1956 KHK back to life

This Forum is for members to describe the restoration process they used in building their bike - in a series of postings describing each step from acquisition through road-worthy.

This is NOT a general discussion forum. Sit back and learn the techniques - and mistakes - that another member has gone through.

You may ask questions of the member who started the topic, but most of the postings within a topic should be submitted by the member who started the topic.

1956 KHK back to life

Postby Renshaw » Tue Feb 20, 2024 12:44 pm

Here is a small bit of information on getting this bike back together - least I could do since this site is the major source of information and without it we'd be floundering in the dark.

I bought this bike from upstate NY in November 2020 as a part roller and 3 boxes of bits. The previous owner or perhaps the one before that had started restoring the bike but had stopped. Some parts were rechromed, some not, and the body work was painted red... but it was all pretty much there.

This was what the vendor knew about its history:
"So here is the history as I know it. I got to know the son around some 30 years ago, he was an electrician that come into the place I worked. After a couple of times talking he said he had this bike, would I like to see it. I went to his place and looking at it he told me that his dad ordered new with the speedo and seat special because he want to be able to take his boys out. He said that he used to go out with him on Sundays and ride around back roads. Then when his brother got older he would take it to a small local airport and drag race it. When the dad passed they got it left to both of them. He said that they rode it a couple of times each maybe and it just didn’t feel the same so it sat. I started trying to buy it the very next time I saw him after going to look at it. He always said that they where going to get it going again. A lot of years late he called me to ask about someone to work on it. He took it to this guy and long story short, all he was doing is taking it apart. Each time he went to check on it he would pay the guy some money. Well he got nervous about it and though it just wasn’t going right so he went and picked it up, that’s how it ended up apart. A couple weeks later the guy got busted for selling drugs. Years later again he called me and wanted to know if I wanted to still buy it, I said where and when can I get it. I was surprised when I saw it apart but knowing him I felt good that he had everything and it was still all in good shape. That was my plan to redo it but I really don’t have the time or space to do it.
I hope you get it back on the road and enjoy it."

The bike got delivered to a friend of mine in CT who then shipped it across to me in the UK, is was June 2021 when I finally got my hands on it and gave it to my good friend Tosh who is a very well known old HD [and now Vincent] mechanic here. He had worked on my KRM and has built a WLK motor but this was his first K model engine full rebuild. The strip down showed that the engine was well used [certainly more than the 5722 miles on the odometer] but nothing was cracked broken or terminal - I think the worst thing is an engine that has had amateur hobby mechanics fiddling around and fortunately this was not one of them.

Slowly it all went back together, anything we needed to source we managed to find, mostly from JW Boon in the Netherlands, some from the ebay [not much on there any more I noticed], a few parts from this site but mostly advice, some from friends here and abroad and only as a last resort from Colony/W&W which we managed to keep to a necessary minimum.

You will note from the photos that the bike is not strictly as it arrived to me but it is as original as we can get it [and I want it], scrambler pipes [from someone kindly on here] replaced the stock ones as the front header was beaten to death, buddy seat had been badly recovered, I like the bigger bars, cowbells and magneto - I swapped the Fairbanks that came on my KRM for a Wico and used it on this.

Tosh hollowed out the 6v HD 1960s battery and dropped in 2 small 6v batteries in the cavity - a beautiful touch and a small example of how he does things properly.

Finding the muffler support was the one thing that got the better of me - we ended up using a later one which fitted with a bit of jiggery pokery.

I have never quite worked out the mudguards [fenders to most of you] on the Ks... did they come with short and long mudguards or just long in which case these are later but again finding and paying for a original long rear one is hard - I have an OP front one but its too beaten up compared to the rest of the bike. I did a very simple black spray job and used the template kindly sent to me by one of the members to get the slash [flash?] right - its just tape now, a friend of mine will come and paint it in good time.

Last Saturday we set to kicking it... after about 50+ of those it spurted, futted then fired up and has been 1 or 2 kicks ever since. Its great to ride, comfortable and smooth - really looking forward to getting a good 500-1000miles on it so I can see how it compares to my 750cc. I am a rider and I live in a wet muddy valley so this thing is probably as pristine in these photos as it will ever by - I hope you enjoy it and thanks to those who helped us.
On its way from CT
IMG_1587.jpg (361.91 KiB) Viewed 2550 times
3 years later its on the road...
IMG_3847.jpg (485.01 KiB) Viewed 2550 times
IMG_3845.jpg (470.53 KiB) Viewed 2550 times
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:25 pm

Re: 1956 KHK back to life

Postby Simon » Wed Feb 21, 2024 9:05 pm

Looks great - very clean. It's hard to put a project together when you're not in the US, so kudos to you!
Posts: 195
Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2015 10:14 pm

Re: 1956 KHK back to life

Postby Tim The Grim » Wed Feb 21, 2024 9:49 pm

Outstanding job on the ride and your post.
Thanks for taking the time to share this.
54KHK (Current Build),2013 XL1200V “72” Hard Candy, 97 Honda Valkyrie
Tim The Grim
Posts: 47
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 4:57 pm
Location: Far West Texas

