We met with Bryan Ames of Flat Bastard Racing on Wildwood beach just shortly after this year's Race of Gentlemen to discuss his classic 1942 Harley Davidson WLA 45" Flathead tank shift race bike. After seeing the bike go through several changes over the past few years at the race this final form of the build was to us just a perfect example of the classic 45 WL.
Let's get started with a little info on the bike and how it came to be as it is now?
Four years ago, just 2 weeks after watching the race of gentlemen I bought it from a man in New Jersey. I then fixed it up shortly after that to get it running right and made it look the way it does now to fit my personality. Added just a few touches to make it the way I want and started riding it.
Where do you hail out of and where was the bike built currently?
Right here in New Jersey. Gibbstown, NJ.
How long did the build take once you got everything you needed to get it going?
Once I got it going I did a little here and there and changed it up a little every year.
How many years has the bike been racing at Trog or other events since with you?
This will be my 4th year racing it. 5th year attending the race.
So you saw the magic that happened out at TROG and set a goal to be a part of it yourself, that's really rad.
Are you working with any specific shop/organizations or are you essentially a lone wolf?
Nope, it's all me, I do everything myself out of my garage.
So, is there anything special about the 1942 WLA motor you have in there now?
No, just a tried and true, slow and steady stock 45. The stock points which weren't bad for what they were was the main thing I changed this year. I finally swapped out for a magneto just for some more reliability since I was blowing coils and fried my battery last year so I decided it was finally time.
There really is just something about a stock 45 though, not even beefed up, that has got such a great lineage and a truly classic Harley Davidson. It definitely is what it should be. You picked a great bike.
I definitely agree.
What's your favorite part of the bike?
Well, I like all of it, haha, but my favorite part right now would have to be the gold leaf Harley Davidson logos done by my friend Melissa Thompson.
So with the paintwork in mind, what is the bike called, does it have a nickname?
It does actually, Speedy. It's based off of a 1940's comic book character. Around the same era of the bike, The Green Arrow's sidekick was named "Speedy." My friend the painter Melissa helped me come up with the name. She did the fender logo as well.
Well the logos definitely set it apart. Everyone has their favorite version of the Harley Davidson logos specific to certain eras so why did you pick these?
The script is actually off a 1920s HD race bike which was race only font, the red and gold outline was originally how it was but I inverted it to accent the gold leaf. If a guy off the street in that time period would have wanted to race the bike then it probably would have looked that way. I mean that's what they did with 45's after the war. They would buy these old army bikes not even hop them up, just take the weight off of them as much as they could and get them out and race them. At that time the 45 was truly dime-a-dozen back then and easy materials to come by.
We can definitely get behind that, we often preach that with vintage bikes of the 70s and 80s now how they are used for easy materials for building custom bikes or racers. So it's cool to see people still today using these in stripped down form to use for the same purpose as they were back then. That's essentially though the whole idea behind Trog, take a period correct bike of that era, drop the weight to get it to race specs and rip it down the track.
Definitely. When flat track first started they had class "c" racing which basically were guys off the street that would come out and race. They would race any bike they had at the time, take the headlights and tail lights off, get it out on the track that night and race, then slap everything back on beside the track and ride at home. Thats kind of how it all started.
Well we are glad to see it still going so many years strong with people like yourself keeping these bikes alive. Well, is there anyone else you would like to thank or anything to add?
I do want to give credit to Scoop Malone who did a great job painting my Biltwell helmet this year for the race.
Biltwell supplied helmet vouchers to all the racers this year to ensure everyone had a safe full face to wear. Is that right?
That's right, so cool.
Well thank you so much for your time!
Thank you guys!
Words and photos by Mike Vandegriff