Sunday, January 28, 2007

Love the Brethren

Proverbs 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth

I had not planned, when I started this blog, to comment on current events as many bloggers concentrate on. Recently though, I came across something that I feel the need to address. It seems that a prominent creation science evangelist by the name of Dr. Kent Hovind has been sentenced for tax evasion. I don't know many of the details of the case, except that from what I gather he had a long running battle with the IRS over whether or not his "ministry" and himself were required to pay taxes. This apparently was no small misunderstanding , as he has now been sentenced to 10 years.

But the justice, or injustice of that sentence is not what I wish to speak to. Though I have seen Dr. Hovind speak on two separate occasions, and attended one of his debates vs. an evolutionist, he is not someone whose ministry I follow closely. Dr Hovind is someone who I guess would be referred to as a fundamentalist. Doctrinally he would be toward the far end of the spectrum from me in regards to Calvinism. However, he gives every appearance that he loves the Lord, and has served him for many years to best of his ability. While I may disagree with the stand he chose to make in respect to taxes, I cannot help but admire him for dedicating his life to evangelism.

What I find most troubling about this whole story is that I came across it while reading another blog. This blogger, who will remain nameless here, wrote about Dr. Hovind's sentencing with an all too obvious glee! Reading some of the comments and following some of the links revealed this to be a quite common attitude. Now if this had been a "secular blogger" I would not have given it a second thought. Anyone who holds the theory of evolution dear would have cause to count Dr. Hovind as an enemy. But no, this was a blog that in every way presents itself as a Christian blog (which is why I was reading it in the first place). The blog author's major quarrel with Dr. Hovind appear to be that "he is a self-taught amateur" in the field of creation science. Equally as damning in the authors view, seems to be the fact that Dr. Hovind actually defends the King James version of the Bible.

Using that criteria, the author of that particular blog would likely hold me in contempt also. After all, I have no degrees or formal training in theology, and yet I have the impudence to make a feeble attempt at declaring the Gospel. Some readers may have noticed that I too use the KJV exclusively. I have even been guilty of defending the biblical account of creation both among friends and while preaching , without any scientific training beyond high school. Does that make me an enemy to some that claim to be Christians?

The above admonition that we have from the book of Proverbs obviously would not trouble most secular evolutionists. It is however, something that should cause a Christian to take pause. Most of us here in the "west" would acknowledge one such as Saddam Hussein as an "enemy." No one that I know was grieved at his execution. In fact I would say that many that I know were closer to rejoicing than to grief. According to the passage in Proverbs that is something we should guard against, although I do believe that a hearty Amen may be the proper response to the justice of his execution.

But, if you are a Christian, of whatever persuasion, do you count Kent Hovind as an enemy? This is what I find really troubling about the glee with which this Kent Hovind story was reported. 1 John 3:14 says: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." So here is the kicker. If love of the brethren is one of the proofs of salvation given in the Bible, then someone needs to be concerned. I would not be so bold or so foolish as to claim that anyone who "piles on" Kent Hovind is not saved. I do not even know them personally. Neither do I know Dr. Hovind well enough to be very sure of his salvation (If misunderstanding of a bible teaching is a proof that one is not saved, then surely none of us will enter heaven; show me a man who thinks he has never been wrong on any doctrine since salvation, and I will show you a man who the Lord will soon humble.)

My question is: if you are celebrating Dr. Hovind's fall, are you bold enough to claim that he is unsaved? If so, I suggest you re-read Proverbs 24:17 above. If not, then I suggest you consider the state of your own soul in the light of 1 John 3:14. Either way, would not the proper response be to pray for Dr. Hovind?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Look Sharp

This post has to do with some of the details that can make or break an engine. Sharp edges. Rarely, if ever, are sharp edges a good thing inside your motor. Of course the time to address this issue is during the engine build. I wouldn't tear down an engine just to look for a "potential" problem like this unless I had a pretty good idea that the problem is likely to be there.

