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Christmas 2005 DIY Scout Project
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The Ugly Duckling
 By Thomas Jensen
Back in the seventies and eighties, when life was young and cash was low, I often helped Erik Nielsen, the founder of the motorcycle museum in Stubbekøbing in Denmark.

Erik was a living encyclopedia on motorcycle marques, history and model development. He started collecting motorcycles in the mid-60’s. This was perfect timing, because the small family car was taking over as wealth slowly came to Denmark at that time. Junk yards were filled with old worn out motorcycles to be bought for small sums in cash, and people gladly handed over their bikes if you paid a little more than what the junk yard offered, especially if they knew that the bike would be restored. Since the first Danish motor law in 1903 motor vehicles have been severely taxed and because of that Danes have always felt more personal attachment to our transport than in many other countries.

Within the next twenty years Erik Nielsen managed to collect and with his own hands restore more than 150 motorcycles. He earned his money as self-employed house painter from spring to fall. The winter he spent in his basement with at least 3-6 motorcycles undergoing restoration. Some jobs were easy, some really gave him a hard time as parts were hard or impossible to find. Then he made wooden patterns for carburettors to be cast, machined new hubs, made exhaust pipes and so on. 

Even though I visited him several times a week, he never asked me or allowed me to help him with any part of the restorations. But I helped him out with translation jobs and heavier move-bikes-around-at-the-museum jobs. During these years he sometimes had surplus and leftover bits and pieces, and four times I bought basket cases from him. 

In 1977 I was lucky to buy a Harley Davidson WL heap from him. That was a three-year project, and just before I finished that job I got hold of an Indian 741 basket case.

I bought several boxes of “spare parts” for this bike to try to get the right parts for the 741 model, but as it came along I found out that, for me, a real Indian is featuring a leaf spring. In those years I was an all-year Nimbus motorcycle driver, and suddenly I needed a good machine to drag the sidecar as my old Nimbus stopped breathing. As usual cash was low, and the only thing I could do was to swap the old Nimbus and the 741 project for a well running substitute.

In late 1980 Erik Nielsen wanted to get rid of another heap of old iron. This junk pile was an Ugly Duckling. It started out as a fifties Ariel frame project with a 741 drive train, and some unknown wheels, but I wanted my Hybrid-Indian to consist of as many Indian parts as possible. So when Erik later wanted to dispose of a sorry looking 1928 short-frame Scout frame with complete fork and miserable fenders and tanks, plus handlebars from a 741, I bought it and now the story could begin. 

To be able fit the 741 powerplant to the ’28 frame a serious surgery had to take place. The frame was extended one inch at the front part, and the kick starter bracket was welded in as a part of the “saddle post”. The bottom frame front part was cut away, and the frame front legs was connected in a bracket to accommodate the front engine plate. Piece of cake! – Luckily time erases memory... 

My first intention was to get the genuine flat tank, but as the tank on pre-101 Scouts is a bit on the large side to my liking, and as the one inch extended frame made the gap between tank and frame enormous, I decided to heat and bend the top frame tube so it disappeared between the halves of 741 tanks, and close the gaps front and aft of the tanks, which also strengthened the frame considerably.

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First 741 project

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Ugly Duckling kit.

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Mock-up of hybrid Scout.

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Rear frame with kicker mount.

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Tank detail.

This was as far as I got when my dad retired in 1985. He was a former ’31 Police Scout rider, so I offered him the hardly begun Indian project “to kill time” which he gladly accepted, and he began a low budget restoration. In those years I was busy restoring vintage cars, and “The Ugly Duckling” was stowed away anyhow.

When my father died in 1991 I got the bike back. It was not on the road yet, but it was getting there. I was still not satisfied with its appearance though. It was still The Ugly Duckling - even if it was white now.

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50's family outing on 31 Scout.
I made a few cosmetic changes – front and rear saddles, luggage carrier, new foot boards, side stand, a little re-painting etc and it was registered in 2000. 

Three happy years went by trotting around in Denmark. Just after the 2003 International Rally I got a chance to do something about it. 

The frame broke where the saddle post and the kick starter bracket met, and every time I used the clutch the frame bounced in a soft sailing-like feeling. During the three years of gentle riding I had also thought of other things I wanted to change. 

The handlebars came from a pre-war Harley Davidson welded to an Indian fork yoke found in a Swedish junk yard. The fenders were from an unidentified rolling object, but were rather nicely shaped. The 19 ”rims were from a Nimbus. The motor featured 15 teeth on the countershaft sprocket and 37 on the rear wheel sprocket, so the stride was extremely long in the high gear, which was too much of a good thing. The old petrol tanks were leaking. The home made rear brake drum was a challenge on wet roads. I wanted to get rid of the short-tailed look and the annoying driving experience that followed when you were packing both luggage and a passenger. I decided that the bike should appear as a 1937 Sport Scout  – more or less!

So I dismantled the Scout totally, extended the rear part of the frame 6 inches, and strengthened it by fitting extra frame tubes

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Duckling in 1991

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Other side.

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Extended and strengthened rear frame.
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Vertical and horizontal bracing tubes.
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Tank halves spaced apart for speedo.
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Fork has been raked for clearance between front fender and generator. Handlebar risers welded to fork legs.
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Left and below is how the project looks today. Extended rear frame for comfort with passenger, better brakes, new wheels, new generator bracket and shiny black paint.
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I bought new repro mid-30’s style fenders. The front fender was too wide to go into the 1928 fork, so I had to split it, cut out a strip and re-weld it. The correct 18” rims were set up with new spokes, new handlebars, new tank halves, homemade tool boxes, wide and sturdy pre-war BSA rear brake drum fitted to the old Norton hub. Re-organized instruments and a new shiny coat of black paint has made the frame turn out the way I like it. 

After having put the 500cc motor back in the frame for yet another season, I have got hold of the original generator set-up which I am going to make a bracket for at the top motor plate bolt. And if I get around to it I would like to make a stainless exhaust system this winter as well.

Next year I hope that I can report back to you about the motor conversion as the idea is to put in a stroker  motor, based on Harley-Davidson Sportster flywheels, bigger valves, bigger venturi, Bonneville cams and lifters, electronic ignition, stainless pushrod guides and valve covers, and some sort of generator belt drive setup.

This was also planned to be done this year, but as cash runs low – again – I have decided that The Ugly Duckling, now having become a beautiful black swan, will be given more power to those paddling feet next winter!


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Front fender cut'n'shut.

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Ready to go!

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