West Coast Report 21st Edition by John Gilbert

When Bubble Tops Attack — Benign Politics Produce Gaseous

Results & Mood Food… Neutered Brains Rein

Do you understand your role in the spectacle? These babies may hold the answer. I started thinking (with the help of watching TV) about the human condition focusing on the World’s mentality and the next thing I knew — ](%Martians are —robbing**my­­­____ 1234— brain… salty rich basting butter, help, help Mr. Nixon. That’s it no more organic strawberries from Yorba Linda for me. Starbucks arrives in Southern California, road rage ensues. Did you ever notice road rage didn’t exist on a grand scale before then? When they outlaw coffee, only outlaws with have coffee.

Fast-forward three hours. I’m back, I had to step away from the keyboard and present a bountiful present to the Metamucil gods. Notice there’s more than one Metamucil god. I wrote it that way, so my new California religious cult could attract more followers than mainstream religions with only one deity. And we’re not going any further with this… a guy can get killed talking about religion.

­California is really starting to fall behind on producing good controversial religious cults, so I’ve personally appointed myself to see if I can do something about it. First I need people to send me money, and then a place where we can all gather in a building on prime real estate and enjoy a tax-free status… Argh, I’ve allowed my designer Salmon oil Omega 3 capsules I bought from Uncle Sam’s Club to marinate a little bit too long.

I have a yearning in my brain to arrange for a prostrate scan. On second thought, I’m going to wait until the Cruise For a Cure comes to the Orange County Fairgrounds. Now, I realize there’s six different states that have an Orange County, including Minnesota, so I better specify California. Holy crap, I don’t know what any of this all meant, but it sure was fun to write.

On to more serious things. I don’t want to bum anybody out, but we’re living in a postindustrial age with an ever increasing presence of the service sector displacing agriculture, and manufacturing.

Gary Chopit, with sons, Nicholas, and Fabian are building some incredible creations at their Stanton, California shop.

I predict this fall there’s going to be a new show on TV called “When Bubble Tops Attack.” The premise is a shameless knockoff of that dorky bespeckled guy that writes all those really good science fiction stories. Under the Dome, ring a bell?

Stefano Kink sells plots to the US government to be resold to the American public.

I love the smell of burning tortillas in the morning. Every tattoo I have means something. This one here means I was drunk. Sometimes a burnt cornflake can look like a fly floating in milk amongst properly baked cornflakes.

All I started out to do this morning was ask whatever happened to Mr. Potato Head. A rare look inside the hermit kingdom. What did happen to Mr. Potato Head? Listen to the rhythm of the falling rein.

I have to go now. Passenger carrying drones are flying in California’s air space. WTF auto-pilot trains and planes? People are nervous, I think I’m losing it. I’m going out into my garage and work on the Hot Rod to Hell. Don’t worry the rest of the 21st edition of the West Coast Report will be completely serious. Yeah, like anyone read this far. Drone automobiles are already legal in California. Don’t believe me, Google it. There’s another name for it, but nevertheless they’re drones. Have you ever noticed clone rhymes with drone? My brain hurts. Don’t forget to send money to my new California cul… er, religion. Yes, it’s a religion. Red Mountain Kool-Aid straight from California’s

Shop Tour

Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim

Here’s an example of a California grown family business that’s sticking it out in the “stick it to business state”. The first time I spoke with Jim Buchanan was in 1971 at Buchanan’s Frame shop in Monterrey Park, California. Jim’s shop was up the street from Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson in Rosemead. I used to lace up the wheels for the Harley’s I was chopping, and then take the wheels to Buchanan’s and pay $10 to have them trued.

Ask anyone that’s ever had to figure out how to lace a non stock wheel to a Harley-Davidson hub, and it won’t be long before the name Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim enters the conversation.  Founded in 1958, the same year Harley-Davidson introduced rear suspension on big twins, Jim Buchanan opened the doors to Buchanan’s Frame & Wheel Shop in Monterey Park, California.

At first the shop was located in an old tin sided gas station, but it was all Jim needed to tweak a frame, or lace up a new set of chrome spokes on a sixteen to help a customer beautify his full-dresser. In 1961, Jim and wife Vernice had saved up enough money to buy property on which to build a new shop. The cement block building was erected at 629 East Garvey just a little north of Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson in neighboring Rosemead, California.

