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Ironhead Sportster Motorcycle Talk (1957-1985) For all those that wanna talk about Ironhead Sportster Motorcycles

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Old 26th December 2009
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piniongear piniongear is offline
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Default Piniongears Stories...My beginning on 2 wheels

Greetings and Happy New Year to all members,
Several members have asked me to post some of my stories here on the forum.
I have decided to start a new thread on this, so I do not intrude on someone else. This way you can read it if you want, or bypass it for more interesting material found elsewhere.
My apologies for the long content.

Maybe I will start at the beginning when I was around 11 years old. This story will not be about racing, but it will hopefully give you some background on what it was like for me to grow up in the late 1950s and what events triggered my interest in two wheelers and wrench work.

As a youngster my father was a salesman for a company that provided rubber lining for chemical tanks and such. He also was pretty handy with a hammer and nails, related to woodworking.

When I was 8 years old he built me a go cart out of wood. This cart had no engine. You had to have someone push you with a pole from behind as I steered with my feet. As it was built, he gave me instruction on how to use different methods of wood working, which seemed to stick with me for some reason.

After this cart was finished, I began to visit the Minimax grocery down the street to obtain fruit boxes that were thrown out after the fruit had been stocked in the store.
These containers were made of clear grain white pine. Pieced together, the ends made an excellent building material. I made many more carts out of this stuff during the next few years.

The carts kept getting bigger and bigger, along with having more detail. The last one to be built by my 16 year old friend Gary Cubbison and I was when I was 12. We were attending the auto races at the time which were held on a 3/8 mile asphalt track at a place called Playland Park here in Houston. Today, the Astrodome sits where the track was located on South Main Street.

There were a number of drivers we liked. Our favorite was car #58 driven by Buddy Rackley and sponsored by JH Rose Truck Lines.
The car was a 1932 Model B coupe painted a bright pink for the trucking firm. This car was a super modified class car.
Another driver of the time (who we did not like) was a young man who was just getting his start in car racing. We did not care for him because he was always bashing the other cars and was a really aggressive driver. His name was AJ Foyt and he drove car #2 as I recall.

We decided to model our last cart after #58. There were about 5 similar cars built by the kids in my neighborhood and we would get together and hold races. Smaller kids drove and bigger kids pushed.
I drove and Gary was a very strong engine!



But let's move on the the engine powered stuff.
I had a couple of cousins who lived in Benton Arkansas. The oldest was Kenneth Simmons who was the proud owner of a 1955 Piaggo motor scooter. The scooter was a 2 stroke made in Italy. It had an engine mounted on the right side and this type of scooter is still made today. I am sure everyone is familiar with this.



Pictured here is (from L to R) Kenneth, myself, my brother Kirk, and sister Leslie.

Kenneth bought the scooter from Sears who sold it under the Allstate brand name. Sears scooters were shown in the catalog of the day, and I spent hours upon hours looking and dreaming of someday owning one. That never happened.

I spent every minute possible in Arkansas riding on the back of that Piaggo.
Kenneth and I rode it day and night. He had a black leather motorcycle jacket with a turned up collar. His jean pant legs rolled up over his boots. He would often sing the song 'Terror of Highway 101' as we rode that wonderful Piaggo around town. Whenever on the scooter, I found myself on top of the world!

Of course I wanted a scooter myself. My dad hated motor scooters, motorcycles and anything connected to them. Soon I learned a lesson.
If I wanted to get something, this was best accomplished by going through Mom. Seems like that was always successful, although the old man never let up on his resistance.

My dad and his beloved Leica camera in 1955..............



Anyway, I somehow talked my dad into giving me some help.
I wanted to build my own motor bike and use a lawn mower engine to power it. I still wonder why he gave in, but perhaps he was certain I could never get it together. If so, he was wrong.

He asked a welder at the plant to take a girls bike and weld a small platform to the down tubes. This was neatly done and braced with additional tubing. Welded up with an acetylene torch, no less.

I got the 3hp Briggs engine mounted on the plate and fastened the throttle lever to the handlebar.
Now all I needed was a centrifugal clutch, a V belt, and a rear wheel pulley. The easy part was the clutch. I found one at the lawn mower shop.
Although I had once seen one of these rear wheel pulleys on an early Simplex, I had no idea at all of where to buy one.
Being not quite 12 years old, some things did not come easy.

A friend of mine came with me as we boarded a city bus to ride downtown to the Harley Davidson motorcycle shop. I was more than certain they would have the pulley I was looking for.

