soldier" he was to dissect for dimensions, etc., had never arrived.
As I mentioned before, this is the producer of the finest H-D generators and SS regulators, (reasonably retailing at ~$185 and ~$56 respectively) and would welcome the opportunity to fill our void.  He was already aware of the pulley drive and  directional differences, which is pretty encouraging. Since we were mostly concerned with a 12v unit, the internals (and external regulator) are of minor importance at this time. Most of us however, would like a unit that fits in the original bracket, and has a tri-lobed endcap bearing cover like the real thing.
If we could come up with a fossil loaner for him, we may have fruit by Labor Day (AMCA Blackhawk's Davenport Meet) This is an established manufacturer that I have done business directly with for some time, and this could lead to 6v armatures for original replacement, etc. Anybody got a fried one they would like to loan for a while? Cotten

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2) Ole Martin Mobeck from Norway runs a 12V Bosch DC generator on his Chief, and reveals all on the VI Tech Tip page for Electrics! -Where you can also find a good tip on how to change generator drive belt on your Chief without removing the drive pulley.
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3) Steve Adams knows of a Kubota alternator that fits inside a stock Autolite housing: "The best set up I have seen", says Steve, "except for an extra wire it was hidden. The alternator and regulator are both mounted inside the case. Clean". OK, and here is Greg's step-by-step description of how to do it!

New 11.13.99 Here is the info on the 12 volt Kubota alternator I promised some time ago, unfortunately my step by step photos failed. I used the Kubota fixed magnet alternator and companion regulator (part #s 1553164010 & 1926764602) at a cost of about $400 Canadian.
  I dismantled the alternator and turned down the the body to the diameter of an original generator case ( this is critical as the original generator mount will cover this seam and clamp on both pieces) and squared up the sides of the small lip on the back. I then shortened the drive end of an original generator case (with all internals removed) about 1.5" and relieved the inside edge to accept the lip of the alternator. This lip allows the pinning of the old and new with 3 set screws thru the gen case into the alternator body. I also drilled and tapped the alternator body to accept 2 thru bolts to hold the outer gen cover in place. This alternator is unusual in that the whole outer shell (with the magnets) spins, but it is not noticeable when stopped or running. It needs to turn very fast and so the outer pulley half is replaced by a small pulley (about 1" diameter) with the inner flange machined off.
   There is now room to mount the regulator (actually diode board and heat sink) inside the gen case. As this unit needs no exciter there is only one wire coming out of the generator and it can pass thru a dummy cut out. I have been running this unit on my 37 Chief with sidecar most of the year with no problems. I have a Halogen H4 in the original headlite, a dash lite, a speedo lite, 2 tail lites and electronic Ignition (another tale to tell) and the Kubota equipment more than keeps up while running around town at 30 mph.
   The modifications are realy not to difficult and can be done in a couple of hours but will require access to a lathe. If anyone wants more info please contact me........ all charged up.... Greg Yerex

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4) Steve Adams says that Kiwi Indian has had good experience with the (admittedly not exactly pretty) Suzuki Samurai altenator, and says they put out some 55A and can be found cheap in wrecking yards. The same Nippondenso alternator is used on Geo Metros, Chevy Sprints & Suzuki Swifts, but possibly with an "serpentine" multi groove belt pulley. Kiwi has a customer running this set up on a '51 Chief seeing daily use.

