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…

Mt Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb 2017

Mt Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb

A smooth winding ribbon of single lane tarmac stretches from the starting line to the top of Mt Tarrengower. The adrenaline-fueled dash lasts little more, or less, than a minute, taking all the pilot’s effort to muscle their pre-1970’s machine through the course against the clock. Although a well-known event, this was our first outing at the long-standing Mt Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb.

David entered on our 1928 Harley-Davidson JDH “Sam Oppie” cut-down, a particularly special machine, alongside comrade Chris Wells on his bobbed 1947 Harley-Davidson FL. An interesting note here that this is the same motorcycle Chris recently rode over 3000km from Cairns to the top of the Cape York Peninsula.

It was amazing to see such an eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles flying up the hill. So you can get an idea, there were little 360cc Honda N360s, hulking touring cars, two stroke race bikes, an aircraft engined 6.2 litre GN Special, Tritons, open wheeled Formula Vee cars, and very sweet Alpine A110. However, the one that really topped off the field was a purposeful, yet graceful, 1926 Talbot Darracq Grand Prix. I honestly had not expected to see such variety, and pushed so hard. This is what these machines were built for, to be used, and it is encouraging to see people doing it very well.

Please enjoy the photos from the event. They were all shot on 35mm black and white to capture the mood in a little more ‘period correct’ style.

Also, to see the results CLICK HERE

Photo credit:

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…

1925 Harley-Davidson FHAC OHV

1925 Harley-Davidson FHAC OHV

With the introduction of an expert 750cc class for Hill Climbing in 1926, Harley riders found themselves at a great disadvantage to their Indian and Excelsior rivals. The Milwaukee factory had no 750cc bike of any type in their model range.

Harley Dealer Oscar Lenz from Lansing Michigan solved this problem with this unique machine. Often referred to incorrectly as a Knuth after the specials Milwaukee Harley dealer Knuth built, supposedly in collaboration with the factory. Documentation suggests this machine, ‘The Camel”, was built two years before the Knuth’s appeared on the scene.

Lenz was a first class engineer and went on to develop ‘The Camel’ into a winning machine up to as late as 1929, when on June 23rd he won the 45 inch expert class at Port Huron Michigan. Oscar Lenz was no mean racer and by the mid 1930’s had won 6 Jack Pine Enduro’s.

‘The Camel’ dubbed as such by onlookers because of the unique seat position Lenz installed on the bike giving him a distinctive riding position making him easy to identify. A Harley racing FHAC (25FHAC523) bottom end was used for the power plant to which modified OHV Peashooter cylinders and heads were grafted. It is believed that initially both heads were of dual port configuration but when the front head disintegrated only a single port could be found for replacement. There are alternate theories that with the rear cylinder breathing better, only a single port was needed on the front to make for a smooth running engine. Running gear is an assortment of Harley road and racing parts suitably modified to do one job, get up a hill real fast, as Oscar Lentz invariably did.

Prior Ownership
Oscar Lentz
Dick Winger
RL Jones
EJ Cole
Harley City Collection

From the archives

Acknowledgment ‘Classic Harley-Davidson’ by Herbert Wagner.
Photo credit: Allan Reidie

Enjoy the ride…

1914 Harley-Davidson Model 10F

1914 Harley-Davidson Model 10F (978cc)

The Harley-Davidson V Twin was first introduced to the public for the 1909 model season. A mere 27 were produced before the model was withdrawn from the market place. It was then given a total redesign of the engine and re introduced in 1911. 1912 and 1913 saw more improvements. With the completion of their new factory in 1913 Harley was poised to start manufacturing serious number of their by now quality V Twin.

In 1914 the most popular model was the 10-F which incorporated the recently introduced rear chain drive, Harley had started with belt rear drive. Front forks were an improved version of their springer type. Engine was a 978cc inlet overhead and side exhaust valve air cooled V Twin which was to stay in production with various improvements for the next 15 years. Ignition is by Bosch ZEV magneto. This was the first year Harley was to introduce a transmission. Albeit a rather complex 2 speed affair situated in the rear hub. When one considers that the 1914’s sole brake, clutch and transmission were all situated in the rear hub indicates that it was no mean engineering accomplishment and a very busy area of the motorcycle. Frame was of the loop type by this time fitted with sprung centre post to allow the seat to pivot and enhance rider comfort! Auxiliary electrical lighting was not to come to Harley-Davidsons until the following year but our bike shown here has the optional acetylene gas cylinder and Solar headlamp, a genuine work of art in itself.

