The Old West (Late 1950s/Early 1960s AMF-built Western Flyer Sonic Flyer)

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Okay, I'm finally getting around to creating build threads for all my bikes. Took longer than it should've, but hey, better late than never.

Okay, this bike is either a late 1950s or early 1960s AMF-built Western Flyer Sonic Flyer I got as a gift from my Grandpa on my mom's side back in summer 2018. I call it "The Old West" or just "Old West" because my grandpa loves watching old westerns on TV, and because it's a Western Flyer from Western Auto. This is actually the second bike that became a part of my collection since I got into vintage bikes a few years ago. The story behind the bike, according to Grandpa, is that he bought it at a garage sale about 35-40 years ago, and has ridden it on a fairly regular basis, up until a few years prior to giving it to me, due to his arthritis. He was told by the guy he bought it from that it was a 1946 bike, but I don't know why. I actually can remember this bike always being out in his boat shed growing up, and I rode it quite a few times as a kid. I'm pretty sure my brother and I smoked that back tire as we slammed on the brake going down the road in front of our grandparents' house more than a few times back then. I also could've sworn that it still had the light up front, and that it worked too, but I could be wrong.

Here are some "before" photos I took shortly after bringing The Old West home back in July 2018. I think this was after taking a few rides around either my neighborhood or my grandparents' neighborhood, as I know I was the one to attach that business card to the back to make those classic motorcycle sounds. Also, I'm not sure, but it looks like some red paint was spilled and then hastily wiped off the front fender at some point in this bike's life.
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Despite the dry-rotted tires and the mangled spokes up front, this bike has been a rider for as long as I can remember. Eventually, though, those tubes and tires blew up on me after soaking up some sun from the window in the garage I had stored it inside some time after bringing the bike home. I got new tubes and some white wall tires shortly after, so I could keep riding it. I also took the time to shine up as much of the chrome as I could with some 0000 steel wool, and the paint with some automotive wash-and-wax. In the meantime, I began searching for the few missing pieces to make this bike whole again, mainly the light for the tank, and a new front wheel to match the back one.

Here are some photos from the time when this was my only rideable bike:
The_Old_West.jpg


In case you're wondering what's in the rear baskets in this pic, those are different pieces, including an early prototype tank, for my 1950/1951 Schwinn DX bike, pictured left.
BftD_Schwinn_Dixie_&_The_Old_West.jpg
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However, sometime between 2019 and now, I had slowly begun my ultimate plan for this bike: a complete, though mild, "rustoration" back to fully-functional, but slightly shinier condition. I don't plan to use 100% correct parts for this bike, but I'd like to get as close as reasonably possible. I also don't want to get rid of all the patina, but I do want to shine up the chrome and bring back as much luster to the paint as I can.
BFtD_Old_West.jpg


This is about where I left off in summer 2020. I had the bike almost completely disassembled, save for a few stubborn parts I let my welder take care of. I then washed all the painted parts with Dawn dish soap, followed by SC Johnson's Paste Wax to help bring some of the luster back to the red paint. I think I also washed the grips as well, but I can't recall.
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I've stalled on this bike since then, mostly due to my first time entering in the annual Rat Rod Bikes Build Off, and then the Muscle Bike Build Off last year. There's till a bit left to do to get this bike done, but compared to the amount of work needed to finish my other projects, this one should be the quickest and easiest to finish.
 
Here's where I made a little bit of progress today: I removed the tubes and tires from the wheels and I got some better photos of the two pedals that came with this bike. That's mostly it, but I'm hoping to figure out a couple things with these parts.