The additional work space helped to handle the ever increasing demand for crash repair, and custom frame work on Harley-Davidsons as well as numerous other motorcycle brands.

The stretched wheelbase produced by Jim Buchanan’s neck raking took to the mainstream in 1969 when Easy Rider premiered at the movies. Although choppers with a kicked neck had been around for years it was the Captain America, and Billy bike built by Buchanan’s customer Cliff Vaughs that put the style in the mass public’s eye.

Focusing on his role as the associate producer of Easy Rider, Cliff asked mentor Ben Hardy to construct a pair of Easy Rider crash doubles with Buchanan’s yet again responsible for the frame work, and wheel building.

By 1970 the customizing trend to fit everything from a 750 Honda to an 18-inch Sportster rear wheel with a 16-inch hog rim was in full swing. Unfortunately as the demand for spokes was increasing Buchanan’s supplier in England was gearing up to get out of the business. Fortunately for Buchanan’s they were made aware of the situation and were able to buy the equipment, and have it shipped from England to California. The Dayton swaging machines originally manufactured in Torrington, Connecticut, by the Torrington Company and shipped in the 20s to Coventry Swaging, Torrington’s subsidiary in England. were now housed under Buchanan’s roof.

Interestingly not one piece of Buchanan’s manufacturing equipment is as it left the factory. A good example is the two Dayton swaging machines Buchanan’s modified in the 70s to work more efficiently utilizing an electro-hydraulic unit sourced from a B-17 ball turret. To manufacture nipples that are free from rough edges on both ends the Buchanan family scratch built an intricate, and extremely costly machine.

In the 21st century Buchanan’s is the only wire wheel builder in the United States that manufactures its own spokes, nipples, and rims in-house. Every phase of Buchanan’s manufacturing is a process that forges a part into shape rather than grind, or take away material to produce. Instead of cutting spoke threads, threads are rolled into specs that produce a precise fit. In addition to offering Sun wheels, Buchanan’s own brand they offer numerous other brands to choose from including Akront, Spin Werkes, and Excel.

Beyond traditional appearance wire wheels offer low un-sprung weight, and the ability to adjust the offset after the wheel has been manufactured.  Now in its 54th year, and continuing to manufacture successfully in the de-industrialized state of California, the Buchanan family is to be commended for keeping a lost art alive.

  John Gilbert

California grown and family owned Buchanan’s Frame shop, dropping frame work from its services offered to the public became known as Buchanan’s Spoke & Wheel. The original frame table several of my Harley rigid frames were raked on in ’71 is still in use for family projects.

All the raw materials, stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum Buchanan’s manufactures with comes from the United States. In the shop working since he was 6 years old, here’s Kennie Buchanan standing next to stainless steel wire headed to the straightening machine.

Pulled into the Lewis straightening machine (founded 1911) the stainless steel wire is drawn straight, and cut into eight foot lengths destined to become spokes.

The eight foot lengths are then loaded into the Dayton swaging machine where a taper is cold forged into the semi-formed spoke that increases the strength of the spoke. This very machine made spokes in England from 1920 until 1970 when it was then sold to Buchanan’s.

Now company president here’s Robert Buchanan he’s been working at the family business for 33 years. The machine Robert is standing next to cuts heavy stainless, or carbon steel into stubs that are forged into nipples.

Here’s a look at more nipples than a lifetime subscription to Playboy. Note the nipple centers are as of yet un-drilled.

At this stage the machine pictured performs numerous operations leaving the nipples readied for completion in one last machine. The last machine the nipples enter is a one-off piece of equipment Buchanan’s custom built in-house to smooth both ends of the nipples.

Buchanan’s Sun wheels start with a 30 foot length of extruded virgin aluminum, clipped to a specified length, and then rolled into a hoop.

The Sun wheel hoop is then straightened, and fused together seamlessly with 440-volts of electricity.

Next the Sun wheel hoop is placed into this machine, and cold forged with extreme pressure into a near exact wheel shape.

The final step for the Sun wheel blank is a quick spin in the CNC Haas horizontal machining center. The result is a wheel hoop that conforms to tighter tolerances than possible in past years.

