Article and photos by Joshua Elzey, Originally published July 2019
In 1987, Bob Long of NH lost a countershaft bearing in the transmission of his ’62 that put a crack in the engine case. The fix would require pulling the motor to repair the case; however, Bob got a phone call from his friend Joe asking if he would be interested in a complete 1966 Sportster motorcycle minus the front end. The bike was up for sale, and Joe was only interested in the front end so was looking for someone to grab the rest of the bike. Joe picked the bike up on a Friday morning, brought it to Bob’s house, and took the front end off right away. Joe then called a friend of theirs who had crashed his bike to see if he needed a frame. See where this is going? It turned out he needed everything except the motor and transmission which of course is what Bob needed to get back on the road. That very evening he did a motor swap, put the bedroll on the back, and left Saturday morning at 6 am for a bike run! Bob ran that motor for the rest of the year while I rebuilt the 62. Once the 62’s motor was ready, he gave the ’66 motor to his friend, Ron. He abused it and gave Bob the empty cases back in 2001/2002. Motor disassembled, no flywheels – and Bob sat on it until June of 2014.
While Bob was at the Laconia rally he received a message from the big boss at work to give him a call ASAP! It’s never good to get a message like that on vacation. Well, the plant was going to close in a year, and he thought that was the bad news. Little did he know what was coming down the line. Bob got a call nobody wants to receive that his younger brother Chris had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. They were born the same day five years apart making their birthdays special. Bob knew there was nothing he could do to change the news but he at least wanted to go for one last ride together on their birthday. To do this he would need to bring the bikes down to Georgia. Bob checked his stash and was amazed that over the years he had gotten another frame: he had parts he had picked at swap meets, and parts he had taken off while working on previous builds. It turns out, he had another complete motorcycle that could be built — He started on the motor and the mockup immediately. Bob had finished the motor, but as their birthday approached, Chris’s health had gotten worse, and the Sportster would be too heavy for him to handle. Bob took two more suitable bikes down for that ride with his brother.
Bob started building the new bike last fall using a frame that was part of a stash he had bought ten years earlier. The rest of the parts were obtained from swap meets, trades, internet, and modifying random items. For instance, the bolt on hardtail was found on E-bay. The oil tank and P-pad came from the ‘62’ leftover from its overhaul. The front end came from a guy’s barn in Bristol NH that a friend gave him a heads up on. Bob traded a stock 19-inch hamburger drum for a 21-inch early Sportster half-drum wheel from his friend Dan. The rear wheel came from State Line swap meet in Rochester NH while the gas tank came from a swap meet in Keene NH. The solo seat and spotlight converted to headlight came from his son Brandon. The tail light came with a pile of barn find parts and a pan head frame that another friend turned him on to. The S&S GBL carb came off friend’s bike in trade for an S&S B and was so worn out he had to make his own throttle shaft bushings. It was also time to use the ’66 motor he had used so many years ago. It had been sitting on an engine stand for three years.
Bob put the sight tube on the gas tank, put a piece of whittled down cork to fit in the tube, and experimented with different colorings before finding one that the gas would not destroy so he could see the gas line. Red Dykem Layout Fluid worked. The chain Idler was made for another make of bike so he had an idea to utilize it and made it better. Bob replaced the plastic bushing that was loose with a bronze bushing and fabricated a better mounting set up that will not flex utilizing a stronger spring to take all the torque.
Sitting with Loctite, Grease, Matt, CP, and a few others, at the Lowlifechopper podcast booth at the Full Speed Ahead show Bob was asked what color the bike was. He reminded Matt that it was a paint Brandon picked up using the code he was provided. ‘What did you do? That’s not the same shade!’ – Matt. Bob admitted that he had spilled some Tequila in the paint to which one of the guys yelled out Tequila Blue! So that is his story, and now that is the name and color of the bike…‘Chris would have had Sambuca and me with my Tequila. So, here’s to my brother Chris who left us Dec 22, 2014.’ – Bob