Latest Update December 7, 2011 - New entries will appear on this page. Links to earlier episodes, see right column.
Bonneville, part 3

It’s like Christmas when your powder coating is ready. I’d decided on no chrome as I live 100 yards from the salty sea. Aerocoat are in my opinion the BEST powder coaters in the UK, and specialise in bikes, unlike most companies who do them as a sideline. Their pallet of colours is amazing, everything from plain black to metalflake. Yes, you read right, they can do metalflake in a powder finish.
I opted for candy apple red for the tinware and “Chromex” for the frame, which really does look like it’s chrome plated. Whilst the frame was away, I finished a few jobs, like shortening the forks by 3”. This was done at the bottom of the legs by removing the internal dampers, reproducing the machining 3” further up, and welding a washer on to hold everything in place (on the standard legs the bottom is rolled over). 

The forks are from a Suzuki GS850, the wheel’s Honda Shadow, so Roy at Billet Bike Bits made me a new set of yokes ½” wider, & even CNC’d “Brit Chopper” into the top one.

I had been waiting for a rear sprocket, as the Shadow one had far too many teeth. This arrived in the form of a 36 tooth duralumin blank, so a day was spent machining it to fit the Honda wheel. 

I worked out the ratios and with the 36 tooth rear and a huge 26 tooth (IPE) gearbox sprocket (check out the picture) I should be able to run @130mph at 5,000 rpm, just enough to get the record I’m after, if I can get her up to 5,000 on the salt.

The petrol and oil tanks were coated internally with POR 15 tank sealer. I do this for two reasons. Firstly to fill any porous welds, and secondly to lock in any grinding dust stuck in the corners.

Putting this bike together was a pleasure. I’m used to building choppers & trikes, so every nut and bolt on this bike is stainless steel. I used the tried and tested method to fit the engine and box, laid them on the floor and put the frame over. It went in without a single scratch.

One thing to bear in mind when opting for powder coating, is the thickness of the stuff. There are something like 5 separate coats to do a decent job, even more for the chrome effect. I had put in extra washers to allow for this during the “dry build” so everything fitted, the only thing I had to file out being the rear axle slots.

With the bike on wheels (it took less than a day) it was time to make it look pretty. Even though it’s going to Bonneville, it can still look good. I had managed to find a digital rev counter, something that wasn’t easy to find for a twin cylinder machine, so the best part of a day was spent machining a housing from a block of solid aluminium. 

The wires run through an Earl's brake hose, it’s a neat finishing touch. The throttle cables and advance/retard cable also run through Earl's brake lines, using Venhill nylon inner tubing, which fits inside the braided hose perfectly. This took a while as I had to machine up special end fittings. 

All the oil lines and breathers are also from Earl's. The engine and oil tank breathers go into a cylindrical catch tank.

Wiring was pretty simple. I’m using an IPE electronic ignition, with a coil from a Yamaha XS 750 triple. These coils are ideal because for a start they’re of the correct ohm range for the ignition, they’re compact, have two threads cast in so mounting’s easy, and finally, the plug lead unscrews, so it’s easy to extend it if needed. The other ignition components I used were an on-off switch & warning light fitted in the frame gusset, a safety lanyard, and a kill switch in the twistgrip, these being compulsory for the “Flats”, plus the rev counter. Wow, the spark from the IPE ignition is amazing, you can hear it crack!!

The last part to fit was the carb. Mine’s a huge thing off a Harley Sportster with an accelerator pump [Keihin CV], bolted to yet another superb part from Moen, a cast aluminium IPE inlet manifold, and he insisted I fit an IPE top on it instead of the original plastic cap. Last to go on were the sponsors' decals, plus the Indian ones I had a local sign firm make, and to finish her off, her name, “Bella” on the front of the tank.

Now it’s time to fill it with oil and petrol. It was no surprise when she fired up second kick and after some fiddling with the carb she ticks over so slowly you can almost count the bangs.

So what’s next? I’d decided to run it with no front brake at Bonneville, but I need to test it over here, hopefully at a local drag strip, so it’s going to have to have a brake. I’m looking for an early Japanese wheel with a twin leading shoe drum, and spokes, to keep the period look. I think the old Yamaha RD250’s had them, so it’s back to eBay for that. And I’ll “wrap” those pipes.

