How to Rebuild and Restore Classic Harley-Davidson Big Twins 1936-1964

Into restoring an old classic Harley-Davidson from the glorious period, years 1936 to 1964? You should add this new book to your workbench or bedside stand. We all know that being a collector and/or rider of these motorcycles implies a lot of pleasure but also sometimes a lot of frustrations with machines known to be, well temperamental…

The rebuilding and restoring of these machines is not so much a defined task as a never-ending process. Still ready to face some mechanical challenges? This book offers pristine restored examples, explains the care, repair and maintenance that these Harleys require.

With a thorough text and detailed photography, author Rick Schunk walks vintage Harley owners through start-to-finish instructions for each operation necessary for the repair and restoration of a classic Harley-Davidson Big Twin.

Beginning with a practical section on understanding, choosing, and purchasing a classic Harley, this book focuses on the nuts and bolts of classic Harley ownership, from chassis to bodywork, from wheel to wheel. Through step-by-step photography and thoughtful, informative instruction, the reader will learn how to disassemble a chassis, repair a fork, lace a wire wheel, and paint the major parts for any restoration. It will provide thorough instruction on repairing, overhauling, and restoring all major components, such as the engine, transmission, and electrical system.

Rick Schunk, from Bloomington, MN, is an antique bike enthusiast and mechanic. In addition to his wrenching skills, he was the long-time editor for the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s magazine as well as past president of its Minnesota chapter. 272 pages. $26.30. Order at:

12 Responses to “How to Rebuild and Restore Classic Harley-Davidson Big Twins 1936-1964”

  1. 1 Sep 30th, 2012 at 9:54 am

    All right!… If the book can teach me how to spoke….. I’ll order one today!

    I couldn’t learn from the factory manual. Need some help….. with the truing-fix, that’s 180-degree from the spot your working on. Boy Howdy….

  2. 2 Rodent Sep 30th, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I’ve got the companion book “How to do brain surgery at home with kitchen tools”

  3. 3 Brandon Sep 30th, 2012 at 10:38 am

    This one should interest a lot of garage builders

  4. 4 Sep 30th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    The Pan motors are sure reliable. Every 61 & 74 cu. in. motor has the engineering within, that when all dialed-in correctly… you can almost blow-on the motor to get them started.

    You can “feel” a Pan motor that’s wantin’ to jump as you’re preparing to start one – knowing it’s going to fire on the first kick.

    “The assembly line mechanics at the Milwaukee factory were a “thinking-unit” in practice. Someone upstream would put oil and gas in every 25th machine or so, and another mechanic down the line would pull the bike off-assembly and start it, first or second kick. It was their way of quality control…”, a parts distributor remarked recently.

  5. 5 nicker Sep 30th, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    “…with machines known to be, well temperamental…”

    That would be machines “known to have features” who’s mechanical challenges created a formidable barrier to operation and ownership.
    A barrier that only the “rugged individual” could/would surmount.

    What your talking about is the “process” that created the American Biker and that kept American motorcycling an “exclusive club” for decades.

    How many break-in-bikers would there be without electric starters………… ??? ……. 🙂


  6. 6 richard Oct 1st, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Love these old bikes. A few years ago, a friend and I were on the way to sturgis. We were cruising about 75 mph when two white knuckles passed us like we were anchor’d. We caught up to them just as they were leaving the gas station we were entering. Looling great and sounding better….They made a believer out of me.

  7. 7 Oct 2nd, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    *we’re preparing a YouTube treatise that covers “Plugging the Crankcase Oil Passage” for a greener knuckle or pan. I own one.
    We (Stett & I) didn’t invent the corking process (mighta’ been Viola’s Slidemeister), but we were the first to publish the procedure (Vol. 2). Look for it sooner than later. I was the one holding up progress, but I sent the young film director & narrator the script(s) today. There’s other ancillaries not shown or discussed to make note of, within the “dis” and the re-assembly, but the short film will focus will be hands-on. It may take several viewings to grasp the concept of “free-spinning” the oil pump.

    * “We’re” doesn’t include Stett’s activity. The show’s being run by 7th & 9th grade students.

  8. 8 nicker Oct 2nd, 2012 at 10:36 pm


    Will the plugs cure wet-sumping…???

    I’m think-n a petcock on the oil line from the oil tank and a sign hung over the speedo reading:
    “turn on oil before starting”……….. me, Millie, and our oily “foot-prints” are about to be banished from the house forever…. 🙁


  9. 9 Oct 3rd, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Wet-sumping as everyone (now 🙂 )knows is caused by the check valve seat and/or spring-pressured-ball not sealing. The oil drains down into the sump of the crankcase, only to be regurgitated back into the oil tank once the motor has started.
    A “natural” mechanical occurrence (except for the regurged oil that found an easier path, out the oil snoot, into the primary and onto the floor, I guess is the part you’re talking about 🙂

    There’s a oil pump smearing ball that’s made from a soldered ball, exactly centered on a shank that’s fit through a hole in an old, but center-threaded, pump cap. The knurled knob of the descending shaft meets the galled brass seat and augers a “schmear”, reportedly, but you can’t turn too deep.

    Me? My clutch push rod stuck inside my throw-out bearing and the bike sat for a few weeks. The oil tank drained down into the motor about a third of the way.
    Me? I don’t care….Tonto wears no underwear.
    I kicked the motor over and took off. When the sumped oil started trying to find the easy way out of the snoot. There was a closed door at oil passage hole with a sign hanging, that said, “Closed permanently, go back to the oil tank…and if it’s backed-up with other oil….wait your turn. You’ll have too, there’s 35 psi of oil that won’t let you return any other way…. and No, your not going to threaten to choke the motor, because it’s breathing on it’s own private airway, so scram”.

    But to answer you’re question Nicker, no, plugging the crankcase does not prevent crankcase oil sumping, but it won’t allow anything but a light mist to exit the breather, and the breather is outside the primary cover.

    It’s nice to say goodbye to a chain and the constant oil source it needs to keep from stretching – beyond the 3,500 miles that I could only get out of them. I’d starve the chain down to two quarter size drops on the pavement after stopping the bike. No more. And no drips. So much so, that now since I’ve eliminated an oil filter line connection leak back to the tank…. I’m going to break out a new piece of 22″ x 40″ white cardboard to measure any drips, from any where except that short breather tube, and that’s only a drop or two – if that.
    And the entire process is reversible, if you’re crazy enough to go back to a chain, you can.

  10. 10 nicker Oct 5th, 2012 at 12:11 am


    “…caused by the check valve seat and/or spring-pressured-ball not sealing….”

    Ya, the manual i have is good on Flattie oil pump documentation, But not much detail on early OHV oil pump.

    The pump and its screws and fasteners (like everything else on Millie” are in OEM shape, so i’d prefer to get good documentation before attempting a “fix” and “buggering” something up.
    So, to avoid “creating” yet another thing that “isn’t running,” a petcock seemed the “quick fix.”

    Really don’t have time to properly research it at the moment.


  11. 11 Oct 5th, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Yea…I was thinking that I didn’t answer your petcock query.

    The optimum imo, would be to find an inline, cad plated, 3/16″ x compression fitting (on each end), “full port” (so you get a full 3/16″ i.d.) ball valve, that would have a 90-degree on/off lever, through googler. Might be an HVAC item. It’s not anything from plumbing.

    Hanging a big sign off the dash switch would be a necessity, or zip-tie the kick pedal folded.

  12. 12 Oct 5th, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I meant 3/8 line not 3/16.
    I thought your were talking about knuckle oil return lines, or were going to. 🙂

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