Starting in the middle (more or less) we find the most obvious and in many ways most egregious offenders. That would be the pistons. It is common knowledge that sharp edges in the combustion chamber are a good source of pre-ignition. The piston domes are one of the areas that nearly always needs some attention. Many pistons come out of the box with sharp machined edges, particularly on the edges of the valve reliefs. A few years back one of the aftermarket Harley engine manufacturers even came out with instructions that if the engine was to be used in hot climates that these edges should be rounded to help prevent pinging. All that is really needed is a some medium grit sandpaper to solve this potential problem. I usually use either a de-burring tool (or Buck knife if the de-burring tool is on the other end of the shop) and then finish with sandcloth. So now your beautiful shiny machined pistons domes aren't quite as photogenic, but they are more functionally attractive. Even the generic cast pistons we use in our Knucks, Pans, and Shovels should be inspected. Often they will have a small raised spot at the tip of the dome that has a sharp edge.
But you are not done with the piston yet! Now look at the bottom edge of the skirt. There should be a slight bevel on that lower edge. If there isn't one, imagine that piston on its downstroke with just a little cocking of the piston on the wrist pin. Yeah, I can picture the sharp leading edge of that piston scraping all of the oil right off the cylinder wall! By the way, credit for that tip goes to Axtell Sales in Des Moines (the people who are famous for their drag racing cylinders), who have a note in one of their piston instruction sheets to that effect. While you are in the area, make sure that any reliefs in the cylinder spigot have a rounded edge for the same reasons. If you have added the reliefs for a stroker motor, be sure you don't leave them sharp. Aftermarket cylinders will likely come with sharp edges here. Stock cylinders are usually ok from the factory but what about after you bore them a few times?

Working our way down the engine, the outside edges of the female connecting rod where they come into contact with the flywheel trust washers should be inspected. If you are running an early roller bearing Pan or Knuckle, then attention should be paid to the edges of the case races as well as the flywheel end play adjusting washers. In the same vein, take a close look at those case races. I have seen some new ones that were rough enough on the inner end that they would work like a grinding wheel on the end play washers. Within a couple thousand miles you will have double (or more) the end play that you set it up with!

Moving over to the gearcase, some of the aftermarket tappets (lifters) that I have seen have such sharp edges that you are in danger of cutting yourself just handling them! Obviously with the designed-in side loading on these parts in most of Harley's engine layouts, what I said about sharp edges on the lower edges of piston skirts also applies to both the top and bottom edges of the tappets.
Back up top, everything that I said about the piston domes in regards to pre-ignition also applies to the combustion chamber.
You're probably starting to get the idea by now. Just examine each part before you install it, and consider how any sharp edges you find might effect the engine. Remember, look sharp . . . but don't leave it sharp. A happy Harley engine is one that looks sharp on the outside, but isn't sharp on the inside.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lest Any Man Should Boast

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Lest any man should boast! If any man is a saved, born again believer in Christ, he should understand that he has no reason to boast. He should understand that it is nothing that he has done that has earned him his salvation. In fact there is nothing he could have done to gain God's favor. This verse is one (of many) of the reasons that the system of theology that I hold to makes me what may be called a "Sovereign Grace Baptist" as opposed to a "Free Will Baptist". Sovereign Grace Baptists, of course, are those who agree with the "Doctrines of Grace", more commonly called Calvinism.

Calvinism! That name is certainly one that will get a reaction from nearly anyone who calls himself a Christian! Often the reaction may go something like this: "those Calvinists are so arrogant that they think God chose them and no one else; what makes them think they are so special?" In truth, I am sure that there are some who call themselves Calvinists who probably do have such an attitude to some extent. Some of those may just misunderstand the doctrine, some may just misunderstand the Bible, and I fear some of them are just not even really Christians. But that is fair, because I am sure that there are as many that would say that they believe in "Free Will" occupying those same boats.

No Calvinist that properly understands the doctrines of Grace would argue that God chose to save him because of any good he saw in him. Just the opposite, in fact. They would argue that God chose them despite what he saw in him! This passage in Ephesians clearly states that no man has any reason to boast of salvation. If this is true (and it is, because the Bible says it) then whichever of these two doctrines allows room for boasting must have a problem.

When I was saved I fully believed that I had "made a decision" to "accept Christ". As I came to understand the Doctrines of Grace, I saw that if that had been true, then the only difference between myself and someone else who heard the same gospel yet did not get saved, was that I "made a decision". Would that not give me something to boast of? Even if I were just as vile and wretched a sinner (or worse) than the other, could not I boast that at least I could see my need of a savior? Would that not set me apart as in some measure better than the other?

