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GOING THE DISTANCE
"SHOVEL REVELATOR: CONE SHOVELS RULE!"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
HARLEY ROYALTY: The incomparable cone shovel from AMF.
MICHAEL ZAPUTIL, FORMER MECHANIC IN SONNY BARGER'S ARIZONA CYCLE SHOP:
"As an ex-mechanic, let me just say that anyone who belittles, or talks down the AMF years is a newbe RUB who doesn't know shit what he's talkin' about. His precious Evo absolutely would not exist 'cept for the cash inlay and product development put out by AMF. The cone shovels put out those years had their faults, but I had older buddies who were dealership mechanics in the '60s. You wanna talk quality control problems, you should hear what usta go on with the last of the panheads and the early generater shovels. The AMF years were gold compared to that. The cone shovel is just about the perfect Harley engine. Even Andrew Rosa thinks so, and he would know."
: a story that tells what led up to the main story or plot
(There are a million stories in the Naked City, and twice as many backstories than those. This is the backstory of this article, which I wrote to completion a few days ago. In the process of setting up a template for my next article, "Some Like It Hot" I copied the original "The Mighty Cone Shovel." I accidentally deleted the content of "The Mighty Cone Shovel" to my everlasting dismay, because I mistakenly thought I was working on the copy of this article. Instead, I deleted the text of the original "The Mighty Cone Shovel" to clear the way for the text of the article-to-come. There is a lesson in here somewhere for writers who take advantage of the technology offered by internet websites: Sometimes, the technology takes advantage of you. Dog bites man and occasionally, man bites dog. In this case, the technology is the man, and I am the dog. As I am a writer of undeniable artistic integrity, I've decided to rewrite "The Mighty Cone Shovel." This either proves my bona fides as a writer who treats each and every article written as an indispensable, well-crafted child of the mind---a highly individualistic piece of art whose presence would be missed if it suddenly entered the void---or that I'm hopelessly OCD. Probably the latter.)
The secret is out!
And it didn't take very long for the biker subculture, to realize it. Just long enough for a race-prepped cone shovel to blow the factory black paint ("Bad To The Bone Black?") off of the aluminum fins of an Evo. Alcoa loses and Iron wins, baby. That's why it's called an Iron Horse and not an "Aluminum Horse."
You are correctimundo, Mike: The cone shovelhead is the Perfect Harley Engine, exhibiting herculean strength of construction, unknown to this degree after 1983.
Harley-Davidson merged with AMF in 1969, a move that for years thereafter, fostered as much derision heaped on AMF bikes by clueless motorcycle pundits, as the liberal press has unfairly foisted on Tea Parties. Bike pundits who denigrate AMF shovels, give me a migraine headache. But fear not. This will not deter me from my duties as a commentator on the biker subculture. A quick spin on my AMF cone shovel-powered Harley 74, clears my head immediately.
The shovelhead motors that were issued under the auspices of the American Machine & Foundry, were depicted---incorrectly, as we will see--as virtual hand grenades with the pins pulled, ready to explode at any unspecified moment. IEDs were deemed safer than AMF bikes, according to these mindless minions of the Alcoa Bikers M.C. AMF shovels were considered by these fools, as unreliable bowling balls on wheels.
This could not be further from the truth. Racers discovered how bulletproof cast iron cone shovels were, especially when compared to the aluminum Evo which followed the shovelhead in 1984.
The Mighty Cone Shovels that were produced by The Firm between 1970 and 1981 when AMF was bought out, have gained universal respect from ace mechanics and bikers alike. The proof was in the pudding, and the pudding turned out to be a unbreakabale confection, tasty and strong at the same time.
Enough time has passed since these magnificent motors came rolling off of The Firm's assembly lines, so that the reputation of the shovelhead motor has been restored to damn near perfection.
Any flaws that were associated with substandard manufacturing during the AMF years, have been eradicated by the tincture of time. Time heals all wounds, and the wounds that AMF shovels were born with were supericial wounds at worst.
Parts have been replaced, and the longevity of cone shovels has been proven.
The natural history of shovel bikers weaning out bad parts and replacing 'em with competent components, ran its predictable course. The cone shovel in time, took its rightful place as The Best Motor Ever Made By The Firm.
Ultimately, the physical construct of the shovelhead motor proved to be flawlessly strong as a platform for performance parts. The unassailable equation of "Shovelhead Mill + Quality Parts = Perfect Harley Engine," was worked-out by hordes of Mathematician Bikers who were proven right on the highways, streets and dragstrips of this great nation, to the satsfaction of True Shovel Believers. It all added up:
The Shovel Is King.
I am The Shovel Revelator. The rehabilitation of the public image of the Mighty Cone Shovel, was complete.
