Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Production K Models

Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:21 am

Hi all, and bear with me...

This discussion was started on the Knucklenutz forum (now defunct) on Monday March the 10th, 2008 by Herbert Wagner following an article he published in the AMCA Vintage Club Magazine. He wanted to gather opinions and reactions to his piece. Both of his articles are not available, if one of you have them,it'd be nice to scan them so we can all see where the contentions were...

I jumped in with my thoughts since Hergert looked at the K from an engineering point of view and my long involvement with the racing aspect and my own KHK made for a view from a different angle... Here we go, I'll split the discussion a bit to keep some air, but nothing added or subtracted!!!:

Herb:
At the AMCA website there is a newly researched and written 2-part series about Harley's search for a post-war middle-weight twin. It tells of the nearly unknown Model KL (plus some other cancelled projects along the way), the controversial side-valve K/KH, and the legendary XL Sportster lines and the tortured way they came into existence -- or didn't.

Secrets of the Sportster, Part 1
http://www.antiquemotorcycle.org/TheMag ... r_pt1.html

Secrets of the Sportster, Part 2
http://www.antiquemotorcycle.org/TheMag ... tster.html

Pat:
Hi Herb,

Just read the 1st part of your AMCA article... I like a good discussion, so here it is!!! Look at this photo of the factory remnants of the KL prototype:

Image

One can clearly see on them the outline of the trap door, introduced on the mid 54 KH side valves...

If this KL was indeed produced BEFORE the K model in 52, are you then telling me they deleted the trap door on the 1st few years of the K??? NO WAY!!!

Other flaws in your theory:

- If the KL was supposed to be a 45 replacement, that would have left H-D with racing the WR in the mid 50's, NO WAY, it was already obsolete just after the war and they surely needed a race 45 side valve replacement, hence the K as any race bike needed a street equivalent to be aproved by the AMA

- The unit construction K or KL clearly fit the K/KH frame, see rear engine mount cum tomahawk interface, I can't see it being fitted in a WL type frame very easily...

As I can't see the K frame being designed just after the war, it tells me the KL came after the K... On another point, if you look carefully at a 52K, you'll be amazed how nicely everything fits together.

I don't think it would have been such a nice intregration if the fast redesign from KL to K had been slotted in the KL frame. The KL don't look as integrated as a K, hence I conclude the KL was in fact slotted in a K frame.

- As shown on the above photographs, H-D had already made in the late 30's a 4 cam OHV based on the WL, not to mention the late 20's DAH 750 OHV 4 cam, so I can't see a problem in updating the 4 cam K to get a 4 cam Sportster, while the KL is a complete departure from anything the factory did before.

Knowing how conservative they all were, I just see the KL as a nice prototype/excercise, point blank, certainly not something that could have been much better than what we ended up with, the K/KH/Sportster...

Herb:
I agree about good discussion, and I appreciate your thoughtful reply.
thefrenchowl wrote:

Look at this photo of the factory remnants of the KL prototype:
One can clearly see on them the outline of the trap door, introduced on the mid 54 KH side valves...

If this KL was indeed produced BEFORE the K model in 52, are you then telling me they deleted the trap door on the 1st few years of the K??? NO WAY!!!


Your objection is a good one, but I think it is answered in Part 2 of the story. If this surviving KL motor crankcase has a trapdoor, that means this relic part must be a LATE KL made after the KH access door update. Part 2 states that the KL lingered on in the testing stage even after the XL was up and running in prototype form and for a time both KL & XL were tested side by side. This would make it a "late" KL, which makes sense as it was kept as a pet in Exp. Dept. for many years wired to wall.
thefrenchowl wrote:

Other flaws in your theory:

- If the KL was supposed to be a 45 replacement, that would have left H-D with racing the WR in the mid 50's, NO WAY, it was already obsolete just after the war and they surely needed a race 45 side valve replacement, hence the K as any race bike needed a street equivalent to be aproved by the AMA


I don't know that racing influenced Harley's engineering decisions for their new models very much. In the "official" records I have seen from that period, racing considerations are hardly mentioned at all if ever. If racing considerations had been mentioned by records or old Factory guys I would have put that into the story but I can't think of it showing up. Possibly it's there somewhere. Possibly the K as racing replacement for the WR was another consideration in its origin. That angle needs more research.
thefrenchowl wrote:

- The unit construction K or KL clearly fit the K/KH frame, see rear engine mount cum tomahawk interface, I can't see it being fitted in a WL type frame very easily...


KL was only fitted to the WL frame as an early experimental testbed job; in existence in 1948, perhaps earlier. Apparently at that time the WL frame was all they had. WL frame would have been highly modified to fit KL for test purposes only; not as possible stock machine as a sprung frame was intended for the post-war midsize twin all along. KL/WL job just a test job as I was told.
thefrenchowl wrote:

As I can't see the K frame being designed just after the war, it tells me the KL came after the K... On another point, if you look carefully at a 52K, you'll be amazed how nicely everything fits together.


