I HEARD THROUGH a friend of a friend, that there was this airline pilot who owned a 1926 JD Harley. Apparently he was going to fly it back to the States and the Harley Motor Co. were all set to do a straight swap, the JD for a brand new motorcycle. I got the bloke’s number pronto and arranged a meeting to see the bike. Sure enough, in the shed, sat a 1926 Harley, a bit worse for wear, but pure beauty in my eyes. There was no way I was going to let this bloke ship the ol’ girl over to the States to swap for a new bike. A deal was made, on to the ute she rolled and then back home.
This happened back in 1997, about five months before I was due to leave New Zealand for overseas travel, so I thought it best to get stuck into cleaning her up and preserve the ol’ girl, so when the time came for me to settle down from my travels, I didn’t have a fully rusted out heap on my hands. I set to and did a full pull-down and rebuild, repairing dents, corrosion, and using a 2-pak paint system, which after eleven years, looks as good as the day it was done.
I was very fortunate that the bike was pretty much complete and only a few minor parts were needed. I sourced these parts through enthusiast groups, and with the help of the local retired engineer wiz, the fine machining was done. In full stock trim the bike now runs the original 1000 cc v-twin side-valve, inlet-over-exhaust (IOE), three speed trans, 6 volt electrics, and rear brake only.
I acquired the Electra Glide some time later in 2003. This bike was owned by a long time friend of the family who had purchased it in 1982 when it first arrived in New Zealand after fulfilling its duties as police bike in Florida. I had done many miles riding beside this machine, when we would go on runs together. Bob (the owner) mentioned to me that he thought it was time to let her go and gave me first option. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, but when the time came to hand over the cash, Bob would shake his head and tell me he had second thoughts. Much to my frustration, this went on for quite some time as he found it hard to let go.
Finally the deal was done and I was the proud owner of a 1969 Electra Glide. To me, things couldn’t get much better than this! I didn’t care about the worn paint and scratches, a rattling old Genny Shovel, or the trail of smoke she billowed as I rumbled down the road. Once again, as with the ’26 JD, in my eyes it was a thing of pure beauty! It was a TRUE Harley!
In March ’07, I decided to pull the FLH off the road for a full ‘ground up’ restoration. Oil consumption was high, the engine was rattling more and more and I had time on my side. Exactly one year later, the project was finished and I rolled her off the work bench with a hassle free start-up.
I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to originality and I have kept her exactly how she would have been when she rolled out of the factory in Milwaukee back in 1969, apart from the addition of an oil pressure gauge off the rocker cover. This bike is 100 percent original. I only had to out-source a couple of minor parts, so as far as a restoration project goes, it was a dream. I am not a mechanic, nor do I have a big shop. Basically I’m just a sign-writer with a shed who loves to detail classic machinery and help to preserve history.
Pics by Jo; words by Jeff Marshall