Bike in a Box? No Problem!

September 17, 2010 | By: Scott Holton

Today’s blog will address the possibility of building a basket case, or swap meet special. This weekend, there is a parts swap meet right here in Anamosa, Iowa. This Sunday, on the 19th of September, J&P Cycles is returning to its roots. This raises the possibility that you might want to consider taking on the task of building a basket case.

What’s a basket case, you ask? In the vernacular of the motorcycle world, a basket case is a project bike that lies unassembled in a bunch of boxes or baskets. It’s also known as a swap meet special, but there are plenty of other places where you can find a basket case. Your buddy (or his dad, uncle, or friend of a friend) may have taken an old bike apart and then lost interest in putting it back together again. You might find one in a barn. They’re also being discovered on eBay. But your best bet is a motorcycle swap meet.

This type of project is not something I would recommend to a novice, because it’s easy to buy a bunch of parts that don’t play well together and then there’s usually no way to return the junk to the guy who sold it to you. But if you think you might be interested in something like this, do some investigation of the type project that may tickle your fancy. There are a couple of good reference books out there that I’d recommend, and the best for restoring and identifying those old greasy parts is by Bruce Palmer. It’s called “How to Restore Your Harley-Davidson,”. Meticulously researched, I use it all the time in my job for a definitive reference. Another book, this one by Mike Armond, also deserves a peek. It deals with bikes up to about 1986, and is called “What Fits What?” I read this book early in my motorcycling days when I was too poor to buy a Harley. With this book as a reference, I built a swap meet special. In fact, my first two Harleys were built with the assistance of this reference book. And I had a blast building both of them!

Once you’ve decided on a plan, talk to your buddies and see who knows the most about the type of bike you want to build. If you can, drag one of these experts along to help you look over your “diamond in the rough” when you find it. Bud and Jake have both given you some tips on what a swap meet is all about on these pages, and it’s always a thrill to find that one item you’ve been searching for. Maybe you’ll find your own basket case at your next swap meet.

Speaking of swap meets, did you know that J&P Cycles had its origins as a company that promoted swap meets all over the country? Our roots are deep in this time-honored tradition.  In fact, one of the best antique bike swap meets in the country happens every Labor Day weekend at the Mississippi County Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa.

And here at J&P Cycles, we’re reviving that tradition with our own swap meet this Sunday in Anamosa. Visit http://www.jpcycles.com/events, or email Mary Beth Hanna at mbhanna [at] jpcycles [dot] com for more information. 

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