By 1914 new Harley-Davidsons were starting to trickle into Australia. Dealerships were appearing in the major centres and agents were available in the vast Australian outback. A handful of 1914 twins maybe still exist in Australia with our bike the only one known to be in regular use. This bike was discovered by the previous owner in a loft in the US State of Montana. In complete condition, it has received a mild restoration to the cosmetics probably in the 1950’s. It was given a thorough recommissioning and everything mechanical was brought to operating condition in 1999. In 2011 it was imported into Australia for the Harley City Collection. Given a complete check over and a few adjustments our, bike was ready for the road.

Riding the 1914 is a new experience. One must first familiarise one’s self with the controls; in particular the step starter first introduced for this year and deleted after 1915. Starting is easiest accomplished with the bike on the centre stand. The step pedals operate on both sides of the bike but do not rotate as in a pushbike or earlier Harleys. Yes push the pedals back and they will operate the rear brake. There is a conventional brake pedal as well. Retarding the timing with the left-hand grip also operates a decompression mechanism making the engine somewhat easier to turn over but requires much juggling to get in the correct position for firing the little beast up. Fuel valves are on top of the gas tank and oil tank is under the seat. Engine is gravity fed for lubrication. Clutch is operated in the conventional (well by early Harley standards anyway) left-hand foot pedal and is also fitted with an auxiliary hand lever. Gears are operated by a tiny bell crank on top of the gas tank. Selecting first on our bike is a bit of a challenge but once one is mobile the bike is light and nimble to ride with power being adequate for riding in metropolitan Melbourne. Handlebars, a curious bend at a first glance are surprisingly comfortable. The machine feels strong and dependable and maybe a Great-Race in the future can be testament to this.

Price in Country of Origin $285
Engine Displacement 60.34 cubic inch (978cc)
Top Speed 65 mph (104kph)
Weight 310 pounds (141 kgs)
Number Produced 7,956

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

1927 Harley-Davidson FHA “8Valve”

‘The Harley Eight Valve’

Harley-Davidson was considered late comers to the racing scene particularly in the USA. It wasn’t until 1915 that Harley produced a model for racing but in 1916 they certainly made up for that slow start. Racing engineer Bill Ottoway and Bill Harley leaned on aeronautical knowledge to design a hemispherical OHV combustion chamber with 4 valves per cylinder of one piece design to go straight on to their regular type crankcase assembly. Using the normal for the period countershaft drive with no clutch, transmission or brakes the 230 pound racer looked like 100 mph standing still. Success was immediate with Irving Janke winning the prestigious Dodge City 300 mile race at an average speed of just under 80 mph and a time of 3 hours 45 minutes. Durability must have been excellent when one considers the temperature was 110 degrees.

Racing at this time was considered a major ingredient to a manufactures marketing program and Harley was quick to capitalise on this success and put together a team of riders that were to dominate American racing both board and dirt for the next 7 years. Other notable results for the Eight Valve were Otto Walker winning a 25 mile race at Beverley Hills on April 24th 1921 at an average speed of nearly 105 mph. Ralph Hepburn was to win the final Dodge City 300 miler on the 4th of July 1921 at an average speed of 85:69 mph. This result again confirmed the durability of these machines.

In 1922 Harley withdrew its fully sponsored racing team but continued development of racing models for support to individual riders and also to send to its many export markets including Australia England Germany Italy and New Zealand. It would be these countries that would write the next chapter of Harley racing history. The Eight Valve had been updated in 1919 to a second version cylinder featuring refinements on the 1916 version as well as a two cam arrangement in the gear case permitted higher engine revolutions. In 1923 the third version of cylinder with extra-large exhaust ports cast into the still one piece, cylinder construction. These were coupled to a new two cam gear case arrangement that had direct drive to roller tappets that enhanced high speed running even further. These machines to this time had been completed with the short countershaft type racing frame, direct drive and no brakes. They were generally exported in this form also. This configuration was not appropriate in several markets where clutches, transmissions and brake were all components required for various types of road racing in particular.

