Dick Allen - Locomotion Rebuild - Page 2
The project is moving along but moving slowly. Fender should be here this week and a fellow called up who claims that he has the old original fuel tank so we're checking that out.
In the meantime since we can't get our hands on a 'real' motor I just made one out of cardboard using one of Mark van der Kwaaks CAD drawings that I bought.
Mark does incredibly intricate CAD work and he's also an excellent builder so I have complete confidence in the accuracy of his drawings. It's certainly better than nothing at this stage of the build since we're about ready to put the motor/tranny fixture plate in the jig and weld-in the motor and tranny mounts.
To be honest this is the first time I've ever personally built a frame having a raised tranny so it'll be a learning experience and something I'd like to use on other builds in the future if I do any.
Getting back to that 'Tank' again I think readers need to know that they'll eventually run across guys selling Dick's 'original' tank at some of the larger swap meets. I've seen maybe a half dozen over the years that have been doctored up to look that they were old and scuffed up but I seriously doubt if any of these are THE original tank. One way to tell the original from a copy is the tank mounts and this brings up another thing entirely.
Remember I wrote earlier than when I measured Dicks frame the rake angle was only 42-degrees? Well that was done when the old original tank was mounted differently than it came to be configured later on down the road.
When I first measured the frame the gas tank was mounted about 6-inches behind the steering stem in a more or less conventional fashion with a single bolt front and rear thru the factory tank flanges and the frame backbone. The front mount went thru the speedo cable hole. I notice however that in later pictures of the bike, from around 72, that the tank has been moved at least 3-inches further towards the rear of the frame to provide clearance for the handlebars (when turned) on what appears to be a frame with at least a 45-degree rake, maybe even a 50-degree rake. The rear tank mount has been cut away and two new side-mount tabs have been installed about 2-inches from the rear of the tank. In later pictures those tabs were move even another 2-inches further forward.
This tells me that the frame was modified at some point in time (maybe between 71 and 73) to have more rake that it originally had when I measured it or that the frame in the pictures is a completely different frame.
It also tells me that people claiming to have Dicks original tank didn't pay attention to details with his modifications to the bike over time and are trying to sell stuff that simply doesn't 'work' with his frame configurations over the years. It also tells me that some folks don't bother to look at pictures of Dicks old bike over the years.
Here's a picture of a tank that some folks in Southern California are saying was Dicks tank as he last ran it before the 1981 crash.
I am not going to dispute that this wasn't a tank that Dick had on some bike in 1980-81 but it isn't the original Locomotion tank for sure. For one thing the rear mount tabs are in the wrong place and the petcock bung is not in the location of the original tank. The glaring error is that the 'dish' isn't at all in the proportions of that seen on the real original tank. The 'dish' on the original tank was relatively small in proportion to the overall size of the tank. The old tank was dished by 'hand', this tank was done by machine. Beyond all of that this tank doesn't even have the same profile as Dicks original tank. To me this looks almost exactly like the profile of a tank Custom Chrome used to sell and for me this looks like something to 'new' to have been on Dicks original bike.
I'm beyond being absolutely 100% sure that this is not the original Locomotion fuel tank but I can't say that this thing wasn't mounted to some Allen bike at some point in time. This goes back to the rumor that Dick built a bike for 'show' purposes in the late seventies which many people say was the bike involved in the 81 accident. If this rumor is true then what actually happened to the old original Locomotion? And what happened to the bike involved in the accident?
If you look at the 'law', the cops had the remains hauled to the impound yard and then the insurance guys did their thing over the carcass. Dick did get a big settlement from the accident but the bike was totaled by the insurance company who had it in their possession. How did anyone get the 'parts' from the wreck that a lot of people are trying to sell? Did they buy them from the insurance company or the wrecking yard? Kind of makes a person wonder.
The one guy who might be able to provide answers is Joe Hurst but unfortunately Joe moved away from the South bay in 77-78, around the same time as Dick was supposedly building this 'show' bike (or rebuilding the original bike after it was recovered from a theft) to promote his products in Super Cycle magazine.
I talked with Joe on the phone and he thinks that the tank I pictured above was 're-dished' and that's why it doesn't match the old original but he has no idea why the petcock bung or rear mounts were relocated or why the profile doesn't look right.
This situation is so puzzling that I just can't let it go. Almost everybody I've talked with say that the Locomotion did go through several rebuilds over it's lifetime and that Dick did get most of the bike back after it was stolen in 1977 but then the story gets a little fuzzy. The most popular rumor is that the bike was completely stripped and parted out but that he recovered everything but the flywheels. Other people tell me that he just recovered bits and pieces of the original bike but that he'd already started to build another 'Locomotion' before a lot of the parts were found. Unfortunately there are almost no pictures of the Locomotion taken after 1975 so we don't have anything to compare the 'old' and 'new' against.
