Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You know, I couldn't resist.......

After I made the below post, I just couldn't resist posting photos of Earl Bruce's "Dutched" Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. Even when I was a little kid, I thought this was one of the koolest paintjobs I had seen. I still think that, and if you look at a lot of the flamejobs that Robert Pradke and Indian Larry collaborated on for Larry's bikes, you can see Von Dutch coming through as the inspiration in them, directly from this car.
I dunno, you just have to admire somebody who goes through life doing exactly what he chooses to do, and doesn't really give a fuck what you think about it.
Here's a rare photo of the Gullwing taken by Peterson's photographer Al Hall, in 1956, at some indoor show. You can see the additional pinstriping, and yellow tips that Von Dutch added to the flames after the initial flamejob, and the kool nerf bar Dutch fabricated for it.


I haven't done a lot on my blog recently, mainly because I've been snowed under with a lot of work here, and to tell the truth, just didn't feel like it. I've had a bunch of stuff that I've had stashed away, but in and of themselves, wouldn't have made good, seperate posts. So, I thought I'd sit down and combine them all in one big post for you. They all do however, have a collective, connecting thread in them. They involve guys who were buddies, that hung out together, worked on cars and motorcycles and drank together, and were lifelong friends. Those guys were Dick Hirschberg, Von Dutch, and Earl Bruce. I hope you don't get bored......

The Schritchfield Roadster
The Scritchfield Roadster, as it was originally built by Bob McGee.

Bob McGee originally built this '32 Deuce highboy that later became better known as the Schritchfield Roadster before he headed off to WW II. When he returned in '46, McGee found out that the buddy he had entrusted with the care of his roadster before he left had rolled it, inflicting some pretty heavy damage. McGee went right to work on the wreck, did some further modifications, and painted it bright red with a hot stroker Flathead for power.

In 1955, McGee sold the Deuce to Dick Hirschberg, who in turn painted the roadster bright yellow, and in typical Hirschberg flair, dropped in a brand-new '55 Corvette V-8. Hirschberg drove it like this for a year, and then traded it straight-up to L.A. Roadster Club founder, and then NHRA rep Dick Schritchfield for a '48 Lincoln Continental. The Schritchfield version of the roadster was the inspiration for the L.A. Roadster plaque that has been on member's cars from then on up to today. Schritchfield drove the car on the street, and raced it on the dry lakes, and in the '70's dropped in a rodded Chevy 350 to replace the tired 'vette engine that Hirschberg had put in.

The Scritchfield Roadster today belongs to Bruce Meyers, who had SoCal Speed Shop several years ago do a full restoration on the highboy, to the configuration when McGee owned it, complete with it's red paintjob, and hot Flathead power with the same type of cast bronze heads that McGee had installed back in '46.

Earl Bruce

Earl Bruce (sometimes you see his first name spelled Earle) was a pretty flamboyant character. Among other things, Earl was a one-time movie actor and singer under contract, race car driver, and drinking buddy of both Von Dutch and Dick Hirschberg (who also owned a bar across from L.A.'s Union Station rail terminal in the '40's.). Bruce owned a bar on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, called the Big Top, a kind of combination beer hall/jazz club. Von Dutch would work at his shop until around 11:00pm, then wander down to the Big Top after that to drink and play his flute.

Another thing that Earl Bruce was noted for, was his taste in fast and exotic cars, and the company of ladies of the same persuasion. in 1955, Earl purchased what is said to have been the first Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing coupe in California. He bought it for $11.000.00 back then, which would be around $93,000.00 in today's dollars. Now, Mercedes Benz made 1,400 300SL coupes between '1955 and '57, and they were rare and sought after cars even then. Well, Earl Bruce owned six Gullwings!

The most famous of those 300SL's that Bruce owned was the one that Von Dutch painted with the white flamejob and pinstriped. When the Gullwing was new, Bruce had Barris' shop paint it in "Sam Bronze". It was one of the early candy jobs, and basically it was paint toner over a bronze powdered base. The paint didn't last on the street, so Bruce had Dutch flame it to cover up the worst of the fading, which was on the rocker and sides of the car. To do this, Dutch started the flames from the rockers, and went up and over the sides of the car with them, instead of starting at the nose of the car.

Sport car and 300SL afficianados back then, on seeing the car in it's "Dutched" form, accused both Von Dutch and Earl Bruce of "Desecrating a shrine", to which both guys could have given a fuck less about in response. But, the one car of Bruce's I wanted to talk about was one that you might not know about, and is one that Earl Bruce owned from 1939 until he died. And, that car is the '40 Ford that was named......

The Armored Car
Earl Bruce poses with the Armored Car in front of his bar The Big Top, located at 5336 Sunset Blvd., just East of the 101 Freeway in Hollywood, sometime in the '50's. Bruce owned the Big Top from 1950-1964.

