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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Scout Special

Back in the mid-‘80s I was running a custom motorcycle shop out of a small building on Highway 90 in Del Rio, Texas. We worked mostly on Harley, British, and European bikes. I wasn’t getting rich, but I liked going to work every day.

One morning the phone rang. The gentleman on the other end of the line was a university professor from Texas A&M who was on a trip to Big Bend National Park with a buddy and their two wives; it was the first time the wives had agreed to accompany their husbands on such an adventure. They were camped in the Chisos Basin in the park which is about six hours drive from Del Rio.

The professor explained that the front wheel bearing had failed on his late-model FLHT, and, at that time, there were no motorcycle shops any closer than mine. He was concerned that if their trip was spoiled he’d never get his wife on the bike again.

I made him a price on driving out to Big Bend and said I’d bring wheel bearings and tools, and, if repairs weren’t possible, haul him, the missus, and the bike back to Del Rio. He agreed so I loaded the stuff in my ‘53 International Harvester pick-up and headed west.

Upon arriving I broke the wheel down and discovered that that particular model of FLHT used a Timken tapered roller bearing on one side, but a flat needle-bearing on the other. I had the Timken bearing with me but not the needle-bearing. The professor was looking pretty glum.

I thought a bit and said, “You know, I’ve got a customer who works park maintenance down at Panther Junction. He’s got an older FLH that he was telling me needs a top-end. Let’s go pay him a visit and see what may be done.

We found my buddy, and after explaining the situation, he readily agreed to loan his front wheel so the professor could finish his tour. We loaded his smoking FLH in the back of my truck to go to Del Rio for a top-end overhaul and made arrangements for the professor to stop by my shop on his way back east where I’d have his repaired wheel waiting for him ready to swap-out. He agreed to buy a new tire for the loaner wheel and everyone was happy.

That night, as we all sat sipping whiskey around the campfire in the Basin, the professor mentioned that he had an Indian Scout back in College Station. He’d ridden a Scout as a college student in Southern California back in the ‘40s. He’d picked this one up from a service station owner in Bryan who’d had it sitting in an old chicken coop for decades. The professor said that he hadn’t been able to find anyone who would work on it, and asked if I’d be interested as I’d told him that my daily ride was a ’46 Knucklehead and we worked on a lot of old H-Ds that we got out of Mexico.

I told him that I’d never worked on an Indian before, but that the technology couldn’t be all that different from the Harleys of the period and I’d be willing to give it a shot. So, several months later, the professor showed up at my shop with a chicken-shit covered, very rough Scout loaded in the back of his truck.
IMG_20140413_0030.jpg
It was obviously not a stock bike. I told the professor that I’d do some digging to try and identify what he had and get back to him with a restoration plan. Mind you, this was pre-internet and research consisted of poring through old books, parts manuals, and magazines as well as picking the brains of any old-timers available.

Several months later I called him and said, “Near as I can tell, the frame is 1938 Sport Scout, the engine, transmission, wheels, fenders, and front fork are WWII military 45”, and the tanks are from a late-‘30s Indian single, with a scattering of H-D parts and stuff of unknown origin.”

I suggested to him, given the bits-a-bike nature of the machine, that it would be cost-prohibitive to try to come up with the parts for an accurate restoration and that we should just build a late-‘40s style special that would look good and be fun to ride. He was good with that so I made him a price for the work. He balked, saying he didn’t want to spend that much. I told him that for what he was willing to pay there wasn’t much profit in it for me. I was confident he’d like the end result, though, so I told him if he’d cover the parts costs we’d hash out the labor when it was done, BUT, with that kind of arrangement, the Scout special would be at the bottom of my priority list and I’d work on it when I had time.

Several years went by, and one day the professor called and said that he and his biking buddy were riding out that way and wanted to stop and check on the Scout. I told him to come on, and had the disassembled bike all laid out for inspection when they arrived.

We’d shot black enamel on the frame and controls. The tins were Indian red with black speed graphics and striping under a glossy clear-coat. The engine and transmission were bead-blasted and rebuilt and various bits had been sent off to Brown’s Plating in Paducah, Kentucky, for some shine. I’d had the solo-saddle recovered and some cavalry-style saddlebags made-up with brass conchos by Spriggs Saddlery in Alpine, Texas. The wheels were laced up with new chrome spokes and rims from Buchanan’s Frame Shop in California, with new universal-style tread 4.00 x 18’s. It was all laid out on the floor of the shop like an exploded drawing.

