When it comes to pulling vintage motorcycles back from the brink, what’s the first thing you think of? A lot of people would say restoration, or possibly restomodding. Those are definitely two popular options, but they’re far from the only options available. One of the roads seemingly less traveled is getting it into good running order, but leaving a desirable patina of age as-is, as much as is practically possible. That’s exactly what Wheels Through Time has opted to do with one of its current projects, which it’s dubbed the 1939 Harley Rustoration.
This bike is a survivor, and rather than cover that up with a shiny new coating of paint and chrome, Matt Walksler and his guys have instead opted to help it proudly wear its age for all to see. The project came to the WTT museum in several big storage totes, as a project that someone had apparently taken apart sometime in the 1970s and never completed. It’s not clear whether it ran at the time it was taken apart, but getting it running now is Walksler’s goal.
Although there’s an impressive layer of rust on virtually every metal surface of this bike, underneath all that, it’s in remarkably solid shape. A quick glance doesn’t show it, but as Walksler patiently points out, the metal underneath the rust is straight and true, not dented, dinged, and anywhere near as bent as a lot of bikes this age (and some younger) might be.
So, in this video, an interesting question gets raised, if you’re used to most people doing full-on restorations of vintage bikes that need TLC. This bike has three holes in one of its two gas tanks, although it’s otherwise in pretty solid shape. How do you fix those up and make the fix blend in if you’re trying to keep the patina as-is?
The WTT way involves first making a special tool to get the welds to form where they need to be placed to fix those holes. Next, the holes are welded, and then there’s a visual inspection of how the completed repairs look with the tank installed on the bike. It needs sanding, so off the tank comes, and then it’s time for a little careful work to sand back the welds a bit so they’re more level with the surface of the tank.
Of course, the sanded area now looks far too shiny to blend in with that fine crust of rust. So, Walksler says the next step is to slather it with a little of WTT’s proprietary solution to make it rust right up and blend in with the rest of the bike. Presumably, we’ll get a better look at how that comes along in a future video in this series.
That’s not the end of the video, though. At the end, there’s an unboxing portion, where the WTT guys got some extremely rare rhinestone saddlebags back from their favorite leather restorer, and fans of that look will surely love how the guy brought those artifacts back, as well. One of the best things about YouTube is getting to see artisans and specialists do some truly amazing work, pretty much any time of day that you feel like watching. We look forward to seeing how the Rustoration Harley turns out!