Everything I have from original Harley sources and Factory guys from experimental say KL came first and then ran into difficulties so the K was launched instead. Even guys at Harley thought they were nuts coming out with a new side-valve in 1952. Everyone since that time has thought the same thing (except for a few die-hard flathead fans And it only makes sense with the KL project already in secret development but with problems and dealers SCREAMING for WL replacement.
thefrenchowl wrote:

I don't think it would have been such a nice intregration if the fast redesign from KL to K had been slotted in the KL frame. The KL don't look as integrated as a K, hence I conclude the KL was in fact slotted in a K frame.


You're right. And very likely the fast redesign from KL to K included chassis updates too. It was another go-around. The KL bike photo we have might reflect another later prototype with K modifications. Don't forget, even with the K in production H-D still planned to introduce KL, so it would have had K updates (like the trapdoor). It would be good to date that KL photo by its negative number. That might tell us more.
thefrenchowl wrote:

- As shown on the above photographs, H-D had already made in the late 30's a 4 cam OHV based on the WL, not to mention the late 20's DAH 750 OHV 4 cam, so I can't see a problem in updating the 4 cam K to get a 4 cam Sportster, while the KL is a complete departure from anything the factory did before.


There was no problem updating the K to XL. The KL was indeed their big project. I think they thought of KL as EL Knucklehead deja vu all over again, but this time for the 1950s. Only it didn't pan out that way.
thefrenchowl wrote:

Knowing how conservative they all were, I just see the KL as a nice prototype/excercise, point blank, certainly not something that could have been much better than what we ended up with, the K/KH/Sportster...

Patrick


Oh no, the KL was not just a "nice prototype/excercise, point blank." Far from it. KL was fully intended to be Harley's "ultimate de-luxe" (their words) super production bike for the 1950s to counter the British invasion of mid-size ohv twins. No way in hell was a side-valve going to do that. This aspect is no "theory" but documented. The KL was the second generation Harley and Davidsons' Dream Baby long before the XL was even a concept. The K was a stopgap measure until the KL was ready. When KL got too expensive and troublesome they took the easy way out by transforming the 4-camshaft K into an overhead. When you read Part 2 you'll get more of their strategy as KL slowly died and XL came into being.

That said, I do not claim this story is 100% correct as it was put together from bits and pieces of evidence and interviews, etc. I'll gladly improve and modify it given documentation. Some of the stuff you say has merit. Don't get me wrong. The exact dates and sequences still need to be worked out better and there are gaps where I had to guess. This story is a work in progress and my first serious venture into the 1950s. I never dreamed the Sportster or its ancestors were this interesting or involved. But then it's always this way...
Last edited by thefrenchowl on Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:29 am

Pat:
As it happens, I've got a listing of the Pohlman Files... The KL photo in there is listed as HD-33360, part of 3 photos, "copies 8 x 10" (original 8 x 10 negs were listed as "Orig."), 33358 to 60, ident: "old photos", entered in the files on the 7th of July 1973, so probably never entered originally and rediscovered in some draws at that later date...



Still, it's in the configuration of a 53 K, and taken, like many others in these files, in the basement at Juneau Avenue. It differs from the "remnants" by having unfinned valve and pushrods covers, so I'll agree with you that it was further developped after 1953!!! Finned covers will tally up with what you heard about too much heat concentration between the Vee.

If you only met with guys from the eng. dep, I'm not surprised you think racing was of no consequence!!!

As a matter of fact, on that fateful Nov day. in 51 when the K was unveilled to the whole dealership, the 1st KR was also there and the Enthusiast shows us some photos of it, Len Andres in the saddle and Sam Arena beaming... Racing was probably the most important publicity tool in H-D's armory in these days, the coverage in the Enthusiast shows it...

So the KR was ready (if not fully sorted, it would take a year or 2 for that...) at the same time as the K, which tells me H-D was really tired of being beaten by the Brits!!! No doubts in my mind that part of the K program was to get a proper racer out of it...

What I'm saying, maybe we would not have seen the XL if the KL could have been ironed out, BUT we would certainly have had the K as it was essential to AMA homologation, i.e the K and KL program must have ran together for some time...

Another "little flaw" in your view point is indeed the NAME!!! We know for sure the name KL applied to this OHV prototype and it consist of 2 letters, K and L. If we go back in time, we'll see numerous examples of H-Ds where the L was applied to another letter to indicate Bigger or Better or More Cubes or more Specs...

It then derives that the K came before the KL in order to conform to this well documented practice???

So, to further this point, and looking at the KL timing cover, it looks a mess really, I can see clearly that whoever did it started with a 4 cam cover and uglyly grafted on it this rounded finned tower to drive the high single camshaft and it does not fit in nicely...

As a afterthought, I can also add that it's not surprising the Eng. Dep. viewed the K as backwards... Being engineers, they were probably more exited working on the KL, but the strings of the purse lied elsewhere!!!