Earl Bruce bought his '40 Ford brand-new in Downtown Los Angles, in Sept. of 1939. He walked into the Ford dealership, looked at the car, said "I'll take it", and handed the salesman a $1,000.00 bill. The salesman was stunned, as was everyone at the dealership who looked at the note, all having never ever seen one. But the salesman went to the finance office, got the paperwork sorted, and returned with the title and $45.00 change, then he filled up the '40 with gas for Bruce. Nice gesture....

Earl was asked how long he had the car before he had the custom work performed, and he said "About 18 minutes", which is the time it took him to drive over to Jimmy Summer's shop with it. As with the dealership, Bruce told Summers "Chop the top 4 3/4", fill the quarter windows, and shrink the back window". All of which Summers did, along with removing the running boards, flairing the front fender edges into the body, filling the grille's side panels, rounding the door corners, shortening the drip rails, fashioning the rear fender stone guard panels, and having Chuck Porter fill the hood, and punch it full of louvers...no small task. All the work was done in metal, and by that I mean there was no lead used as filler in the modifications whatsoever. Once the work was finished up, the car was dubbed "The Armored Car"

Once Bruce had the custom work finished up, he then went to work punching up the Flathead V-8's performance. This was no "lead sled', it went as well as it looked. Bruce went 120 mph in 1949 in it at El Mirage dry lake, with the timing plaque affixed to the dashboard to testify to that fact for anyone who doubted it.
Earl Bruce's '40 in "Bruce Red" in the '70's. Bruce repainted the Armored Car in various colors dozens of times over through the years , along with about the same number of changes in the interior/trunk upholstery, and wheel/tire combinations.

When the original work was done to the car, the deck lid was left smooth, but one day Bruce and his buddy Von Dutch decided that the deck lid needed ventilation as well. Now, I don't know if you know anything about louvering sheetmetal like this deck lid, but it's not an easy job. First, you have to strip the finish down to bare steel inside and out. Then, you have to remove any bracing or anything else that's in the way underneath. Next, you have to lay out the pattern for the louvers, then you can start punching.

With a piece of curved sheetmetal the size of this deck lid, with the bracing removed, most shops (if they'd even want to do this job, or could get it in their press) would use two people to guide the lid upside down as it was punched, and one guy to do the actual punching.

Well, Von Dutch wasn't a normal guy, and somehow he and Bruce managed to do the job one day, just the two of them....drunk! When asked how many louvers his '40 had in total, Bruce said " I'm no mathematician, there's a lot...". When pressed to explain how the two were able to get those louvers punched in the deck lid, in an arrow-straight pattern to boot, Earl said "Between the beer and wine we consumed that day, and Dutch playing on that damned flute of his, I can't remember how we did it...".
Earl Bruce goes out the window of his beloved '40 at El Mirage, at 100 mph.. His friends remarked he went out in an "angel halo", and it looks like it in the photo, huh? What a great shot.

I couldn't find how old Bruce was when he passed away, or what year, but I know that Earl Bruce owned this car up until the day he died. I did find his '40 is now owned by "a close friend", and it is still being driven to rod events by that same "friend". It's still painted in the med. blue metallic that Bruce had it finished in in 1996. '96 was also the year that American Rodder did an interview with Bruce, and his age in the article was given at 87 years old.
One of Earl Bruce's last requests was to be cremated, and his ashes scattered at El Mirage dry lake. Sometime in 2009, his friends gathered at El Mirage, and Earl was put into his coupe, driven at 100 mph, and then his last wish was granted. Pretty cool, I think.
Here's a screenshot of Bruce's old Big Top building today, right on the corner of Sunset and Serrano. It's now Bill's Liquor Market. The photo of Earl standing next to his '40 was taken just to the right, out of this picture. The arrow points to the window that had the red & white awning in the original shot, now covered by some crappy metal security screen. I thought the original striped awnings over the windows, and the "circus pennants" on the roof when Earl Bruce owned it were pretty classy. I'd have drank there!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Robert Hernandez is selling his BF III bike.......

Robert Hernandez is selling his Born Free III bike, which was just featured in Cycle Source a couple issues ago. . I've seen this bike up close, and I've seen Robert piloting this, and it runs and handles fantastic. Robert rode this bike from Phoenix to BF III in 100+degree weather, and he and Jeremiah just rode out to the Hippy Killer Hoedown in the pouring rain a few weeks ago. So, you know this bike can do the miles!
If you're interested in the bike, fly him a kite here:

Friday, May 11, 2012

OK, OK you guys......

For all you guys who Emailed wanting to know when I was gonna "take the damn wrap off the Invader 3 spoke, so I can see it....", here it is, and it's a beauty. Nicest original condition Invader of any spoke count I have ever seen.

