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From the Vault: Bert Baker’s Organ Donor: Final Assembly and build wrap-up

If you’ve been following the saga of Bert Baker’s Organ Donor, the payoff you’ve been waiting for is finally here. Get your popcorn, fill up that double-size Big Gulp, rip open that bag of Twizzlers, and keep your waxy Milk Duds close at hand because we’ve got a beast of a blockbuster for you. Weighing in at the size of a Mama Grizzly, the Organ Donor finally hits the pavement in Daytona with a roar.

In the latest edition of From the Vault, read how Bert and his crew add the clutch actuator, shift controls, seat, wheels, brake, and battery to this rumblin’ beauty. Building a custom bike is damn hard work to do it right, but Bert Efffin Baker is not one to shy away from the grind, and neither is his team of talented gearheads. It’s the final countdown:

Confession time: as I write the third installment of the Organ Donor story, I feel uncomfortable and dirty. I feel like I gave birth to a healthy bowel movement and didn’t do a good job cleaning up after myself. When I watch motorcycle shows on TV, I get frustrated with how they compress the fabrication and assembly process. At the beginning of the show, you see the frame, tank, wheels, engines, and tranny. Thirty minutes later, SHAZAMM, the bike is assembled, painted, and ready to ride. That pisses me off because I know a LOT of fabricating, machining, and technique goes into building a custom bike. Those details are the stuff that is really interesting to me. So I apologize for my dirty sphincter and for not sharing all the juicy tech nuggets that are near and dear to me. There is not enough room in this magazine or time in my schedule to do so.

Let’s start with the clutch actuator and shift controls. On this project I wanted to use an off-the-shelf BAKER TorqueBox, FFP Primary, and King Kong Clutch, which I did for the most part, except the clutch actuator. I’ve had the idea of a left side “pull” actuator for a few years to clean up the right side of the transmission so this project was the right opportunity to make a prototype. Also shown is the rear set shift control. I used the funky diagonal shift rod setup so the shift pattern would be reversed. The TorqueBox comes with a 0-down 6-up N1 shift pattern for a N-1-2-3-4-5-6 pattern. However for racing, it’s quicker and more positive to stomp down to upshift the tranny, so the shift rod orientation shown accomplishes just that with a 0-up 6-down N1 shift pattern. Since the tranny had a right side output (aka Right Side Drive), the shift rod passed through the area normally occupied by a pulley or sprocket.

I was lucky to have a talented seat maker named Ivan Iler in my back yard, because there was a lot of back-and-forth between his shop and mine to get the seat configured correctly. He runs Hammer-in-Hand Custom Cycles in St. Johns, Michigan and manufactures seats, frames, and anything he sets his mind to. He is young, talented, and not afraid to work 16-hour days so we’ve just seen the beginning of this Viking-looking character from the North.

This shot shows Ivan making a lower seat pan template. I wanted a very special seat for this project that locked my small farmer butt in so it doesn’t fly off when I launch this thing wide open with a warmed up slick and wheelie bar. I also wanted the shape to be inspired by my motocross bike seat in the way it comes up on the gas tank, and it had to be light.

He designed a novel seat pan that featured an upper and lower pan to get the seat height in the right position. He then welded trapezoidal side plates to box-in the ultra-light pan.

The finished seat shown here features leather and super sticky rubber seat material used on KTM motocross machines.

Here’s the rear wheel, brake, and catch-can. Catch-cans are required on the drag strip so the crankcase vent doesn’t blow oil on the track. The catch-can and 1.1 lb. brake caliper came from Pingel where all the cool go-fast stuff comes from. Wayne and Donna Pingel are 2-wheeled-speed royalty and very nice people. The rear wheel is a 2007 Fat Boy wheel that I got at swap meet for $100. As is, without bearings, it weighed 23 lbs. I put it on a Jenny Craig diet and got it down to 18.8 lbs. which is very light for a 17” Big Twin rear wheel and is close to PMFR wheels (the racing wheels by which all others are measured).

Here’s the front end. The KZ900 fork brace was necessary to stiffen the 39mm forks for LSR runs at the Ohio Mile, which I guess I can’t back out of now. Apparently Mark P from BAKER had Jody Perewitz on his “2-Wheeled Melt Down” radio program (every Wednesday night at 6:00 on internetradioamerica.com) and she told the world I should put Miracle Grow on my testicles to go to the Ohio Mile in April to do some high speed runs. She runs over 200 MPH and I won’t come close to that without a fairing but I have to see what the Donor will do. Like the African-American fellow in the Dirty Harry movie said, “I gots to know.”

The Pingel 1.1 lb. brake caliper is the same as the rear. We made the front and rear caliper brackets with speed holes to adapt the calipers to the chassis. The rotors, front and rear, came from Paul Kittrell at Lyndall Brakes and are made out of a “functionally gradient metal composite” that their website does a great job explaining the meaning of. They are light (1.6 lb.) and all the racers use them because they withstand the heat that comes when the brakes are applied at 180 MPH.

James got a custom carbon fiber air-cleaner cover made by Mike at Carbon Fiber Works in Florida. James sent Mike the heavy steel version and Mike sent us back the lightweight carbon fiber version shown here.

This shows the location of the rev limiter and the shift light controller. We put those units there for easy access for adjustment. I set the rev limiter at 5500 RPM to break in the motor and switched it up to 6500 PRM after break in.

An Antigravity 24-cell 720CCA battery was used with an All Ball 1.4KW starter and Sumax cables. With the S&S compression releases engaged, the starting procedure goes as follows: The 12-volt power to the coil switched off, the motor is turned over for a couple seconds and the coil is energized by flicking the kill switch. It starts every time! The Antigravity battery weighs 5 lbs. and is 10 lbs. lighter than the equivalent lead-acid battery.

So the bike was finished the day before the road crew left for Daytona Bike Week. I decided to adorn the Organ Donor with my AMA number from the mid 80’s, #311. We put the Organ Donor on the scales and I got a kick in the groin. This pig weighs 532 lbs! I thought for sure this machine would come in under 500 lbs. with all the conscientious weight saving measures; what a pisser. I have seen been told it is very difficult to assemble a Big Twin that will come in under 500 lbs. and not break. Nevertheless, I’m already making plans for some serious Jenny Craig countermeasures next winter.

The winter weather in Michigan has been really crappy this year and the icy roads prevented me from going on a ceremonial putt down the street so I saved that for Daytona. The weather was beautiful this year in Daytona and I put 150 break-in miles on the old girl. The rings sealed up nicely and the bike felt real good doing a buck-20 down 1-95We made it back to Michigan in the aftermath of Bike Week and turned around to head out to the Great Southern Motorcycle Expo in Jackson Mississippi: the life of a carnie. It’s the 17th year for this show and we’ve never attended it, but Mark Boler and his friend/mentor Wild Bill Bissell (event promoter) made it real easy for us to be there.

Mark Boler runs Oasis Cycle in Brandon, Mississippi and he’s the good-looking guy second from the left with his crew. The shop is located on a cozy little 50-acre plot in BFE Mississippi; thus the name Oasis. Customers within a 200-mile radius bring their bikes to Mark and his staff because they can repair and modify bikes that others can’t. If Mark lacks the knowledge to do the job, he is not shy about picking up the phone and calling the right person, and that’s kind of how Mark and I met. If the Confederacy had been manned with soldiers cut from the same cloth as Mark, the Yankees would have lost the Civil War.

In the next bonus installment I will report my track results from the ¼-mile and the Ohio Mile. I will also report the dyno results from the Oasis Cycle dyno run. Mark put the Donor on his dyno and made a couple passes, only to find out the clutch was slipping with the lighter springs. We will install the heavy King Kong springs like James runs on his 145” Super Duper Glide and that issue will be solved so we can get a real number. You won’t want to miss any of that.  

Baker Drivetrain Team Illustration