2015 Shannons Melbourne Spring Classic Auction
Lot
38

c1927 Harley-Davidson 8-Valve Racer with Sidecar

$600,000

Sold

Specifications

Engine V-twin, 61-cid
Gearbox Direct Drive
Colour Green
Trim Black / Brown

Description

This lot is no longer available

Harley-Davidson has a proud competition heritage dating back more than a hundred years, with the original V-twin providing the basis for a number of independent racers in the early days. However it wasn't until the establishment of a factory racing department in 1914 that things really began to hot up, with the development of an eight-valve 61-cid device used to devastating effect by the so-called Harley ?Wrecking Crew?. Crude but highly effective, these racers were devoid of brakes and could reach fabulous speeds for the time, whether on oval dirt tracks or the banked wooden board tracks popular at the time. Although Harley's eight-valve was technically available to the public, few could afford the $1500 asking price, with the price kept deliberately high to avoid competition for its stable of factory riders. Although based on the production F-head engine, Harley's racers - catalogued with a simple R designation - had a better breathing cylinder head developed by Harry Ricardo, with two exhaust and two intake valves for each cylinder. With a single carburettor and Bosch magneto iginition, the motor was mounted low-down in a so-called 'keystone' frame and many lacked a clutch or gearbox as such, relying instead on a second chain alongside the primary one. In 1916 Harley went one step further by creating a twin-cam version of the racer and it was soon famous the world over, with the likes of Freddie Dixon and D H Davidson setting records at Brooklands in Britain and Arpajon in France in the early 1920s. In 1921 a Harley-Davidson became the first motorcycle to win a motorcycle race with an average speed in excess of 100 mph, an achievement widely lauded at the time. By the mid-1920s, Harley-Davidson's F-head Two Cam racers formed the mainstay of the factory race team until the AMA introduced its new ?Class C? for production-based 45-cid motorcycles. The new rules rendered the old Two Camers obselete and ultimately led to the development of the famous ?Peashooter?. Given the rough treatment meted out to on the tracks of the day, it's hardly surprising that few original Harley-Davidson racers survived the passage of time and those that remain have often been extensively modified. Finding an unrestored example of a period board-track racer is becoming all but impossible, making the motorcycle offered here a wonderful opportunity for the Harley collector.