West Coast Report 30th Edition by John Gilbert

Johnny Chop — 2K Freezing — Pre-Winter Wheezing

For a healthier and happier life stay away from airline companies that have names beginning with the letter A. Aeroflot, Allegheny, Air Poland, Air Force 1, just to name a few. Also, stick to name brands when it comes to dehydrated seafood products such as Blowfish lips, or Tilapia, which is known as “Bacon of the Sea” in health conscious families. Alright we’ve got the public service announcement out of the way lets get down to business. While I was fabricating the exhaust mounts yesterday for the Speedway Shotgun stainless steel headers I’m installing on the Hot Rod to Hell it got me to thinking about how different builders each have their own style. By style, I mean a distinctive way of engineering all the little things that it takes to put a custom car, truck, or motorcycle together. These are the details that the general public doesn’t recognize, but folks that do this kind of work really appreciate.

—John Gilbert 

This is the last photo I took of Johnny Chop. Johnny had just moved into a new shop building in Huntington Beach, and recently got this puppy he named Louie. The last time I saw Johnny was about two weeks before he’d passed away. We were at Top Shelf Customs in Huntington Beach, out back in the shop area discussing the way a builder had engineered his rear brake setup. It was very interesting to observe Johnny analyzing how the guy had configured it, and said what he could have done to make it a better setup. The three of us, Alan, Johnny, and I looked the rest of the bike over and pointed out its strong and weak points. That’s the fun part of fabricating, figuring out a cleaner way to do something, and exhibiting mind-blowing craftsmanship in the process.

I don’t know if any of you guys have noticed this yet, but the Hot to Hell is strictly a low-budget project. It illustrates how effective restoration products like specialty paints can be to make something look every bit as good as the deep-pockets approach. For some reason I got fanatical about having a deep gloss on the engine. In addition to what I showed in a tech in West Coast Report 28 I used 2K clear to make the VHT Chevy Orange as deep as possible. Also notice at this point the chassis has been coated in 2K gloss Chassis. Please scroll down for more info on painting the chassis.

This is the starter that came with the car, notice I painted the solenoid black to gain a vintage look. The engine mount bolts are Grade 8 gold cad I’ve kept for a time when I’d need them. I reused the ½-inch 20 engine mount bolts spraying lightly with Silver Argent to regain a new look.

Here’s Ruby taking it easy in the sun. If it’s really important she might bark. The Santa Ana winds were blowing, and the heat associated with the phenomenon was great for making paint dry too fast. The Chinooks in Calgary, and thereabouts are of the same phenomena.

Getting back to a fabricator’s particular style I look to utilizing existing car parts to come up with special parts that I need. I concepted the rear hangers for the Speedway headers with a used OEM Chevy S-10, and a Harley-Davidson case bolt. I liked the S-10 mount because it was incased in steel.

I needed two mounts and had only one, so I went online and found a pair of aftermarket replacements at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. I checked with Pep Boys, and Autozone, also, but discovered it was a part none of the three auto parts stores kept in stock. I call it the 7 + 7 plan O’Reilly’s took seven days to get the parts for me, and charged seven dollars for shipping.

Alright get ready here it comes the rant where I go off on de-engineered aftermarket parts. A lot of aftermarket parts are good quality, but when they’re crap, they’re really crap. Unlike the original GM engineered S-10 exhaust hanger the feller in India that redesigned the S-10 exhaust hangar I bought decided it wasn’t necessary to use steel in manufacturing. So, instead of something with a backbone, these things are flimsy, and who knows what the quality of the rubber is. Let the buyer beware, right?

To constantly check fitment I had the headers on and off five times before I completed the new mounts. The roll of blue tape is all that’s left of the tape I used to cover areas that I didn’t want to scratch.

I’m a little low on bucks right now, so I had to work with nuts and bolts and stuff that I’ve accumulated through the years. Always keep an eye open for salvaging special hardware off of something before you toss it. Who knows where that big gold cad-plated washer came from, but it worked perfect to clamp the flimsy aftermarket exhaust hanger.

I used 3/8-inch rod, and tapped it with 3/8 coarse threads for the frame mounts and fine threads for the nuts that are visible here. To beef the mount up and make it nicer to look at I’m going slide 9/16-inch ID stainless steel tubing on top.