This rehab debunked lingering myths surrounding AMF shovels. The reliability and strength that the Mighty Cone Shovel is now known for, began to be recognized long before its last year of production in 1983. My 1971 Super Glide's motor is a Rosabilt stroker. Rosabilt motors, built by the legendary Andrew Rosa, are known for their integrity.
Andrew, who built Mabel's 86 inch stroker motor 18 years ago, sheds light on the inherent strength of the cone shovel. Here's what he told me, right after he built my shovel stroker motor:
"The shovelhead is by far, the strongest motor ever made by Harley-Davidson, not in horsepower, but in physical construction. Scott, this bike and its motor will be your faithful and reliable servant for many years to come."
It's been eighteen years and counting, and Mabel's (my '71 Super Glide) shovel motor has been flawless.
The cone shovelhead has emerged as the third and final partner of the Big Three of Harley Big Twin Royalty.
The line of succession of Harley Big Twins consists of the knucklehead introduced in 1938, which was succeeded in 1948 by the panhead, and the final torch was passed on to the shovelhead which was unveiled to the Biker World in 1966.
The shovelhead motor's reputation for superior strength was bolstered in 1970, when the stronger cone bottom end was integrated into the shovelhead's design. This also upgraded the charging system from a generator system to an alternator system. The Royal Family Line of Big Twins ended in 1983, with the last of the true line being the Mighty Cone Shovel.
Andrew is not alone in his expert assessment of the virtues of the alternator shovel. Check out what the Miami Chopper shop has to say about this motor:
"Shovelheads can be constructed to be more powerful and more reliable than any Evo. Many racers prefer the Shovelhead because it is easier to modify and capable of tremendous extremes of operation.
In racing applications, Shovelhead cylinders distort less than Evo cylinders because the Shovelhead jugs are made of cast iron. When under extreme stress, Evo cylinders (made of aluminum) tend to change their shape due to the unequal stress distribution around the head bolts. This results in 'blow by' between piston rings and the cylinder wall, and a reduction in power that gets transferred to the pistons. This is a major reason for the desirability of Shovelhead motors in racing."
Did The Firm make a mistake by discontinuing the supremely strong cone shovelhead and replacing it with a demonstrably weaker aluminum motor? Does a bear live in the Vatican? The superiority of the cone shovel based on its strength may be a well-known fact to true bikers, but it still remains a secret to members of the Alcoa Bikers M.C.
Think hard, now. Have you ever seen a biker lite on a righteous cone shovel? I haven't.
No self-respecting Alcoa Biker would ever be caught dead with a bike more than three years old. Reps among the Alcoa Bikers M.C. must be preserved. Ya gotta represent, when you have bread!
To the Aloca Bikers M.C. newer is better, but newest is best. Peer-pressure-driven consumerism rules with The Alcoa Bikers M.C. "Hey, I rule! I have the newest Harley!"
Back in 1984 when the shovelhead was permanently shelved by The Firm, members of the Alcoa Bikers M.C were still enthralled with their 24 carat gold nine irons. Motorcycles weren't even a glint in their eyes at that time, let alone the ancient relic some of those greasy bikers referred to as a "shovel." Must be some kinda garden tool, huh? By the time their eyes were opened wide to the possibility of riding motorcycles in their middle age, they entered with a wealth of spending money, but a dearth of biker knowledge to match. The answer was simple: Just buy the newest, and most expensive from The Firm. In '84 it was the blockhead. In '99 it was the fathead. Doesn't matter what vintage the aluminum, the Alcoa Bikers M.C. had to have the latest, supposedly greatest. Their eyes were wide shut to the possibility that the cast iron Mighty Cone Shovel had forever coopted the world title of The Perfect Harley Engine.
Harley Royalty consists of the knuck-pan-shovel contiguous generations, and the line of succession ended there. The Big Three of Harley Royalty, would never graduate to a "Big Four" status. The aluminum Evo that replaced the Mighty Cone Shovel, guaranteed that non-eventuality.
The aluminum Twin Cam that replaced the Evo, couldn't carry the king's jockstrap either, never mind his crown.
If the prince wants to take over from the king, he'd better be stronger than his father. Didn't happen. The king retired, but had no worthy heir. The Harley Fairy Tale ended in 1983.
Hands down, The Mighty Cone Shovel is the The Perfect Harley Engine. It rules wherever True Bikers ride and live. Mighty Cone Shovels reverberate with True Bikers' souls, matching wavelength with wavelength until homeostasis is achieved.
Shovel Bikers, split the lanes between the puttering masses of Alcoa Bikers, and shock 'em awake as they sip their Starbucks through pursed lips. Let the triumphant blast from your straight pipes lower their supercilious glances, and wither the black paint on their Alcoa motors, as you emerge in front of the pack, proud, loud and strong.
Long Live The King.
LONG LIVE THE MIGHTY CONE SHOVEL!
I am The Shovel Revelator.