I realize that this can be hard to get your mind around. If God chooses to save one and does not chose another, it is tough for us to grasp that it has nothing to do with him seeing something good, or lovely, or desirable in the one he "elects" to salvation. Perhaps that is because we, by nature, use such criteria when we chose who we will love.

Romans 9:11-14 reads thus: "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid." For the most part, I think most who believe in free will (in regards to salvation) would explain that in election (choosing), God looks forward in time and "elects" to salvation those who of their own free will, chose to accept Christ. If this be true, doesn't Jacob have somewhat to boast of? After all, by that reasoning, he had enough good in him to "make a decision for Christ," when his brother Esau was so rotten that he didn't. Is not "accepting Christ" a good work? I cannot think of anything that one could do that would be better. Yet this portion of scripture states that election is not of works.

So why does God choose to save one and not the other if its not based on "accepting Christ". Romans 9:15 says: "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Simply put, it is God's will that determines the matter. He will do whatever pleases him. That's not fair, you say? Do you really want fair? Do you really want justice? Justice would demand that each and every one of us go to hell, because we are all guilty.

We are all guilty, all made from the same sinful flesh. There is nothing in us that recommends us to God, not even the recognition of our guilt. Romans 9:21-23 says: "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory"

Now if you happen to be reading this and you have not been born again, you may find this doctrine revolting and "mean spirited" or perhaps even depressing, but keep in mind that you can never know till the day you die that you are not of God's elect. Remember that God did not save the thief on the cross until he was dieing along side Jesus.

As for me, I certainly have nothing to boast of. Well, that's not really true. I can boast of the wonderful mercy of God!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

When Shovelheads Ruled the World, Part 3

So there we were in the foothills outside of Colorado Springs, a little concerned with how the bike would run at this higher elevation, but totally excited to find Bobby's name on the list of National Records. Having spent a year working in a Dealership in Pueblo, one might think that tuning the bike for that elevation would be a piece of cake for me, but that was not really the case. Believe it or not, the S&S carb was not found on half the Harleys on the road back then as they are now, hence I had limited experience with tuning them. We didn't even get to the staging lanes before we realized we needed to start leaning it out. Each pass showed the need for more jetting work, but the bike was running a little better with each jet change. When I put in the smallest main jet we had, the motor was still noticeably rich as it came onto the main. So there we had a bit of a dilemma. We were told that "the Dragonman" had an adjustable main jet at his shop that we could buy, but that would mean only having one or two passes to try to tune the adjustable main. We hadn't noticed any bikes in our classes running as quick as Bobby yet, so I made the call to leave well enough alone.

Of course once it was too late to get the adjustable main, the fast bikes showed up! My first job as a Harley mechanic was working for Conger's Harley Davidson in Pueblo, Colorado. I learned a lot in the two years of motorcycle mechanics school that I had attended, but it was nothing compared to what I learned in a year working for Dick Conger. So who do you think showed up Sunday morning, but Dick with an Evolution powered bike, along with a friend on an 88 inch Shovel (that Dick built) which was known for being among the fastest Harleys in Pueblo. Both bikes were "teched" into the same "Street Racer FL" class with Bobby. I don't think I ever got a straight answer as to the engine size of Dick's Evo, but I kind of always assumed it was an 80". I knew that if anyone could make a stock cubic inch Evo run with the stroker Shovelheads, Dick could!

Dick, on the Evo, his friend on the 88" Shovel, and Bobby all worked their way through eliminations without too much trouble. Time has taken its toll on the details, so I really don't remember whether it was Dick or Bobby who beat Dick's friend in the semi finals, but either way the finals were looking like a big showdown, at least in my eyes.

As Bobby staged the bike against Dick in the finals, I couldn't help but wonder if I had blown our chances of winning by not trying the adjustable main jet. That little 93" Shovel came through with flying colors though, despite a momentary "blubbering" in each gear! I felt just as elated as if I had been the one on the bike beating my old boss.

The "shoot out" between the winners of each of the street classes was truly anticlimactic, though it did provide a few moments of frenzied activity. We brought the bike into the staging lanes for the first round not suspecting any problems, but when it was time for us to go I couldn't get the bike started. I kicked until I was blue in the face, then Bobby kicked until he was. Finally I pulled a plug wire to check for spark; None! There were only a couple pairs of bikes still waiting their turn as I made a mad dash to where we were pitted to get tools. By the time I got back there were only two bikes left to run. The racer in the other lane was kind enough to wait for us, but all hope quickly left us when I inadvertently sliced a plug wire in half with my buck knife. I no longer recall what I even had the knife out for, but I suspect I was attempting to cut a tie wrap.

