HARLEY-DAVIDSON 1939 U CUSTOM — Succession of enthusiasts

This motorcycle came from the mind and hands of an enthusiast, aided in his quest for parts by two brothers, the Charpentiers, including Marc who will preserve in his own way the legacy of his brother.

The captivating story of this bike begins when Denis St Onge buys a motorcycle magazine because he falls in love with the machine on the cover. On this cover, a Harley Davidson Flathead U modified by a workshop in the State of New York creates a crazy desire in him to build a similar model.

Hunting for Parts

Since Denis is not at his first motorcycle, his circle of acquaintances is quite large in the province and elsewhere. In 2013, he found at his buddy’s, Dean Hadd’s from the Eastern Townships, an old Harley Flathead U engine equipped with UH or ULH 80 pc cylinders recognizable by its extra cooling fin and its 3-inch 7/16 bore instead of 3-inch 5/16 for the 74 pc. Denis was accompanied in his quest by his friend Claude Charpentier. The two enthusiasts brought the engine back for a first in-depth inspection. This piece of machinery would to be completely restored, but the pleasure is exactly there in the making of such a project. Then, he found the frame in Maple Grove, near Beauharnois. That frame had already been modified, which particularly interested Denis, who did not want to build an original bike. Closer to home, in Herouxville, at Gaétan Cossette’s, he found an original Springer Harley fork that needed some tender care to get back in use. Then, always accompanied by his accomplice Marc, he found original wheels, a BSA tank, English motorcycle fenders and a whole bunch of other parts that will make the bike a joyful puzzle to assemble.

Virtual Prototype

Denis started by modifying the front part of his frame, which had already been transformed. He grafted a Triumph fork support to it to be able to make a mount of his own making later. The large 18-inch wheels were restored, painted black and fitted with Firestone ANS tires. The fork was taken apart, restored, and adapted to Triumph’s post, and an English motorcycle handlebar has been mounted thus reducing the massive silhouette of the original American bike. The bodywork elements carefully selected by Denis will greatly contribute in increasing the lightening, almost giving it the look of a pre-war Harley prototype intended for the European market. Two black painted British motorcycle fenders simply highlight the tires without covering them like Harley fenders. A BSA fuel tank is positioned on the top tube of the frame. A Triumph protection grill will be added. To add to the vintage aspect of the project, Denis decided not to chrome the accessories, but rather to copper them and patinate them afterwards. A simple brown leather solo seat mounted on a spring refines the simplistic aspect of the bike. In 2016, Denis sold his creation to his friend Claude, who unfortunately passed away suddenly in 2017. It is his brother Marc, also a great motorcycle enthusiast, who will take care of the beautiful, modified Harley.

Why not a sidecar?

Even though Marc is happy with his new ride, the memory of his brother pushes him to make it something he would be proud of, customizing it with taste and subtlety. Thinking about it, after the AMAQ year-end ride in 2019, he opted for the creation of a sidecar that would help add his personal touch to the bike without altering the passionate work of its two previous owners. With the help of old photos of motorcycles from 1918 to 1925 that he found on Internet, Marc estimated the proportions, and started fabricating the chassis of the sidecar and its skeleton. Marc dressed the frame with sheet metal and placed a wing found on the Net. Marc entrusted his sister Danielle with the upholstery, while his friend Daniel from the Daneault garage in St-Nicephore would take care of the bodywork and painting as he did on all Marc’s bikes. The friendly bearded man was not at his first try since, at 16 years old in 1968, he gifted himself his first motorcycle, a BSA 62. Then, he had a Triumph, and in 1972 his first Harley, an XLCH. Since then, Marc has only owned Harleys. He bought his first vintage bike in the early 2000s, a 1964 Duo Glide that he restored and regularly rides. He also has a 1978 Shovel project that is now occupying his free time. One thing is for sure, Claude would be glad to see that his brother’s passion has been celebrated and made his motorcycle evolve.

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