Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ehinger Kraftrad - German Bike Builder

I was digging around for some imagery on a project I am working on and came across this photo of an old flathead in a frame with no wheels. I started to take in the story and the more compelling it became. Take a read through it and then go and check out Ehinger Kraftrad's blog and photos, its quite interesting to see how other folks across the world think when it comes to restoring and building motorcycles.

"In 1983, an elderly gentleman replied to a classified ad. It was the kind of ad that Uwe used to place in different Chilean papers these days: „Poor student looking for an old, defective motorbike to repair. The older the bike and the worse its shape - the better.“ The man said he owned an old, broken motorcycle, which had been dusting in his shed for ages. After the man had given a short description, Uwe knew that the trip to Bío Bío, a county south of Concepción, would be worth it.

The find was a 46 Harley Flathead UL (hard-tail frame, 73 cui, side valve engine with cast iron heads). By the saddle and the chrome parts it could easily be identified as the deluxe version. The Harley was still in its original condition and it had obviously been used as an everyday motorbike. Successful repairs and maintenance of US bikes used to be a matter of luck in Chile then, as the land is metric and old Harleys are imperial. Bad for a hobby wrench, but good for Uwe, as botched bikes or defects due to false repairs were very rare. One critical issue about finds like these are always the lower frame stringers. Bikes were often pulled across the yard without wheels on their stringers, so the downside is often ground flat and sometimes the tubes are even ground right through. But this bike was in excellent condition. After intensive bargaining, Uwe bought the Harley for just a few hundred dollars.

The 46 Flathead UL with 74 cui was a bread-and-butter Harley. These side-valves used to be cheaper than the Knuckleheads. Its over-head hanging valves entailed an adverse combustion chamber design. The U versions and the UL versions with a compression ratio of 5:1 had a rather poor engine performance, but due to this they were providing high robustness and durability. Today, Flatheads are much more expensive than Knuckleheads, which are now being copied and offered as replicas. Flats, however, are always originals.

When he restored the bike, Uwe upgraded the engine to the 80 cui ULH version. In addition to the bigger bore, the cast iron heads, as used with the U versions and the ULH versions, were replaced by aluminium ones. The H in ULH stands for high-compression. It’s a matter of discussion, though, if this is really high: Now 5,5:1 instead of 5:1 before. Except for the engine, Uwe has built up and restored this 46 Flathead all by himself. One and a half years later, he finally put it to the road in Hamburg, where he was using it for everyday motoring."

Ehinger Kraftrad