Didn't matter much though, both Bobby and I were still grinning about winning our class again. Afterwards, as we were chatting with Dick Conger, Bobby graciously mentioned to him that he must be pretty happy with the race results, since he had built two out of the three fastest bikes and taught the one who built the other.

Bobby and I had never heard the expression "quit while you're ahead", so much of the talk on the long drive back to Minnesota had to do with getting to the next race on the schedule, St Louis! That story will have to wait for another day though...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

By Grace

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

This is one of my favorite verses in the bible. It seems like one could never run out of messages to write (or preach) on this verse alone. OK, that is an exaggeration. But the limiting factor would be the preacher, and not the depth of the scripture itself.

In years past I would use this verse to try to show people that grace was a gift of God and couldn't be earned by what we do. Of course that is true, but now I will more often use the verse to show that faith is a gift of God. That faith is the gift of God is what the verse actually states, though for years I had read it without realizing that. I came to the conclusion that this verse taught that faith is a gift of God using the logic that if grace was something that you received as a result of faith, then grace was no longer a gift, but the payment for your faith. Grace and faith must both be the gift of God, or else neither of them were, I thought. I still see that reasoning to be correct. However that truth is much simpler than my reasoning made it out to be. I had come to the right conclusion, but when I heard a preacher with a little better grasp of English explain it, I felt silly. The word "that" in the phrase "and that not of yourselves", refers to faith. One could paraphrase the verse like this: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that faith is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Thus it takes no reasoning to get "faith is a gift" from this verse, it only takes an understanding of basic English. In my defense though, it has been about 35 years since high school English classes for me.

What does it matter, you ask? Grace is, I believe, THE defining difference between Christianity and every other religion in the world. As near as I can tell, all other religions teach that it is your good works that earn you a place in heaven. If you believe that the Bible is God's inspired word, then you have plenty of proof of exactly the opposite. In fact the Bible tells us that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64: 6) Our "righteousnesses" (right acts) are in fact our good works. How many people in the world today are trusting in their "filthy rags", when the only thing that can help them on judgement day is Christ's righteousness?

The understanding of grace is, I believe, also one of the defining differences between all those who call themselves Christian, yet hold to such different doctrines. These differences in understanding of grace run the gamut from the belief that one is saved by faith plus works, to the belief that one is saved by baptism, to the belief that God saves anyone who will cooperate with him by accepting Jesus, to the belief that God does it all. I subscribe to the last view. I believe that the Bible teaches that God chose those who it pleased him to save, (despite their unworthiness and not due to anything they do), gives them faith and changes their hearts so that they desire to repent and live a changed life with Jesus Christ as their Lord.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Shovel Head Gasket Tip

Since I have been on the subject of Shovelheads lately (drag racing stories) it came into my mind to give a tip on torquing Shovel head bolts. This is a trick that was taught to me by Dick Conger over 25 years ago while I was working for him in his Harley dealership in Pueblo Colorado. If you are sharp you may note that is somewhat similar to the factory torquing sequence for Evolution head bolts, but Dick taught me this before the Evolution was even born!

I say that it is similar to the evolution torque pattern, in that it tightens down on each side of the oil drain hole first and then goes to the opposite side. The idea is to put a good tight squeeze on the drain hole first, since that is generally the source of head gasket failures on a Shovel. Of course it is far different from the Evolution sequence in respect to torque steps, as the Evo sequence is more concerned with cylinder distortion.

A little lube on the threads as well as under the head of the bolt will help keep your torque readings accurate. And don't forget, you also want to reach the torque setting of your wrench while it is still moving, because it takes more torque to start a bolt moving than it does to turn it. For that reason it helps to plan ahead so that you don't run out of room to "swing" your torque wrench just before you reach the full torque reading.

I know some will say that you don't need a torque wrench for Shovel headbolts. I even talked to a tech at S&S recently (who will remain nameless) that said he doesn't use one for Shovelheads. My only answer would be, that of the thousand or so Shovel engines I have torqued using this method, the failure rate has been zero, or very close to it. Happy wrenching!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Holy, holy, holy

God is a HOLY God. And just to be sure we are talking about the same God, I mean the Creator; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Jehovah; Yaweh . That is who I mean when I say that God is a Holy God. Websters defines holy, as it is applied to God, as perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character. But do any of us really grasp the true holiness of God?