First, the pedals. The left pedal, pictured left, is a Wald pedal which has definitely seen better days, and the right pedal, pictured right, is a Western Flyer pedal. Now, I think the Western Flyer pedal belongs to this Western Flyer bike, but that Wald pedal looks like it could be a correct pedal too. Given that this is the only AMF bike I have in my collection, and I don't know much about AMF bikes, I can't tell which one is the correct pedal for this bike. Heck, for all I know, neither pedal is correct for this bike! So... I was hoping someone here might be able to help me figure that out.
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Next, the wheels. This is the front wheel that came with this bike when I got it, but I don't know if it's the original wheel. I've seen pictures of similar AMF bikes with this style of wheel, but I've also seen them with the style of wheel that was on the back of this bike when I got it. As you can see, the spokes are bent, and surprisingly loose. No wonder this thing was wobbly up front!
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Here's the coaster brake from the rear wheel that came with this bike when I got it. I don't know much about different manufacturers of coaster brakes, just that New Departure and Bendix seem to be the most popular/common. I also know that this coaster brake needs to be disassembled and examined, because the brake acted more like a suggestion than anything. I hope that it's still fairly easy to find parts for these, but again, I don't know.
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Here's the contour of the rear wheel, and my replacement front wheel. Unlike the original front wheel, it has a concave curve on the side, whereas the front has a convex curve, followed by a crease where it flattens out afterward.
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The new front wheel I have matches the rear one pretty close, but it's missing a spoke, and another one is slightly bent. I want to fix that, but I don't know if any of the local bike shops would just replace the missing/bent spokes and not just disassemble the whole wheel and replace all the spokes. I have a small stash of spokes I got in a package of parts about two years ago, but I have no idea what exactly they go to, or how to tell, for that matter. Anyone know where I could start a thread for just identifying parts and pieces?
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I'll try to update this post more in the next few months. I'm really hoping to have this bike done by my Grandpa's next birthday in April, though I'd like to finish it sooner if possible. It just depends on figuring out and finding these last few parts, and also the weather. It's still pretty cold in Oklahoma. I'm also going to try and get the rest of the bikes in my collection fixed up and rideable by the end of this year, and I'd like to get threads for each of those bikes started as soon as possible. Here are some photos of the other bikes in my collection that I'm hoping to fix up before the end of the year:

My Muscle Bike Build off entry, Poison Apple. This is my primary project right now.
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My grandma's Schwinn Hollywood (The only bike that isn't actually mine, but I wanted to try and clean it up for Nana.)
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My other Western Flyer Sonic Flyer, Stirrup: the Hornets' Nest, that I got from my Aunt Suzanne, Dad's sister.
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Project Quick Change/Schwinn Dixie, the 1950/1951 Schwinn Dx bike that started this whole obsession with vintage bikes. I had been working on making it a muscle bike for the MBBO earlier, but I've since abandoned that plan after some complications with parts and paint colors.
BFtD_Schwinn_Dixie.jpg
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My first RRBBO entry, Dumpster Diamond. I need to fix the coaster brake, and figure out if I'm going to try and rebuild this bike the way I had originally planned, or just tweak a couple things that are wrong with it right now.
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Sasquatch, the fat tire Mongoose Beast I intended to part out for my Poison Apple muscle trike build. Given that that's not happening now, I just want to get this bike riding again and have some fun with it. I have some ideas of how to customize it, but that's not until I get the rest of these bikes done.
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This rusty Space/Flightliner I bought for $10 at a swap meet in 2019. I have some ideas of what to do with this bike, but nothing solid yet.
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I've also got a few incomplete bike frames and parts that I'd like to do something with, but I'll figure that out later.

So, that's where I'm at with this bike right now. If anyone here could help me figure out and maybe even find the right pedals for this bike, as well as the wheels and spokes, I'd greatly appreciate it.
 
Okay, I'm finally getting around to creating build threads for all my bikes. Took longer than it should've, but hey, better late than never.

Okay, this bike is either a late 1950s or early 1960s AMF-built Western Flyer Sonic Flyer I got as a gift from my Grandpa on my mom's side back in summer 2018. I call it "The Old West" or just "Old West" because my grandpa loves watching old westerns on TV, and because it's a Western Flyer from Western Auto. This is actually the second bike that became a part of my collection since I got into vintage bikes a few years ago. The story behind the bike, according to Grandpa, is that he bought it at a garage sale about 35-40 years ago, and has ridden it on a fairly regular basis, up until a few years prior to giving it to me, due to his arthritis. He was told by the guy he bought it from that it was a 1946 bike, but I don't know why. I actually can remember this bike always being out in his boat shed growing up, and I rode it quite a few times as a kid. I'm pretty sure my brother and I smoked that back tire as we slammed on the brake going down the road in front of our grandparents' house more than a few times back then. I also could've sworn that it still had the light up front, and that it worked too, but I could be wrong.

Here are some "before" photos I took shortly after bringing The Old West home back in July 2018. I think this was after taking a few rides around either my neighborhood or my grandparents' neighborhood, as I know I was the one to attach that business card to the back to make those classic motorcycle sounds. Also, I'm not sure, but it looks like some red paint was spilled and then hastily wiped off the front fender at some point in this bike's life.
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I have a very similar bike as this. Mine is a 61 AMF Skyrider, same color, same rear hub with Komet brake.I have a spare rear hub if you need parts. Mine had the same seat, but in terrible condition so I chucked it. It didn't have a tank or rear carrier, but did have the baskets like yours. The star chainring is the part that drew my eye to this post. Mine also has that, with 48 teeth/cogs. It's my new favorite right now. I have posted some recent pics on the CABE. I'll be interested in what you come up with for a final result. Mine had the Wald pedals but they were toast. Retro flutter on here has a 62 Skyrider he's been working on for a while.
 
The year is easy to decipher from the serial number, located here probably. The first digit should be a letter followed by numbers. H is 58, J is 59, K is 60 etc. My list stops at 63 with an N. They skipped the I, so maybe the O was skipped also, making 64 a P, 65 a Q.
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The front rim looks just like the ones on my 60's AMF's, the rear rim looks a little different but the Komet Super hub seems right. The year of the bike will probably lead you to pics showing the pedals also.
 
I have a very similar bike as this. Mine is a 61 AMF Skyrider, same color, same rear hub with Komet brake.I have a spare rear hub if you need parts. Mine had the same seat, but in terrible condition so I chucked it. It didn't have a tank or rear carrier, but did have the baskets like yours. The star chainring is the part that drew my eye to this post. Mine also has that, with 48 teeth/cogs. It's my new favorite right now. I have posted some recent pics on the CABE. I'll be interested in what you come up with for a final result. Mine had the Wald pedals but they were toast. Retro flutter on here has a 62 Skyrider he's been working on for a while.
Cool! I'll keep you in mind if I need to replace some coaster brake hub parts. I might disassemble that part later this week, but we'll see. I got the baskets at a swap meet sometime after getting this bike. I didn't necessarily get them for this bike, but it was the only functional one I had at the time. I also have a rear rack that goes to either this bike or a similar one, but these AMF frames apparently had a few different racks to choose from. The star-studded chainring is possibly the coolest part on the bike, I agree. The final result I'm hoping to achieve for this bike is really nothing more than a mechanical restoration with mild cosmetic fluff-up.

Do you have a link to that CABE post? I'd love to see your Skyrider. I think I saw @Retro Flutter's Skyrider project, but I admittedly haven't paid much attention to it so far. I'll have to check it out again.
 
The year is easy to decipher from the serial number, located here probably. The first digit should be a letter followed by numbers. H is 58, J is 59, K is 60 etc. My list stops at 63 with an N. They skipped the I, so maybe the O was skipped also, making 64 a P, 65 a Q.
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The front rim looks just like the ones on my 60's AMF's, the rear rim looks a little different but the Komet Super hub seems right. The year of the bike will probably lead you to pics showing the pedals also.
Thanks! I know I wrote down the serial number at some point, but I'll have to go back and take a look at the bike to find out what it was.

Okay, thanks. I have a sneaking suspicion that front wheel might be the correct wheel for this bike, but given that it'll probably be easier to just work with the 2 other wheels I have, I might just save that front wheel for future reference.
 
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I also don't want to get rid of all the patina, but I do want to shine up the chrome and bring back as much luster to the paint as I can.
Neat bike! Those Komet hubs are nice units but I don't think they stop as quick as a Bendix.
I have a Murray middleweight that has paint in similar shape. Looking forward to seeing you bring that finish back and saving the graphics and pins. Someone here suggested a technique where you use a rag and daub fresh paint then rub it off?
A how to would be awesome! :)
 
Neat bike! Those Komet hubs are nice units but I don't think they stop as quick as a Bendix.
I have a Murray middleweight that has paint in similar shape. Looking forward to seeing you bring that finish back and saving the graphics and pins. Someone here suggested a technique where you use a rag and daub fresh paint then rub it off?
A how to would be awesome! :)
Thanks! I don't have a Bendix on any of my bikes at the moment, but based on the few functional bikes I have with a working coaster brake, the Komet hub may either be out of grease, or it's completely shot, as it almost didn't want to stop at all last time I rode it. Thanks! Never heard of that technique before. Hopefully someone has made a tutorial for that.
 