I've had a quick read of the listings in 53, if anybody have access to the photo files, these might be of interest:

1953: 20026 to 20033, cycle in Studio

As we were talking of trap door, the 1st photo of it : 6th July 54, HD-20461 or 20462

Herb:
Your line of reasoning about a racing motor origin for K fits into the story and does make sense. It's logical enough. Possibly the K as a race engine replacement for the WR was already on the drawing board and when the early KL stalled, then some "unsung genius" suggested using it to power a interim road model until their super deluxe ultimate KL motor was ready.

I reviewed my notes and in late 1947 ("Engineering Developments") Milwaukee described the new machine as an "ultra performance Deluxe Sport Model" (the same wording used later for the KL) w/spring frame, chain-drive, hydraulic forks, foot gear shift, and hand clutch with an "all new" OHV twin engine in a bike 150-200 lbs less than EL/FL, intended for the '51 or 52 season. At that time no model letter was given and displacement was said to be 61-inch (later changed to 45 that Arthur D. wanted).

Remember that a Factory guy in Exp. saw a KL-type motor in a WL frame when he got there in 1948. But how much like the later KL motor did it look like? A little, some, or a lot? That we don't know. Obviously it was an earlier version and maybe a LOT different.

My point being that there is no mention of a side-valve version at this early date and that a midsize OHV twin strategy was clearly going on FIRST.

Preliminary work on the side-valve version as a ROAD model did not begin until Spring of 1949.

In fall of '49 (when both SV & OHV versions were in the works) the K letter was first used and they were calling the KL the "K overhead" so it looks like the K letter did come first. Possibly they revamped the OHV motor further when the K side-valve motor became their main-line initial public offering to bring the two motors closer together for production reasons.

We need to know when the KR side-valve racing motor was first planned and drawn up for a racing model. Did KR predate the idea of the K road model or not? How early was it? That seems fundamental to this line of thought. But in the fragments that I have they just don't mention it. But somebody may know this.

I appreciate you bringing up the racing angle as it gives this vague history a different slant and might well be part of the definitive story, if there ever is one. It's sort of like making Wisconsin sausage. You put in the bits and pieces, grind them up, and see how it tastes. Like the bikes, this project needs more development.

Gotta remember too that we had a very limited space to cover a LOT of ground and couldn't go into very much detail or offer the many various possibilities or speculate at length, lacking as we do any real authority on the subject, but developing our own original interpretation of events using the best available evidence, which admittedly is incomplete and admits various conclusions.

I'll stop now that everyone has fallen asleep...although I did hear how the WL-overhead got away from the Factory.
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:31 am

Pat:
Wonder if you're on to something really new there when you say "maybe the KR came before the K..."

I was always puzzled by one little foundry fact in the past, this could be the clincher!!!

The special bosses on the front of the timing cover to fix the intermediate adaptor plate for the front mounted Wico, then Fairbanks-Morse, KR magneto are still there on the K street castings, not machined obviously. Don't forget, these K and KR cases are different, K = 52A, KR = 52R part numbers, different casting and machining...

One other clincher that is not fitted on the street K is the delightful line between the top of both heads that continues on the top of the race horse shoe oil tank, much nicer touch than the side mounted street oil tank...

I'll leave you with that thought before I go on to the next "myth" that is in the 2nd article!!!...

Herb:
Those are the kind of 'back engineering" details that may help figure out the exact sequence of this stuff better and if the basic KR came first.

Are those special bosses on the front of the K timing cover on all the K's (KH) or do they vanish later on?

I was examining (admiring) a Knucklehead 61 OHV motor up close just now and those pushrods are LONG! Just put your hand where the camshaft is on the EL motor and then raise it up to about bowl level and you vividly can feel the engineering logic behind the high-cam position of the KL and how shortening up the pushrods would achieve a better revving engine. In fact an enirely new generation of V-twin engine for the future.

Too bad we don't have specs on how KL actually performed. That's another mystery.

You found another myth?

Pat:
magneto race bits on street cases... I know they are there on the K/KH, never checked on my numerous sportsters... Will tell you later!!!

Before I get on to the next bit, you've got to look at the above photos where you can deduce, as I did myself, a few facts:


- The KL engine was a big bore/short stroke engine, unlike the K: look at where the exhaust stubs are and you can then see there's not much space left for the cylinders, which indicate a short stroke ( I count 7 cylinder fins on the KL, against 12 for the XL...).
We can also see the cylinders are indeed wide which sugests a bore much bigger than the later XL.

Indeed, the KL looks much more like a mid 70's japanese engine where the cylinders are actually part of the crankcases and are reduced to a cast iron sleeve slotted in during the casting of the cases. Obviously, as the KL cases split vertically, it has proper but dead short cylinders bolted to the cases. The 60 degree angle also sugests a big bore engine, more room at BDC to clear the pistons from each other...


From all that, I conclude the KL must have been a high reving engine, so probably less torquey than the usual H-D of the time, might have been a factor in its downfall... We still don't know what capacity it was as well 750? 900?

Now, look how much vertical space the KL heads occupy...

