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I am in the market for another shovelhead, and I am curious about how hard it is to rebuild these engines. Once I get another bike, I want to put a low compression stroker kit into it for some more power. I have read that doing too much to a shovel adversely effects reliability, and that low compression is the way to go. What is a good balance for a bike that will pull pretty well and start every time? The bike will be an FLH. How difficult is it to put a shovelhead together RIGHT? I suspect there are little tips and tricks that veteran wrenchers use when building engines. Are there any good books out there?

TIA
 

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73electraglide said:
I am in the market for another shovelhead, and I am curious about how hard it is to rebuild these engines. Once I get another bike, I want to put a low compression stroker kit into it for some more power. I have read that doing too much to a shovel adversely effects reliability, and that low compression is the way to go. What is a good balance for a bike that will pull pretty well and start every time? The bike will be an FLH. How difficult is it to put a shovelhead together RIGHT? I suspect there are little tips and tricks that veteran wrenchers use when building engines. Are there any good books out there?

TIA
Everythng that you could ever want to know about rebuilding a Shovelhead engine and other components is covered completely in the two 1978-1/2 service books for the FL's and the FX's.

Rebuilding any engine is not easy if you do it properly. It's very expensive to have machine work done. I have a stock 80" that has had a new crank, bore job and a complete cylinder head re-do with new seats, valves, guides and so forth. It runs great with low compression pistons. I really don't know how much more power you wolud like to have but IMHO, 4 1/4 inch stroke is plenty for one. If you stroke it, you may well have difficulty keeping the compression low enough to avoid pre-ignition.

Lots of folks go to dual plugs to avoid pinging but with my stock low compression bike I can run 75 mph literally all day and never overheat it. While stroking it may sound like a lot of fun, it's not the way to get a reliable engine. Higher piston speeds, more heat and the possiblity of detonation all work against you. Especially with an engine that has one of the poorest oiling systems ever put on a motorcycle.

If I were going to spend a lot of dough on a Harley and wanted to get the maximum poop for my $$$ I would probably concentrate on a Twin Cam buildup. They are reliable, even with big inches and can be made to go relatively fast.

And this is coming from someone who likes the Shovelhead very much. It's just that I like it so much that I want to keep it running.

You'll probably get a lot of other opinions from people who like to make changes but I still think the Shovelheads are better left stock, other than modern electronic ignitions, and better carburetors, etc.

My 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, thats what I figured. Oh well. One day when Im rich Ill build a twin cam or an evo. Until then Ill leave it mostly stock like you suggested.

Thanks
 

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73electraglide said:
Yeah, thats what I figured. Oh well. One day when Im rich Ill build a twin cam or an evo. Until then Ill leave it mostly stock like you suggested.

Thanks

There's nothing wrong with having a nice ride. Shovelheads are a great machine even when pretty much stock. Sadly, I see fewer and fewer of them on the road and those that are, are modified greatly. One day they will be as rare as the Panheads and the Knuckleheads before them.
 

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newultraclassic said:
There's nothing wrong with having a nice ride. Shovelheads are a great machine even when pretty much stock. Sadly, I see fewer and fewer of them on the road and those that are, are modified greatly. One day they will be as rare as the Panheads and the Knuckleheads before them.
True. They used to be everywhere here. Now it's a bit of an occasion when I see a cool shovel on the road. Bummer.
 

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A lot of them came to Europe. Scandinavia in particular. I'm not sure how it is in the rest of Scandinavia, but in Finland, where my wife is from, they had until recently a very high (over 100%) import tax on vehicles which was based on the original purchase price, not current value.

This meant that new bikes were for the seriously rich only - a new bike there cost more than twice what it would be in the US. So older vehicles and bikes were first choice. 60s and 70s US muscle cars are very popular, because their tax liability is based on an original purchase price of a couple thousand dollars. Same with bikes.

This summer when we there, there was a Harley event somewhere further north, and over a weekend a few hundred bikes came through. I didn't count, but I would guess well over half of them were shovels, knucks and pans. The newer bikes were almost all naked and modified, and baggers and dressers are a rarity.

So when you wonder where all your best bikes are - I've got them - Nee Naa Nee Naa :laugh:
 

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petelogan said:
A lot of them came to Europe. Scandinavia in particular. I'm not sure how it is in the rest of Scandinavia, but in Finland, where my wife is from, they had until recently a very high (over 100%) import tax on vehicles which was based on the original purchase price, not current value.

