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ariel

ARIEL SQUARE FOUR
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Treasure Valley Street Rod Custom Build
By Dave Horsley

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Mitch Felkin’s dad had been ill for some time and recently passed away. Mitch was trying to get his dad’s Ariel square bike, which his dad purchased in 1965, finished before his dad died, however he had trouble with another shop and was unable to get it finished before he passed away, and that is when he came to us, Treasure Valley Street Rod (www.treasurevalleystreetrod.com) to finish up the project. We are just about finished with the final fabrication and mock up. I will also get some pictures for you as we go through the body work, prep stages and custom paint. Dave Horsley


  Dad’s Story
 
ariel1You asked a while back about how I came to own my square. I saw a stock Mk II in '65 and liked it right off the bat. I started keeping an eye open for any square I could find. I found a Mk I in Vallejo that was in a box and torn up pretty bad. A guy owned it and his kid borrowed it and crashed it. The guy tore it down with the intention of rebuilding it but never got around to it. With the busted up and missing parts it was more than I wanted to tackle.

The next one I ran across was a Mk II in Napa. A mechanic at Vallejo Motors told me about this one and that it was a voodoo bike. It had killed two of its previous owners (last owners kid) and was now in need of a front end and frame straightening. Not to be scared away that easy, I made an appointment and went to see the bike. It had been sitting for several years and someone had put an old Triumph set of forks on it. The bearings didn't fit right and the forks rattled around in the steering post.  The guy was selling the bike dirt cheap and would have been a good deal except that he said when the bike was last crashed it jammed the throttle wide open and ran until the carb bowl ran dry.  The engine turned over free but the free winding bit kind of shied me away from this one (and the two notches in the handle didn't help any).

I found one up by Calastoga in a bike shop that was being sold for parts and labor but someone beat me to it while I tried to get some cash together.  As it happened, I used the money I got together for this one to buy mine later that year.

I heard about mine from a guy at Stan's Bike Shop in Vallejo. The guy was laughing about the owner just getting his bike paid off and then getting drafted into the Army.  He said the guy was selling all his toys, he had the bike, a Vet, and a bunch of sports equipment. I got the guys name and called him that next weekend. He lived in San Francisco and said he had to report in the Monday after next. He said he wanted $650 for the bike and that I could take a ride that next Thursday.  I told him I'd be in touch, thinking that maybe if I waited a few days he'd come down on the price.  I called him up on Wednesday night after work and told him I'd found another bike that I was interested in (liar) and wouldn't be over for the test ride. I had Brent Johnson call him up Friday morning from work and see if he still had the bike. He had told me Wednesday that several people were interested in the bike but he had saved it for me because I was first to make an appointment. He told Brent he still had the bike and really needed to get rid of it because of the draft thing.  Brent offered him $550 if it ran as he said.  He said deal and told Brent how to get to his place.  After work we headed over to his place.  I waited in the car while Brent checked over the bike and made the deal. We had talked over what to look for and check on the ride to Frisco.  I had given the guy my name and didn't want to take a chance on queering the deal by him putting my name and voice together.  Anyway, pretty soon Brent came riding out of the guys garage with a big smile on his face and rapped the pipes when he came buy me.  We went out of town and stopped before we hit the freeway. I took over the square and headed toward Vallejo. It was cold and foggy but I didn't notice the weather a bit on the ride home.  Me & Brent had several beers and talked for quite a while after we got to my place, he was a great friend to me back then.

I rode the square for about 6 months before I decided to do something about the suspension. While getting onto the freeway to come to Lodi one weekend, the bike had jumped about 18 inches in the rear and started to slide sideways. I thought I had a flat tire at first.  The slide didn't bother me too much, I had been racing enduro's for about 4 years at that time and was pretty comfortable going sideways.  I pulled over and checked the bike out but couldn't find anything wrong.  I slowed down a bit and kept a close watch on everything for a couple weeks.  Then it did it again. This time I was headed to Napa and was in a bit of a hurry.  Going onto the freeway on-ramp again, I rolled the throttle on and the bike gave a little wobble in the rear. It then jumped in the rear like before, but this time it didn't slide. It went into a shake, side to side. Like a speed wobble but in the rear instead of the front. It only lasted several seconds but that got me to thinking about those other bikes and the people that they had hurt and killed.  I started thinking about changing the suspension right away.  I could see the reason for the trouble was the sprung hub design of the rear axle.  I may have been able to rebuild the rear and left the bike stock.  But what the hell kind of fun would that have been. I had a biker friend, Tom Turnbull, that had the knuckle frame, needed money, and had no engine or tranny. We talked for quite a while about the square to Harley transplant.  He finally sold me the frame, I think for about $150.  It then took me & Hard Luck (another biker buddy) about 3 weeks to do the surgery & painting. The first paint job was a rattle-can job, candy-apple with a black frame. The candy was new on the market at that time and had quite a few issues. Anyway it looked like shit I thought. Some of the other guys liked it, they must have been high on acid or something. 

