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Bike of the Month
September 2022
1937 Harley-Davidson ULH
By Gus Assuras

It all began when Jim Meadows and I were out riding our 1948’s, Meadows’ Indian and my Harley-Davidson. He took me on a ride to see his friend, Jim Carlson, in Vinton, California. Carlson had a 1937 Harley-Davidson ULH that had once caught fire. He went around a corner, gas had spilled out and a fire ignited. Kids helped him put the fire out and when he got it back home, he parked it in a corner where it sat for years. Jim also had a 37 EL and a 34 RL Harley-Davidson which were stolen from his barn, but they sacrificed the 37 ULH because it had flat tires. Meadows and I talked Carlson into getting the ULH back on the road and he eventually got it roadworthy.


From time to time, Meadows and I would ride to Vinton to visit Carlson and go for rides. At one time, Carlson had some logging trucks and he knew all the back roads like the palm of his hand, so he would lead the rides. The problem with Carlson leading was that Meadows and I could not keep up with him. Consequently, I renamed him Crazy Carlson. Eventually I told Carlson that if he ever decided to sell the bike that I was interested. I had never owned a flathead and the way he rode it I knew it was a good bike. A few years went by and his wife decided it was time for Carlson to hang it up. Eventually Carlson’s brother came to town and put it up for sale on the internet. Meadows just happened to stop by and visit Carlson when he was on the phone talking to a somebody about selling the bike. As any friend would do, Meadows called me and told me that Carlson was on the phone selling my motorcycle. I told Meadows to put him on and he proceeded to tell me what his brother had done and that he was getting calls from all over the world. I told Carlson that I wanted to buy it and not answer any more phone calls. He gave me a price and I asked him to give me three days to get the money. Getting the money was not easy. I went to the bank for a loan and was turned down because the bike was too old, so I went home and got my 2000 GMC truck title and took it to the bank as collateral. That worked, loan approved.


I rode the flathead around for a while before disassembling it to fix a transmission leak. After removing the transmission, I decided to perform a complete restoration and kept disassembling the ULH until it was down to the bare frame. On a side note, I previously purchased a sidecar for a friend’s 1947 Harley-Davidson, but he was not comfortable riding with the sidecar, so I got it back to use with the ULH.


I began the restoration on the ULH with the sidecar attached. From time to time, Carlson would stop by to check on the progress and told me to not change the color. Regardless of Carlson’s instructions, I painted the ULH green. Guess I had a memory lapse. When completed I told Carlson I was on my way to Vinton to get his approval. He said, “You changed the color, didn’t you?” I told him that he was going to like what I did, and he repeated his question, but I did not answer. Later that day, I pulled into his driveway where he was waiting for me. When he saw the ULH, he informed that the color was the same as when he purchased the bike and he approved. I offered to take him to Loyalton to buy him a beer and he jumped into the sidecar. Without a helmet and goggles, he was all smiles on the ride to Loyalton. After a couple of beers and getting ready to head back to Vinton, Crazy Carlson asked if I had ever ridden in a sidecar. I said, “No” and he said, “Get in.” Forgetting why I named him Crazy, I got in. He told me that he used to race sidecars and would get the wheel in the air. I told him, “Not today.” On our way back to the house, we passed Carlson’s wife who was coming from the opposite direction. He was going 70 mph without a helmet and said, “I’m in trouble”, but just smiled.


Carlson would come to town during Street Vibrations, and I would take him in the sidecar to look at the bikes which put a smile on his face.


Crazy Carlson passed away in 2008 at the age of 81, but I now have two other passengers, my grandsons who love to ride to school in the sidecar. My wife has a bad feeling about sidecars and will not get in it. Apparently she watched too many cartoons where they pull the pin out while cruising down the road.

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