The professor and his buddy looked it all over. The professor turned to me and said, “Looks good. When will she be done?”

I replied, “Well, if you want us to jump on it and finish, which I’d love to do, you’ve got to give me my price so I can afford to devote the time to it. Otherwise, when I get around to it.”

He looked at his buddy and said, “What do you think?”

His buddy grinned and said, “I think you better give the man his money!”

And he did.
IMG_20140413_0031.jpg
IMG_20140413_0032.jpg
The bike was very interesting to ride. The ride was pretty springy, what with the girder fork, rigid frame, and 6” springs under the solo saddle. I had converted the throttle to the right grip, as that was what the professor was used to, and the left twist-grip advanced the timing. The throttle was roll forward to go and had no return spring. The rocker clutch was reversed from Harley practice and the hand-shift required careful matching of road-speed and throttle to get a smooth shift from the sliding-gear crash gearbox. The brakes, in common with other bikes of the period, would slow, but not actually stop the bike. We’d installed new lining on the original shoes and they may have gotten a little better as they broke in.

Engine performance was pretty snappy, but you had to retard the ignition timing to get the motor to idle down at a stop, then roll it on to advance as you were giving it throttle. Coupled with the bouncy ride and the care necessary for smooth hand-shifts the pilot was a busy fellow; a least he didn’t have to spare much thought to the brakes as they were pretty much worthless. The bike was definitely more fun on a quiet country road than trying to negotiate city traffic.

The professor, on delivery, pronounced himself satisfied with the build, and his buddy, not to be left out of the fun, bought a nice custom 45” Harley that we’d recently completed a motor and tranny rebuild on. That’s all been many years ago, now. I wonder where those bikes are today.

--- Randall
 

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Great story, Randall and interesting bike. With the manual timing advance, linkage & rod brakes, and sliding gear transmission without syncro's...it kind of reminds me of the Model "A" Fords I used to drive...for fun. Finally, you do nice work!
 

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Thanks man, it was a fun build. I used to have a 1928 A with a non-factory C-cab delivery body on that I drove around Austin, a real fun truck. It's brakes were crap too...
--- Randall
 

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Model A Fords were probably the most modified car/truck in history. I know of one lumber mill that has a portable mill still powered by Model A engine and tranny. Henry Ford was stubborn and didn't agree to putting hydraulic brakes in his cars until 1939. There were a lot of A's converted to hydraulics using parts from wrecked '39, '40 and some later Fords.
 

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Hey Randall, thanks for posting the great story and great photos to match! Please let us know if you hear where the bikes are now. :cool:
 

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Thanks for the story and a beautiful job on the Scout.
 

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Scout Special

Back in the mid-‘80s I was running a custom motorcycle shop out of a small building on Highway 90 in Del Rio, Texas. We worked mostly on Harley, British, and European bikes. I wasn’t getting rich, but I liked going to work every day.

One morning the phone rang. The gentleman on the other end of the line was a university professor from Texas A&M who was on a trip to Big Bend National Park with a buddy and their two wives; it was the first time the wives had agreed to accompany their husbands on such an adventure. They were camped in the Chisos Basin in the park which is about six hours drive from Del Rio.

The professor explained that the front wheel bearing had failed on his late-model FLHT, and, at that time, there were no motorcycle shops any closer than mine. He was concerned that if their trip was spoiled he’d never get his wife on the bike again.

I made him a price on driving out to Big Bend and said I’d bring wheel bearings and tools, and, if repairs weren’t possible, haul him, the missus, and the bike back to Del Rio. He agreed so I loaded the stuff in my ‘53 International Harvester pick-up and headed west.

Upon arriving I broke the wheel down and discovered that that particular model of FLHT used a Timken tapered roller bearing on one side, but a flat needle-bearing on the other. I had the Timken bearing with me but not the needle-bearing. The professor was looking pretty glum.

I thought a bit and said, “You know, I’ve got a customer who works park maintenance down at Panther Junction. He’s got an older FLH that he was telling me needs a top-end. Let’s go pay him a visit and see what may be done.

We found my buddy, and after explaining the situation, he readily agreed to loan his front wheel so the professor could finish his tour. We loaded his smoking FLH in the back of my truck to go to Del Rio for a top-end overhaul and made arrangements for the professor to stop by my shop on his way back east where I’d have his repaired wheel waiting for him ready to swap-out. He agreed to buy a new tire for the loaner wheel and everyone was happy.