One weekend night while we were still welding frame mounts on, we ran out of cigarettes.  We’ve never ran out of beer because we were doing the fabrication in a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer warehouse. Hard Luck’s dad owned the business and Hard Luck acted as truck driver / delivery man / renter / night watchman. Anyway, I got back from the store and about passed out when I saw the frame. Hard Luck had welded about 2 dozen beer cans (they were steel back then) to my frame. It looked like a beer can porcupine bike. I was pissed at first but then gave in to all the laughing and cat calls. There was about 6 or 8 guys there by then. The warehouse was like a central meeting place on weekends when Hard Luck was at home.

Most of the guys liked my bike. There were a few that didn't like the idea of any engine being in a Harley but a Harley.  What the hell, I bought both the frame and the engine, I could do anything I wanted with it.  I would say that there were quite a few more guys that liked the bike than didn't.  Back then you couldn't buy the custom frames and front ends like you can today. I wonder if the guys that thought my frame should have a Harley in it would have a custom frame and custom front end today with a Harley in it ???? It wouldn't be all Harley, just like my bike isn't all Ariel.

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Mitch’s Story
Since I can remember my Father has had this old motorcycle sitting out in the barn. I used to ask him about it and he would say that’s the old Ariel that I use to ride. Now I need to tell you that it’s not just a stock Ariel. It’s a 1957 Ariel Square Four that had been put in to a modified 1947 Pan Head Harley frame. He told me the story about how it came to be and some of the fun he had on it. I have never had the fever of wanting to own a Harley but I have always wanted to put the bike that I call the “Ariley” back on the road.

db_Dad_Mitch__the_Ariel_retouched_no_bars1I use to ask Dad if I could rebuild it and he was always resistant. In fact 1992 I just started to work on it even though he didn’t want me to. I think he knew I wouldn’t get far but he didn’t say much. When I figured I couldn’t do it by myself and he wasn’t going to help, I stopped, but I always told myself that some day I would put the old girl back on the road. I had taken a picture of my Dad & I by the bike in May of 1992 and carried it in my wallet until 2007 when I lost my wallet. The fortunate thing is that I had transferred the picture to digital so I still have it.

Dad was diagnosed in February of 2006 with a terminal lung disease. When he started going through his stuff he asked me if I still wanted the bike. He new I did and I jumped at the chance to get the old girl back on the road. Now learning from my previous experience with trying to build it myself, I tried to hire it done. I picked up the bike from Dad on April 24, 2006.

Well the first “Bike Builder” had if for over a year, charged me over $20,000 and never even finished the frame. You see I was so focused to get the bike done while Dad could still take one last ride that I just kept believing what this guy was telling me and paid him whenever he asked for money. I ended up having to take Jay to court and sue him for my money. I haven’t seen any of it yet but hopefully someday he’ll get what’s coming. If you are thinking of hiring someone to build your bike and you live in Nampa, Idaho get hold of me and I will let you know who not to use.

Now the Engine Builder Ed Reynolds out of Whibdey Island, Washington was fabulous and did a great job on the engine. I found him through the guys in the Ariel Owners Club of America. (Thanks guys) Ed specializes in Ariel Square Four’s and gave me the best of the parts he had. The engine has a stock barrel, pistons, cranks, rods, valves and anything else he had. To this day he calls me and asks when he will have to be here to fire up the bike. We are tentatively scheduled to have the bike completed at the end of April 2008.

The Bike is now at Treasure Valley Street Rod in Boise, Idaho and they are making great progress. After having to back track and redo a lot of work that was done incorrectly, we are almost done with fabrication. In fact by the time anyone reads this we should be in the painting process.

The bad thing is that Dad died January 13, 2008 never having been able to ride the bike or even see it back on the road. I promised him at his grave that I would finish the bike and bring it to him. You can bet that the day it’s done it will be on the road to Lodi, California for Dad’s approval.

I have had Ariel guys tell me that it is sacrilege to put the Square Four in a Harley frame and have had Harley guys say the same thing about the engine. When I told Dad what people said he would say, “Screw them, it’s my bike and I can do whatever I want with it.” I sure loved that bristly old man. So if you think that this combination in any way is just wrong…“SCREW YOU”.

Most people that have seen the bike just keep saying how unique and one-of it is. Although my goal was never to make a show bike, if you are ever at a rod and bike show and see this bike, please remember Pop and the love put in to this project.

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  THE NEXT STAGE...

News from Dave Horsley of Treasure Valley Street Rod:
We have been heads down working to get this bike done. Mitch is planning to take it to his family reunion in California for the 4th of July. He wants to show the bike to his family and pay tribute to his deceased father.

The frame is all molded and sprayed in House of Color Candy Blue with a lighter marble effect. (Old school look) The engine specialist is coming from Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 28th to fire it up and do the final adjustments. There are not many people who have seen the inside of one of these engines. Check back soon for the completed bike!

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We are almost there...check back soon!



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