One of the biggest problems I have, is testing and setting up the bike. Bonneville is 4,000ft above sea level for a start, and you get a 2 mile run-up to the measured mile, which is great if you live in Utah, but not so good if you live in the UK, although there’s an 8 mile straight not far from me here in Norfolk, but with the latest Police “Seize and Destroy” policy for naughty drivers, going that route on an out & out unsilenced race bike is not a good idea.

There’s one last job to do on her now, and that’s a full engine rebuild. I wanted to build the bike first to give me the enthusiasm to tackle the motor, as I know there’s something not quite right inside. As usual, I’ll be doing as much as I can myself, and after chatting to Moen, we’re going to do a step by step feature, with photographs, of every aspect of stripping and rebuilding a 741 on a right tight budget. There will also be at least one more follow-up article before we go to Bonneville. So stay tuned!


MOEN at Indian Parts Europe for parts and advice.
PHIXER for the forks & carburetor.
ROY at Billet Bike Bits for the yokes and boxes of billet offcuts.
GARY at Uncle Bucks for old cables, twistgrip and spindles.
CHRIS Trikeopath off the forum for the advance lever, mudguard and pipes.
ADAM at Aerocoat, he turned my coating round in a single day.
LIAM at Earles Performance Parts
NEIL at Baratts for a good deal on the wheels
MAD RICHARD for his ally welding.
PAUL DOWN THE LANE for the coil
ROBIN at RTO Engineering for the rebore and valve job.

There are people I’m bound to have missed, to everyone I say thank you, without your help this would never have been built.

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Part 1 here    Part 2 here

Back to main "Bella" page

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This is the story of Chris Ireland's 741 Land Speed racer.

A race bike built on a shoe-string budget by sheer 
ingenuity and hard work in the shed. The first parts 
of the story will cover the construction of the rolling 
chassis. Next the engine rebuild (and there will 
definitely be some tips here for DIY Indian engine 
work) and, finally, testing and revisions in preparation
for the big trip. For the finale, well - let's see what 
happens on the salt!

For more information, or offers of help or sponsorship, contact Chris on desperate@britchopper.co.uk

Click for video.


Please support these good people!

Click to go to the Aerocoat website
Custom powder coating at Aerocoat, who did 
the chrome-like coating on the frame and red 
body parts - all paint on the bike is powder
coating with no filler underneath.

Click to go to the Billet Bike Bits website
CNC machined aluminum parts at Billet Bike Bits.
BBB made the fork yokes.

Click to go to Earl's website
High performance hydraulic hose and fittings,
and a bunch of other cool stuff at Earl's UK.
Earl's supplied all the hose and fittings.

New Parts for Old Indians. IPE supplied the 
CV manifold and carb top, electronic ignition, 
main bearing housings and other odds and ends.

Click for more Rock Oil info
Rock Oil is generously sponsoring the whole 
team with oil. Their large range covers almost 
any - street or race - engine you can think of. 
Click logo for more information.

Click to go to the Shawn Taylor Racing website
Shawn Taylor Racing sponsored the dyno 
testing. Optimum ignition timing and carb 
jetting were determined, as well as at what
rpm the power started to drop off. All very
useful for rejetting at Bonneville with its
"thinner" air and, not least, for gearing. 
Shawn really knows his stuff, and can help 
your bike realise its potential too.

Click to go to the Shawn Taylor Racing website
Richard Dunn from Tiny-Tach UK graciously 
supplied one of the small, neat, accurate and
affordable digital rev counters that are fast 
becoming the norm for racers everywhere.
He suggested the "Commercial" model was 
best for this bike (among other features, it
reords max rpm on the last run), but talk
to him about what will suit your bike best.



Chick to read the story on Virtual Indian
Chris has owned Bella, his 741, for a long time, 
and she has come in several shapes over the years.
Read the story on Virtual Indian.

Click to go to the Brit Chopper website

Chris is the editor of Brit Chopper Magazine, 
"the magazine for serious petrolheads", and 
was the owner of Desperate Dan's, one of the 
most original and influential UK custom bike 
shops of the 1980's and 90's.

Click to go to the Brit Chopper website



For more information, or offers of help or sponsorship, 
contact Chris on desperate@britchopper.co.uk