-And here's how Mike Burns did it!  New 11.14.99

I started with a bracket which I bought from KIWI. It was advertised as a bracket to mount a Chevy Sprint alternator on a chief. The guy at the junkyard where I bought my alternator said that the Chevy Sprint is an early version of a Geo Metro, and that the alternator is the same. I have since been told that a Suzuki Samuri alternator is the same as well, but I cannot confirm that. The Chevy sprint, and Geo metro do both use a Suzuki motor, so itís probably true. Kiwiís part number was 75537R. The price was $59.95 The bracket mounts to the same vertical frame tube where the generator bracket was. You use the end cap off of the old generator bracket. If you donít have one you can buy them from Stark, Kiwi, or any dealer.
 The bracket will offset the alternator somewhat. You install it so that the alternator is shifted toward the right side as I recall. Otherwise the pulleys wouldnít line up anyway. The alternator goes above the bracket.
 I had to go to the next size longer belt, which is a Gates #2220. I canít remember for sure why. Either I couldnít get the bracket low enough for the old belt to fit, or I needed the longer belt for the alt. pulley to clear the belt guard. Anyway the 2220 belt fixed it.
 For the battery I measured the old shell, and then went through the JC Whitney catalog where they show sizes, and terminal locations. There were 2 or 3 that were pretty good sized. I used a #YB16B-A. The cost was $34.99. Since the old battery was held in place by the old gen. bracket, youíve got to come up with a new way of securing the battery. I went to a local auto parts store and bought 2 generic battery hold down rods, with a 90degree angle on one end and 1/4-20 threads on the other end. I removed the battery tray and hooked the new hold downs under the bottom of the tray, and welded them in place. Then you just mount the tray back in the frame. That way you can always put everything back original if you wish to. I made a flat iron bracket to slip over the top of the 2 holddowns, held in place with a couple of lock nuts.
 The electrical hookup is typical and simple if youíre familiar with that sort of thing. I ran a very heavy line from the main output of the alt. direct to the battery. From the same post I looped through an automatic reset circuit breaker then into the red/white wire in the wiring harness which goes to the switch. Be sure to protect the system by using properly sized circuit breakers or fuses.
 The bracket comes with a wiring diagram for wiring the 3 pin connector on the alternator. As I recall it was accurate and self explanatory. An alternator requires 12 volt dc to be applied to one of those pins in order to work. Thus you must have a battery with at least a very slight charge in it, in order for the alternator to work. You will end up with a spare wire in your harness for this purpose. ( I think it was the green/white but am not sure about that). Since you dont want this 12 volts present unless the key is on, you can get it either from the ignition terminal of the switch, or from the + side of the coil, which is electrically the same point. I think I used the switch only because it looks a little better.
 I may have a rough diagram of how I actually wired mine if you decide to do this, and if you need it.
  Most 12 volt cars have a resistor in the main line somewhere between the battery and the + side of the coil. There are a variety of forms of this. One form is to have the resistor built right into the coil. Iím not positive whether or not the resistor is necessary in this setup, but I didnít want to take any chances so I bought a coil with the built in resistor. I bought a cheap one at Autozone. It is a Wells brand #LU800 import coil. I think it might have been for a Toyota. The cost was $15.99. The purpose of the resistor is to limit the current through the coil, wiring, and points, when the points are closed. Without the resistor youre looking at a direct short. I donít really know why this is not a problem with the old 6 volt systems unless those coils also have a built in resistor.
 The new coil is about the same size and mounts right in the old bracket.
 You donít need to change points or condenser.
 Theoretically, you need to change the horn  to 12 volt, but I didnít do it. I figured that the horn is on for such a short time that it would probably be ok. This has proven to be true. In fact it really works great.
 Any 12 volt 7 inch round headlight should probably work. I chose an H6024. This is a halogen light which will plug right onto the old connector, though probably any other one would too. You can buy this light anywhere.
 I researched the lamps in order to come up with the 12 volt equals. Your tailight # will depend on wether you have the original socket or a more modern replacement one. One has pins straight across, the other has offset pins. Mine had the original straight across pins. The 12 volt lamp number is #1176. If you have offset pins it uses a very common lamp which was used in nearly every 12 volt tailight for 20 or 30 years, but the number escapes me at the moment.
 For front fender light I used either a #57 or a # 1895. I think that the 57 is the one I went with. The 1895 has a longer life rating.
 For the speedo light, and charge light (on a 48 and others with a charge light) I used a # 53 lamp.
 If your tailight has straight across pins, you have to be careful to make sure the lamp is installed correctly. It will fit either way but if you put it in wrong you probably wonít notice your brakelight if your lights are on.
 One thing I might try different if I were doing it over is this. In JC Whitney catalogs you can buy a 7 inch headlamp shell which uses a plug in halogen lamp. I think theyíre even brighter, and the replacement lamps are very small. You should use care with all halogen lamps, and not touch them with your bare hands. Use a clean cloth .
 Another thing I did was to wedge a rubber piece between the alternator and frame tube so it wouldnít flop around. I also made an adjuster which runs from the top of the alternator up through the frame/helper spring bracket. Itís pretty neat, but Iíve never used it. Itís never needed adjusted yet. It probably was unnecessary.
 This whole set up will apparently charge at about any speed. Since 12 volt lamps only draw 1/2 of the current of 6 volt units, the battery becomes less of a factor. Couple this with the fact that the modern lamps are brighter anyway, and the modern 12 volt batteries are so powerful, and good, and it has been a good combination for me.
 This is how I did mine. Iím not an automotive or motorcycle electrical expert, but Iíve done a lot of wiring in my life, and understand general electronics. If you arenít familiar with this stuff, or arenít qualified, youíd be better to round up the materials, and find a qualified friend or shop to help you out with the work.
 Some of this is from memory, but you should get the idea. Hope this helps. Mike Burns

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5) French Alton alternator (12V 160W), the tireless VI listers have supplied Paul of Alton with the Autolite measurements & general feedback needed to judge the viability of the Indian Alton -it look likes a go! Update 11.11.99: No news of this lately, but there's a picture of their brit bike version here!