This meant that new bikes were for the seriously rich only - a new bike there cost more than twice what it would be in the US. So older vehicles and bikes were first choice. 60s and 70s US muscle cars are very popular, because their tax liability is based on an original purchase price of a couple thousand dollars. Same with bikes.

This summer when we there, there was a Harley event somewhere further north, and over a weekend a few hundred bikes came through. I didn't count, but I would guess well over half of them were shovels, knucks and pans. The newer bikes were almost all naked and modified, and baggers and dressers are a rarity.

So when you wonder where all your best bikes are - I've got them - Nee Naa Nee Naa :laugh:
Holy Cow! 100% duty in Finland huih? Guess that's why I never see any of those fine Finnish automobiles over here in California. Heh heh. I hear it gets cold there, too.

:)
 

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newultraclassic said:
Holy Cow! 100% duty in Finland huih? Guess that's why I never see any of those fine Finnish automobiles over here in California. Heh heh. I hear it gets cold there, too.

:)
Yeah, the duty came off last year (forced by the EU), so things should start to get straightened out a little from now on. But the thing is for real still. My van needed some attentiion last summer, so we took it to the local indie for all things American. He just bought a new Harley. A '74 Police Special straight from the dealer. Real nice, too.

Cold's not bad. No more than 20 or 30 below zero.

Course, that there's that dang European Centigrade.

Prolly quite warm in proper degrees :D
 

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I've been watching my engine builder rebuild a shovelhead over the last week. I came in when he was cleaning the crank and flywheels, getting ready to re-balance the flywheels. He sent out the cases, jugs and heads for powdercoating. When they were delivered back he started the bottom end assembly. He pointed out some of the quirks with the oiling system to me and why it is so frail. He used a nice billet piece from S&S that covers that all up. He set this one up for 9:1 compression with new pistons and rods, I seem to remember he said this one was now 80 cu. inches. I never did find out what cam went in this one but I did watch the new valve seats get cut and new valves + springs get installed. Today he assembled the heads onto the motor and finished buttoning everything else up. Anyway, it was a complete rebuild and it took a lot of effort to make everything as perfect as it could be. The owner is going to be really pleased with this new motor. Fascinating to watch the whole process and understand all of the detail that goes into it.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Totenkopf said:
I've been watching my engine builder rebuild a shovelhead over the last week. I came in when he was cleaning the crank and flywheels, getting ready to re-balance the flywheels. He sent out the cases, jugs and heads for powdercoating. When they were delivered back he started the bottom end assembly. He pointed out some of the quirks with the oiling system to me and why it is so frail. He used a nice billet piece from S&S that covers that all up. He set this one up for 9:1 compression with new pistons and rods, I seem to remember he said this one was now 80 cu. inches. I never did find out what cam went in this one but I did watch the new valve seats get cut and new valves + springs get installed. Today he assembled the heads onto the motor and finished buttoning everything else up. Anyway, it was a complete rebuild and it took a lot of effort to make everything as perfect as it could be. The owner is going to be really pleased with this new motor. Fascinating to watch the whole process and understand all of the detail that goes into it.
Thats just awesome. To be able to watch a pro from start to finish is a great opportunity. I just want my next bike to start easy, not ping, and not spit or stall when I twist the grip. Me and the wife together weigh around 300, so even doubled up the bike wont be moving a super heavy load. 80 inches would be nice, though most of the bikes I am looking at are 1200s.
 

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73electraglide said:
Thats just awesome. To be able to watch a pro from start to finish is a great opportunity. I just want my next bike to start easy, not ping, and not spit or stall when I twist the grip. Me and the wife together weigh around 300, so even doubled up the bike wont be moving a super heavy load. 80 inches would be nice, though most of the bikes I am looking at are 1200s.
I was out at the shop again today and he is rebuilding another customer's 1970 Shovelhead this time. Cases, jugs and heads just back from the powdercoater. He was explaining how he modifies the oil return window in the one case half to more effectively catch the oil off of the flywheel. I'm not sure yet how this one is going to be built out with regard to displacement, compression, cam or headwork. More to follow.
 
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