Norton / Harley Ironhead Cafe Project.. Build thread


Coast to Coast
Hi all,

Been lurking on here for long enough, so thought I'd start a build thread on my café project. I was half way through another project (a Guzzi café) and started to think about what to do the next. By chance I got talking to a chap who was selling a chopped Ironhead XL1000 Harley for the widow of a friend who'd died awhile ago, since when the bike had stood unused. It was cheap and came with a rebuilt engine and a £3000 of receipts for the work. I went to see it and bought it.

I then got a tour of the small workshop where the chap repaired old frames and made new replicas of Norton frames. I was impressed with their work, and once the bike was home, I decided to order one of their frames, which had to be made for me as the old Ironhead motors have slightly different mounts to the modern Evo Sportsters. I also ordered an oil tank and slim line petrol tank.

A few weeks passed while I waited for my frame, in the meantime I stripped the old Ironhead down and did a little tidying up on the engine cases..

The only thing I'll keep from the doner bike is the engine..

Polishing the primary cover by hand.. takes a long time..


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Here's a couple of photos I took at the Norley workshop when I went to view the Harley..

Buell based Norley..


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A good day.. my frame arrives :)

I'm building this on a very small budget, so its going to take awhile, as I want it just right with no short cuts. All I could do for now was to fit a pair of YSS shocks which had been built to my spec at a very good price, cheaper than Hagons..


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Time to see if the engine fits the frame.. Needed an extra pair of hands, those Ironheads are bloody heavy, but it went in ok without too much swearing..


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Since I had to wait while I saved my pennies for the cool parts I wanted, I got busy doing the tedious work cleaning up the engine..First the generator, took it apart, cleaned, checked and painted, ditto the starter motor, had a peak inside, looks ok thankfully, so just cleaned and painted it..


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Finally I could buy a few engine parts.. new push rod tubes, full gasket set, some electrical parts, including a rectifier which replaces the genny end cover and cleans up the wiring.. and an S&S Super E carb..

The new carb didn't come with an air filter, as I didn't want to fit the classic S&S teardrop cover. I had a velocity stack left over from an old project, so that went on. Probably wont end up using it, but it will do until I can find or make something better..

I'm condensing about a year in a few minutes on here, I'm up to last summer now, and time to sort out a front end. I sometimes help out at my local bikeshop, which means I can sometimes get a bargain. When I was offered a mint set of forks from a Honda Hornet 900, I couldn't say no, especially as they were free :)

They didn't come with yokes, and even if they did, it wouldn't fit the Norley frame, which is made to take HD head bearings. At this point I went to see my mate Jeff, he makes one off parts from his small home workshop. He owed me a favour so I came home with a couple of half finished billet yokes Jeff had made in the past, both were drilled to take 43mm forks, same as the Hondas... I wanted something a bit retro in keeping with the café style, so picked the best one..

Next we pressed out a stem from an old pair of yokes I had, and Jeff machined the yokes to take the HD stem..

I bought a pair of cheap clip ons, which didn't look too bad ...
You don't have to wait too long :)

About ten years ago I was given a box of spares from a Yam XJR turbo streetfighter (a long story), it had been sitting on a shelf all this time, until I remembered it during a tidying up. Most of the contents were useless, except for a mismatched pair of rearsets by the German company LSL. Wonder if I could use these I thought? Expecting to have to make new mounts, I tried them out. Amazingly they almost fit straight on, only a couple of mm out, which wouldn't be a problem. I would have to make a suitable master cylinder mount and pushrod and a linkage for the gearchange.. But first I had to remove the anodising from the levers as they were different colours..


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Time for a chemistry experiment.. using caustic soda in solution to remove the anodising...

something is happening, lots of bubbles and fizzing..

After ten minutes..

Then just had to polish them and they look ok..

The one problem now is that the rearsets are really far back, about where you'd expect to find pillion pegs,but I reckon I can live with them..
Now I had to make a gear change linkage using parts from the original bikes highway pegs and my new rearsets..

This is my MK1 version, if it works ok in use I can always make a better looking MK2..

Step 1.. Turned the old splined lever upside down, cut the end off and file a flat on its side..

Step 2.. Make a simple triangle and bolt it to the side of the lever, and use it to mount a rose joint,which in turn will be one end of a shift rod. I used a bent wire to give me an idea for the shape of the new shift rod..

Step 3.. tap a thread in each end of a stainless bar, then heat and bend it into shape..