Re: 1956 KHK back to life

Postby EKHKHK56 » Thu Feb 22, 2024 2:55 am

Man that’s a great job you did getting your 56KHK going! Like it or not you are one of the 714 now. It looks really great. I’m still trying to get mine going. Most of time was used working my repair shop and racing. My first one the cases needed 13 welds, and most the basket case was either worn out, or had nothing to do with KHK. The rear fender was full length until Sportster trimmed it down. With the new Big Twin Tailamp it is a one year fender. 52-55 had the Bullet Lamp. I lost my shop during covid and also got hit with a mess of medical problems physical and mental with no help. I couldn’t remember one day to the next etc etc. Had heart failure and no one would diagnose. 5-2023 ran out of air twice than was in ICU with complete renal failure. 3 days in a semi coma, then started coming back. After 5 more days was ok enough for dye tests. They showed my main heart valve was shot. Quick LearJet ride to Anchorage and 6-1-23 received 5 stents and Bull’s Heart Valve rebuild kit. I am sending a DM, have a question about cams! Doing really well and I apologize to everyone for my behavior back then. Lost an eye, house, wife all quick like back then. Went out of my mind for a while…. Earned my wife back and doing well. 30 years. Got 56% of my sight restored. Anyway life’s great, yeah. Anybody needing parts I’m inventorying the K stash in a few months. Everything is in frozen storage now. If you are interested I have a new VTwin rear mudguard, with backing construction inside for 56 tailamp. They are not a bad replica, for only ones produced. You know how many 52-53 K owners would almost kill for those Cowbells? :) As you probably know 1954 and up had the gators. I had one fellow I was looking for Cowbells for, the only parts he needed for “perfect” K build…. Congratulations on building your 56, all tasks are easier, and enjoy that stroker power, the longest one the Factory used until the Big BigTwin Cam of modern days. Thank You for sharing your KHK. Erik K
User avatar
Posts: 920
Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:20 am
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska USA

Re: 1956 KHK back to life

Postby EKHKHK56 » Thu Feb 22, 2024 3:41 am

I wanted to ad nice job on Silver Cylinders! When Elvis’s 56KH was restored the fellow did Black cylinders and I met a bunch of K people that thought Black had to be right if it’s Elvis’s KH. My friend Michael in NZ RIP, built a super 55 over 40 years, looking almost perfect, but the Black cylinders. I had to be the one to tell him the Elvis bike was inKorrect. So little info was available back in the magazine, telegraph and telephone days. Dial O for operator! I soon learned the magazine description meanings in for sale section. If it said no broken fins, the chambers were cracked bad! If it said I think these are original K parts, definitely re-pop! One guy sold me a 55KHK that had layed in mud on the farm long enough to ruin everything on the right side! He never showed pictures of the right side and I didn’t catch on until purchased and parts arrived from Kansas. The engine was nice. The rest not so. Missing were the Carb and Air Cleaner he had sold to me separately! I told a friend in Kansas about the deal and he said yeah Scott, you have to watch him like a hawk! A couple other quick notes on “original” 56KHK are Speedster Handebars, with the BuckHorns optional so that’s fine, the Speedsters were kind of a match for the better handling lowered chassis. The seat is actually a KRM style, I bought the same one and they are nice! Stock would be 54-65 just for info. The 58 Sportster XLCH was the first year to trim the rear mudguard tail off. I forgot, the other Sportsters 57-65 did use the Long Rear. So I inKorrectly said 56 one year only. 56 Gas Tank is one year. K carb feed outlet, 56 Badge mount and Rocker Box recessed for OHV. In 52 the Rear fender had no rivets so 53-55 were long with Bullet Lamp and 56 long with new BigTwin Lamp. The Timer obviously is a Magneto. I’m not critiqueing your 56, it’s awesome, I just wanted to share a few ideas on Korrectness…for perfect bike too nice to ride! :x Thank You again and I love your bike, enjoy that thunder maker and burn up some pavement! Erik K
User avatar
Posts: 920
Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:20 am
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska USA

Re: 1956 KHK back to life

Postby Renshaw » Thu Feb 22, 2024 9:02 am

Thanks all for the comments.
Erik - yes those original 56 rear fenders are hard to find, nearly bought one with the earlier taillight but in truth I have spent enough on this [for now] and that wouldnt be right so no point. I did have one of the replica early long fenders but used it on a different bike a few years ago - nicely made but am going for HD or nothing on this.
Silver barrels are all original factory finish- we kept everything as was except the paint on the tins, some parts had been rechromed but fortunately not all and the motor hadn't been touched. I have the original seat, fork boots, exhaust, speedster bars and stock 6v points set up in boxes along with quite a few other extra parts that came with the bike. I like the buckhorns so much I had copies made in 1" and 7/8" for the future. You may have noted that the headlight is in fact a 52-early 53 - it came with the bike but is probably rarer than the 53 up - if I didn't want to just get on with it I would have gone out there looking for a swap. Weird how the cowbells are so hard to get and expensive when you find them - panhead ones are ten a penny - again I guess they were only made for 2 years.
A couple more pics added
Now just a case of riding once it stops raining cats and dogs here..
WhatsApp Image 2023-11-22 at 20.30.54.jpg
WhatsApp Image 2023-11-22 at 20.30.54.jpg (330.81 KiB) Viewed 2430 times
WhatsApp Image 2023-11-22 at 20.30.55.jpg
Polished heads
WhatsApp Image 2023-11-22 at 20.30.55.jpg (343.58 KiB) Viewed 2430 times

new batteries in a 60s battery shell
d677c944-e3a9-4619-ae64-46f4423e3084.jpg (349.14 KiB) Viewed 2430 times
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:25 pm

Re: 1956 KHK back to life

Postby Damon » Fri Feb 23, 2024 4:54 am

Hey Renshaw,

congratulations on having such a lovely bike, I have two 56 KHK's and I am based in North West London, it would be great to get in contact and compare bikes


Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2023 6:20 am

Return to Restoration Stories

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests