Originally Posted by TheOtherBart
So I'm starting to eyeball some Sportsters, just sort of idle window shopping. If I were to pull the trigger my idea would be to slowly build something of a streettracker. I raced flattrack way back when and the style just appeals to me. Anyway, I know the easy way is to get the Storz catalog and go nuts, but it looks like their stuff only fits bikes back to 1986, and to get into a price range that I'd want to swing for the initial purchase I'd probably be looking at something older that that. Are the differences between pre- and post-1986 that significant? Any huge red flags with a '70s era Sportster in general?
A lot of the Storz stuff that is listed for '86 and newer will fit the '82-'85 Ironhead, too, as they had basically the same frame and front end. The Ironheads made in the last half of '84 and all the '85 models had the same alternator setup as the first Evo motors, which could be trouble-prone. Before that, Ironheads had a generator charging system.
I own an '83 Ironhead (and have had it for 22 years), and they aren't the junk many people seem to think they are. Sure, if you buy an abused one, one that hasn't been maintained, and/or one that had been "customized", you can have a mess on your hands. Find a good one, though, and it will be no more troublesome than any older bike. They have solid lifters, so the pushrods do require periodic adjustments, and the drive and primary chains need adjustment, too, but that's about all the extra care they require. The later ones had a decent electronic ignition, too, so none of that points & condenser crap.
If you want to build in some real performance, though, an Evo is probably the way to go. There's a lot more go-fast stuff available for them, and they can make better power than a similarly-modified Ironhead because of the better head design and better cooling. Ironheads are cool, though...