Its not very pretty, but it seems to work ok, and so far had cost only a few pounds for the stainless rose joint and clevis joint used on the ends of the shift rod.
Turning to the rear brake, this was a bit more involved. I had a second hand Brembo master cylinder, from a Ducati monster, which I made a simple mounting bracket for using a scrap piece of alloy plate...

Tapping a thread into the bracket before I file it into its final shape..

I didn't have a pushrod for the master cylinder, so Jeff kindly machined one up from a stainless bolt while I had break and nice cup of tea ..all my projects are sustained by tea :)

All done, again I used stainless rose joint in the linkage...
I bought these neat Daytona clocks, they look retro in their stainless cases, but are pretty high tech, can show peak revs, temp, even a clock..


I then made new mounts for them, as the stainless ones they came with the clocks didn't look right to me. I made a cock up when drilling the mounting holes in the underside of the top yoke, I was so intent on making sure I didn't drill all the way through the yoke, that I mistakenly used an 8mm drill bit for the M8 sized holes.. that's too big to allow a thread to be cut using a M8 tap. So as usual when I mess up I went over to see my mate Jeff with my sorry tale and while I drank tea he kindly drilled the holes out a bit more and used helicoil thread inserts to get back to an M8. Well, since I was there, we made a couple of stainless pieces for the steering lock and drilled the lower yoke where I guessed they should go. Cant say for sure, as the frame doesn't have a tab on the headstock, its one of those things I'll have to sort out later. We made them a bit longer than they probably will need to be, that way they can be machined down a bit if needed, once everything is together on the bike.

I made the new brackets from an offcut of alloy plate, using the original to trace out the shape and drill the three holes in each. Then it was a case of hacksawing out the shape and spending a long time with a file and wet and dry to get a reasonable finish. Still need to pretty it up, but it looks ok so far. I've still to make the idiot light bracket, which is a bit more complex, so far I've drilled all the holes and cut out the shape I need roughly with the hacksaw. Wish I had use of Jeffs miller, it would be much quicker and neater, but it was in use all that week, making a blower manifold for our drag bike.. Later I changed the way the clocks were mounted to tuck them in closer to the top yoke.




The next job was to make a new head steady, as I wasn't happy with the original, though I'm sure it would've done the job ok, I decided to make one in alloy which would be lighter and stronger, and shinier ..

I marked out the shape on a scrap piece of aircraft spec alloy, then chain drilled out. I would've taken me ages to file the sides to a respectable finish, but luckily Jeff took pity on me and did the job in five minutes on the miller. Which left me to just finish the corners with a file and drill those all important lightening holes.. surprising it fit ok on the bike.





A pair of chromed alloy wheel hubs arrived soon after, a xmas pressie from me to me.. They are set up with 3/4 inch bearings, while the Honda forks have a 20mm spindle. I was intending to machine the Honda spindle down and make a top hat for one end so it still fits the forks. But the spindle is hollow, and it wouldn't be a good idea to machine it down anymore. So instead, we'll use an old Harley spindle and make it fit the fork legs, its solid and probably made out of pig iron lol. One problem I may have is that the front calipers may hit the spokes once the wheel is laced. Not sure yet, but it'll close either way.

The HD front hub has been causing a headache, I couldn't find any bearings that would fit the hub and work with the Honda 20mm spindle. Nor could I just machine down the spindle to 3/4 of an inch, as it was hollow and I didn't want to weaken it too much. Somehow I had to modify the original HD wheel spindle to fit the Honda forks..


Well, there was only one thing to do.. hand the problem over to my mate Jeff and his trusty lathe.. 5 hours of machining later the job was done.. Its this sort of problem that can really delay a project, without help I'd never finish mine that's for sure..


With the forks back on the bike, the next task was to buy a pair of 18 inch Morad alloy rims and stainless spokes and build the wheels, I'd never laced a motorcycle wheel before, so should be interesting
A month later I ordered the rims and spokes from Central wheel company in Birmingham which arrived in a couple of days, and also some parts from Unity Equipe.. seat, stainless sidestand and tank strap and catch.

Then I had a go at lacing a wheel for the first time. I made a few silly mistakes along the way, but the rear wheel wasn't as difficult as I'd thought. Though of course I still needed to true it. Full of confidence, I started on the front wheel, expecting to be finished in no time. After three attempts I gave up for the evening. The main problem is that all the holes in the hub for the spokes are all bevelled on one side only, so all the spokes have to be seated on the same side. When the spokes cross it means that one of the spokes doesn't sit in its seat correctly. Obviously I'm lacing it in the wrong way, but I couldn't see the right way at that moment.

Rear wheel..

Front wheel.. going ok, then it all went wrong

More later...
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