Bullin Through Life: A redneck relay

Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Us biker types love anything Harley-Davidson. Some just want to cruise the highways an’ byways with trouble-free, user-friendly machinery, an’ some, like me, seem to gravitate to the most dilapidated, abused, and neglected relics we can find. It’s a curse, lemme tell ya.

It’s probably been 10 years or more since a friend came by with an old 1974 Harley-Davidson golf cart for sale. Reggie and I agreed that it would be cool to have it as a way for her to get to the shop an’ mailbox, an’ for me to haul stuff down to the shop. The price was right, so we bought it. Now, I’m as familiar with two-stroke motors as elephants are with mouse traps, but I mixed up some fuel like I used to for my boys’ dirt bikes back in the ’80s. The damn thing smoked like a Denver stoner with a new crop, an’ wouldn’t pull itself up the driveway. I tried changing the plugs and all the other standard fixes, and nothing seemed to help. Finally, I went online and found that I’d been mixin’ twice as much oil in the gas as I should have, an’ a change of fuel had it running good. So good, in fact, that it kept throwing the drive belt off every 20 feet or so. The thing has a two-stage centrifugal clutch, and it was rattling like skeletons shootin’ dice on a tin roof. This was about the time I got busy with other projects, so I dragged it out next to the shop, threw a tarp over it, an’ forgot about it for the next five or six years.

Several of our hot rod and Harley group have golf carts to run around our neighborhood with, including Ray, who has a 900cc Ironhead Sportster engine in his. Enter my buddy and fellow club member Ken Abby who came by the other day with the most dangerous, idiotic, juvenile idea to ever see the light of day. Now an idea that great was something I just had to be a part of, since it consisted of a relay race, beginning with golf carts, switching to riding lawn mowers, then on to mobility scooters, which most of us have to borrow from unsuspecting relatives, and finally ending with walkers (the kind they put tennis balls on the legs of), all while wearing helmets, cravats, and goggles. This debacle will be filmed by volunteers and preserved for posterity, if not put on YouTube. It’s truly the redneck opportunity of a lifetime!

This morning, I set about dragging the old Harley cart out of hibernation, airing up the flat tires, and running the mice, squirrels, and black widow spiders out of it with a pressure washer. I put a new battery, new fuel lines and filter, and fresh fuel in it, and it fired right up. Good ol’ Harley dependability! I took off up the driveway, and after about 20 feet, the clutch exploded. Shrapnel all over the driveway, springs bouncing into the grass, and a terrible grinding noise from underneath. I pushed it back to the shop and set about collecting the parts and removing the clutch. Upon closer inspection, I found that the hub shaft and the outer assembly that slides out on it to change the drive ratio were both so worn that it broke the keeper that holds everything together. I spent the next several hours on the internet searching for usable replacements, but found that any parts for the old beast were scarce as a new idea in Hollywood. Never one to be discouraged by a lack of parts availability, I chucked the pieces up in the lathe, and turned the hub shaft down until it was no longer tapered, which now left it at an inch and an eighth diameter, an eighth inch from what it started out as. Unfortunately, the other piece was aluminum, and tapered, so I couldn’t chuck it up in the lathe. It was also wallowed out to about half its original thickness, so I found a big socket that almost slipped over it, put the clutch piece in the press with the socket on top, and heated the socket as I pressed it down. That squeezed the end down quite a bit, and I was able to make an insert out of aluminum tubing on the lathe, and press it into place. With everything fitting tighter, it was time to put it all back together. Now, this isn’t a fix I’d attempt on a motorcycle, but on a golf cart it’s not so critical. I fired it up and drove it around for a few minutes with no mishaps, and all it has to do is last for a few laps around the Madera Ranchos/E.J. Potter Memorial Race Track. I also replaced the tattered carpet, because you can’t be taken seriously in a race of this historic magnitude if your equipment isn’t at its absolute best!

Since this idea will probably be a cluster foxtrot of epic proportions, we’ll undoubtedly do it again next year, and maybe by that time, I can find a Sportster engine to stuff in it! As Tim the Tool Man always said, “Rrrrr! More power!”

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