"So, we had some reefer, an' a couple bottles of.......

......Ripple Pagan Pink, some purple psilocybin caps, an' a handfull of reds to level us off, an' we had a oxy-acetylene torch, an' a stick welder.....". How true, how true.

Brad from New Mexico sent up this frame, and it's from his long-time, long bike chopper project. The frame mods were done decades ago, so Brad wanted me to give it the once-over, and get it back in sound shape where needed - especially the neck area, but he wanted to preserve the "line" and style of the original framework. Brad is putting this back on the road again........
Originally, this was an early Pan frame. Somewhere in the past, the original neck was replaced with a bullneck neck piece, and the frame tubing was replaced all the way from the lower seatpost crossmember to the neck (arrow A.). Those "wishbone" downtubes aren't the originals, but they are 1 1/8" tube, and they look pretty good. My engine cradle jig fits the engine mounts, so we're good to go!

What we're going to do, is replace the whole neck with a new OEM-style neck casting from John at Hardtail Choppers, with a 40 degree rake to match the actual neck rake Brad has now. For the downtubes, we're going to preserve the wishbone sections, but we'll partially replace the upper sections to take out the forward bend in the tubes (at arrow B.), and realign them to plug into the new casting, and they'll take a straighter line up, as in approximately line C.

We're also going to replace the entire backbone with 1 1/2" tubing - the one that's there now is 1 1/4". Brad plans on running 3 1/2 gal. fatbob tanks on this, just like it was originally built decades ago. This bike should be a trip when it's finished. Brad also has his Pan motor down at Deluxe Motorcycles right now, and Randall is just buttoning it up after going through it from top to bottom.
Amazing what hides below bondo, huh? Never trust an old chopper frame, it may be solid work, it may not. This neck has been replaced, raked, and raked at least one more time after that. Don't be a lazy ass, take the old bondo off and judge the workmanship for yourself.

WOW! What a ride......

I was 11 years old in 1963, and my two heros then were AJ fuckin' Foyt, and Carrol Shelby. They both made Enzo Ferrari look like a chimp, and there was nothing Ferrari could do about it. You know what? Those guys are still two of my heros. What a ride this guy had. We should all be as fortunate in life as he was. Carrol Shelby dies at the age of 89.
I remember in 1966, Hans Schmidt Jr., son of the pro wrestler Hans Schmidt (Schmidt Sr. was a drinking buddy of my Dad's, along with wrestler Haystacks Calhoon), tooled into the local hangout in a brand-new, Nassau Blue Cobra 427. I thought that was the baddest fuckin' car I had ever seen, or heard in my life. I can hear that 427 in my head, just like it was yesterday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

T-rod and Gene........

.......kickin' ass Saturday night on the track, at Costa Mesa Speedway. Go here for more info:
Both photos courtesy of Lisa Ballard/The Shiny Side blog
Go out to Costa Mesa Speedway, and cheer your ass off for T-rod and Gene - racing the world's only Evo-powered speedway racing sidehack.


Part-timer Steve and I hit it today, and relieved the Denvers springer of the 7" of extension, made the slugs, did the plug welds, put it back together, and slid the axle into the front wheel. Came out as expected, no surprises. The shorty springer makes that 21" front wheel look like a 23"er. Bike has a nice stance to it. I'll tell you one thing, this is gonna be one narrow bike!
If you'll refer back to the previous post, you'll see that the rocker angle is pretty close to the original. Also, note the staggered seams on the leg splices. I'll finish off the plug welds flush before I TIG the seams on Thursday. Taking down the plug welds first makes it easier to shape the round profile of the legs when I dress the seam welds down. Trail comes in at 3". Elliot will be here from Grand Island, NE next Wed. to check it out in person, and he's bringing me a big Cornhusker bushel basket full of money! Yay!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Down to earth......

This is Elliot's bike mocked up at ride height. His 4.00x18 Avon SM on a 18x2.50 rim, tire inflated to 35 lbs., the chains adjusted, and the fender spaced off the wheel with an old 530 Oring chain where it needs to be. The ground clearance will be about 4 3/4". Now I can figure out how much we need to take out of his springer.

I had guesstimated we'd need to take out 6" before I mocked it up. But, you also have to take into consideration the "sag" in the front end, with the weight on it to determine the final length of the fork. I took a very scientific approach to that - I put the front axle in the rockers, blocked up under the front axle, then I let the jack down until the springer settled as far as it would normally set on the spring resistance, with the major components in place. It settled down approx. 1". After that, I took Elliot's bike back up to a little more than level in the front. Totally level just didn't jibe with the lines of the bike.
Next, I figured out the angle of the rocker (19 degrees), and the length of the rocker from the centerline of the back leg, straight across to the centerline of the axle. I set the front wheel we're using in place, and I rolled it in until I had the distance from the centerline of the back leg and the center of the wheel bearing at 4". Then I centered the rear rocker bearing on the back leg, made sure the rocker angle was 19 degrees, then slightly moved the wheel and rocker around until they lined up again.

