The Ironhead Sportster With A Divorced Tranny

1Ironhead2Ironhead3Ironhead4IronheadThe Sportster line, the Harley-Davidson XL family, is produced continuously since 1957. The 1957-1986 Ironhead model (so named because of the cast iron cylinder heads) is a favorite of many builders into retro bikes restoration or customization. But truth is that it is not often an easy bike to work on. And if you are an amateur builder, it may take you a lot of time, a few headaches and most of your spare coins.

5Ironhead6IronheadDid you say pain in the butt clutch & transmission? Cut the tumor. Keep the damn good engine. Divorce the blown out tranny and replace it by a Big Twin model! It’s the solution for a healthy and reliable Ironhead Sportster as proposed by the duo of Russ Peterson and Eric “Woody” Sage. The bike that I feature here is the number 1 of a kit they call the “” (not a typo) for professional customizers who want to combine the best of both worlds. The beauty of an Ironhead engine with the reliability of a Big Twin gearbox.

7Ironhead8IronheadThe was elaborated during a project being built for the 2014 “Born Free 6“ Event. “In the process of building this bike, we developed a new way of doing an old trick. We cut off the damaged transmission from a 1976 Ironhead Sportster and hooked it up to a 4-speed Big Twin transmission. Rather than doing a one-off custom, we thought of all the other Ironhead owners” states Russ. The concept has been tested before, but never to the extent of making a complete custom kit. The idea is to offer old-iron lovers the opportunity of building a cool 70’s style chopper for about $5.000 excluding time. But truth is that the task of realignment of the driveline will require the skills of an experienced builder…

9IronheadCut off the rear part of a Sportster motor and throw away the gearbox. Hook up a 4-speed Big Twin and realign! Easy? No. It requires some engineering and it’s what the kit is all about. A set of new motor mounts allows to install a divorced 1976 and older XL engine into a Big Twin frame. Final chain drive is now on the left side hooked to a Karata 8.07 mm open belt system using a special “Shortsters” pulley insert.

On the bike featured, a single down tube Paughco frame was used. A VooDoo Vintage Velocity Leaf Spring front end and a Split tank (half gas, half oil) are very nice 70’s era touches. Russ Peterson and Eric “Woody” Sage also offer a weld-on frame tail section that will adapt to a stock pre-77 Sportster frame to allow installation of the Big Twin transmission using the rear “Shortsters” motor mounts. All technical information at . (photography at H. Roesler for C. Huze)
12Ironhead

14 Responses to “The Ironhead Sportster With A Divorced Tranny”


  1. 1 TJ Martin Apr 6th, 2015 at 8:37 am

    At first I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this bike …

    But the more I looks … the more me likes !

    Suffice it to say … it works … in spades .. on all counts 😉

  2. 2 Joshua Apr 6th, 2015 at 9:00 am

    A little bit weird look. but mechanically interesting.

  3. 3 Trez101 Apr 6th, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Respect the hard work.

  4. 4 Bruno Kempf Apr 6th, 2015 at 9:20 am

    The custom motorcycle industry also needs bikes of this type.

  5. 5 grmp54 Apr 6th, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Using one of Russ’s right side electric starters on my 54 pan. Works flawless! I see it is being used on this shortster also. Check it out on his web site. Great product, detailed install instuctions, even included an install video with the kit!

  6. 6 Brian D Apr 6th, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I like it!!!

  7. 7 domino Apr 6th, 2015 at 11:38 am

    We did this with a Sportster 22 years ago … What a job that was … Sure would have been nice to have Russ and Woody’s Shortsters kit !! My brother still has that bike…

    Congratulations you guys on a cool product.

    Domino

    p.s. The electric start would be nice to have

  8. 8 TJ Martin Apr 6th, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Call me a heretic for saying this …. but as lithe and ‘ motorized bicycle ‘ as this bike is … I can definitely see taking a similar approach with a Buel Blast single cylinder motor .. with the end result looking as good if not maybe even a little …. better ? Hmmmn …. Worth considering at the very least …

  9. 9 marc mazerolle Apr 7th, 2015 at 6:15 am

    It looks like a lot of hard work went into this bike and hard work should always be recognized, good job.

  10. 10 RUB Apr 7th, 2015 at 8:01 am

    seems like most “respect the work” ……… some times ya just gotta call a spade a spade .

  11. 11 Zenaldo Apr 7th, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Is there really a big demand here ? Got to give credit for creativity though..some other interesting touches once you go beyond the tranny split arrangement…

  12. 12 Blackmax Apr 8th, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Very Nice !!!!
    Showing some real innovation !

  13. 13 Boomer Apr 8th, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Nicely done and I bet it even rides decent. If it were mine I would only change one thing; the handlebars to something like some medium apes with some attitude to improve the look (IMHO) and give a better riding position for longer rides.

  14. 14 RUB Apr 9th, 2015 at 5:40 am

    Boomer , longer ride’s ain’t what this bike is about ……………………………………..just sayin

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