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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A tip o' the hat to JMS for finding this article. His orginal reference is in the Dan Baisley thread. I think it is of general interest.

The Business Journal of Portland - May 31, 1999

From the May 28, 1999 print edition
They love his `hog' heads
Thanks to his dad, Dan Baisley has turned making racing heads for Harley-Davidson `cycles into a lucrative family business.
Bill Neill
Special To The Business Journal

Patrons quietly sipping their beer in George's Corner Tavern at the intersection of North Interstate Avenue and Killingsworth Street may be unaware they are next door to the birthplace of powerful motorcycle engines. Behind a storefront that bears no sign and is simply decorated with an old black-and-white mural of racing Porsches, sits the home of Baisley Hi-Performance.

In this modest brick building, formerly the home of a Porsche shop, owner Dan Baisley creates high-performance cylinder heads that power Harley-Davidson motorcycles to record-breaking times. A ProStock Harley-Davidson drag bike equipped with Baisley heads has run a quarter of a mile in 7.93 seconds, reaching a top speed of 166 miles per hour. Ridden by Baisley himself, it became the first ProStock Harley to break the 8-second barrier.

Dan, 47, his father Wes, 70, and son Ryan, 23, along with four other employees, turn out cylinder heads, valves and parts to make Harleys go faster. Dan Baisley is a soft-spoken, slender, bearded figure in T-shirt and blue jeans.

Wes Baisley has always been comfortable working with machines. "He has a knack of being able to look at something and make it better in a very simple way" according to his son.

Wes Baisley grew up in Burns, where he operated a Harley-Davidson dealership during 1959*63. He moved to Portland in the mid-1960s and worked for Small Parts Manufacturing, making parts for companies like Freightliner Corp.

It didn't take Dan Baisley long to follow in his father's footsteps. His interest in motorcycles and machinery started early and he was racing a 1961 Harley Sportster at the Woodburn drag strip when he was 18.

Despite his successful engine hop-up business, he never took classes in engineering. After high school, he attended Portland Community College to study pre-dentistry, but determined the subject was not for him. Instead, he continued to work with his father on improving the Harley V-twin engine.

"As the years have gone by, we have developed tooling and measuring equipment to help in this quest for more power," Baisley said. "It really has come from curiosity and wanting to know why something works."

Racing can be an expensive hobby, draining its participants of their savings. But Baisley has turned it into a paying business. He and his father launched Baisley Hi-Performance in 1973 and his father joined the operation full time in 1980.

"It's been a real passion for me,"said Dan Baisley, "doing something I like to do." He stopped racing in 1981 to spend time with his children, but he was coaxed back on to the seat of a drag bike 10 years later.

The company has made its name racing and selling parts to other racers. But buyers of that status symbol, the street Harley-Davidson motorcycle, want to go faster, too. After plunking down between $6,000 and $20,000 for a new motorcycle, they have the Harley dealer or an after-market shop hop it up.

Customers spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at independent shops like Stegmann Brothers in Northeast Portland to make their Harley beat all others off the line when the light turns green. Owner Mike Stegmann uses Baisley parts in some of his customers' motorcycles. Clients are mostly professional people over 40, including Casey Powell, CEO of Sequent Computer Systems Inc.

A stock Harley 80-inch Evolution engine produces about 50 horsepower. But with special parts such as Baisley heads and valves, builders can boost horsepower up to 70 and even 90.

"The secret is getting the head to flow more air" Stegmann said. That's where Baisley cylinder heads come in. Stegmann, who has known Dan Baisley for nearly 25 years, calls him "very meticulous, very detail-oriented." Baisley valves and parts have been installed in Harley-powered motorcycles around the world.

While marketing is the company's least effective function, sales grew to $550,000 last year. "I'm trying to watch how it grows," Baisley said. "I don't want it to get out of hand."

Baisley's shop emphasizes results. In racing, performance counts for more than appearances.


Road Captain
5,356 Posts
Hottest of hot cyclinder heads made in Portland
Bill Neill
Special To The Business Journal

Much of Baisley Hi-Perfor-mance's work on cylinder heads begins with an existing head made either by Harley-Davidson or an after-market manufacturer such as S.T.D. Development Inc. of Chatsworth, Calif. Baisley modifies the shape of the intake and exhaust ports, the valve seats and valves.

In Baisley's shop, the cylinder heads, which are about the size of half a cantaloupe, are bolted onto a CNC (computer numeric control) machine, which can be programmed to cut metal in almost any dimension. Afterward, the head's intake ports still need to be smoothed out with a hand grinder, just the way the hot-rodders did it back in the 1950s.

But the newest and most exciting product to come out of this shop is an aluminum, dual-carburetor cylinder head for Evolution and Twin-Cam Harleys, designed and built from scratch. The project started several years ago when owner Dan Baisley hired Paul Paine to draw the product in 3-D, using computer-aided drafting software called Mastercam. Paine operates Buckmaster, a company that does CAD/CAM programming and manufacturing in Wilsonville. He estimated he spent 400 to 500 hours on Baisley's cylinder head project over a year and a half.

"We spent many nights working on this in my office or at home," Paine recalled of his collaboration with Baisley. "We'd hear the birds and it was 5:30 in the morning."

The finished drawing, in the form of a computer disc, went to a pattern shop in California, where a mold was made. The mold was sent to a foundry in California which casts the product.

"We have a lot invested in the drawing, the pattern and the casting," Baisley said. He would like to sell at least 150 to 200 sets of Baisley cylinder heads per year. A pair will be priced around $3,200. He said he needs to sell 175 to 200 sets to pay off the investment in the project.

An ex-Harley rider himself, Paine predicted that Harley owners will buy Baisley's new cylinder heads because they have money to spend on improved engine performance and they love acceleration. "It's what I call the smile factor," he said.

The design has already attracted attention from Mastercam. When it was completed, CNC Software in Connect-icut, the parent company of Mastercam, used a computer illustration of Baisley's new cylinder head on the front cover of its 7.0 reference manual.

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