- Whatever frame it was slotted in at the beginning, it ended up in this 53 frame which is a "K" frame for use of a better word, as we could be arguing till death do us part if it was an intended K or KL frame to start with.


Well, it just fit in that frame, despite being a short stroke engine. Indeed, from a distance, you could well confuse it with a K engine...

- Now, there's no doubts the K engine fits in that frame with a bit more room, not so cramped... The 56 KH frame updates were only done to bring the frame nearer the road, a fact I attribute with trying to bring the 57 XL center of gravity as near as where it was with the shorter K engine. The main dimms and spaces within the frame did not change at all, apart from some reinforcing of castings and fitting thicker tubes to cope with the higher XL torque.

- Now, we don't know when the XL engine started life or do we? I offer you the following date with some tangent thinking here: In 53/54, the factory investigated the use of 2 new magnetos, one horizontal for the KR and one vertical for the KHRM, the famed Fairbanks-Morse which have a -55R part number for the KR and a -55 for the KHRM... Why? A quick answer without much insight and you would say "cost" which is fair enough.

However, the previous Wico, both horizontal and vertical, had been used for donkeys' years and provided decent sparks.

When H-D started the XL proper, they must have envisaged to end up in time with similar models as in the K range: a full blown track racer, a desert racer, some street models...

One problem then, the vertical Wico is a monster and will foul the carburetor on the XL cause they moved it on the right hand side for some reason. Hence a new mag was needed, enters the Fairbanks-Morse, much more compact, with the added bonus that one body can be fitted with fewer different parts either vertical or horizontal (the 2 Wicos were completly different animals...)

So, to me, the start of the XL proper is indeed 1953/54...

Any comments so far?

Boring Patrick!!!
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:34 am

mklyde
Nothing boring about this discussion Patrick. I don't have anything to add, other than to say thanks to you and Herb for your efforts.

Herb:
It's always a pleasure to meet experts of particular models. Thanks again.

For certain KL was originally 45-inch. That's clear. Whether it stayed a 45 (we know it changed in other ways) isn't so clear. The fact that KH bumped up in size and also XL makes one wonder if KL did too. No evidence of that yet but you gotta have the suspicion, but how was size possibly influenced/affected by the overheating problem?

I looked, and I can't pin down when they started work on XL. All I infer from my notes is that by late 1954 they were no longer bragging about their great de-luxe ultimate KL as was the case previously. That rather fits your hunch that work had begun by 1953-54 on XL. That would have given them about 2-3 years to prototype and develop it and that sounds about right. New models were typically laid out about 3 years in advance. Late 53 would be my guess.

Yes, the fact that KL would have been a higher revving motor with less torque also fits the known facts. I alluded to that in Part 2 with Harley's perceived change in the motorcycle market away from pure highway and touring use to more on/off road dual purpose bike and that KL was more strictly a "highway proposition." That was another reason they did develop the more torquey XL for use as an off-road bike, which KL wouldn't have been as good at. Plus KL developmental problems together killed it.

Sequence

1) KL 45" motor (not called that yet) in some form; orig. in mod. WL frame around 1948.

2) Rush K side-valve project (possibly based on planned WR replacement race motor) supercedes KL and finished sprung chassis first developed for K: intro 52 model year.

3) KL motor (revamped?) put into production K chassis to rational future production (KL photo). (i.e. H-D ad: "New overhead Super-Deluxe KL OHV with same modern features, controls, and styling that you love so much on the standard Model K")

4) KL developed at least into 1954 and probably later (i.e. tested side by side for a time with proto XL: 1955?). Question: Did KL stay a 45 or did it grow in displacement during this period like KH & XL?

I never thought of it, but you're right, KL does sorta look like a later Japanese engine!

Herb:
Amklyde, How about this: What do you think of that KL model in general?

It's been growing on me. The guys around Harley liked it, mostly. Except one guy thought the side-pipes would be leg burners. When you consider the time of the 50s, Triumph, Vincent, The Wild One, etc. it has a kind of mystique -- at least to me...

Pat:
OK, next bit...

So, sometimes around 1953, the KL was more or less shelved and the XL project started...

1) We can fairly assume the management decided the KL was either too modern for the std H-D follower to buy or the bugs in it couldn't be ironed out fast enough to make it a viable proposition...

2) The management also decided to revert to a long stroke for the XL: It's not just the short stroke that had them worried, the pistons skirts were probably very short, wear and guidance on the KL unknown factors at the prototype stage. Longer stroke would allow them to revert back to what they knew well, 45 degree Vee, long skirts...

3) It has been said that the whole K/KH prototyping/tooling cost H-D about $750 000... They surely did not want to bin it all of it and completly retool, so a decision was also made to keep as much as possible of the K/KH in the XL and only spend on really needed stuff. Hence a small frame update to lower the whole bike, that's the 56 KH frame that went on with minimum updates till 1965...

