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1960 Harley-Davidson XLCH – ‘The Bad Investment’

Posted on October 7, 2015 by Scott in Classic. 31 comments


Building a custom motorcycle usually takes time and a lot of knowledge. Jared Smith from El Cerrito, California, had the time but didn’t have much knowledge when it came to building his first bike. 12 months ago when Jared started building this 1960 XLCH Ironhead, he had never welded anything. After picking it up cheap as a non runner that had been completely spray painted black, he started the steep learning process of rebuilding the bike from the ground up. Jared had a clear vision of how he wanted the end product to look. “I was going for an ‘old but loved’ look to the build” he says, “and purposely used vintage components where I could that had not been refurbished, everything else I wanted to make by hand.” Over the next year he started a crash course in welding – mostly as a student at the prestigious ‘School of Youtube’. Meet the Ironhead aptly named the ‘The Bad Investment’…


Jared started by stripping the bike completely the day after he picked it up from the 8 hour drive from his home. After stripping it all the way down, all that he wanted to keep were the engines cases, the frame, and the seats… everything else was to be replaced. “The motor needed a couple new cylinders, new pistons, new heads… basically the motor needed a new motor” he says. He decided to give the engine to the professionals and got Hannan’s Machine Shop to rebuild the top end and S&J Cycles in Santa Rosa to rebuild the lower. The end result is basically a brand new Ironhead motor with just a little more get up and go than stock.


Aesthetically, Jared knew he wanted to run a red, white and blue AMF tank. After scouring Craigslist he finally found one with the gas marks and eroded paint down one side, it was perfect and had just the right amount of history he wanted. “That’s the point of using all these old parts, they all have a story – that’s what’s exciting to me – combining vintage parts with new fabrication.”


One of the first things Jared fabricated was the sissy bar. “I laid out all the parts with string and drew full size renderings of it several times before I started cutting and bending. I wanted the lines of the cross brace bars to mimic the lines of the stripes on the AMF tank” he says. The ring at the top where the taillight lives was the last detail Jared added.


The taillight is an old warning panel light Jared picked up at an estate sale. He machined a new inner housing for the taillight that has internal and external threads for it to all fit together snug around the ring on the sissy bar and to hold the eclectic Turkish coin with deer on it as the backing plate.


The velocity stack for the Mikuni carburetor was made from a 4″ round stock of 6061 aluminum, which Jared turned down and bored out on his lathe, then drilled and tapped for set screws at 120° offset. It has just enough clearance to be a tight press fit and hold the grill tight against the throat of the carb. The detailed grill is from a 1920’s Zenith dynamic microphone.


Some of the many other details on this meticulous first build is the handmade rear fender, vertical license plate (with Jared’s Blue Jack logo acid-etched into it), footpegs, shifter, mechanical brake arm linkage, carb slide topper and headlight mounting bracket… and the list continues every day.


The most impressive thing is that only a year ago when Jared brought this lifeless Ironhead, he had some hammers, old junk tools, a $90 dollar flux-core welder and barely any knowledge of how to use them properly. Now a year later, his garage has a metal lathe, a tig welder, a drill press, a belt sander, a disc sander, several buffing and polishing machines. But more importantly, he has gained a wealth of knowledge that you can’t put a price on. It sounds like ‘The Bad Investment’ was a good one after all.

  • guvnor67

    Kool!!! Not a huge Harley fan but I’m a sucker for 60s style bikes. Also, the fact that he rescued it from what sounds like a bucket of bolts, started with basic tools, and learned as he went, and then created this, total respect due! And AMF? See, it wasn’t ALL bad!!!

  • I don’t know… It’s wanting me to phrase Arnold S: “get to tha choppa!” (or does he mean another chopper?)

  • TruthBringer

    Very clean & restrained, for a chopper.

  • Hardley T Whipsnade III

    Nice build for a first effort and a very sweet little classic ‘ Chopper ‘ but the AMF logo [ which is despised in H-D circles ] and colors on the tank needs to go . Not only is AMF a well despised part of H-D’s past and better left forgotten but is also completely out of place on a 1960 Harley ( AMF came into the picture in 1969 , some nine years after this bikes bones were manufactured ) Which is to say if the AMF logo and colors are an attempt at irony its a failed attempt at best across the board : raising ire rather than irony .

