Model: Miss V
Editor's Note: The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Tahoe Tessie, the Fountain of Youth, the Holy Grail, and Unicorns. For generations the myth, lore, and excitement of these things have encouraged people to spend their lives seeking them out. For Harley-Davidson enthusiasts that elusive item is the "Barn Find" bike. Scoring a barn find bike is every Harley lovers dream; to own a piece of history that's been stored away, forgotten about, and, unmolested. Unveiled and relinquished into the right hands, the barn find is like a newly discovered artifact to an archeologist. It provides a detailed account of how things used to be and how things were done. For traditional raked and flaked chopper lovers like Emerson Arnold, his bike dubbed The Real Deal is his lost arc.
This bike is titled a 1960 FLH and was built circa 1969 to 1971 in West Virginia. Before getting into the history and story of this bike, I'll cover some of the nuts and bolts of the bike.
First off, the molding, paint and chrome plating are from the original build, not retouched. The motor is a 1960 bottom end with an early 1970's Shovelhead top end. The frame is a Harley-Davidson Wishbone, raked and extensively molded as was normal in those days. The frontend is a 16-inch over twisted Springer with elephant tusk rockers. The wheels are five-spoke Invader mags, a 16-inch rear and an 18-inch front. The seat is the original King and Queen, and weighs a ton compared to today's seats. The sissy bar is in the same twist as the Springer frontend. A peanut gas tank and flat rear fender finish out the tins, all sprayed in period metalflake. I made only a couple of changes to the bike since I've owned it. The pullback handlebars were swapped out for Paucho Z-bars, which I believe are still period correct and a lot more comfortable. The Hunt magneto was swapped for electronic ignition and a small oil cooler/filter was added to deal with the South Texas summers. The Zenith carburetor that was on the bike was replaced with a 1970's S&S Super B which works great with this motor.
Now for the story. From what I've pieced together, the bike resided in West Virginia during the 1970s and sometime during the early 1980s it went down to Texas for display. By the late 1980s the bike was back in West Virginia, and stored away in a barn for the next 20-plus years. A very good friend of mine saw an ad for the bike in the local Charleston paper in the late 1980s/early1990s and went out to look at the bike, but the deal fell through.
In late 1999, the same good friend saw another add for a "Chopper for sale" in the local Charleston paper again. He made contact with the owner and drove out to see the bike. As he was pulling up the driveway to the house, he got the feeling that he'd been there before and sure enough, it was the same barn and same bike under the tarp. This time he bought the bike.
Now here's where I come in. My friend called me (my wife and I had moved to Texas just before this) to tell me about the bike. He wanted to take the bike to Bike Week 2000 for me to see and ride, because he knew of my love for the old choppers from back in the day. Having been around some shops during my high school and college days, I'd seen the good, bad, and ugly of chopper builds and really didn't know what to expect when we arrived in Daytona. Long story short, I was blown away when we opened the trailer and saw the bike sitting there. My wife and I made a deal on the spot to buy the bike, even before unloading and getting it running. I would still have to wait a year-and-a-half before getting it in my garage in Texas. After getting the bike down to Houston, I went about going through the mechanical side and the running gear as well as hours of cleaning and detail. The bike picked up its name, The Real Deal, during this time from Bob and Ronnie Belsan, owners of Southern Motorcycles in Houston. Many thanks to Brad Latham for his engine tuning and all around mechanical contributions, and thanks to Kent Weeks of Lucky Devil Metal Works in Houston, for his help on rebuilding the rockers on the Springer and the neck bearings.
The bike has been in several shows in Houston, as well as the 100th Anniversary Party in Fort Worth during October of 2002, where it received an invite to be displayed at the H-D 100th Anniversary festivities in Milwaukee in 2003. Today, the bike is a reliable putt around the countryside in Grimes County, Texas and still makes the yearly trip to Daytona Bike Week.
Editor's Note: If this bike rings a bell from your past, or you know more about its history, such as who built it, we'd love to hear more. So would Emmerson. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.