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Bike of the Month

December 2020

1928 Harley-Davidson JDH

Twin Cam Bobber

By George Canavan and Jim Willette

Jim Willette down in Lodi is a Comstock member and has this to share about his 1928 Harley Davidson JDH Twin Cam; “I bought the bike in about 1990 from Walt Cabral. He got it a few years prior from an old timer in Fish Camp, Ca. The story from Walt was that he (maybe Harold, unknown last name) was a weekend m/c racer prior to WW2 and he was trying to recreate or restore my bike to its racing form. He was in his eighties and finally decided to pass the project on.

 

30 years ago I paid about $9k for the bike and all his motorcycle spares.  That was a pickup load that included a lot of NOS stuff from the invitation only parts sale prior to the Harrah auctions. It was a good deal but not a great deal at that period of time.

 

Walt had it a few years and took it mostly apart. The frame had been cutdown by removing 2" from the rear top tubes to give a lower profile, he put it back into the standard frame it has now to make it more street rideable. He left the engine as Harold had built it, among other things it has nicely made set of 4 1/2" stroked flywheels with Rambler Pistons (higher wrist pin) so that stroker plates were not required. Walt sold it to me when he was downsizing prior to moving into an assisted living place because of his ailing wife. 

 

I reassembled the bike but didn't really do any serious work on it until after I retired in 2002. I painted it and redid the wheels, controls linkage issues and all the miscellaneous little stuff. The "Baby Bosch" was the last big issue that I dealt with and finally paid the big bucks to have the magneto repaired. That finally brought it back to life about 5 years ago. 

 

Not related to the bike, but my friend Walt was an interesting character - born in 1915 he developed an early interest in all things mechanics especially motorcycles, cars and airplanes. In his twenties he developed and patented an electric transfer pump to regulate the fuel supply between airplane wing tanks - it was used extensively in WW 2 aircraft. After the war he teamed up with Alexander M. Poniatoff at a development company were he continued to work on aircraft, travel trailer and air cooled engine innovations among other things. He patenting several of his ideas. He sold his interest in the company after Alex wanted to put money into a “harebrained idea” about using magnetized tape similar to movie film to record voices- AMPEX did pretty well with the idea. Walt lamented, everybody's entitled to a mistake now and then. 

 

Alex and Walt remained friends and Walt was the administer of his estate after his wife's death at 105. The Poniatoff's lived in Atherton in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Their neighbor ended up buying the property and demolished the house to expand their garden - nice to have that much money!”

 

Walt, along with his "year of his birth 1915 Harley" was instrumental is the resurgence of the Pre-16 motorcycle runs. He rode his '15 at numerous events into his Eighties. 

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