Finally making some more progress. I just got the new pedals for The Old West just earlier this week, and they look just right for the bike.
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Couple problems, though.
1. I want to remove the rust from the pedals, especially the threads, but I don't know how I can do that without affecting the red stripes, the plastic, or the bearings.
2. The bearings need to be serviced, especially on the right pedal. How would you go about cleaning up the bearings and reapplying grease to them? I don't know how to take these apart, or if it's even possible, so any advice on how to make these pedals functional again would be much appreciated.

I'm going to try and wash these pedals sometime this week, and figure out the next step for the wheels. My goal here is to try and get this bike riding again, if not completely finished, by April 21st, my Grandpa's birthday, since he's the one who gifted the bike to me.

Stay tuned! More to come!
 
For small parts cleaning I use an ultrasonic tank. If you rebuild lots of vintage stuff they are a very good tool to have. They are a bit pricey but are non-destructive and clean like nothing else can.

Getting grease into captured bearings is easy with a mini pistol grease gun with a needle tip adapter. My mini pistol is refillable from bulk so I get to choose which grease I use.

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Not something I've done, but it looks like you straighten up those tabs on the threaded end of the pedals and they would just fall a part. I'd do it over a tray or bucket as I can imagine the bearings will try and escape!
I think I've seen it done before, but I think it requires a specialized tool due to how the ends are crimped. I'll definitely want to look into it, though.
To lube stuff I don't want or can't take apart I use.
DuPont Teflon White Lithium Grease
https://www.amazon.com/DuPont-Teflon-Lithium-Grease-Aerosol/dp/B00D3G6I5O/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=lithium+spray&qid=1617366097&sr=8-4&th=1


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Goes in like penetrating oil, but leaves behind lithium grease.
Awesome! And thanks for the Amazon link!
For small parts cleaning I use an ultrasonic tank. If you rebuild lots of vintage stuff they are a very good tool to have. They are a bit pricey but are non-destructive and clean like nothing else can.

Getting grease into captured bearings is easy with a mini pistol grease gun with a needle tip adapter. My mini pistol is refillable from bulk so I get to choose which grease I use.

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I've seen those ultrasonic tanks on antique toy restoration videos! You wouldn't happen to have any Amazon links for that ultrasonic cleaner and that grease gun, would you? Also, what does that mini grease gun connect to, like a standard small tube of bike grease, or what?
 
Harbor Freight is a good place to check for the ultrasonic: https://www.harborfreight.com/25-liter-ultrasonic-cleaner-63256.html Mine is a surplus medical unit I bought used a long time ago.

As to the grease gun and needle, just do some Google searches. Some you can refill from bulk, others have cartridges. My stuff is SnapOn and pretty pricey if you aren't making money with it.
 
Okay, finally going to disturb the dust that's been gathering on this thread. It's time to get The Old West back on the road. I'm going to try and get this bike done before April 24th, as that's when my family and I will be up in Missouri celebrating my Grandpa's 82nd birthday, and I'd like to surprise him with it. The good news is that there's not much that needs to be done to get this bike rideable by then. The bad news is that I've got a very narrow window to get it done, and I might have to replace a few parts.