    But to be clear I reiterate . Other than the AMF business this is one very nicely done classic ‘ Chopper ‘ and a great first effort .

    • vachequipis

      Yes the AMF years where a bad period in H-D history whith bad quality and even more unreliability, however the AMF logos and colour stripes are quite popular with a lot of chopper builders and have become more iconic than ironic. 70’s style has been ‘in’ for awhile, so even if the bike was born 9 years to soon I like it’s style and it’s a great build.

      • 1957 Panhead

        The bikes of the AMF years are becoming somewhat valuable. Agreed, it was a bad time for HD, but now it’s a good time for motorcycle collectors. BTW, I like the chopper. Nice work for a first-timer.

        • vachequipis

          Agreed a 70’s shovel or ironhead is more desired than an eighties Evo.

    • bjax

      Trigger Warning: This tank may cause ire or trauma relapse in certain members of H-D circles.

      If it ruffles a few feathers, so much the better. If nothing else the AMF livery serves as a reminder what Americans can do when they work together to turn an industry around.

    • TruthBringer

      Yeah, you are really out of touch if you think that. Born Free uses it and so does Biltwell.

    • Carson Sylvander

      If it weren’t for the guys who bought, rode & fixed the AMF period Harleys, Harley would not exist today.

  • Jim Stuart

    I’ve already mentioned the AMF issue before so I won’t go there again. Holding true to old school rules it was the general conscious that Sportsters were girl’s bikes and not accepted in hardcore biker circles. Yes I know Ness used them back in the day for his show bikes and they kicked ass on the dragstrip, but unless you were either very thick skinned or a bad MOFO you rode a big incher. As hard as it may be to accept there was a time when riding a Harley was a statement not a show of how much money you made. There were no weekend 1%er’s and the lifestyle did not include posers trying to rewrite the unwritten rules. My opinions are no reflection of the quality or the efforts of this build just a little walk down memory lane.

    • vachequipis

      What is a girls bike? I didn’t know motorcycles had a gender? I thought H-D introduced the K series then sportster to compete with the faster more nimble Brit bikes. For many years until the Vrod, XLs in all their variants were the fastest H-D’s.

      • Jim Stuart

        What is a girl’s bike? Google Sportster and girl’s bike and you’ll get over a half million hits. If you read my entire comment you’ll see that I mentioned their speed superiority so I fail to understand your point.

        • vachequipis

          Half a million misogynist’s must be right, I understand how Harley tried in the seventies to promote bikes to female riders, but come on this is the 21st century!

          • Jim Stuart

            I neither care nor do I have a dog in this fight. I however would never sink a dime into a Sportster project since I was there when they were new bikes and experienced the negativity first hand.

            When I build a bike for myself I try to be be true to a theme and think about how it would have been accepted if it could be taken back in time and shared with my peers.

            Back to the 21st century… if Sportsters become the hottest item and every celebrity had one in their garage my opinion would still be the same, yet I would still appreciate all the time, money and effort their owners spent on an otherwise unappreciated machine.

          • guvnor67

            Sad isn’t it. Triumph did it too with small capacity bikes, as did BSA with Bantams, back in the 50s n 60s. What is strange though,is the only people I have seen (around here anyway) riding Yamaha’s Bolt, a competitor for HDs Sportster have been ladies. And, I’ve seen 4 Street 500s, 3 of which were ridden by the fairer sex! Marketing? Genetic? Sales Staff?

        • Seriously? Richard Pollack and the Del Prado brothers build “girls bikes”. Really? Really?

          • Jim Stuart

            Yes, really, really, really, really girly bikes. Please take notice that I also mentioned that Arlen Ness used girly bikes for some of his most famous builds too. If Jesus Christ rode a Sportster and his Apostles rode 12 matching Bantams they would all be riding girly bikes. Even if someone can summon up a photo of Chuck Norris riding a Sportster that cannot erase history.

