James Roper-Caldbeck runs Customs From Jamesville, a small Harley workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark. We’ve featured his flatheads before, but none can top the story attached to this army-spec WLC 750, the latest machine to roll out of his shop.
“In the 1940s, this WLC was pushed out of a plane somewhere over Europe,” says James. “I can only imagine that she saw some heavy action, because many of the parts were in pretty bad shape—or had been replaced by parts from other motorcycle brands, including the wheels, brakes, and back fender.” After WWII, the bike was used as a tow truck at a car dealership. “I was told by the owner’s sons that whenever one of the 6-volt cars wouldn’t start, they would hook up a rope and use the WLC to bump start it.”
Last August, a well-dressed businessman walked into James’s shop, and asked if he fixed old bikes. “He said, ‘I have this old bike that belonged to my grandfather and it needs some work. It’s been sat in a basement since the 60s’.”
James hit the road the next day to view the bike. “It was in a very sorry state after being sat in a basement for 48 years in a house next to the sea. Every nut and bolt on the whole bike was rusty as hell, all the aluminum had turned white, and parts had corroded away. I told the owner we can try, but I’m not sure if I can even get this thing to pieces. I said that if it was not your grandfather’s bike, then you would be crazy to even try and restore it.”
James spent the next month spraying the bike down with six cans of WD40. “Then in October I started to wrench. “To my surprise, nut by nut, bolt by bolt it came apart. There was some grinder, blowtorch and Sawzall action, but not as bad as I imagined. The biggest shock was opening the gear casing to find everything in perfect condition.” The engine only needed a top end rebuild, and the gearbox needed a new fork, but every nut and bolt on the entire bike had to be replaced and every part had to be thoroughly cleaned. “I used as many original parts as possible,” says Roper Caldbeck. “The only major new parts are the back fender, battery box, taillight and headlight.” The bike has been updated to 12-volt electrics, a belt drive, a Mikuni carb and new leather on the seat, but other than that, it’s pretty stock.
“It was a strange thing for me to start the bike for the first time after 48 years. That is a really long time: so much has happened, and this little bike just sat there waiting,” says James. “It was a good feeling building this bike—knowing that at least two more generations of the owner’s family will experience it. When I went for the first ride I thought, ‘How different these streets must have looked the last time this bike was ridden, half a century ago’.”
Head over to the Customs From Jamesville website for more vintage flathead and hot-rod goodness.