Chica’s Pearl @ ULA Super-6. Pt1 by Steve Kelly Photography
The attack on Pearl Harbour Naval Base in Hawaii on the morning of Sunday December 7th 1941 came as a surprise to the United States. The Japanese intended the strike as a preventative action to remove the US Pacific Fleet as a factor in the war Japan was about to wage against Britain, France, the USA and various Allies. The attack consisted of two aerial waves, totalling more than 350 aircraft, which were launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers. The massive attack wrecked two US Navy Battleships, one minelayer and two destroyers; it also took out 188 aircraft, and caused the deaths of 2,388 personnel. Leaving a further 1,178 wounded. Six battleships, three cruisers and one destroyer were also damaged but later repaired.
The United States formally declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbour, of course, this made little or no difference to Japan as they already considered themselves at war with the USA. The Pacific War laboured on and on until the death of President Franklin Roosevelt in April 1945, forcing his vice-president, Harry Truman into office. Truman was deeply troubled by his options for defeating Japan, especially as it was believed that a full-scale invasion of Japan would cost more than a million American lives. Based on that, and other factors, Truman decided to grant the Army their wish, agreeing for them to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese people were killed and injured in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th 1945. Japan surrendered less than one week later on August 15th.
With such a contentious and raw history between America and Japan, I can only conclude that Chica must have huge balls of steel to build this, well, we will call it a WLA US Army model Harley-Davidson motorcycle for now. It certainly caused a stir among visiting bikers when it was recently unveiled during the 2008 Laughlin River Run. It also raised an interesting question in my mind too; how long do you consider a race to be responsible for the actions of those who went before them?
Chica Custom Cycles are located in Huntington Beach, California. They specialise in the old school look while using today’s latest technology, Chica has featured in and graced the covers of motorcycle magazines around the globe. His attention to fine detail and perfection has earned him a reputation as one of the nations top custom bike builders. A bike from Chica is completely one off, with each bike being constructed to the customer’s needs and stature as well as style. Typically a ‘standard’ Chica custom starts at around $40,000 and a ‘full’ custom starts at $45,000. I was therefore blown away to see such a diversion in style from the custom master when he showed me his WLA inspired ride.
Chica’s bike is in fact a 1937 Harley-Davidson UL Flathead motorcycle. It is one of the innovative models that Harley offered as the company made its big comeback from the doldrums after the Great Depression. Flatheads were modernised by Harley-Davidson in 1937 with the adoption of a recirculation oiling system, a system that had been introduced to great affect on the Knucklehead the year before. This, coupled with the inherent simplicity of the Flathead engine design kept it in Harley’s line up for dozens of years after the debut of the famed Knucklehead overhead-valve models. As a smaller 45-cubic incher the Flathead V-twin powered three wheeled Servi-cars into the 1970s. But the UL’s modernisation did not end with the oiling system, in fact, virtually nothing was left unchanged! The crankpin was enlarged, connecting rods strengthened, and the flywheels gained in stature. In an effort to rationalise production, Harley also changed the bore size to that of the OVH 61 and stroke to that of the 80ci. That is probably why an improved and further updated Flathead recommenced production after WWII.
Flathead Harley-Davidson engines do not have overhead valves; instead, the valves run alongside the engine and open upwards into the chamber beside the combustion chamber. The advantage of a flathead is simplicity; there are no pushrods or rocker arms, thus the head is simple to cast, only having a hole for the sparkplug. The 45 cubic inch version (the most commonly found variety today) produces 22 horsepower from its 742cc. Although stunningly reliable, the Flathead engine is not particularly efficient, especially in comparison to overhead-valve designs, but the bottom line for the army’s application was reliability rather than power output.
…. To be continued