That night, as we all sat sipping whiskey around the campfire in the Basin, the professor mentioned that he had an Indian Scout back in College Station. He’d ridden a Scout as a college student in Southern California back in the ‘40s. He’d picked this one up from a service station owner in Bryan who’d had it sitting in an old chicken coop for decades. The professor said that he hadn’t been able to find anyone who would work on it, and asked if I’d be interested as I’d told him that my daily ride was a ’46 Knucklehead and we worked on a lot of old H-Ds that we got out of Mexico.

I told him that I’d never worked on an Indian before, but that the technology couldn’t be all that different from the Harleys of the period and I’d be willing to give it a shot. So, several months later, the professor showed up at my shop with a chicken-shit covered, very rough Scout loaded in the back of his truck.
View attachment 2564
It was obviously not a stock bike. I told the professor that I’d do some digging to try and identify what he had and get back to him with a restoration plan. Mind you, this was pre-internet and research consisted of poring through old books, parts manuals, and magazines as well as picking the brains of any old-timers available.

Several months later I called him and said, “Near as I can tell, the frame is 1938 Sport Scout, the engine, transmission, wheels, fenders, and front fork are WWII military 45”, and the tanks are from a late-‘30s Indian single, with a scattering of H-D parts and stuff of unknown origin.”

I suggested to him, given the bits-a-bike nature of the machine, that it would be cost-prohibitive to try to come up with the parts for an accurate restoration and that we should just build a late-‘40s style special that would look good and be fun to ride. He was good with that so I made him a price for the work. He balked, saying he didn’t want to spend that much. I told him that for what he was willing to pay there wasn’t much profit in it for me. I was confident he’d like the end result, though, so I told him if he’d cover the parts costs we’d hash out the labor when it was done, BUT, with that kind of arrangement, the Scout special would be at the bottom of my priority list and I’d work on it when I had time.

Several years went by, and one day the professor called and said that he and his biking buddy were riding out that way and wanted to stop and check on the Scout. I told him to come on, and had the disassembled bike all laid out for inspection when they arrived.

We’d shot black enamel on the frame and controls. The tins were Indian red with black speed graphics and striping under a glossy clear-coat. The engine and transmission were bead-blasted and rebuilt and various bits had been sent off to Brown’s Plating in Paducah, Kentucky, for some shine. I’d had the solo-saddle recovered and some cavalry-style saddlebags made-up with brass conchos by Spriggs Saddlery in Alpine, Texas. The wheels were laced up with new chrome spokes and rims from Buchanan’s Frame Shop in California, with new universal-style tread 4.00 x 18’s. It was all laid out on the floor of the shop like an exploded drawing.

The professor and his buddy looked it all over. The professor turned to me and said, “Looks good. When will she be done?”

I replied, “Well, if you want us to jump on it and finish, which I’d love to do, you’ve got to give me my price so I can afford to devote the time to it. Otherwise, when I get around to it.”

He looked at his buddy and said, “What do you think?”

His buddy grinned and said, “I think you better give the man his money!”

And he did.
View attachment 2565
View attachment 2566
The bike was very interesting to ride. The ride was pretty springy, what with the girder fork, rigid frame, and 6” springs under the solo saddle. I had converted the throttle to the right grip, as that was what the professor was used to, and the left twist-grip advanced the timing. The throttle was roll forward to go and had no return spring. The rocker clutch was reversed from Harley practice and the hand-shift required careful matching of road-speed and throttle to get a smooth shift from the sliding-gear crash gearbox. The brakes, in common with other bikes of the period, would slow, but not actually stop the bike. We’d installed new lining on the original shoes and they may have gotten a little better as they broke in.

Engine performance was pretty snappy, but you had to retard the ignition timing to get the motor to idle down at a stop, then roll it on to advance as you were giving it throttle. Coupled with the bouncy ride and the care necessary for smooth hand-shifts the pilot was a busy fellow; a least he didn’t have to spare much thought to the brakes as they were pretty much worthless. The bike was definitely more fun on a quiet country road than trying to negotiate city traffic.

The professor, on delivery, pronounced himself satisfied with the build, and his buddy, not to be left out of the fun, bought a nice custom 45” Harley that we’d recently completed a motor and tranny rebuild on. That’s all been many years ago, now. I wonder where those bikes are today.

--- Randall
Awesome read Randall love to hear such stories.
 

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Thanks for sharing your story with us. It's rare to find someone like you these days. I can see that you love motorcycles and enjoy working on them and are real good at it too. The way you helped and trusted those people back then shows that you care more for people than the all mighty dollar. You're a honest and good man Randall. I hope we meet someday.
 
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