Rust Bucket

April 1 2011

Wheeling and dealing often takes a strange twist. In this case, Buddy has a boat for sale, and accepts an ’81 Ironhead Sportster as part of the deal. Now he is stuck with a bike in the corner of his garage that he needs to find a home for because he has absolutely no interest in it.

Luc LeBlanc from Kent County Custom in New Brunswick had heard about the stock Sportster, and inquiries were made. After wheeling and dealing, Luc became the new owner of the bike, which then became a fixture in his shop until a plan and time to work on it came together. One day Luc was working on a friend’s bike, and as he and Big Rick were tinkering away the lonely old sporty leaning in the corner came up in conversation. Big Rick suggested they do something with it and later that night, Luc had a vision of a really low, heavily chopped, drop-seat frame with a stretched swingarm wrapping around a monster tire on the back.

Since this was a personal project, Luc couldn’t commit to working on it through the day in his busy shop, so the plan was that he and Big Rick would work at it only during the evenings. The pair figured they could have it ready for the upcoming Digby Wharf Rat Rally in Nova Scotia; the only problem was that the Wharf Rat Rally was only seven days away.

With no time to waste, the pair got to work immediately, stripping the bike to the bare frame, and then the cutting began – first, lopping off the rear section of the frame. Steel tubing was cut, bent and welded to create Luc’s vision of the low drop-seat, while a swingarm was formed and welded to hold the 240 mm tire.

Knowing that the right-hand final drive of the Sportster’s transmission would be too short to get around the fat rear tire, Luc opted for a longer transmission shaft as opposed to an intermediate jackshaft. The longer transmission shaft, however, meant that Luc had to manufacture a bearing support to keep the longer shaft running true. There wasn’t any time to order parts, so any components that weren’t part of the original Sporty were either machined or manufactured, or they were extra parts that Luc had kicking around the shop that he made fit.

Burning the midnight oil for a couple of nights allowed Luc and Big Rick to do a lot of work on the bike, but if the Sporty was going be ready for the Wharf Rat Rally, they would have to put in even more hours. Big Rick took the remaining two days off work, and the pair plugged away steadily for the next couple of days and nights in order to get the job finished.

You can’t have a pretty bike in seven days. There was no time to clean up the welds or to paint, even if on the first day they had thought about colours or a painter. The frame was part original black and part bare steel with hints of purplish blue from the heat of the welds. The engine had a 30-year patina that Luc liked and had no intention of changing, so to keep up with the rough “vintage” look, the duo decided that rust would be the colour of choice.

To begin the rusting process, Luc sandblasted all the metal pieces and then gave them a quick wash with acid and a final rinse with water. Final assembly began, and on the seventh day the bike was in running order with the exception of the fuel tank. It seems the tank had its own rust forming inside it from sitting in a corner for too many years, so it had to be sent out for an internal cleansing.

Luc picked the gas tank up on the way to the Wharf Rat Rally and finished mounting the tank and a few other loose ends in the trailer once they arrived in Digby.

And on the eighth day, Luc and Big Rick rested as they had accomplished their task.



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