Here's the main challenge: the bearings, cups, and races. I had cleaned these parts in some Simple Green years ago, but I had let them sit in the solution for too long, and then let them sit out of the solution for about as long. Most of the parts look useable, but there are a few parts of concern.
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First, the bearing cone for the fork, while not terribly pitted, looks to have a groove dug into it, as well as a couple tiny pits. I feel like this part needs to be replaced. I don't know if I have the right replacement part, but literally as I was typing this, I remembered that a buddy of mine I met at a swap meet gave me a box of forks! Odds are one of them is bound to have the part I need, so I'll try and check on that tomorrow.
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The top fork bearing cone looks to be in good shape, but it's got some gunk on it from sitting in Simple Green for over a year. I tried cleaning it off with some 0000 steel wool, but it didn't get rid of everything like I hoped. Still, I think it's useable.
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Both bottom bracket bearing cones look to be in good shape, with no pits or grooves. They both have that weird growth on them, but I think I could get that off.
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Here's my biggest area of concern: the bearings. Keep in mind, I didn't really have the best knowledge of how to service bearings when I took these apart with some needle nose pliers at least 2 or 3 years ago. I figured if I took apart the bearings, I could thoroughly clean everything, then put them back together. I still think I can use the races, but they may be a little too rusty to use, even after soaking them in some Evaporust. Otherwise, I just might have to replace them.
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I thought I could still use the original ball bearings, but after reading into it more, I suppose I should just replace all of them. I know it's not expensive to do at least, but I'm wondering if it'd be cheaper and easier to just use some bearings off one of my later-model parts bikes.
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I didn't get any good pictures of them, but all 4 bearing cups look to be in great shape, with no pits whatsoever. I also looked at the wheels yesterday to see if the spokes needed replacing, and found that while the front wheel just needs 2 new spokes and a little truing, the original back wheel had at least 10 spokes that were so loose that they practically rattled in place! So now I've got another issue to figure out. I've got other similar wheels I could use instead, with another wheel that's identical to the rear wheel, same hub and spokes. That other wheel is rustier than the current rear wheel, but I could clean it up in some Evaporust and it'd probably look good enough. The spokes are much tighter on this wheel too, though it is missing a few. I'm thinking I should use the better, but rustier wheel, since I at least know the parts all go together well enough.

Here's the real challenge I need help figuring out: I don't have a ton of time to get this bike together, and if I try cleaning all these parts and removing rust manually, not only will it take longer to do, but I might not even get everything done as well as I'd like. I was advised to get an ultrasonic cleaner from Harbor Freight (which they still sell,) and I've seen good results from other bike builders too. Problem is that at $85, that's an investment for me, one I'm not sure is really worth it. I know I could use it to clean coaster brake parts, bearings, spokes and a few other things, but because of the heating function I don't know if it's also good for cleaning plastic parts, like pedals, shifters, and the internal bits to my Dana 3-speed bicycle transmission. So what do you all think? Is it worth the investment, or is there a more cost-effective solution? If it is, what's the best way to use one of these units?

Also, what should I do about the bearings? Replace both the ball bearings and the races, or just the balls? Any and all help would be much appreciated.
 
I'm not really that obsessed with cleaning bearings, I would not think of taking the cages apart. If I was you, I'd just replace with a different set of the same size.
As for plastic in the sonic cleanser, it can be done if your material won't be affected by the cleaning fluid. However, the sonic action could push bubbles into unseen micro cracks, forcing them open. At least I remember reading that somewhere. With a part like the Dana, it could be risky. They aren't cheap, and replacement parts probably aren't common either.


https://sonicsolutionsltd.com/does-ultrasonic-cleaning-work-with-plastics/
 
I'm not really that obsessed with cleaning bearings, I would not think of taking the cages apart. If I was you, I'd just replace with a different set of the same size.
As for plastic in the sonic cleanser, it can be done if your material won't be affected by the cleaning fluid. However, the sonic action could push bubbles into unseen micro cracks, forcing them open. At least I remember reading that somewhere. With a part like the Dana, it could be risky. They aren't cheap, and replacement parts probably aren't common either.


https://sonicsolutionsltd.com/does-ultrasonic-cleaning-work-with-plastics/
Yeah, I think I'll just rob some bearings off my freebie Walmart Huffy bikes. What kind of grease do you use for the bearings? I have some green Park Tool grease in a tube, but would it be better to get some of that red grease you put in the palm of your hand and scrape into the bearings?

As for the ultrasonic cleaner solution, I hear most guys just use Simple Green and water to clean parts in those, and Evaporust for rust removal. That shouldn't damage most plastic, right? I'd definitely want to avoid damaging parts if I can. Though most of what I'd clean with this tool are metal parts, like bearings, spokes, hubs, and coaster brake components.
 
I've had Simple Green destroy the finish on modern parts. Started flaking off within seconds of application. Be cautious with the stuff.
For cruisers, I'm not too fancy with grease, I just use a tub of "mayo" from the hardware store. This would last a lifetime. I can smear it with my finger like you mentioned, or I have a big syringe filled with it that I can inject into tight spaces. It's cool for adding grease without a full teardown.
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Marine use means it should be water resistant enough for me.

*Just thought of another solution for your bearing issue. If you don't want to use the cage, you can just chuck em in loose. Add one ball of the same size to make up for lost cage.
 
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