While out for an evening ride this summer, my 1933 VL was began to lose power while cruising down the highway. I pulled over, thinking it was a fouled plug and set to work installing a fresh set. Once the new plugs were in, I turned the fuel on and got ready to start the motorcycle. I quickly noticed that fuel was leaking from the air cleaner. A couple good knocks on the side of the fuel bowl seemed to stop the leak, so I went ahead and kicked over the motor. After about two kicks, the motor backfired through the carburetor which set the air cleaner on fire. From there the fire ran straight up the fuel lines and soon the entire motorcycle was a blaze.
Luckily someone called 911 and a firetruck arrived within a few minutes to put out the flames which saved the motorcycle from becoming a total loss. Still the damage was extreme, destroying much of the motorcycle.
Normally this type of accident would set me back months or even years, but an invitation to display my VL at Fuel Cleveland gave me the incentive I needed to get it rebuilt. Over the next 6 weeks, I was able to tear the motorcycle down and finish a complete cosmetic restoration, bringing my VL back to its former glory, just in time to ride to Ohio. Unfortunately that ride turned out a bit short as one of my tappets froze up about 50 miles from home.
It looks like the fire caused more than just cosmetic damage and the motor will have to be pulled next to see what more surprises are in store for me on this rebuild.
For those that have been following along and are interested in supporting the build, I’ve teamed up with Rotten Rat Apparel and Inked Custom Apparel to produce a t-shirt to commemorate this project. Shirts cost $20 which includes free shipping in the US.