One can’t assume one side will match the other. I only made parts for the driver side, and it paid off because the passenger side bracket needed to be shorter. Yeah, the big washer doesn’t match the other side exactly, and I learned its slightly larger diameter worked better to strengthen the flimsy rubber mount.

I heard a weird squeak while shaking the exhaust to test for strength, but was relieved to discover it came from my cat when she woke up. I used two slightly different configurations to make the header hangers. it’ll be interesting to see if they each work as well.

Outlaw Rodder

Full Gloss 2K Chassis Black

There’s a big gap in quality between ordinary aerosol spray paints, and the results one obtains with professional equipment and materials intended for professional use. The only advantage an ordinary spray can has over the professional route is convenience. If it wasn’t for Eastwood 2K Aero Spray finishes the Hot Rod to Hell was either going to have to look like it was spray-bombed, or I was going to have to turn the painting portion into a full blown project.

This brings us back to the particular style a builder likes to adhere to. Some builders prefer to lay everything out and paint it all at once, and then there’s others like me that prefer to prepare and paint parts as they go along.

The driveshaft was the first part I painted. I degreased it with Chassis Kleen, sanded it smooth with 320-wet, and then did the final prep with PRE. I masked and capped off everything that shouldn’t be painted.

Don’t forget 2K Aero Spray paints are full-on German made professional quality urethane paints that contain isocyanates and require a spray mask, or respirator. For painting the driveshaft in lieu of a good respirator, and spraying indoors, I used a simple particle mask, and painted the driveshaft outdoors. Keep the fumes out of your face as much as possible.

Spray on a good heavy wet coating of 2K Aero Spray gloss black chassis paint and I defy anyone to tell the difference between it and powder coating. Weigh the advantages; with 2K Aero Spray paints parts don’t need to be completely disassembled to paint. On the other hand powder coating is electrostatic and goes around corners.

If you slip up using PRE and miss a greasy spot, consequently getting a bunch of fisheyes don’t sweat it, its an easy fix.

Wet sand the area that looks like a cheese pizza with 320, or 400 wet, smooth and re-spray.

There’s easily eight coats of 2K Aero Spray gloss black chassis on this driveshaft. After using PRE, I used compressed-air to blow off any dust that was present. 2K Aero Spray dries quickly, leaving little chance of dust or dirt settling in.

I’m curious if 2K Aero Spray can last for periods of months at a time. I haven’t done long-term testing yet, but I’ve proven to myself extending the shelf life of 2K Aero Spray paints can be accomplished by storing the mixed (catalyzed) contents in the freezer. That’s freezer as in an everyday common kitchen appliance. This can of 2K Aero Spray was punctured 9/23/13, partially emptied on the 23rd and then thawed-out 9/30/13 and worked with perfect results.

Whether it be pet food, or for human consumption don’t leave food where it can be contaminated by overspray.

Because of overspray I really didn’t want to paint the chassis in the garage, but there’s three derelict old trucks stuck under the patio where I like to paint large objects. I used two large window box fans, and opened all the doors to keep the overspray down. Also cardboard on the floor. Black overspray makes the biggest mess. Anything you don’t overspray on wrap it up 100-percent Like I did with the engine, and trans.

Use blue masking tape for easy removal up to long term, and the cheap yellow crepe if you’re going to remove the tape as soon as you’re done painting.

Gloss black chassis paint shows every little imperfection. I used a sharp file to knock down rough castings on the axle and spindles.

Also to round off the edges of the shock brackets I fabricated.

A good coating of High-Build Self-Etching primer works great to prepare the surface underneath.

Shoot the primer wet, like you would a topcoat. Shooting the primer dry leaves a coarse surface that has to be sanded out, and dry primer doesn’t.

For an area like this holding folded 320-wet ‘n dry sandpaper flat works about the same as a sanding block. Notice the high spots appear, indicating the surface is flattening out.

Deeper pits in cast pieces requires more coats of primer. Lay it heavy, and sand them out.

Removing the brake drums was the best way to do a first class job. Using HBSE primer on the backing plates, and axle housings and sanding smooth left a perfect substrate for the high-gloss 2K chassis paint. Wear a good mask and use lots of compressed-air to blow off the brake dust before painting, otherwise you’ll have a ton of dirt in the finish.