(3.20.99): There has been conflicting info on the Alton, but the word from Paul (Alton boss) himself is that it's not quite ready yet! Sorry for the confusion!

(3.4.99): Two prototypes of the Alton has been made and we will get pictures soon. Stay tuned.

2.14.99): There are 2 generator projects as such running at the moment: Cotten & John's effort with CE for a 12V DC generator, and the Alton 12V AC generator (alternator) in France. None of them are "grounds up" VI projects, so there's no Project Page for them. Updates will be posted here + on the VI mailing list.

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6) Now, there's the optional Police Special 6V generator, too, for those who like to see where they're going at night (or are carting a "period" vacuum tube radio around?). This device (a "cut down" Delco) seems to give good results, but it is a BIG generator. Michael Breeding is just making moulds for the PS bracket. Michael's online catalog is here. Keith in TN has measured his PS. Diameter = 4-7/32". He says that some PS were Autolite, but his is Delco. Anyone??
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7) Fritz ( writes about his prototype Chief generator based on the 12V AC SF device for HDs: The alternator was made from a unit I found that is being sold to upgrade the Harley big twin generator 69 and earlier and sportster 85 and earlier. I took it and made a new body, shaft and spacer. Also I made it so the shaft would accept a pulley insted of a gear. I did, about a year ago, talk to the manufacturer about the changes to make it fit Indian and he stated it would be no problem. I imagine the cost to be somewhere about the same as the Alton unit. Only difference would be its 32 amp and American made with a voltage regulator available at any Harley dealer. So replacement parts would be no concern. Picture of Fritz' generator prototype here!

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Hey! Note this all you generator tinkerers!

8) Autolite dimensions as follows:

ID= 3 1/16",  OD = 3 9/16", LGTH= 5 11/16",  LGTH O/A= 7" excluding shaft, Center of mount bracket to Center of pulley= 3 5/16".  John

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A little mailing list correspondance that initiated the VI quest for the perfect generator. Read from the top down.

  The two main brushes are 180* apart as in conventional two brush systems. The third, or regulating, brush is located near the negative main brush. The distance it is located from the negative brush determines the charge rate and which side it is on is determined by the direction of armature rotation.
  In a CW rotating generator, the third brush will be CCW from the neg. brush and opposite for a CCW gen. In either case, moving it in the direction of rotation, or closer to the neg. brush will increase the charge rate.
  Indian did not make a dual point distributor that I am aware of. The existing setup is already single fire. If your reference is to changing a HD single point to a dual setup, be advised that the point cam is also different. Changing only the top will not work.  John

Question: why would Indian make two generators that are driven in the opposite directions? Are they driven from 2 different places & can you polarize them to work in either or bike? Jake

Jake, The drive arrangement differs between Chiefs & Scouts. The Chief is CW while the Scout is CCW. The design of three brush generators dictates the location of the third brush relative to the main brush rigging and is determined by direction of rotation. It cannot be reversed without major surgery to the generator.   John

Also to Fred,  I may be wrong, but I believe the design of automotive alternators renders them blind to rotation. I have spun them in both directions and obtained an output of correct polarity.

The Chief generator housing and the Scout housing are the same size, the only difference is the arrangement of the brushes in the brush plate as the rotation of the generators are opposite of each other. Jim

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Neat 12 conversion for stock Autolites

   Here's another 12 volt conversion that I've been toying with. I haven't seen this approach mentioned before but it works, at least on the test stand.
  When I was scrounging thru my generator parts to find samples for Cotten's CE project, I found sufficient parts to assemble a complete unit less field coils and the spring for the third brush holder. The armature went to Cotten and while awaiting it's return, I ordered a 12 volt replacement coil from Stark and installed it. When the armature came back (in like new condition, thanks to Cotten) I assembled the unit, but as I was still missing the spring, I connected it in a two brush configuration by connecting the field coil to the + main brush and removing the third brush assembly. I mated it with an ACCEL electronic regulator that is used to replace the HD mechanical types and tested it in a generator test stand.The output was 13.4 volts at about 2800 RPM generator speed (just under 40 MPH with a 24 tooth sprocket). The max current was 10 amps and, I believe, is the max that the regulator will allow. Field current was 2.35 amps at max output.
  I subsequently acquired the spring and reconfigured to a three brush unit and retested. The results were the same. Apparently, the third brush is not needed with this type of regulator but I will leave it for protection in the event that the regulator might fail. I plan to install the unit on my '52 over the winter to determine its capability under actual road conditions. One further point, it can be used without a battery installed.
   My total cost was about $40 US for the coil as I already had the regulator which retails for $50-$75 US depending on manufacturer, so the total conversion would be about $100-$125 for parts. With the generator on the bench, it could be done in about an hour. My longest time was to fabricate a bracket to mount the regulator in its original location on the high output style band.  John

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