Franklin Church Choppers SOS Racer 45 WR Clone

Article by GTP, Photos by Chris Callen, originally published July 2019 Cycle Source Magazine

There was a time not too long ago when you would never see a bike pushing 75 years old getting the ‘kick of life’ never mind racing them. Those old bikes from a bygone era seem to have been stuffed into some vacuum only to be revisited when the prices grew high enough or someone just needed to cash in on something that most thought was no longer a viable means of transportation but just another investment…like pork bellies.

Someone, in the not too distant past, decided that motors are meant for runnin’ not collecting dust. Suddenly it seems that you hear about those investments being raced and thrashed in races designed to feature bikes of similar vintage competing on sand, tarmac, and asphalt spanning one edge of the U.S. of A. to the shining sea of the other. Not for investment sake, but for the pure thrill of what these old bikes were capable of before it was decided that everything old is just too damn precious to breathe life, never mind do what they were intended to do…be ridden.

Tom Keefer, owner and proprietor of Franklin Church Choppers in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania has been on board for quite some time. Tom is friends with Billy Lane who conceived and started the Sons of Speed races. In Daytona the action is on a paved oval and in Sturgis it is a dirt course located at the Pappy Hoel Campground.

Tom campaigned a 1916 Harley Davidson in some of these paved races and has now switched over to a bike more akin to a good thrashing in the dirt, the 45 WR Clone that you see on these pages. Keefer started with a pile of parts that he bought off Billy, consisting of a motor, transmission, and frame. All of which would have to be thoroughly addressed.

Starting with the frame, a stock 1947 that had seen better days. The right side right rear upper and lower fishbones were tweaked and upon inspection Tom found that a mass of bronze filler rod coated the rear section. Keefer realized that the original steel frame had completely rusted away, the bronze and paint were the only things holding the back end together. Tom jigged it up at Franklin Church Choppers and rebuilt it using stock components and configuration.

Next, on to the motor. There are faster motors than a 45 but few are more reliable. When Tom addressed the flathead, he wasn’t looking to break records. He was only looking for an edge when racing other similar vintage motors. A complete rebuild with some minor changes was all he had in mind. The bottom end was rebuilt stock, and a set of .030 over Dixie pistons were fitted to the freshly bored cylinders and a little porting on the top of the cylinders to help flow. It was topped with an interesting pair of N.O.S. aluminum cylinder heads of unknown origin. They were brand new in an unmarked box with very good castings. Tom is not saying that these are factory Harley, but he wouldn’t be surprised.

  

Stock exhaust cams were installed along with KH style intake cams. Rounding out the fueling is a Linkert M88 that Tom modified by drilling out the venturi. The charging system was removed, and an aluminum block of plate replaced it.

 

Moving onto the transmission, a year correct three-speed was rebuilt. Tom ran into a set of kicker gears that were slightly rounded that refused to align when aggressively kicked over. The gears didn’t look bad until you compared them to a good set. After pulling the kicker cover off way too many times, that’s exactly what Tom did. At that point, the problem was obvious.

The primary is a stock tin unit with the only modification to the internals being stronger springs adjusted tight to the point that when activated they achieve coil bind. Tom says this is the trick with a foot operated clutch in this application.

A stock Harley springer was used up front. The bike carries stock hubs/brakes front and rear with replica 18” rims laced with Buchanan spokes.

The tanks are WR style by W&W Cycles, as is the rear fender. The sheet metal was then spray bombed International Harvester Red with black scallops, scuffed and coated with vinegar in his front yard. The riserless bars are stock that Keefer modified the old fashion way, heating and bending. The hand controls are a stock lever for the stock drum front brake.

 

The build took less than four months from create to race. Tom admits, at his age he will always be a class filler, never pushing it hard enough to win but never far from the front. Tom now runs this bike as his Sons of Speed racer, handing the piloting chores of the 1916 H-D twin to “Fast” Freddie Bollwage #88. He’d like to thank Freddie, and of course Billy Lane for giving them a platform to race.

It’s good to see these bikes doing’ their thing and not collecting dust and market value somewhere. Ride ‘em, don’t hide ‘em…”GTP”

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