          • The baddest guy in Austin, Texas in 1967 drove a yellow Camaro covertible and rode a yellow Sportster. You must have been running with a very different crowd in an alternate universe. The “girls bike” or “paper boy bike” tag came later when posers who dressed like pirates thought their manliness was expressed in big-twin bikes and mocked Sportsters as well as Japanese (rice burners) and European (euro-trash) bikes. Sorry, Mr. Stuart, but you are wrong.

          • Jim Stuart

            I would never assume to guess anything about you or who you ride with much less what universe you call home. Assumptions on your part only stress your ignorance and your inability to debate this point. I will say that none of my riding buddies drive in yellow convertibles or dress like pirates. If you want to be less sorry may I suggest you read the contents of this site where they teach you how to not only debate but how not to use silly ideas to prove your point. I do admire you reluctance to accept reality especially since I agree that Sportsters got a bum rap.

          • Fast2Furious

            I ride a Honda XR600 in the dirt am I riding a girls bike. Since I’m not a girl I’d like to know. Also what if The Prophet and the four caliphs rode Sportys.

          • Jim Stuart

            If your XR600 is yellow and you got Manxman on the back riding bitch it still wouldn’t be a girl’s bike. I’ve been wrong more times than right but a half million hits on Google back my claim on history. I spoke to my friend who owned several HD dealerships in the Northwest and he suggested that I stop arguing with sorry retards.

          • Zundap

            So Jim, tell us what you ride? I just want too be cool like you. ..Z

          • WILD BILL

            “Girly Bikes? Yeah? I defy ANY “girl” to kick mine over& START it…{180+lbs in Each Cylinder}
            I ride a 1977 XLCH, vivid RED, & have, since it was 1year old, has XLR Pipes, 10″ A-Bars, leather COBRA seat, Polished Borani Alloy rims, polished SS spokes, Pirelli tires, Drilled rotors F& R &REAR DISC Brake conversion,2″over forkTubes,
            HI-polished & Pdr clear coated,Primary, Cam, Sprocket, covers,& Rocker Boxes, BLITZ STEEL BBLs.
            Strociek [vintage] rollerrockers,chrom-moly pushrods,XLR Valves Forged ,pins/hole{ honed& fitted}+ .040″ pistons , Andrews “AX” grind .550″ cams, S&S CARB
            Balanced bottom :S&S rods/Flywheels,Strociek Billet Trap door,AndrewsShafts/Gears, Barnett Kevlar Clutch,
            Updated ,Singlefire ignition,accel hvyguage wwires,
            IDK or care ,where or how much you, QUOTE:
            “I was there when they were new bikes and experienced the negativity first hand.” ,BUT I don’t worry over or QUOTE:
            ” think about how it would have been accepted if it could be taken back in time and shared with my peers.” UNQUOTE.
            You sound like a sidewalk commando……
            I couldn’t give a shit about others “accepting” MY Bike

      • pokie

        Nothing wrong with sporsters I have seen them leave the big twins in the dust many times in San Francisco bay area.

    • B Master Grand

      Just an old troll trying to push his aged hang ups on others. I’ve ridden sportsters for fifteen years and no one has mentioned them being girls bikes except as a passing joke.

  • thinking bike of the year

  • Feels good to be reminded of just how satisfying a good chopper build can be.

  • mikemin07

    one problem tho is AMF didn’t own HD in 1960. nice build though.

  • jlgace

    I realize this is an old post, but I have a constructive comment (I think). The rear fender maintaining a constant radius from the axle is a petty detail that would totally step up this bike. See the previous Hazan bike for reference. Otherwise, very clean and excellent build and I can really tell the builder took some pride in this bike. I too am confused with any Harley owner wanting to remember (let alone advertise) the former AMF/Harley affiliation, but to each their own. Maybe it’s an age thing…

  • Darrick B

    If I were to have a chopper, I’d want it to be like this. Great looking bike, and very impressive craftsmanship considering the builder learned how to do fab work on this bike.