4) You've all read everywhere about these bloody pan heads and their alloy heads, but surely, by 53/54, they must have been sorted. I also point out that the K/KH heads are alloys... OK, no valves in them and some did tend to crack but the problem only came to light long after the K passing, it's age related. I would also say that ALL H-D crankcases are made of alloy since the dawn of time... They are much more intricate to cast than a head, specially in the K/KL which is a unit construction. So H-D knew of foundries that could make good alloy castings...

So here's the conindrum: Why did the XL end up with (so-called) "retrograde" heads, cast in iron and, more to the point, keep them for so long till the end of 1985?

Look again at the 45" KL, short stroke an' all and it barely clears the frame with a 60 deg angle... How could a long stroke XL fit that very same frame with taller cylinders (remember, 12 fins rather than 7...)?

I thought long about this one and my conclusion is that the only way to get the XL in that frame is to have very thin heads... Thin heads and alloy don't go together cause alloy ones need a lot of lenght to support the guides, hence a similar alloy head would have been at least 1" taller, see XR or evo heads.

In fact, the cast iron decision is an engineering one, only cast iron would allow the XL engine to fit the KH frame, nothing to do with pan head problems or inability to cast alloy heads.

I hear you say "yes, but the evo alloy head engine will fit an early sporty frame"... Yes, but the evo engine do have SHORTER rods, introduced on the XR 1000 in 1983, they could only fit the XR 1000 engine with shorter rods in that frame... In 1953/57, they reused the K rods unchanged, so taller set-up...
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:35 am

Herb:
Nice. I think you're on target with your comments, mostly. Your interesting theory that they designed the XL head in iron to fit the existing KH frame had not occured to me. It makes sense the way you put it, and fits their do-it-on-the-cheap XL design philosophy which we know was a driving force.

OTOH, nobody I spoke to mentioned that, and it would have been a rather odd way of doing things, even for Harley! You'd think it would have stuck in guy's minds. It's one of those conclusions that without supporting evidence one could offer as a possibility and state it as such: i.e. "another possible factor in the choice of cast iron may have been....etc. etc."

But reliablity was a factor. Yes, problems with alum. heads in the FL had been worked out by '53, but this would have been asking for teething problems in a NEW motor. They didn't want to take that risk. A new motor was needed ASAP and then some. Their mid-size OHV was already years and years and years behind schedule and plagued every step of the way as we now know. Did they want to invite trouble and teething problems with alum., possibly deal with hydraulic lifters which might have taken longer to develop, or play it safe with cast iron and create a bullet-proof motor right out of the bag?

But you are certainly right that they wanted to save as much as possible from the KH and change as little as possible for XL. That's why they stuck with the 4-camshaft bottom of course. One new guy there in 1956 rode the proto XL, heard gear noise, came in, and asked the boss why they didn't put one camshaft in XL like the Big Twin? The boss laughed, and said: They want to use as much as possible from the KH.

But would have changing the frame to accomodate alum. heads have been that big of the deal? Or were the benefits of alum. dubious at best, and nagging problems in their all-alum. KL still fresh in mind which threw them back onto good old reliable cast iron in reaction. Obviously, it worked well enough to use iron heads right on through into the 1980s.

Maybe cast iron was cheaper too.

Possibly, as often happens, there may have been a combination of factors at work.

(PS: back in the early 1970s when I first found out that the Sportster had cast iron heads I initially couldn't believe it. After all, Jap motors were alum., the Shovelheads were alum., Panheads alum., but the "modern" hot-rod Sportster was a throw-back to the Knucklehead? What! Impossible!)

Pat:
Yes, some parallel thinking always helps!!!

I'm not saying it's the absolute truth, they must have discussed all the pros and cons in the Eng. Dept, but this must have been argued when design was still at drawing stage...

One can also look at the alloy KL heads, all is enclosed, much bigger casting than the XL heads, they must have retained some heat like inside the Pan covers...

In the end, they could only go 3 ways with the XL: alloy heads/new frame or shorten the XL engine to fit alloy heads, short rods/pistons or what they choose, same frame/cast iron heads with "K" technology rods and pistons...

I was discussing on the FHP forum some aspects of XL inlet port design and just realised another point that strenghen my gut feeling: The XL heads are indeed so short that they had to seriously squash the inlet port and it arrives at the wrong angle on the inlet valve, way too shallow for good flow as it tends to hit the opposite side, not arrive more or less in line with the valve...

Every tuner that worked on them, factory, Jerry Branch and drag racing guys, did built up the bottom of the track to create a "dam" of sort to redirect the incoming flow up and over so it arrives at a more propice angle.

New frame: we're not talking peanuts here, a few new jigs, new castings, new bends, new machining... It all adds up!!!

New rods: not a 5mn job either, new dies for the forging, try them, eliminate flaws...

New short pistons: same...

I think they played safe by introducing the XL when they did... Maybe they still had the KL on the back burner in their minds for later, say mid-60's,

But, unlike what the books say, the XL did not sell any better than the K to start with... Then the CH came, this made it more attractive to more buyers, but do not forget, all H-D sales were still down year after year until the all time post war low of 63 when less than 10 000 bikes left the factory... So the XL stayed on, bullet proof, it helped and unchallenged...