Here’s how spoke holes are punched in low volume. Not pictured is an automated wheel drilling machine Buchanan’s built in-house at a cost exceeding $100,000.

One of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, here’s Jim Buchanan lacing and truing a pre-war WL wheel. If you’ve got the hub, Buchanan’s can make the spokes and wheel to make it roll.

Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim
(626) 969-4655

Outlaw Rodder

Shocking! The Nose Knows

There’s a few things that I need to get thoroughly mocked up on the Hot Rod to Hell Track T before I can blow it all apart and repaint. As I’ve mentioned in previous WCE editions the friction front shocks are fine for in-town cruising, but not exactly what I need for hitting potholes at 80mph on the Interstate. When you’re mocking something up you have to start somewhere. Here’s the steps I took to figure out what I need to do to add tubular shocks. Install an exhaust system that won’t boil the engine oil, and fry the brake master-cylinder. Speedway Motors T-Bucket catalog is the T-Bucket builder’s bible when it comes to locating all the trick goodies, both vintage style and the latest stuff.

The bubbling black wrinkle paint on the orange Fram oil filter doesn’t show in this photo, but you can see how close the exhaust pipe runs past it.

The last bolt at the rear of the exhaust manifold barely clears the steering box. The manifold baring against the steering box transmits heat, and engine vibration to the steering.

Left bank: In plain view, but hard to reach describes the stock style Dorman ram horns. I’m glad I’m not putting them back on.

Right bank: This isn’t the firing order marked on the plug wires, but in a quick pinch it works to ID the wires.

The mockup process involves trying different parts to see what works best. These Speedway Motors stainless-steel ram horns look a thousand times better than stock, and get exhaust heat away the heads, plus allow more room to route plug wires.

The downside to any ram horn type header for my application is the exhaust pipes run inside the frame. To add a great competition look to the car and to cure heat related problems I opted for Speedway Motors Shotgun pipes.

The Speedway Shotgun pipes are made from stainless steel, and then highly polished. This is a key chain magnet used for testing steel. A magnet will not stick to stainless steel.

Working alone can be a problem when a third hand is needed. I used the Speedway box to prop the Shotgun pipes and hold into place while I screwed the bolts in.

The mockup stages establish if an idea will work, and how something is going to look. From this angle the Shotgun pipes look badass.

Chrome shocks add a 50’s custom touch like the cars that used to show at the Oakland Roadster Show. The chrome shocks I’m using are from Speedway, and are made in the USA. Georgia to be exact.


Cats are hard to train for use as a helper.

The only way to avoid cutting the track nose severely for clearance was to convert the existing friction shocks into cantilever tubular shocks. Not a conventional way of doing things, but that’s how hot rods are.

Sometimes new parts can be parted out to fabricate a new part. I used the Speedway shock studs as basis to make new shock uprights. The upright will run vertical alongside the radiator.

The lower shock stud goes through the friction shock arm.

I’ve mentioned it before, the Model A headlights are too big and heavy to be mounted into the fiberglass track nose.

I’m hoping to use the Speedway shock/headlight bracket to mount the headlights.

Here’s how the stock ’27 Model T headlights mount. Notice the connector bar the ’26 Model T lacked.

I’m going to cut the headlight visor back to flush with the headlight grille. The headlight grille will be polished to match the rounded edges of the grille.

From this angle the “look” of the car is really starting to shape up. I’ll be using Eastwood 2K Aero-Spray Chassis Black for the main color. Haven’t decided how aluminum to leave bare.

After taxidermy cats are easier to train.

I’ve tried different mounting positions for the headlights. They’re 44,000 candlepower, so I might want to keep them low out of oncoming traffic’s eyes. I can hardly wait to get this thing blacked-out, and going back together.


  1. I enjoyed the Buchanans story. Bought their spokes and rims when I built my bikes in the late 70-80s. Is it true that Dr. John in Anaheim has one of their original frame tables? He’d make an interesting story. After my wreck in 96 he took my pretzel of a shovel head frame and straightened it so well that you couldn’t tell there was ever anything wrong with it. It drove straight as an arrow when he was done.

  2. Buchanans still has the original frame table out back in the new shop. It’s possible Dr. john got a table that was extra after Buchanans stopped doing frame work for the public. They still do custom frames for their own project bikes.

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