Shoot a tack coat moving fast enough to avoid runs, but slow enough to ensure good coverage. For the second coat start spraying as soon as the tack coat is almost dry to the touch. Some paints have a window and starting too soon, or too late will cause the paint to attack itself and wrinkle. So far I’ve never had this problem with 2K Aero Sprays. Also I haven’t encountered any problems recoating the next day with up to five more coats. It’s the heavy coats that give this axle assembly the look of powder coating.

Contrasts in black. The frame got the glossy treatment, and the body will get the semi-gloss treatment next. I hope to have the body undercoated, and painted ready to put back on the car by early October.

A good heavy coating of 2K Aero Spray makes the drums look powder coated

Joe’s 2nd Annual Mini-Bike Reunion

Saturday, September 21st 2013, my friend Herman, and I made a banzai run out to La Crescenta, California for Joe Sebergandio’s mini-bike reunion, or as its officially known, Joe’s Minibike Reunion. The event is held in a really nice area up in the foothills at Crescenta Valley Park.

A lot of people don’t realize this, but the safest form of two-wheeled transportation for a fully grown man to ride is a mini-bike. The reason being a person with any kind of height at all has to curl up in a fetal ball position to ride one of the things. Along comes something that stops the mini-bike dead in its tracks, and the rider launches over the handlebars and safely rolls to a pill bug configured stop.

This is a Chris Cycle. I’ve got a real soft spot in my brain for all of the nostalgia attached to these things. Before I got my minibike in 1964, I had a friend named Robert Mench that used to let me ride his Chris Cycle. Robert lived up in the San Jose Hills above West Covina, and sometimes the rich people that lived up there would call the cops… And that’s how I learned to ride a two-wheeler very fast in on and off-road situations. Who knows, were Robert and I the original Motard racers?

I could be wrong, but I remember the Candy Green being a little darker than this. Maybe it was the fog created by 2-stroke oil that made it look darker. These things went pretty good for a 50cc motor, and made a distinctive two-stroke carb, and muffler moaning sound.

You’ll see at the end of this article that this minibike is pretty darn close to being the minibike I got as a 12-year old kid in ’64.

I’m not a big fan of plastering stickers all over something unless it came that way. The SMS Trailmaster sticker is the only one that might have been on this bike originally.

As in sold, this bike changed hands early in the morning. The milk crate makes a pretty good impromptu stand.

White tires make this old Simplex look older than it is. Simplex was started in 1935 in New Orleans, Louisiana, by a Harley-Davidson dealer.

I’m guessing this later model Simplex is no newer than a ’75 since the company folded in 1975… duh.

A relative of the Tote Gote I found this Mini Gote in the swapmeet area.

Two Tacos with a Briggs motored Bonanza at the end. Maybe it’s a Tecumseh motor, I never was into the lawnmower-powered stuff.

Here’s a dog in a chair.

Now the dog is getting ready to look me in the eye like I owe him money.

You can tell there was a really good mix of the different brands produced. It seems like almost every state had a minibike manufactured within its border. In The early 60 to the 70s California was stuffed to the gills with companies building minibikes.

They’re selling Taco minibikes brand-new again, and here’s one now… or is it?

Notice this Chopper style minibike has a kickstarter just like the old Harley’s did. The OD of the sissybar is larger than you’d find on an old chopped Harley.

This Bonanza is really nice, and its quite similar to the one “Hoss” Cartwright was riding on the cover of Rod & Custom.

Based on the bolt-together frame, I’m guessing this is an early Taco. The bolt-together frame made the Taco kits cheaper to ship. The 3 horse Briggs & Stratton was most common engine to be found.

Near zero rake (steering head angle) means this minibike turned faster than it went.

Here’s a homebrew if I ever saw one… or should I say, saw two?

I don’t know what make this bike is. I do remember Clinton motors, and my friend, Billy Evans that raced Bug karts with West Bend motors used to bag on Clintons for being big-time slow.

Built in Washington state, this is a Tule Trooper, they were in the same genre as a Tote Gote. I like the word genre, its not a big word, but people that like to use big words, like to use genre in their vocabulary.

Here’s my all time favorite minibike its called a Flexo. There always used be a Flexo ad in the car magazines, and I dreamt of having a Flexo with a West Bend motor.

This is a Bug Trail Scout with a Hodaka Ace 90, or it could be Ace 100 motor.

I’ll bet it has a lot of chain noise, probably sounds like an old Ironhead Sportster running without any oil in it.

This thing has the most rudimentary of brakes, notice it’s a friction brake that rubs against the rear tire. Emergency auxiliary brakes were usually outsourced from Keds, or Converse, not Raybestos.

