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The Aermacchi Project, Part 2: The Tank Follies and How to Apply Red-Kote

It’s a bit hard to see, but a close look inside the Aermacchi’s gas tank shows the red-colored Red-Kote tank sealer. Photo by Margie Siegal.

This is the second installment of an ongoing series detailing Margie Siegal’s restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. You can read the Part 1 here.

“I’ve got bad news for you,” said Dave Kafton. Dave is a longtime engine builder, with a specialty in prepping Harley engines for Cannonball contestants. He had volunteered to mentor me through my Harley-Davidson Sprint project. The first item for his ment-ee (me, that is) was to get the tank and side covers off and bring them to him so he could get these items, all needing some touchup painting, to the painter, Steve Turnbeaugh. Dave sends all his sheet metal to Steve, as do a lot of other people in the Antique Motorcycle Club.

The bad news was a rusty seam in the bottom of the tank. Ouch. A major reason I had bought the bike was the really nice robin’s egg-blue custom paint job, complete with silver pinstriping. The work had been done in the 1970s by a Rhode Island pinstriper. Was this lovely paint now history? Much angst.

Lengthy discussions with Aermacchi specialists Dave and Ross Puleo, owners of Sonny’s Motorcycle Repair, resulted in a possible fix: a careful interior coating with Red-Kote tank sealer. All agreed it was worth a try, especially me — I wanted to save that paint job!

Red-Kote is the tank sealer most often recommended by motorcycle restorers. It is available from a variety of sources, including Dime City Cycles. A 1-quart can is enough for one large or two small tanks. I bought a can and brought it over to Dave’s, along with duct tape and a lot of clear plastic. The first step was to carefully cover the tank with a double layer of plastic: Red-Kote is very hard on paint. I carefully scraped off the paint on the gas spout so that the tape would stick. Dave inspected. “It needs to be down to bare metal, like this, see?” More scraping, then two layers of plastic. The fuel valve was packed with rolled duct tape and secured with more duct tape.

Once the tank was mummified, the next step was to carefully clean out the tank. Kreem tank cleaner chemically bonds to rust and keeps it from chipping out. We poured some in the tank and carefully tipped the tank to cover all the rust spots. You watch and the red rust turns gray before your eyes. After using paper towels on a stick to clean out all the extra cleaner, we were ready to rock and roll with the Red-Kote — literally. We poured in about a pint. Dave had an oldies tape on, and I rolled the tank around to the music. The point was to coat all surfaces, with a thicker coat on the bottom. After a half-hour, the Red-Kote was thickening and the tank was coated to Dave’s satisfaction. We poured out the extra and I went home. Dave called me the next day. “The Red-Kote looks like it worked.” Big sigh of relief.

Stay tuned for the next episode of as the wrenches turn …

Published on Oct 26, 2018

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