Just wanted to add something on the sales aspect as well... We can argue forever as to why the K and early XL did not sell that well...

An important factor was the price, not just against the opposition, the Brits, but also within H-D...

A K used to sell for $900.00 when an Hydra was $1000.00... If you wanted the top, a KK, you had to add another $68.00 for the speed kit, so $968.00 against $1000.00... Sportsters were similarely priced...

No doubts in my mind, a lot of guys might have wanted a K but they surely saw in their dealership that there was much more "metal" in an Hydra for not much more money!!!
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:37 am

Pa: (FHP administrator/moderator)
I am really enjoying this thread fella's !! From the rear forward to the forward back figuring. Both techinics are really putting something togehter here. ! Please continue !!!

Herb:
You've pretty much convinced me with your theory. The XL inlet shape aspect is kind of compelling. Now we just need to prove it.

Here's another angle that might add more weight. We know that for a time KL and XL were tested side-by-side. That means they weren't sure yet which one would be the actual production model. Time being one important consideration, the other being money, it would also have made time and $$ sense to keep the chassis the same for both models (3 models if you include KH.) That way, whether they ultimately decided KL or XL, they would have had an quick easy shot into production without changing frame specs very much no matter which bike they went with.

Remember too, the KL was their main job, not the XL, which was the experimental "X" backup project. As the lesser project (at least at first) that would have been another reason to design it to fit the existing chassis, which also seems to be what they did with the KL fitting it into a '53 K chassis (photo). The master engineering order may have instructed to rationalize major chassis components for production (i.e. design the XL motor to fit the existing chassis) and also use as many other existing KH components as possible. That does seem to have been their guiding light. After so much time and money spent on KL and facing a lackluster market, who could blame them?

It was likely a combination of factors driving them (i.e.: "If we design the heads in iron then we know we'll get a bulletproof motor right out of the bag and we can also make the heads shorter to fit the existing chassis. Not bad!"

The entire K, KL, XL philosophy was not to sell them to Big Twin customers, but to Triumph, BSA, etc. riders. That's documented. I doubt very many guys walked into a Harley dealership and bought an FL because you got more lard for your dollar. Maybe some did, but more likely they left the Harley dealership and went down the block to the Triumph or BSA dealer where they got real value for their money, esp. in the K/KH years. That changed with the "CH." Now a sporting Harley existed that was worth the extra money!

Don't get me wrong: If there is one Harley model I would like to own at this time (besides a 1905 "Model One"), it would be a KH and no mistake. Having owned 45s and other flatheads (but never a K), I can just imagine what a sweet running pleasure that motor and nice handling bike that would be. Plus the whole K/KH phenomenon of the world's last sporting side-valve is so darn unique!

Pat:
I've had this one in various guises since 1986, 54 KHK:





And also that one, from 96 till 2003 when I passed it on to a friend, still regret it..., 53 KK dead original:



Back to the subject at hand...

I'm not quite saying dealer shop visitors ended up with an Hydra rather than a K, but the factory did not help itself by pricing the K so near the Hydra!!!

Still, I can't stop being bemused by the fact that the K, KH and early XL are INDEED little replicas of the bigger ones... Only the CH in 58 started to break a bit that mould, the XLH continuing unabbated till the late 60s with the big seats, rear fender, saddle bags etc...

As for the sequence of introduction of these models, nothing there that surprise me really, 750 K to test the water, bigger/torquier 888 KH ( by the way, you're one of the rare ones that's noticed a KH is 888cc, not 883, on std bore!!!) then low compression XL, then C and CH/XLH full blown P cam animals...

Looking back at the KL remnants, I can spot some unmachined bits in it, looks like there an unmachined flange on the camshaft location, for a seal of some sort... Wonder if that one was ever fully assembled or if we are looking at the last of the Mohicans in its unfinished wonder???

You said in the article that the gene and the cams were chain driven. As the gene seems to have one of its bolts on a slot for adjustment, I'll give you that one... Not so sure about the camshaft, looks like a location for an iddler there so I tend to think "à la Velocette", big iddler gear.

The more I look at the KL from a chopper/tuner/racer point of view, the more I think it's very unmodifiable!!! You're stuck with what you've got, no room for specials there. One of the great points about the basic K design is its ability to be moded/improved/tuned...

As an example of the K/KH/XL design potential, I'm also building a special 1200cc 67 CH, front head will be on the back, turned 180 degrees, rear head, same but on the front so I'll end up with carb(s) and exhausts on the left handside... Very little to be moded in fact, just loads of elbow grease...
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:38 am

John, forum owner:


Gentlemen (Herb & Patrick in particular )
It is with a profound sense of awe that I have witnessed the unfolding of supposition stirred with logic in your comments here. I'm honored that you have chosen the Iron Motors Tech forum for your discussion. Please do continue. And Herb, if anyone is falling asleep ,I have devised new software that will detect a readers head bobbing. The software will then trigger a cattle prod capable of delivering the voltage equal to a KR magneto ! Please do continue this fascinating dialogue.