I still remember walking into that place in 1956. It was filled with huge motorcycles and huge grown ups! Most were wearing white billed 50 missions caps on their heads. I was completely intimidated by all of this I can assure you!

A fellow working behind the parts counter (Jack King Heller) asks me what he could do for me? I described what I was trying to build and needing a pulley. Many of the customers standing around the counter began laughing at this.
Jack smiled and said he did not have the pulley, but......'If you go 3 blocks down the street to Houston Safe and Lock, they will have both the pulley and the V belt you need.'

I walked out of that shop not knowing at the time that in a few short years I would be knowing these same people very well, especially Jack who became a very good friend 6 years later.

Back to the construction.....
Houston Safe did have the pulley and V belt. This pulley attached to the rear wheel spokes with screws and nuts.
I got the V belt lined up pretty straight and cranked the Briggs by wrapping a rope around the flywheel pulley. No recoil starter on that engine.

Since this was a bicycle frame with the pedals removed, the Bendix brake was useless. So my masterpiece had no brakes. That was OK with me. At that age and with almost no experience there was no way I could figure how to make a brake. Too complicated, and I wanted to ride....NOW!

I had 2 friends who were going to help me with the maiden flight of the motorbike. Our plan was for both of them to ride their bicycles ahead of me to check for traffic.
They would wave me through if no cars were coming, and alert me if there were any. Somehow I would be able to stop the bike by grounding out the spark plug and dragging my feet?

With the engine started, the bike took off with a shutter. It had a top speed of around 35 mph.
The ride was to be about 1-1/4 miles, ending at a Chuck Wagon hamburger place where we planned to celebrate.
The first 3 intersections were clear of cars, and I was waved through. The last intersection was a Tee intersection, and I had to make a sharp left hand turn.
I did not see the stop sign. The guys were waving me through.
Man, I was flying! As I made the left turn I did see the 1954 Ford Houston Police car sitting at the stop sign though.

A short way down the road I pulled into the Chuck Wagen. I also had company!
The police officer wrote me 3 tickets....
Running a stop sign
No driver's license
No license plate
I had no idea I had to have such things.

As an 11-1/2 year old I had to go to court accompanied by both parents. As you might guess, dear old dad was just fuming over this.Thanks to mom, he calmed down. To his dying day dad never liked motorcycles though.

The same police officer who wrote me those tickets would have another run in with me 3 years later. This would also be a far more serious matter, but in the end he would be helping me out of a sizable jam.

Later on he would be involved in a horrible collision while chasing a suspect and be badly injured, retiring from duty on a disability.

So what do kids do today? It seems like they sit in front of a TV or video game instead of playing with wrenches and tools.
When I was a kid of course it was a much different world. We were always building one thing or another as our recreation.
I do not mean to sound like a grumpy old fart, but I guess I am what I am.
I will post some more later, if anyone wants to read it.
pg

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Old 26th December 2009
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Very interesting story, pg. I was never fortunate enough to have all the "cool" video games, but now that I'm an adult, I realize that I'm the fortunate one. Sometimes all you need are some materials, drill bits, and fasteners. That's the real fun!

Great story, and awesome pictures! Must have been a nice era to grow up in.
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Old 26th December 2009
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Oh, thank you so much, Pinion, that's such a nice prezzie for us to read!!!

Patrick
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Old 26th December 2009
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Great story and well written.Keep it coming...
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Old 26th December 2009
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Yep Me Too as a kid we built go carts as we called them out of wood we had a big hill that was paved we would roll down the hill with a push start but the person pushing could not cross the start line we also built chopper Bicycles out of junk bikes in the trash long forks little tires on the front wide tires on the back with a long tall sissy bar and ape hangers man what fun that was and we all had fun and worked together
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Old 26th December 2009
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Great Story...

I can really relate!

Sam
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Old 26th December 2009
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Pinion,

You are lucky to have such memories and photos. For most of us, these things got lost in family moves, liquor binges, and 3rd wives burning our belongings.....
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Old 26th December 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fergerburger View Post
Pinion,

You are lucky to have such memories and photos. For most of us, these things got lost in family moves, liquor binges, and 3rd wives burning our belongings.....
Yes, I agree. I have few pictures of the main collections of different motorcycles I had because my father..... as I have said, loved photography but hated motorcycles. As a result, few pics were ever taken.
I have very few pics of my racing career, but will post the few I do have later.
pg
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Old 26th December 2009
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An enjoyable read...please keep 'em coming.
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Old 26th December 2009
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great stuff. brings back memories, though ya got me by quite a few years. another vote for more.
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