Beginning in 2000, the Honest Charley Speed Shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, began hand-building a handful of these custom motorcycles in conjunction with Coker Tire, a supplier of vintage tires for vintage vehicles. Founded in 1948, Honest Charley was the world’s first mail-order speed shop.
Offered for around $19,500, the motorcycle is an incredibly unique 750-pound machine. Each bike was built to look like it came straight out of the Forties. Surrounded by a custom steel-tube hardtail frame sits a vintage 1937-40 Ford Flathead V-8.
These engines are stock original blocks rebuilt with new rings, bearings and timing gears. And that means each 136-cu.-in. (2200cc) mill makes just 60 hp. Honest Charley did modernize the motor by adding a Mallory Unilite ignition, a 2-barrel Holley 94 carb and an electric fuel pump. It all sits behind a large radiator, electric fan and coolant reservoir that try to keep the notoriously hot-running Flathead from reaching full boil.
To this powerplant is bolted a stock (sort of) Ford 3-speed transmission. The case is shortened significantly by removing the tail section, and all the gears are removed. Honest Charley bolted a plate to the back. Inside, there’s an input shaft with two helical-cut spur gears that allow the engine's torque to make a 90° turn and pick up two motorcycle-style sprockets. This makes for 3.71:1 direct drive.
Essentially, the 3-speed becomes a 1-speed transmission that equates to about the third-gear ratio on a conventional bike. It’s engaged by the stock Ford clutch operated by the left handlebar lever; there’s no neutral.
A period review of the bike reported: “Stoplights on level ground are easy. Just feather out the very heavy clutch, feed in a bunch of throttle and you’re off. Acceleration is leisurely until you hit 30 mph--then the gearing matches up with the engine revs and it torques away like a modified Harley. On the open road the bike is fun, comfortable and pulls hard until the engine runs out of revs--north of 90 mph. But it’s happiest around 60 mph when the engine is turning around 2700 rpm. And the noise that blurts from the straight pipes is pure music to a motorhead.”
Braking power is minimal, with just a small drum brake on the back and a single Honda disc up front. However, ridden with a modicum of respect, there's enough lean angle and motor to have some fun on a twisty road.
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