I marked the centers of the rocker bearings on the front and back leg centerlines, then took a measurement from the center of the original rocker pin holes up the legs to my marks. 8 1/4" difference on both front and back legs. Done deal. We'll cut out 7".....8 1/4" minus the 1" for "sag", and we'll leave in the extra 1/4" in there for any additional weight like fuel and oil after we're done.

Can you see through that plastic shipping wrap over the front wheel? Take a good look....it's a NOS THREE SPOKE 21x2.15 Invader wheel. It's never been on a bike.....until now.

Dave Bell

The custom bike and street rod world lost a great illustrator, pinstriper, cartoonist, and artist this past weekend, Dave Bell. Most people's first contact with Dave's talents on a large scale came from his illustrations and full page comic strips for TRM Publications, starting in 1969 with his character Jock E. Shift, in Street Chopper magazine, later followed by similar full page strips featuring Henry Hirise in Street Rodder, and later on Nat Moodle for Custom Rodder.
Dave Bell in the early '60's, well on his way.
Tom Rad paint, Dave Bell pinstriping.
Chopper related ads illustrated by Dave Bell, that ran in all the major custom bike publications through the decade of the '70's- one for White's Pit Stop, the other for 2Wheelers. White's is gone, but Arlen Fatland is still running 2Wheelers in Denver, in the same location for 42 years!
1939 - 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012


All you guys who check the endplay on brand new wheels, raise your dial indicators.....I thought so. How many guys just look at the little tag that they put on new wheels, see .005, and say "OK"?....I thought so. How many guys check the endplay on used wheels....I thought so.

I check the endplay on every wheel I put on a bike. I've seen those little tags they put on the spokes. Evidently 11 yr. old Chinese kids can't read a dial indicator. I've seen tags that said ".017", and had "0" endplay when checked, and I've seen tags say ".004", and have had ".030". Too tight an endplay on a Timkin tapered wheel bearing will toast it on the road, and most likely seize them to your axle just for good measure. Too much endplay, and you'll be wondering why your bike is shimming like a hula girl when you're passing that semi at 80 mph. Wheel bearing endplay is pretty fucking important!

While I had this particular 18x2.15 wheel built by Woody's Wheel works, the hub is aftermarket. Woody's always does a fantastic job on the wheel, but I always check the endplay regardless. I do it by clamping the axle in the vise, stacking some spacers on each side of the hub, and torquing the axle nut to 50 lbs/ft. Then, I set my magnetic base and dial indicator up, make sure the wheel is settled on the lower bearing, set the pointer on the center of the axle, and then I pull straight up on the wheel. Lots easier than trying to do this on the bike like H-D shows you in the manuals, especially if you have to shim and check it several times.

Not good this time - .026 endplay, waaaay over spec. By the time that .026 gets out to your wheel rim, that is about a 1/16" of movement of that wheel. Harley says anything from .004-.018 is good, I try and keep it right at around.003, because when you pack your bearings, you'll get a little more additional endplay to your dry bearing measurement when you're finished. You are checking the endplay with dry bearings.....right?

So, no big deal...I just take the inner spacer out, shorten it a little, and check it again until it come into spec. Wrong. Seems Uncle Chu decided to make the little rings that center the axle spacer in the hub (so it makes it easier to slide the axle through) bigger than the ID of the bearing race. To get the spacer out, I have to pull a bearing race out. Fuck that! Out comes the welder, a bead around the race, and it's out. Before I shorten the inner spacer, I take and turn down the centering rings until I can slide it out through the bearing races, like H-D does theirs. This way, the next guy that puts in the bearings and races when they're needed next time won't have to go through all this shit.

I shorten the inner spacer, put in a new race, assemble the wheel, put it back on the axle, and presto - only 1 1/2 hours later, I have .003 endplay on the bearings. Back apart again to pack the bearings, and install the wheel. Was it worth the work? Well, I could have just said fuck it when I saw the initial endplay, fuck it again when I saw the spacer wouldn't come out....but that's not how we do things around here, not by a long shot. Some guy is going to be riding this bike.......


.......as in motorplate. Pretty straightforward - a posterboard template, a 1/4" thick piece of 6061, a jigsaw, a little time on the belt sander, and a few holes. Came out nice. You could do the same thing in 1/4" steel plate if you wanted, or you could buy one for $150.00 . For Elliot's bike.