Another year done at Mt Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb! This year, the 90th year of the event, we brought along a special machine that just happens to be also celebrating its 90th birthday, our stunning 1929 Harley-Davidson FDH.
Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the photos we captured from the weekend.
In the USA during 1932 Class C racing was established to take the emphasis away from exclusive and expensive factory racers to machines that had to be purchased off the showroom floor in full road trim. This worked well initially with racers buying a Harley RL 750 or an Indian Scout off the dealer floor and modifying to make suitable for either the dirt ovals or TT tracks which were becoming popular at the time. In 1935 Harley decided there was merit in incorporating engine modifications to a standard road model and offering it to dealers that were known to support established racing stars. These bikes left the factory in full road trim. Designated the RLDR, 29 were built in 1935 and 79 in 1936. With the introduction of the W Series in 1937 Harley continued the same formula with the WLDR with engine modifications becoming a bit more aggressive each year. The WLDR’s that won at Daytona Beach in 1938, 1939 and 1940 bore modifications that left them with not too much in common with their showroom siblings.
Although it appears that there had been no relaxation in
Class C rules, maybe with the threat of British high performance singles
(supplied with full road trim) or that Harley had enough clout to do as it
pleased it introduced the purpose built WR and WRTT models for 1941. These were
supplied in full race trim and specification included ball bearing camshafts,
slipper cam followers, modified valve angles, magneto ignition and racing
carburettor. 36 were built with the handful of WRTT’s having brakes (not
allowed on dirt ovals) and various other factory options that could include
cast aluminium frame mounted oil tanks and up to 5 gallon gas tanks to greatly
increase fuel range for races such as the Daytona Beach 200 miler.
The Daytona 200 was the most prestigious race in the US and
ironically the WR was destined to never win it. Not to underplay Harleys
success in the event in 1941 while Bill Mathews on a Norton won there were no
less than 16 Harleys in the top 20 placegetters a testimony to the Milwaukee
brands durability in long distance races.
It is believed no more than 10 1941 WR’s exist so to find
one and to find one in original condition would indeed be a tall order. Eric
Mathieu’s Beauty of Speed website has a very informative register on WLDR and
WR models and includes a photo of a blue WRTT named the Beast. Imagine our
surprise in 2012 when browsing the dreaded EBay one cool winters evening in
Melbourne there it is the ‘Beast” up for auction. The description told of its
Daytona race history and how the owner when it’s racing career was over put ‘The
Beast” was put into storage until 1975 when a friend of the vendor purchased it
and promptly put it into storage for another 25 years? The vendor had purchased
it in 2000 and had considered commencing the restoration process but
fortunately never got around to it. Yes he left it in storage. We left a bid on
it (higher than any sane person would leave we were sure) and went to bed. Turn
the computer on next morning to find we have won (ironical that expression) and
the bike is available for pick up only south of Los Angeles! Fortunately our
good friend Joe Koopersmith was duly despatched from Oregon to go and make the
pickup for us. Thanks Joe.
Eventually “the Beast” arrived in Melbourne. Certainly time
had taken its toll on various finishes, tyres were rotted, seat was missing and
gas caps had been borrowed many moons ago. What did we do after its arrival?
Along with its 3 previous owners put it into storage! Come 2017 we decided it
was time for 1941 WRTT 1 of a handful to get some well-deserved attention. The
entire bike was given a dunking of Kroil. Those familiar with this wonder
liquid are usually entranced by the magical way it gives rusty components a
wonderful sheen wiping away what is often years of neglect. New Dunlop K70
tyres our tyre of default for such projects were fitted and the seat was
borrowed from our restored WRTT. Its patina matched perfectly. Rear fender was
reinstalled and engine was given a rigorous spin over. How does it run? Well
that is a story for another day. Stay tuned.
Hillclimbing was a popular sport in the 1920’s and like every other form of competition Harley-Davidson built a machine specifically for it. This 1928 FHAD is a factory built hillclimber based on the 61-in. Two-Cam racing motor, designed to compete with similar motorcycles from Excelsior and Indian. The chained rear tyre is typical for hillclimbers of the era – knobby tyres were still a generation away.
Built on a “Keystone” frame, where the engine is held in by plates for rigidity, the FHAD was a single-purpose machine. Its gas tank held only ¾ gallon, its footboards were sloped forward for frontal weight distribution, its chains and sprockets we quite narrow, its fork was raked for uphill acceleration and only one gear (high), and only one brake (rear) were available.
Our 1948 Series B Rapide was delivered to Elder Smith the Australian importer of the time, on 27 July 1948. Adelaide dealer Sven Kallin was the next recipient. Along its journey the original engine parted ways with the chassis probably to be used for a racing sidecar for which they were so popular. A suitable replacement was obviously found. Pro Hart the well-known artist purchased it probably in the 1980’s.
The bike has its South Australian Registration tag dated 01/10/1984. Then on 1st July 2007 Bonham’s offered it at one of their collector vehicle auctions. Collector of British motorcycles extraordinaire the late Russell Jansen purchased it at this auction. Russell was a great friend and customer of Harley City. We purchased the Rapide from Russell’s wife Anne 7th August 2014. Russell had thoroughly reconditioned all the bikes mechanical components leaving us with a well sorted machine.
VIN # H854
The smaller brother to the Brough SS100 the OHV 680 was introduced in 1926 and continued the rakish lines of its sibling. Our bike left the factory on March 5th 1929. An optional Bentley & Draper sprung frame was available and was specified for this bike. The frame was of advanced design and alters the appearance very little due to its triangular rear sub frame with springs under the seat. With the Castle forks that closely follow the Harley-Davidson design of the period an excellent ride is achieved. Engine is well mannered and the bike is easy to ride with its hand operated clutch and 3 speed hand operated gear change Sturmey Archer gearbox.
The original English license plate UL2608 is still affixed despite it spending sometime in Japan and now residing in Australia. A total of 547 OHV 680’s were built from 1926 to 1936.
A lot was happening in the American motorcycling scene in 1936. Harley introduced its 61 cubic inch OHV ‘Knucklehead being trumped a few months earlier by Albert Crocker and his fantastic V Twin creation. Indian was dramatically improving their Sport Scouts and also introduced a new engine to their 4-cylinder range. Indian designer G Briggs Weaver had redesigned the fenders the previous year giving the four a more contemporary look. For 1936 the somewhat controversial decision was made to arrange the inlet valves to the side and the exhaust to the overhead position reversing the previous layout. This meant that a Zenith updraught carburettor had to be used. (2 in 1937)
This configuration was only used in 1936 and 1937. While performance may not have been dramatically improved appearance was and in recent years these fours have found great favour with collectors.
Our bike was a long-time resident of mid-west USA where it was maintained in good running condition. Paddy Snowden used in the 2014 Great-Race which it completed in fine style. The bike was converted to 12 volt electrics some years ago but a freshly rebuilt 6 volt generator sits on the shelf for when the opportunity presents to return to the original specification
Hondas first forays into the sports bike market the CB77 set many firsts for the to become giant manufacturer. For the first time Honda used a tubular construction frame. The CB77 also featured electric start, (although I have got to say it is very easy to start on the kicker) single overhead camshaft, and twin carburettors.
Our bike is in lovely original condition. First owner was a Honda dealer in Hobart whom kept it for many years. Then it went to Japanese motorcycle enthusiast in Melbourne who kept the Honda in excellent running condition including an engine overhaul in 2003. These bikes were coveted in their day by movie stars and were to feature in many films including Roustabout starring Elvis Presley.
Harley City Collection is the third owner purchasing from a Shannon’s auction in 2018.