1976 Sportster Project
Text and Pictures by Mark Trotta
When purchased, this 1976 Sportster XLH had a disassembled motor, a wiring harness cut in half, and the entire starter assembly was removed (motor, solenoid, pinion shaft and gear, and housing). Apparently, the previous owner started to fix the starter, then one problem led to another, and the bike sat abandoned for many years.
1976 Sportster Production: 5,238 XLCH models, 12,884 XLH models
This Sportster was a 1976 "Liberty Edition" model, which featured alloy spoke wheels (19" front and 18" rear). Like most non-running bikes, the price was right. I could have parted the bike out and made more than my money back, but as I have learned from past projects, there is no better feeling than bringing a dead motorcycle back to life.
After buying the bike and getting it home, I went through all the parts boxes, and wrote out a project planning guide. This included a rough outline of what needed to be done, best order of assembly, time frame, and approximate cost. The plan was to get the bike together, remove unnecessary clutter, and shed unnecessary weight.
No, not a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, a 1,000cc jigsaw puzzle! I've tackled basket case projects before, and this one was a challenge.
Over the course of two years (my original projection was one year) I reassembled the motor, re-wired the complete electrical system, rebuilt the front disc brake, and got this old Sportster back on the road.
The electrical system on this Sportster needed complete rewiring. Most of the electrical on the bike had been removed, including the starter, solenoid, relay, and voltage regulator.
While I was rewiring the bike, I replaced the original Sportster buckhorn bars with drag bars. And since I was not going to re-use the bulky hand controls which came on the bike, wires for the start and stop buttons and turn-signal switches were no longer needed. They were tagged and removed. All wiring went inside the handlebars.
Read: Ironhead Engine Build
There were two years of Sportsters that had a crossover shaft to make them left-side shift (1975-1976). I've read that some people had issues with this set-up, but I had no problems at all shifting or braking my bike.
Read: Ironhead Sportster Transmission
Starting in 1977, Sportster engine cases were modified and all models thereafter would be left-side shift.
Sportster Primary Chain
There are really only two reasons to remove a primary chain on a 1976 Sportster. You either need to get to your transmission, or you're replacing the starter Bendix gear.
Read: Remove and Install Primary Chain
Read: Remove and Install Ironhead Clutch
Read: Remove and Install Harley Bendix Gear
This Sportster project came with two different carburetors; the original 38mm Bendix and an S&S Super B. The B had come off a Harley Shovelhead, and the previous owner had de-jetted it down three sizes to run on the Sporty.
After the bike was assembled and running, the Super B carb revealed to have an off-idle bog. No matter how slow I rolled it, it would not help. Only after re-jetting the Super B several times, the bike run smoother and faster.
Read: Replace Fork Seals
I have three different service manuals for this bike. I've caught mistakes and misprints in two of them, so I reference back and forth from each.
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