Pat:
Thanks for your comments... Herb started it here so it will end here, no doubts... I don't post often here, but do visit regularly...

I trawl the iron section on the XL forum quite a bit, but it started being invaded by Evo owners for some reason??? Jealousy???

FHP is great as you know cause I've seen you there often enough, great personalities there, Pa, Kurt, Haynes...

I was talking to another Iron Head lover the other day... I ended up telling him I love these bikes cause they are in fact 30's engineering, and all I love about that period of hand built bikes, but made in the 50's and 60's... The 30's H-D don't quite hit it with me as some of the inter-war european designs...

It's those sort of bikes where you can actually see the hand of the designers and the skills of the assemblers, rare these days of AutoCad'stration where all designs from all over end up looking the same... These new fangled draughtmen and engineers should try their hands at making cores and castings, that would teach them a lot about aesthetics...

Never mind H-Ds designed in Germany by car people, what an abortion... They call it progress, I call it lack of imagination... As for the neo-classic fad H-D's been stuck in the last 20 years, thank you mam, I'd rather have the undiluted/uncompromized original...

Herb:
I agree that this is good stuff. I used to think that the 1950s was a "asleep at the switch" period -- mainly from stuff I read -- but that is about as far from the truth as it gets. Only that a lot of the good stuff is rather occultly hidden behind the scenes and thus largely overlooked.

It occurred to me too that the KL relic was never finished, mainly because it's empty and I thought maybe it was something leftover at the very end of the project that should have been scrapped, but instead ended up wired to the wall in Exp. (which is also probably why it didn't get stolen like the WL-Overheads did).

I was told that both KL gen. and camshaft were chain-driven, but can't say that's 100% sure. Guys' memories do fail, but I have to go by their accounts in the lack of actual records or other documentation.

Those are interesting bikes and projects. Still gotta wonder what kind of performance KL had and what size it grew to. With all these replica artists out there, maybe a running KL will show up one of these years.

I just wish I could have talked to more of the old guys like Charlie Featherly, who had his hands on the 61 OHV, the XL, and the Shovelhead. And yes, the 50s bikes are still largely built using the same methods and techniqes as the 30s bikes, but nothing quite matches in my opinion the 1936-39 EL line which has old Bill Harley's signature on them. But in many ways a KH, early XL, or CH comes pretty close for unalloyed unique coolness....

Pa:
You humble me Patrick. I am the offspring of me Pappy JKE. John hosted FHP long before me. John was a fantastic host to boot !! I loved his out going, friendly, Brotherhood attitude. But most of all.... I loved his take no shit one the most.

John:
Paul,
I am the one who is humbled.
Your comment to Pete Gagan over at the AMCA board was spot on !

Pa:
Thank you John. Though the comment was short like a left jab, I tried to deliver it like a right cross. I Just hope those, who it was intended for, realize that.
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:40 am

Pat:
As another insight of the prototyping of the Model K, there's no doubts H-D must have purchased a few bikes from the opposition and looked carefully at them...

Per example, the front 1/2 width brake and hub are very BSA derived while the top and bottom tree are copies, slightly wider, of the Triumph ones...

Since the K forks were their 1st attempt at smaller street telescopics, who can blame them!!!

Pa, John, Herb, is the old AMCA forum dead now? I went on the new one and all the old interesting topics have disappeared???

Pa:
Interesting observation on the BSA / HD resemblance. I guess manufacturing is based on how ones competitions product is selling, so you got to incorporate some of the same ideas to keep up. On the other hand, some engineers just plain come up with great ideas. As a competitors manufacturer, you have no choice but to lean on those better ideas sometimes. Just look at the auto industries for examples. How many models today stand apart from one another, at least to the naked eye from a distance. How many makes and models have all of the same goodies ? Most offer some sort of other options in power package range or luxury but the basic common components and ideas are all the same. Look at the very early bikes with the gas headlamps. As soon as the first bike went to electrics, they all rushed that direction. I think the coolest part about the changes are how the changes took place. Like a family tree, if I may say so. Not only the trial an error, amd successful engineering involved with the bikes discussed within this topic are what fasinate me about the topic. It is that family tree of changes, the order they took place, what was disgarded, why was it disgarded, etc.. One of the best topics I have ever followed !

I guess and assume the AMCA web change may be having the same tech problems FHP had a few times when moving servers. We was kind of lucky over a FHP, when S&S took over, with a well pc educated staff doing all of the tech work. S&S is able to staff the whole web community. Even so, we lost some valuable data from the past but we recovered a great percentage of it also.

Herb:
Oh yeah, Harley had a LONG history of examining the competition; looking at foreign bikes as early as the 1920s. There's a '20s photo of Squibby on a Brit single when Harley was testing and looking at it. There's also a legend among people today that Harley looked at the Vincent Rapide engine when devising the KL and it wouldn't surprise me, altho I have seen no proof of it. OTOH, Harley would have stupid not to look at an advanced v-twin like that one. You get all the up-to-date information you can, copy some ideas, and then apply your own.