No, Miss Minibike wasn’t a dog. Remember when Dobermans were the media’s favorite dog to malign? In some cultures Dobermans are really liked when they are seasoned properly. Does this minibike meat objectify dogs?

Me thinks the early Honda minibikes were knock-offs of American made minibikes. That said, most of the minibikes made in America were pretty rustic in comparison to the factory engineered and built Japanese stuff.

I never cared for the look of Honda’s stamped sheetmetal frames. Those silly Japanese, anyone knows a proper anything is fabricated from steel tubing.

Unless the tube frame looks like it came from a lawn chair. Here comes the hate mail from the Honda guys.

Notice how the exhaust header is cleverly engineered to act as a sump guard.

Bare metal always looks cool.

I would have mounted the gas tank transverse behind the seat, that’s the look I liked back in the early 60s.

It’s a one-off special: This Mini-Rat to the untrained observer just looks like a shrunken Hodaka that maybe the factory built. Look at the photos and it almost comes up to the owner’s kneecap.

Cole Foster fabricated the gas tank. The spec sheet said Cole spent over 30-hours building the tank. It would take me 30-hours to fabricate a flat number plate.

See the beauty of building your bike is you can mount stuff wherever you want it. I would have hung the tank under or on top of the backbone (top tubes) and mounted the gas cap Frisco style.

This bike is either owned by an old person that built an onboard breathing apparatus, or some super trick thing the minibike dragsters like to do… Here comes some more irate hate mail.

OK, so that’s not a heart-rate monitor on the gas tank. The bike is an HPE Cat Eliminator.

There was a miniature Army guy running around near this thing. I think it might have been a little kid.

Another serious drag bike. OK now I get it, all those tubes are lines to a puke tank with a breather.

A Bonanza MX with a hopped-up Briggs & Stratton running what looks to be a Mikuni carb.

This was a really clean little custom with nice paint and the tank mounted in the perfect spot to recreate mass levels of nostalgia, and the other jazz more better writers than me would write. *For more information on how you can become a famous magazine writer making big money fill out this matchbook cover, and send it to Carlos Danger, PO box 44, NY, NY.

This is a Rupp L100. Mickey Rupp started Rupp Manufacturing in Mansfield, Ohio in 1960, and built a proverbial crapper full of minibikes and go-karts during the Golden Age.

Here’s the minibike I’ve owned since my dad bought it brand-new in 1964. We looked at all kinds of trail bikes in ’64. I still have the sales brochure for the ’64 Triumph Mountain Cub we almost bought. The Triumph was my favorite, I wouldn’t mind still owning a ’64 Mountain Cub.

As pictured this is the third paintjob for the bike. I hated the Mickey Mouse clamped on handlebars it came with, so in 1965 I made these riser-less bars. The next set of handlebars I made in that style, were on my ’68 XLCH that made the August ’76 cover of Easyriders.

Recently I stumbled onto an October 1964 edition of Karting World with a road test on a SMS Trailmaster 80 minibike that was almost exactly like my bike was when new. I didn’t do the burnouts, those were done by the neighbor kid.


As seen here the side cases are in bare aluminum, my next project is to use Eastwood Detail Gray to paint the cases. Detail Gray is a perfect match for early Honda, and Hodaka motors. Maybe some other Japanese brands too, it’s a bitchin’ color. Note the original ID tag on this motor is in mint condition.

Color it Nostalgic

A low-cost plastic Lazy Susan makes a great easel for painting both sides of a motorcycle gas tank, or any round object without having to move from side to side. The double-decker plastic Lazy Susan shown here I’ve had for at least three decades. I just dug it out of my paint cabinet the other day while I was looking for something to paint the brake drums for the Hot Rod to Hell on.

Distinctive colors trigger memory — One look at the yellow overspray left on top, and I slipped into nostalgic memories of the last time I used the Lazy Susan for an easel. The Hamster yellow overspray was leftover after I painted the heads and barrels (that’s cylinders for non-Harley folk) for my friend Gene Koch’s ‘85 FXR. As I remember it the year was 1990 and Gene was getting ready for Sturgis’ 50th birthday celebration. If any of you have a collection of Thunder Custom Motorcycle Cards Gene Koch’s bike is card number 64. The caption reads “A paint job to match his Hamster T-shirt.”

Leave a Reply

Back to top button