So for the most part, I keep my other hobbies out of The Bikers’ Den, but over the years, I’ve let on that I spend a little time restoring stuff that isn’t just bikes. My Texas Dually Project is nearly finished and like any red-blooded American, I have a few things that go bang around the house.
Where I usually get into trouble is when I don’t have something to work on. The Old Lady absolutely hates it when I get done with one project because she knows that I’m going to drag something else back home to tinker with. Fortunately, I usually have enough to do where it is limited to the stuff I have laying around already. As we all know, an old Harley can keep you busy and an older Chevy truck with a Detroit will keep you busy.
So it was the other day when an old swamper I know that lives waaaay back on the highlands just north of the Okeefenokee Swamp here in Georgia called me and told me to come help him get an old V-Twin running, I changed my plans for the weekend and rode on down to see him. It wasn’t what I thought.
James had bought an old Cushman Truckster – the kind that meter maids in the city used to drive around and pass out parking tickets with. It was technically a V-Twin, but Onan-built with a whopping 22 horse motor and enough rat turds in it to suggest it hadn’t been properly cared for in a while.
But it was cool. Three speed manual, High and Low range, steel cab and a bed that might have been 3 feet by 4 feet. The gauge package had both a tachometer and a very optimistic speedometer with 60 mph (96 kph) as the top speed. What really got me was how simple the whole drivetrain was and how it certainly seemed that there was a lot more power that could be realized from such a basic engine. The hour meter on the dash showed just shy of 2000 and the date stamped on the identification tag was 8/74.
Except it didn’t run. No problem getting the motor to turn over, but between rodent-chewed wires and questionable gasoline and funk in the carb, I didn’t hold out much hope for the little trike. So we dug in, started running jumpers all over, filing points, and rigging up a cheater tank of fuel. The funny thing was that the carb looked more like something you’d see on a push mower than on a “big” engine and after it was liberally blown out and cleaned, we cobbled together something that resembled seals (okay, o-rings) and we started getting somewhere.
It turned over. And over. It chuffed and coughed, it sputtered, and along about 4:30, after nearly 8 hours, it gagged into life. Since the front tire didn’t hold air, there was no victory drive, but some judicious cross-referencing online showed us that a slightly larger tire still in production will work.
Where’s the problem, you ask? Well, by the time I got home, I realized that something like that would be perfect at a fraction of the cost of a new ATV or Quad, and given how small the footprint was, it would be a cinch to work on in the shop – Hell, it’s hardly bigger than my bike. The real problem, though, is that it would fit on my single axle trailer with no problem and at the same time, I could load the bike in the bed of the truck.
Perfect for a Bike Week setup. And perfect to get my butt into hot water with The Boss Lady.
Digging around in the Cushman also revealed that a bigger carburetor would be easy to adapt to the manifold (and I still have two in the shop) and it’d be easy to bend up a set of pipes for new exhausts. A little hotter spark, more fuel, and more air would quickly push 22 horses to … oh, I don’t know, 30?
So even though “riding season” never really stops here in south Georgia, I’m now looking for an old meter maid Cushman. Or one of the four-wheeled ones from the golf courses. Over the last few nights, when the Old Lady has gone on to bed, I’ve found myself looking through the online classifieds, not for a steal on an old bike, but for a steal on another V-Twin. We’ll call it a Spring Project if I can find one. Why buy when you can build?