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Christmas 2006 - DIY Four
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Alma 4 Project. Part Five
By Mads B.H. Johnsen


So, all good things come to those who wait and finally, early this year I hit the streets. 

If I had known the time involved to get this far, it would never had happened! I must confess, though, it gives me a certain thrill when thinking of Tim Pickering, of early VI fame, congratulating me with the birth of my daughter midway in the project. She is six now and starting school.

So why did it take so long? Probably because a hand built motorcycle does just that! It's not just a matter of making things fit together, it's a matter of designing things, making things and then making things fit and work together.

In order not to go barking mad, its crucial that the balance between frustration and satisfaction is reasonable. If you're not enjoying it, there's no reason! So I ended up doing a slightly prolonged take on "Carpe Diem" and basically seized a decade to do this motorcycle, unwillingly turning patience into an art form along the way.

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Right side

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Groundhog  Zen

Anyway, I left you readers shortly after the first test run and only in need of a coat of paint and a gas tank. I attended the 2003 International Indian Rally in Denmark that year and had for the occasion mounted a dummy Styrofoam tank. Lots of different input, to say the least, from rally goers but it made one thing absolutely clear. The real tank had to be the jewel in the crown. It had to look "Indian" and it had to be right... I did a new set in hard Styrofoam, trying to do my molds the "easy" way. Let's just conclude there's NO easy way, and I ended up wasting a lot of time. 

So I did it the proper way. Solid wood. Hard on the arms but dependable. Whacked thin polystyrene sheets with heat and vacuum around the plugs and ended up with a thin pattern for casting. Then off to the foundry. Half a ton of sand, eight kilos of aluminum and three days later, I picked up my new cast shells. After that, it was a matter of making them fit. 

A lengthy process, to say the least. A big cutout to accommodate the cam chain housing, a smaller tunnel for the camshaft and loads of various mods to fit brackets, caps and petcocks. Then making the inner sides. Talk about an equation with a lot of unknown factors. Grinding down a bit on the front of the casting would suddenly result in cam tunnel touching at some unseen point. Upon correcting this, the top tube suddenly would touch in a third place, or the valve cover, or the cam chain house, or the seat casting, or, or... Finally, after what must have looked liked the film "Groundhog Day" to the guys at the workshop, the tanks were proper in place and a winter had passed.

Everything got disassembled in a rush and shipped to the powder coaters for the only proper motorcycle colour: affordable black. Got it all back in a week, assembled it in another and yes - after all these years - everything fit!  And that brings us back to the start - me hitting the streets in a late spring snow storm. Actually nothing more happened, got snowed on and just wheeled it back in, took a couple of snapshots at the neighboring workshop and went home. ALL done.

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Tank pattern

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Finished patterns

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Tank casting

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Fitting the tanks

Maiden Voyage

Summer and some serious road testing came. Made it to the 2006 International Indian Rally in Sweden, 33 degrees C in the shade, 650 km and the only problem was a bit of dirt in the carburetor. My worries about overheating were thoroughly put to shame. The clutch held up with no slip at all, the gearbox with my own oiling system worked, and generally this motorcycle just pulled like a freight train. What a joy! 

People at the rally weren't too rude about it either... Old friend and ever present Red Fred even took it for a small spin while his lovely Regina held my hand. Jeff Ringlé of "Old Iron" was a wild experience! Riding in the Swedish forests with buddies from Berlin, meeting an old US ex pat from Marseille, late night drinking, hard rain, oppressive heat. Great rally, great maiden voyage!

Satisfaction Guarantied

Stable to ride, a very dependable and strong engine and affordable spares, classic in an "Old World" way. Sounds a bit like a sale pitch and, yeah I wouldn't mind doing a small series. After all, the hard work is done! Still kind of expensive, as in "hand built", but then again you only live once!

And incredibly I've got my first customer! Still pondering a bit how to set the whole thing up, I still need another order before taking off. Anybody out there? 

If not, I hope see you all in France the coming summer at the 2007 International Indian Rally!

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Finshed tanks

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Left side

For a Four of your own (or a cast aluminum tank) contact Mads on

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