The Gypsy Prince started life as a 1975 XLCH. Like many people it was the first Harley I owned and could afford. It was my daily mode of transportation for years. At the time, I was apprenticing as a metal fabricator at the local shipyard; on lunch breaks, after hours and weekends I would make and modify little pieces, but it never saw a full build as I needed it to get around. I still don’t know how to drive a car. Eventually I finished my apprenticeship and started buying and building more old Harleys. My humble Ironhead Sportster eventually wore out the kicker gear and though I had the parts it sat neglected for a few years, but I swore I would never sell it.
I’ve always loved crazy Franken-motors; Randy Smiths’ Magnum, Carl Morrows’ 200 mph Ironhead, and the Pan/Shovel motor from Indian Larry’s “Chain of Mystery.” I had the idea to build a chopped-off transmission Shovel top-end Ironhead, so after mentioning my intentions to a local motor builder who got wide eyed and said “if you ever build it, bring it by” and with very little idea of what I was doing, other than a couple photos from old magazines.
I started the build. I “sawzalled” the trans off my 75 XLCH case, and welded big aluminum blocks on it for rear motor mounts. Next, I pulled the barrel studs and filled them, built up the cases with weld to accommodate the larger shovel barrels, and ground it down with a Dremel and grinder. Then it was on to the top end; the push rod holes in both heads were welded out and moved to accommodate the 4-cam bottom end, the fins on the heads and barrels were Dremeled to clear the new push rod angle and they were setup for outside, return oiling, The heads (a 48’ Pan and a 73’ Shovel), were then sent to Baisely H-D for a special set of equalized roller rockers and to have the valves set up. Being as Pan and Shovel intakes naturally don’t match up, it made sense to run a Super-E out each side. Lastly, I got a NOS set of Sifton “stroker” cams, that run a 0.545 lift.
I had intended to build the motor, throw it in some frame, with some gas tank and seat and “see” if it actually ran, but I got carried away with the excitement of the build. Chrome, paint, and small fab details carried me for a few more months of lunch breaks and weekends. Finally, right before Born Free 8, it was done. With my mom and pop in tow we headed south. I’d never been to Born Free, or any real show for that matter, and had no idea what to expect. The whole family had a great weekend, and though we didn’t take home any trophys we did get to park with “the cool guys”, make some new friends, and see the best of the best, in custom bikes.
Overall, the Gypsy Prince took 700+ hours over a year and a half. I built it to challenge myself, and maybe prove something. And I’ll still never sell it!