when I was prompted to get my motorbike license as a “latecomer”. At the time, I decided to purchase a small chopper: the “SAVAGE” from Suzuki, a single-cylinder steam hammer developing 34 hp. I didn’t have the budget for a real Harley. Besides, shortly before that I had fulfilled a dream: to buy a brand new Fiat Spider, which I still own and drive today.
The Suzuki is a nice motorcycle and short distances are really fun, but for people over 180 cm tall longer distances become torture. So it was sold. Then there was a pause in motorcycling – at first. One day, while I was filling up, an advertising paper came to hand. It offered used Harleys, including a Shovelhead Electra Glide from 1971, converted to Wide Glide, in turquoise. One day later, I was off to Paderborn to look at the vehicle. What rolled out of the garage was exactly what I had in mind: foot rests brought forward, different fenders, Wide Glide fork, flat seat, wonderful handlebars, and lowered a little. This machine is still graces my garage today.
Another day refueling, another advertising paper: this time an Indian Scout 741, built in 1941. To be collected in Poland, near Poznan. The trip was an ordeal and lasted three days. The reason for this was the legendary Oder river flood. What awaited me at the destination was an Indian converted to a chopper.
If I had already known then what I know now, the motorcycle would have stayed there. As it turned out later, everything was scrap except for the frame and the engine. But I did not let myself be discouraged and worked on restoring the Indian with a friend over a period of two years. A few years later, I took the engine with me to New Zealand to have it tuned. The displacement was increased from 500 to almost 750 ccm. Now it really takes off like a cat on a hot tin roof. Another Scout 741 followed, but this time the offer came from the Bremen area. According to the seller, it was a Scout from France – completely dismantled. This alone made the transport easier.
Again, there was a lot of work to do. At that time, Eastern Europe was an Eldorado for spare parts, because the Americans had delivered a lot of machines of this type to Russia during World War II. During the dismantling, we discovered seals that had been cut from Russian children’s books. A bike from France? Pull the other one.
About ten years ago, Indian number 3 came along. This time, an auction portal on the Internet lured fans with the model “Indian Chief” in various designs. I chose a machine in black. The seller came from the Cologne area and I won the auction – unfortunately, one could say. It started at the very first kick. To this day, it is a mystery to me how the seller managed to achieve this. The engine ran, but smoked like an old locomotive. At some point, the smoking stopped, because presumably the oil had run out. I was so blinded that I still bought the thing and happily drove back to Ulm. Three attempts at reconstruction were required. But for several years now, the Chief has been running flawlessly.
Number four was, fittingly, an Indian Four – the crowning glory. As the name suggests, it is a four-cylinder engine. With its big mudguards, this model of Indian is in my eyes the most beautiful motorcycle ever built, despite the fact that it is not very easy to repair. The search was extremely difficult. Finally, I wrote to all known Indian clubs and asked them to publish a search ad. Only the advertisement at the Indian Four Club USA was crowned with success. However, I was offered pure junk at exorbitant prices. One day, there was a mail from New Zealand in my mailbox, in which I was offered a complete Four with papers at what at first sight appeared to be a fair price. Negotiations dragged on for a year; a friend in the country went for a test drive. I trusted his expertise. The assessment sounded quite reasonable: Engine runs, brakes brake, only the clutch has to be renewed. Done!
Three weeks later, my Four was floating on a cargo ship towards Europe and then home to me. Hardly unpacked, I pushed the motorcycle into the garage yard and swung myself into the saddle. My wife was happy for me and photographed everything. Actually, I had really planned not to ride it until everything was thoroughly checked. But then the devil whispered into my ear: I got on, put in the gear and off I went. The initial burst of joy lasted for only a short time, up to the first curve to be precise. I would have landed in the field by a hair’s breadth, since the brakes showed practically no effect and my feet had to take over this task.
Since it was already the end of September and the season was over, I decided to begin with the restoration immediately. The place was unusual, but my ever-forgiving wife gave her permission for me to dismantle the motorcycle in the living room. My home is my workshop! With the exception of the engine and gearbox, practically everything was examined closely and then repainted, re-chromed or nickel-plated. The approval by the German roadworthy authority (TÜV) was a formality. Over the nex weeks and months, I drove quite a few kilometers over the Swabian Alb and gained practice and experience; the Four with her leaf suspension fork had a completely different road response from my other Indians. My stock of experience grew, but unfortunately also the consumption of fuel and oil. To make things worse, the engine performance decreased. Operating the clutch and shifting the gears also became more and more difficult.
So I took the Four to a specialist. His diagnosis was sobering: There was no moving part in the engine and gearbox that wasn’t totally worn out and close to failure. Thomas the expert quoted an estimate to get everything back on track. I was speechless and my wife said wistfully: “That would have been my new kitchen.” Time and budget constraints were exceeded by far, but the waiting was worth the effort. Now the machine runs like a dream. The motor characteristics are completely different from those of the V engines. It sounds like a mixture between a Cadet engine without exhaust and a turbine. By the way, my engines and gearboxes have never broken down because of the lubrication. There were always other factors, like material fatigue or the poor quality of the repro parts. For my Shovelhead, I use the “Harley Honey” – HD-Classic SAE 50 Street from LIQUI MOLY. This viscosity is necessary because, with multi-grade oil, the Harley hydraulic tappets no longer work properly and the valve train sounds like a sewing machine.
LIQUI MOLY HD-Classic SAE 50 Street
LIQUI MOLY Chrome Gloss Cream
The engines of the two Scouts and that of the Chief run with SAE 20W-50 HD – of course also from LIQUI MOLY – and I am very satisfied with it, because there is practically no metallic abrasion to be found in the oil. To ensure that I can keep an eye on wear and because the engines all have no oil filters, I have placed magnets in the oil tanks. In this way, I can monitor whether metal fragments accumulate over time. The SAE 85W-90 transmission fluid is used in the primary drive and the transmissions of Scout and Chief. Here the drain plugs are equipped with a magnet and no abrasion is visible, although gear shifting sometimes sounds a bit brutal, due to the construction. The LIQUI MOLY experts advised me on lubricants.
Let’s talk about the Four. Since there are many different opinions and recommendations, I again turned to the experts at LIQUI MOLY. Unlike the V engines, the motor does not have dry sump lubrication, but pressure circulation and con rods with plain bearings. Because the engine, gearbox and clutch share the oil from the oil pan, I use LIQUI MOLY Classic SAE 20W-50 HD.
LIQUI MOLY Motorbike Multispray
When it comes to vehicle care, I also trust LIQUI MOLY completely. The chain oil adheres excellently and significantly prolongs the service life. I cannot list all of the many LIQUI MOLY products on the shelf in my garage. But rest assured that LIQUI MOLY has everything you need for professional, value-conserving vehicle care – including your car, of course. Accordingly, my Fiat Spider received the prescribed motor oil from the outset. Compression is still optimal after 36 years and 110,000 kilometers. At this point, I would like to thank everyone who helped me over the years with my hobby.
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