The real history of the Locomotion is also clouded by the fact that the bike was involved in more than one accident that necessitated a rebuild. Everybody knows about the 1981 incident but few people are aware that the bike was also crashed around 1973 and went thru an earlier rebuild. The old tank may have been modified or a new tank installed as a result of the this early accident. To me this makes sense as the paint scheme seen on the tank above is what almost everybody says Dick was running on the bike in the late seventies and I believe that. Why did he need to repaint the old original tank unless it was seriously damaged or replaced at some point in time.
Until recently I didn't have any proof to back up the rumor of the 73 wreck until a reader with sharp eyes pointed out a few things about some pictures I'd already posted.
Here's one of those pictures, taken by Steve Iorio in 1975.
Note that the right front down tube is pretty badly bent and that the bike is equipped with one of Dicks old fork sets, not the set he normally ran. Why did he change Springers unless the original was somehow damaged?
And here's an earlier photo, also taken by Randy Smith, in 1973. Note the crutches.
It was pointed out to me that the fuel tank in the picture above is not Dicks original tank and that even the 'Locomotion' logo has been stylized and painted differently than it was on the old original bike. Perhaps the only reason to do this was because the original tank had been damaged, maybe at the same time that the frame was bent and the forks needed to be changed out. I agree with the reader. This is not the original tank but the 'dished' portion does match that seen on the tank believed to have been on the bike during it's later incarnation from around the 1977-78 time period.
The reason I'm being so nit-picky about this issue of the tank is because we're trying to build a relatively accurate reproduction of the bike as it sit in the 1969-71 time frame when it was first 'born'. What we're trying to do is the first iteration of the bike before it got 'gussied-up' later on down the road.
When Dick first built the bike he used the old tank that Nez gave him and then painted it all black (rattle-can) except for the dished panels and the original logo artwork. He didn't do a very good job with the black spray job and actually missed the 'undersides' where the tank sides start to curve in so you could still see some purple if you got got eye level with the frame. The panels remained 'Plum Purple' with the poorly done white hand-lettered name and scallops until some time around 1972-73 when it got a 'professional' paint job.
I've had several people tell me that the 'new' tank mounted on the bike in 73 wasn't the old original tank which Dick kept aside for sentimental reasons. If this is factual then somebody out there actually still has the old original tank that Nez gave him.
I've talked with the two guys who did almost all of Dicks painting back in the day and both of them have told me they didn't do anything with the Locomotion but that the artwork on the tank pictured above has all the hallmarks of something that Randy Smith would have done. Unfortunately Randy isn't with us anymore. It's interesting however to remember that Dick and Randy were closely involved together doing work for Custom Chopper Magazine between 71 and 74.
To complicate matters even more, this page wasn't on the net for more than 2-hours when I get a call from a guy in New Mexico who says he has the original Locomotion frame, wheels, forks, tank and fender and has the paperwork and photographs of himself and Dick to back it up. I'm going to be heading over there to meet with him as soon as I can. I'll provide an update to that as things work out.
While I was making calls to track down info and parts for this project I was amazed at how many people around the country have a 'stash' of the old Dick Allen parts piled up in their garages. I guess some folks planed ahead and knew that Dick was on to something good. Unfortunately most of these folks also want top dollar for said parts but I can't blame them for that as they are good parts and good parts are hard to find. I've found out that there are a lot of old DA parts being sold on both ebay and Craig's List so if you're into Dick's stuff then keep an eye out on those sites.
However you also have to beware of rip-off parts pretending to be DA originals. I've seen DA shirts from Japan that are obvious copies and even some shirts made here that can't possibly be originals plus forks, sissy bars and a whole host of stuff that is basically 'new'.
I found one guy who has 15 sets of old DA forks ranging from 12 to 18-over. One guy who has 18 sets of wheels, both spokes and solid discs. One fellow with 8 sets of headers and three guys with old original DA primary belt drives. Of course everybody already knows that JJ has the original plugs and molds for the 12-spoke rims in his storage shed. I ran across several people who are hoarding DA shirts in the original cartons and one guy who says he has the old original interior window from the shop with Dick's logo painted on it. One guy says he has the sign from Dicks shop but I know that's a phony because I have the original sign myself that I got from Chuck.
Darcy wants us to build, as close as is possible, what most folks would call a museum quality reproduction of her Dads original bike. We're trying to do this by using the building techniques that Dick would have used, by using all vintage parts wherever possible and by using real DA parts whenever we can find them.
Other people have tried to build replicas of Dicks old bike but so far nobody has done it right.
The photo above is a snapshot of Locomotion II built by Mike from Reno for the 2015 Easy-Riders show in Sacramento. The bike shows incredible workmanship and while it does have some original DA parts it just doesn't hit the mark with respect to originality.
The bike pictured above was also done by a Reno based shop, War Customs, and is another take on the Locomotion with a lot of original DA parts including wheels, headers, forks and other bits and pieces. It's an outstanding product but again it just didn't adhere very closely to the overall form of Dicks original bike.
What we're aiming for with this build is a bike that folks can't differentiate from the old 1971 original so we need to be nit-picky about what might seem to be insignificant details. We're only going to get one shot at this.
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