This situation saw many of the Eight Valves exported removed from these frames and fitted modified Harley road bike frames with the regular 3 speed transmission and clutch. Harley built their last batch of countershaft Eight Valve racers in 1927. By then circuit racing in the USA and been confined to machines of 350cc and hill climbers to 750cc. The Harley racing department was to build machines that would dominate these classes in time to come. The final 1927 Eight Valves were put into storage to be given to favoured overseas dealers in the early 1930’s where positive results were still forth coming.

Where did they go?

The first eight valves Harley produced went to factory team members where they were particularly successfully specially at the Dodge City 300 mile race but also wins were recorded in 1916 at Sheepshead Bay New York, Le Grande Oregon and Detroit Michigan.

As was the pattern in following years all Eight Valves in the USA were raced by factory riders. When they were plain worn out they went to the scrapheap. There are no records or evidence of any US Eight Valves being sold to anyone. Export markets were a different situation. It is documented that Jones brothers in New Zealand received one of early single cam versions. By the early 1920’s Australia, England, Italy, Germany and New Zealand were all to receive the newer two cam variants. Percy Coleman was to win consecutive New Zealand Grass Track championships in 1922, 1923 and 1924. In Australia the engines were popular for sidecar racers.

By later in the twenties with the factory still controlling domestic race bikes the last of the Eight Valve Two Cams went to export markets as late as 1932. Scandinavia was a fertile area for Eight Valves with many victories and speed records.

Where are they now?

Because of the Eight Valves great performance record and purebred appearance they have been sought after by collectors for many decades. This has led to about 20 replicas being built with various degrees of accuracy. Any authentic machines or parts of had to be sourced of course from the various export markets that Harley sent these bikes too. To date no single cam bikes are known to exist but one cylinder was found in New Zealand. An almost complete engine a frame and forks were found in New Zealand and shipped to the USA in the late eighties. In Australia an indirect action two cam version was discovered and restored by Bill McNamara. This bike is now in the USA. Both a Banjo Two Cam and another indirect action reside in Italy. They are in modified road frames with transmissions. Maybe the best known the Banjo version that went to England and was successfully raced by Freddie Dixon. It was immediately fitted into a road frame with transmission. In the early seventies it was purchased by Californian John Cameron who used the bike regularly on club events. It went on to be owned by collector Danial Statnekov who sold it to Harley who have as a feature display in there Milwaukee Museum.

The latest find was our feature bike 27FHA81 which arrived in Melbourne during 1932. After long term custodianship by Bob Bennell (His father Robert raced the bike as late as 1941 at Aspendale where he was placed third) the bike went to auction in 2015. It resides in the Harley City Collection. This bike has its original factory racing components. Engine, short track countershaft frame, forks, large racing tanks and wheels.

Recommissioning 27FHA81

When 27FHA81 came into our possession it had been in storage for some 70 years. The bike had spent most of its racing life on the rough country tracks of Warrigal, Werribee and at Melbourne’s Aspendale Speedway. The Smith Brothers, Rothie and Diggar, as well as their brother in-law Robert Bennell all piloted or ran passenger at the various meetings, maybe the last being at Aspendale in 1941. Robert Bennell kept the bike in storage from that date on passing custodianship on to his son Robert Junior.

This meant that we were recommissioning a machine that had been retired while it had been still running and we wanted to conserve and preserve in running condition without total restoration. Firstly we removed the wheels and used a hacksaw to cut of tyres that were rock hard. With new tyres and tubes fitted inflated to the regulation 50 psi we had a machine that was now easy to move about. We then gave the complete motorcycle inside and out a thorough dunking in Kroil a rust inhibitor and lubricator as well as a general detailer all in one can. The engine appeared to be seized but after much effort we were able to gradually free it and eventually were able to turn it over at a reasonable rate.

The spark had long left our magneto so removal meant the cam cover had to be parted from crankcases it had been joined to for 75 years. Inspection of the gear case showed cams and followers in excellent condition. With magneto rebuilt and the engine reassembled attention was given to the carburettor and control cables. New chains were installed. Carburettor was removed, cleaned; a new float and float needle were fitted. Then it was time to see if we were to receive reward for our labour. Reward we certainly received with a healthy bark from the open exhaust ports as well as 18 inch blue flames putting on a superb light show. Mission accomplished.

Period photos of 27FHA81

Here are some period photos of 27FHA81 that we have discovered

David Reidie

Ben McIntyre (body)
TBA (header)
Period photos unknown