Isaiah 6:1-4
1: In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2: Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3: And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4: And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Notice that the door posts shook at the voice of the seraphim. These were not just door posts as we have in our houses. I have to think that the door posts in the temple of God are pretty substantial! And the seraphim is merely a creature created by God. Can you imagine how much more powerful the voice of God himself is! Notice also that the seraphim says; "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts". I have heard it preached that since this is the only time that one of God's attributes is declared 3 times in a row, it means that holiness is his over riding attribute. I am not sure that is true, but neither would I argue with it. God's holiness certainly does help us understand some things about him.

Is it not God's holiness that demanded the substitutionary death of Christ? After all, if God's perfect love were to overshadow his perfect justice, could not he have forgiven us our sins without anyone paying the penalty. But that would have compromised his holiness, would it not? And conversely, if God's perfect justice was a stronger attribute than his love, he needn't have sent his son to pay the penalty of sin, he would have required us each to pay our own debt. But that too would have compromised his holiness as he would no longer then be a God of mercy!

I once had a man tell me that he believed that God is most of all merciful and that he would give everyone one last chance to be saved after they died. But where do we find that in the Bible? The Bible shows that he is a God of justice and judgment. Revelation 20: 12 tells of judgment.

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. "

The only way any of us can escape the judgement that we deserve is through the perfect justice of a holy God being satisfied by Christ taking our place in judgement! His suffering and death on the cross to pay the penalty that we earned with our sin!

Do any of us really grasp the holiness of God? I think not, or we would each day fall on our faces and say as Isaiah did when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up:
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

When Shovelheads Ruled the World, Part 2

If you read my last post titled "When Shovelheads Ruled the World", I left you as we headed south to the inaugural 4th of July "Iowa Hog Drags" in 1985 with our "Street Racer/FL" class bike. Located in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of Iowa, Humbolt County Dragway was an old 1/4 mile track that had been shortened to an 1/8 mile to compensate for lack of sufficient shutdown area for the newer and faster cars. Despite the facility being far from "state of the art" the event still managed to attract Harley dragbikes from all over the country. All Harley drags were new, but to the racers, the time was ripe!

As we pulled into the line waiting for the gates to open early in the morning of that first day of time trials, we saw that the trailer ahead of us had a lay down drag bike on it. I had to remind Bobby that it couldn't possibly be in our class because it had a drag slick on it. That calmed him down a bit, and we got out of the car and introduced ourselves . The "Hot Dragster" class Sportster on the trailer belonged to Russ Hendron from Illinois. He and his pit crew of one had arrived in the middle of the night and I got the impression that if they did not win some money that weekend, there would be some doubt as to whether or not they had enough gas money to get home. Little did any of us know that by the end of the season, Russ would be well on his way to becoming one of the top "B Fuel" pilots ever!

We were soon teched in without incident by none other than Gary "Tator" Gilmore who was not only sponsoring the race, but was also one of the main attractions with his Top Fuel Shovelhead. We were much encouraged with his comment that the bike looked "really good".

Time trials went well, with Bobby quickly getting his timing down on the "christmas tree". We still didn't really have a clue as to the competition, though, as there were a lot of bikes and more arriving all the time. There was no qualifying in those early days for the street classes. Just time trials, and then directly to eliminations. When the time for eliminations came, you simply got into the staging lanes and were lined up with other bikes in your class. After the first round of eliminations you might get lane choice if your previous pass was quicker than your next round's opponent, but who that opponent was going to be was still determined by chance. The first few rounds of eliminations flew by with no serious competition.

We were aware that there was some serious competition to come though. The bike we were most worried about was owned and ridden by Pat Mater, at that time the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the Hell's Angels. He had a chopper with a 103" Shovelhead engine built by Eagle Engineering, the best known performance shop in the Twin Cities. Between rounds Bobby told me that he had seen him run a low 7 second pass earlier in the day. Now I was the one that needed to be calmed down! Bobby's best so far had been in the 7.6os.

Before we knew it, "our" bike was one of only three left in the class. As might be expected in a class with rules that stated "Big Twins displacing over 86 cubic inches", the other two remaining bikes were a 98" Shovel from Texas, and Pat Mater's 103" Shovel.

As we got our bike into the staging lanes and were preparing to line up against Pat, the racer from Texas announced to us that the bike with the lowest e.t. from the previous lane should get the "bye" run. I don't recall that Texas racer's name, but I do remember that besides the fast Shovel, he also owned a "Dragster Eliminator" class bike which was setting new records at the meet. Pat Mater was OK with the change in plans though. "I'll beat you this round, and beat them the next!" he exclaimed as he swung his leg over his big Shovel. Can't say I wasn't a little relieved. Now we were assured of a 2nd place finish at worst!

The showdown that I was concerned about never came about.The racer from Texas beat Pat Mater in the semi finals, and the finals weren't all that close. We beat the Texas bike handily, and it would have been a little anti climactic, except we were so excited about winning! Later Bobby admitted to me that he had told a "white lie". No one had run in the low 7's. He just wanted to "keep me on my toes".

The HDRA did things a little different in the street legal classes. Once the winner of each class was determined, they ran against each other with each bike "indexed" to its own class record. In other words, all the winners were run off just like a bracket race, except your "dial-in" was the national record for your class. Not a bad system.

Bobby won every round of the "shoot out" too, until he ran up against a skinny 16 year old kid named Doug Vacil on a ratty old Sportster. If that name rings a bell, its because he has been one of the biggest names in Top Fuel Harley racing in recent years, getting major sponsorship from Drag Specialties and Vance & Hines, and winning multiple national championships! Small world isn't it?

So we headed north to Minneapolis with a trophy, a bunch of adrenaline, and the hook set firmly in our mouths. (that last is a fishing reference; Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes, get it?) Within a couple days I had Bobby's motor swapped back into his Low Rider, and things may have returned to normal , if we hadn't heard about another HDRA race in Colorado Springs coming up in a couple weeks. How could we resist?

Arriving at the track in Colorado, almost immediatley we were handed a "racing paper" that contained a list of HDRA National Records. Imagine our surprise to learn that Bobby was the 1/8 mile national record holder for both e.t. and m.p.h. in the Street Racer/FL class! But the story doesn't end there....

Saturday, January 6, 2007

When Shovelheads Ruled the World

The year was 1985. The place; the suburbs of Minneapolis. I was working as a mechanic for the local Harley dealership and had built a stroker motor for the service writer over the past winter. His name was Bob McGranahan. A few rides alongside my 88 cubic inch Shovelhead stroker the previous summer was all it took to convince Bobby that he needed an engine like that!

In today's world of 96", 113", 124 cubic inch and larger Harley motors it is hard to envision a time when a mere 88" engine would impress anyone, but you have to realize that any engine larger than stock was somewhat rare back then. Harley had made a big splash when they came out with an 80" in 1979 (as I recall), and an even bigger splash with the then recently released Evolutions which were much quicker than a stock Shovelhead. But the time of the Evolution's domination was not yet come, and a Shovelhead stroker was still a thing to be reckoned with!

The engine that we built for Bobby's Lowrider was pretty much a copy of mine, but with a few upgrades provided for by his somewhat fatter wallet (due to his being single). Bobby's motor started as an 80", so the same 4 3/4" stroke made his a 93" instead of my smaller bore 88". We decided to try a Leinweber J4 cam that I had heard good things about in place of the Sifton 468+ that I had in mine. Bobby also sprang for a new S&S Super B carb in place of the old Bendix I used. But the single biggest improvement came about from Bobby meeting a fellow named John Petouli (my apologies if I spelled his last name wrong) at a swap meet. John was there with his flow bench, drumming up business. My guess is that Bobby talked his way into getting the "good guy" deal on having his heads ported. John probably had hopes of more work coming his way from the Harley dealership Bobby and I worked for. Turned out to be a pretty potent combination, though we had no idea how potent until a few months later.

That spring a poster came to the dealership advertising the first ever 4th of July "Iowa Hog Drags". There had not been a drag strip in the Twin Cities area for a number of years, so neither Bobby or I had ever been on one, but that didn't stop us from seeing what fun it would be! My Shovelhead's rigid frame was setting empty since I had burned a hole in a piston the previous fall (a whole story in itself, involving my stupidity, a high speed police chase, and a very long weekend in jail). I had my 61" Knuckle up and running, but it was hardly racing material. Bobby's Low Rider was fast, but in a stock chassis, I thought is was a little too heavy to race. The solution was obvious to us. We would take the engine out of Bobby's bike a few days before the races and swap it back afterwards! Bobby would pilot and I would tune!

A few days before the races, I tried to bring Bobby back down to earth a little by warning him that there would be guys there with really fast bikes that had been racing for years, and we shouldn't expect too much our first time out. But "our" bike certainly looked fast! As mentioned earlier I already had a rigid frame (actually a weld on hardtail conversion). I was running an 18" Sportster rim laced to my rear hub, and Bobby came through with the widest new tire he could find for it. I had spent much of the spring drilling holes in everything in sight on the frame and chassis. We used a fiberglass flat track tank that I had picked up at a swap meet ($15) and a fiberglass rear fender (swap meet -$10). Another friend, Dave Alderman, let me use a custom built front fork that was unbelievably light weight and featured clip-on bars. About the only things keeping "our" bike from looking like a full blown dragbike rather than a street bike were the lack of a slick and wheelie bars! A close reading of the rules showed that the bike would fit in the "Street Racer/FL class.

So when 4th of July weekend rolled around, we loaded up the bike on my home made open trailer, hooked it up to the beater Oldsmobile that we borrowed from my sister-in-law, and headed south. In my next post I will tell you what happened.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

What's in a Name?

So, after toying with the idea for a couple years, and following a half dozen blogs for about a year, I finally decided to make the plunge and start one of my own. I have a couple of goals in mind. If you read my profile you will see that I have been a Harley mechanic/engine builder for over 30 years. I have also owned and ridden Knuckleheads for a like amount of time. For over 10 years of that time I was heavily involved in drag racing, most of it on a Knucklehead. I would like to pass on some of the things I have learned about Harley engines in general, and vintage Harley engines in particular, to anyone who cares to read it. Some of what I write on this subject will be fact, and some opinion (I will try to present it that way). I hope to get some feedback that may help all of us learn something! I also would like to tell a few tales of the early days of drag racing (early being a relative term).

The second goal of this blog is to provide an outlet for my seemingly unquenchable urge to proclaim the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After living most of my adult life as a "biker" (what some would call a hard-core biker for a good part of that time), in the spring of 1999 God saved me by his grace (Ephesians 2:8), took away my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), and I was born again (John 3:3). Though I have no formal training, by God's providence I was able to listen to 4 sermons a week in person for the next 6 years, and often as many as a half dozen a week on tape. For a couple of those years I was privileged to preach regularly as part of a jail ministry (now there is a real captive audience). There are a lot of sermons inside of me still straining to get out. I could simply write them on my computer and press save, but I guess a sermon is not a sermon unless there is at least the chance someone may hear it. Please don't let the term "sermon" scare you away though.

By now you are probably starting to get an idea of how the name of this blog came about. On the face of it, it is just the two separate subjects this blog is about, combined into one name.

Looking a little deeper though, you may find another level. If you are reading this because of the Harley Knucklehead content, and you are a long time Knucklehead fanatic,you will no doubt understand the connection. Ever heard the slogan "God rides a Harley"? or "If God rides a Harley, it probably runs on NITRO!" If knuckleheads were to hold the status of gods, then I hope to expound a little on the "theology" of those gods.

If , on the other hand, you are reading this because of the Christian content, you may (especially if you disagree with the doctrine I hold to) simply see the "Knucklehead" portion of the blog's name as an adjective used to describe the "Theology".

Now, to be perfectly transparent, this is not an attempt on my part to lure in an audience of bikers that came to read about Harleys, so I can "slip in the gospel" as many modern "evangelical churches" might operate. I fully expect that readers (if any) will come to this blog for either the Harley content or the Christian content. I did not intend to intermingle the two in the same post, however as time goes on, I have come to realize that I cannot, nor should I, separate my Christianity from the rest of my life. If you are a Christian, you too no doubt, have realized that it permeates every area of your life. So, if someone comes for the Harley content, but also gets caught up in the Christian posts, it will make me a very happy man.

Therefore, I am updating these last few lines of what I wrote here back in January of 2007, so that going forward from this day in April of 2011, you will see more posts in which Harley content and Christian content share space. By God's grace, that reflects who I am.