Critter's Ironhead Sportster Pages and Other Good Stuff

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1972 XLH Project 1985 ironhead sportster
My 1985 XL
More 85XL
Visitors' Tech Tips
V-Twin Sport Bob Tank Kit Review
Cheap Forward Controls
Poor Man's Clutch Spring compressor Rolling 1972 Sportster chassis

My Ironhead Sportster project is rolling now, but waiting for the engine machining to be completed. Among other things, the left case half was destroyed in an accident, so I'm having a used half matched to the right side. It's taking far longer than I thought, but I guess good work takes time... Hopefully, it will be running for the first warm day next spring.

Update: 11/10/02 - Still waiting on motor... damn! The guy is a REAL old timer, and doesn't rush anything. Spoke with him on phone, mentioned I wanted to be riding my Sportster by this coming spring... I was not encouraged by his response. I may have to get my parts back and try another machinist. He has matched the case halves, so the critical part is done, but I was hoping he'd have the balancing done as well. He is renowned for a super balancing job. Fingers are crossed... maybe that will be done soon enough for me to find someone to do the rest of the work and get it together in time.

Update: 8/25/03 - Yep, you guessed it... still waiting... I guess I'm going to have one SMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH runnin motor after a year of tender loving care in the old timer's hands. Spoke with him in June, cases were done, balancing done, rods done, needs to square jugs and fit pistons. I guess I should see it fairly soon.

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If you've ever rebuilt an ironhead, you probably have several aftermarket part horror stories to tell. As my project (72 Sportster) moves forward, I have written a few myself. I think this site should be dedicated (mostly anyway) to telling those stories, and maintaining an archive so that others who follow in our footsteps may benefit from our experience.

As you probably know, most aftermarket custom parts come with little or no detailed instruction, and it's entirely up to the end user to find his way. Often, I found the part(s) to be entirely useless, unless completely redesigned and reworked. (See "Cheap Forward Controls")

image - cheap forward controls

The maker of the most ironhead Sportster parts also happens to be the worst offender from what I can see. Most are Taiwanese junk, with little or no thought given to actual application. By the time I am finished, I will have a Taiwanese motorcycle, except for the fact that each part has had to benefit from a bit of good old fashioned American improvisation.

Since my 72 ironhead arrived here in a basket, and I had not been the one to take it apart, one of the biggest problems I face is "what goes where?". Searching the web helps a bit, having a parts manual helps a bit, having an HD service manual from 1979 helps a little, but there were and still are a lot of things that baffle me a bit. If you have close up photos of various aspects of your early ironhead sportster, I'd sure like it if you can send them to me to post here. Once I get the engine on my frame and get down to installing things like the oil tank, battery box, voltage regulator, etc, I'm going to get close ups of that process. Someday they may help someone else.

Anyway, I would like to ask you to consider submitting any good aftermarket horror stories to be placed in my soon to be built archive, and if possible, please submit photos of work in progress and finished product. Send to:

Thanks, and enjoy what I have so far!


I NEEEEEED SPORTSTER PICS! If you have pics of your Sportster, please e-mail them to me at I'll post em in the visitors gallery!

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