1936 Indian Model 436

1936 Indian Model 436

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

Enjoy the ride…

1934 Harley-Davidson VLD

1934 Harley-Davidson VLD

This was the first year Harley used the airflow fenders which really pulled the styling into a complete package giving the motorcycle a most handsome stance. The TNT, Y manifold engine was introduced on the 1933 VLD only and for 1934 was introduced across the VL range.

Our bike was purchased in 2006 at Davenport where previously it had been a long term resident in the State of Ohio. It was a well-equipped Special Sport Solo with 100 mph speedo, luggage rack and spark arrestor all useful accessories in the Australian bush. It was finished in a correct colour option of Olive Green and Black. We recommissioned it and used it in the 2007 Great-Race. Then a more ambitious trip was planning to ride across the Western Australian Kimberley. Richard Nicholls of Redgrave Motorcycles was commissioned for an engine overhaul. Richards work on antique Harley engines is legendary.

The 2400km trip was accompanied with Peter Arundel on his 1936 Indian Chief. From Broome to Darwin the journey included the 700km dirt Gibb River Road which includes several river crossings (no bridges) and the 70km dirt road to the infamous Bullo River Station. (That’s a long driveway!) Both bikes completed the ride without fuss.

Enjoy the ride…

1938 Harley-Davidson RH

RH750 Hill Climber Circa 1938

When one goes to document one of the collections racers there are many resources for information available to us. Original documents, factory archives, similar examples in museums and publications featuring articles on the particular model. However on our spaghetti framed side valve 750 ‘RH’, little is available to us.

We know that the model RH exists (we have a crankcase with factory numbers 33RH502. Deciphering Harley numbering systems indicate that number to represent a 750 competition bike from 1933. There are at least a handful of other 750 engine spaghetti framed hill climbers that were known to exist. Documented CAC Speedway racers were using the spaghetti frame type albeit with castings not tube as with our example. Chrome moly tubing and improved welding technology enable this type of construction. Our DAH 33DAH501 has a similar frame of micro diameter tubing. It was built be Harley Dealer in Los Angles Bill Graves.

Albeit our bike be a factory or home-built the component list is certainly an interesting one. Matching belly numbered, unstamped 1936 RL crankcases are mated to a WR styled top end with a forward mounted Splitdorf magneto and Schebler throttle barrel carby. Transmission is a 1936/37 slant top. Front forks the 350 OHV type commonly used by Harley on there later factory hill climbers. Tied together in the afore mentioned spaghetti frame.

Enjoy the ride…

Riding our Crocker

Riding our Crocker 386131

It’s a bright clear winter’s day in Christchurch; ideal for a jaunt on a motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle but the Collections 1938 Crocker, which Rob Selby from Auto Restorations has been mechanically restoring and refining for us. The cool temperature keeps oil viscosity at maximum as I give the 61 cubic inch V Twin 3 lusty primer kicks. Then turn the oil tap on (which also activates the magneto), timing at half retard, another half a dozen kicks and the bark from the exhaust keeps time with the jack hammers of nearby construction sites.

The non-self-return throttle makes it easy to keep to a smooth idle while helmet and winter gloves are donned; a quick visual check and we are ready to go. Clutch is set up to operate the same as a Harley using your heel to disengage gear lever pushed forward in the tank mounted gate a few revs and I am off. Cam overlap is requires a few more revs than a Harley for take-off but the less weight is quickly apparent. Through traffic is no concern with the clutch action and brakes proving at least equal to anything I’ve ridden of similar vintage.

I head out of Christchurch through the Lyttleton tunnel then a left turn to Governors Bay, the tight twisty roads being ideal for the Crocker’s handling characteristics. Balance is perfect, ground clearance ample and the frame feel solid. At Governors Bay it is a right turn to go over Dyers Pass. We do this super comfortably in second gear just so we don’t have to overtake too much traffic. Stop at the top for a quick photo-shoot the downhill gives us no drama as brakes and engine braking prove more than equal to the task.

After lunch it’s one primer kick, all systems on, another kick and we have action! Always a great feeling to get that start right. American Author, the late Harry Sucher (previous long term owner of our bike), wrote in 1969 of riding this very machine after its then recent restoration. Our views of the Crocker are quite different. We know with careful assembly have no vibration and no oil leaks and also relatively straight forward starting. I believe Al Crocker and Paul Bigsby combined the better design features of both Harley and Indians of the time as well as some innovative ideas of their own. I would suggest that in 1938 a well sorted Crocker was at least as good, and probably better than any of its contemporaries.

Enjoy the ride…

Byrd McKinney: 1932 Record

Byrd McKinney – October 16th 1932

Byrd McKinney (pictured above) set a new record for the fastest time at Weldon Canyon Hillclimb. He won the event with a time of 7.2 seconds.

Harley-Davidson also carried the third event of the day with Windy Lindstrom and Joe Petrali taking first and second respectively.

Image courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Archives

1930 Harley-Davidson DAR European Road Racer

1930 Harley-Davidson DAR European Road Racer

Little was known of the DAR until accumulative research from enthusiasts in the USA, Germany and Australia was amalgamated about 15 years making a reconstruction of such a machine possible. At least four DAR’s were built in mid-1929 based on Harley’s alcohol burning 750cc OHV DAH Hill climber. A return oil system was added to make the bikes more suitable for the City to City races popular in Europe at the time. None of the originals are known to exist.

German Harley dealer and well respected racer Paul Weyres (right) is documented and photographed picking up his DAR in Milwaukee in late 1929. On this machine Weyres was to run second in the International Klausen Pass Race in Switzerland on 10th August 1930.

Riding our DAR is a blast. With the engine still tight from its superb Michael Lange rebuild we open the throttle barrel Schebler carby give it a squirt of ether then pull back on compression, a push (downhill helps) release the clutch and on first revolution the blat blat rasping exhaust note through the 4 exhaust pipes is instantaneous.

Unique clutch pedal is a delight to use and typical Harley 3 speeder changes like a knife through butter. Light weight makes handling responsive to any inputs. Gearing is tall with large diameter wheels and 40 tooth rear sprocket. Throttle response is excellent and brakes will only improve. One can only attempt to imagine what it would be like to take delivery of a machine of this pace and grace 87 years ago!

Paul Weyres’s wife Therese and daughter Margot with the DAR

Words: David Reidie
Photos: Ben McIntyre

Enjoy the ride…