Figure too, that the K, KL, XL. was their answer to the Brit-style bike so it was natural to take even a closer look than usual and adapt to the type. The old time American platform was increasingly seen as obsolete and old fashioned even before WWII in some places. Once a rider got on a peppy midweight Brit ohv twin with clean styling and footshift many of them were instantly hooked.

Harley finally had to pay attention and see what all the excitement was about. It must have been a hard blow for them to accept that the classic American type motorcycle & controls were dying, and today pretty much dead except for a few styling hints and throwbacks.

Pat:
... Which is probably why I don't feel so attracted to the 30's H-D types, way too hard/cumbersome to ride them fast as I like... They did not lead up front by that time... I once tried a friend's fast VL bobber, yes, fast, but in a straight line... corners and gear changes were a challenge and distracted me for full enjoyment!!!

The K/XL bikes are indeed to me the best "compromise", the best of US as in big, simple and powerful, but with the added bonus of "european" type easy controls and handling...

Mind you, any pre-WW1 US bike does it for me, simple, big, modern features compared to europeans... if it weren't for the prices these days... so it'll stay as a dream.

Herb:
It's true. With the K's and early Sportster you do have the best of both worlds and that was exactly what Harley was shooting for.

I went the opposite route: from a 1967 Jap bike to 1930s-1950 Harleys (newest being a 50FL.) I guess they went fast enough for me and the unusual (obsolete) features like spring forks, rigid frames, seatposts, and hand-shifts were so different that they were somehow magically cool. I missed out on that whole Sportster thing at the time; didn't care. And back then a K was considered soemthing of a freak. A couple guys I knew had them, but I looked at them with puzzlement: Like why? What on earth was Harley thinking?

It took many years, but now I think we know WHY and WHAT Harley was thinking. Strange brew indeed as it turns out, but for me that propels K/KH to the top of the desireable unique-freak list. Now I just gotta find one in an old barn cheap.

My cousin Louis had a Model K (I don't recall its year.) This would have been in the mid/late 1970s. He was a party boy, and one early morning he was riding home from the bar on "The Avenue" in Racine, hit some RR tracks at the wrong angle, and somehow wedged the front wheel/tire tight between the rails. He said that he was pulling at it trying to get it out when -- yep -- a train came rolling along! He said the train "punted" the Model K like a football and bashed it all to hell.

Remember kids, don't ride motorcycles and don't drink either!

Thinking back, he had it set up with a Sportster tank on it so it looked like a CH. Either that, or it was in a CH chassis. He explained it to me at the time, but the details are too hazy. I remember thinking that it was a very cool looking bike and it was. That is, you thought it was a Sportster CH at first glance, but with a side-valve K motor when you looked closer.

The other K rider that I knew of (my brother's friend really), had a 1952 K model chopper. This was later, around 1990 or so. The motor on that one blew up on the Milwaukee freeway on the way to Elkhart Lake. I just nodded and thought: "Typical flathead."

Thinking back (and this wasn't too many years ago), a guy on the road to Kenosha had 2 dusty but totally stock original looking Model K's in his business, one being, I think, a '52. One was yellow; the other black. At the time I thought: "What does he like these things for?"

I wonder if they're still there?
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:40 am

Pat:
Though I revive this post with some other thoughts...

Was last week on holidays, far away from the garage, but plenty of time to rumage things in me head!!!

Was thinking again about did the KR really came 1st on the drawing board...

If you haven't owned a K or Sportster, you might not know that their engines are not centered in the frames, they are offset to the left by about an inch...

The K and Sportster engines have the same secondary drive dimms as the old WL, the center line of the sprocket is about 3"700, 94mm, to the right of the bike centerline... In the past, I thought that was it, just keep it the same for the sake of keeping some manufacturing fixtures the same.

But really, there's nothing common in the secondary driveline between W and K...

EXCEPT, if you think of common things between WR and KR, there's a lot!!! They used the same spool hubs and rear sprockets. It then makes a bit more sense if the KR was designed with that in mind. The 4 speed KR box was a bit wider than the 3 speed WR, so they just offset the KR engine to suit.

If one thinks even more outside the box, one could also conclude that an engine offset to the left was a bit of a bonus on a racer designed to turn only to the left as flat tracker did... T'was done to great effect on old Indianapolis roadsters, the big Offenhauser engines being often mounted that way...

My head is hurting now!!! Patrick

End for now, Sun Jun 08, 2008
Flat Head Forever
https://web.archive.org/web/20071011184353/http://www.harleykrxlrtt.com/index.htm
I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to...
thefrenchowl
 
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:33 pm

Re: Herbert Wagner and Patrick meanderings, 2008

Postby mikeslemmon » Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:09 pm

great info. Patrick ..what rod .bearing.design ? .
mikeslemmon
 
Posts: 157
Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 11:36 am

Next

Return to K, KK, KH, KHK

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests