2018 Shannons Melbourne Autumn Classic Auction

Harley-Davidson 8-Valve 61ci Racer Recreation


Passed In


Engine 998cc V-twin four stroke
Gearbox Three-speed manual
Colour Black
Trim Brown
Wheels Wire spoke
Brakes None/Drum


This lot is no longer available

Harley-Davidson is an iconic American motorcycle manufacturer, founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903. Since then the company has survived numerous ownership changes, poor economic health and intense global competition, to become one of the world's largest and most popular motorcycle brands. Just over 100 years ago Harley-Davidson took the race track fight to its Indian and Excelsior rivals with its all-new Model 17 FHAC 61ci (998cc) eight-valve racer, which made its competition debut at the gruelling Dodge City 300-mile race in 1916 – and won! This was the equivalent of the Indianapolis 500-miler on two wheels, held on a two-mile oval track in the heart of the Midwest, and Harley’s Irving Jahnke won at a record average speed of 79.79 mph, including pit stops. Ray Weisharr, a fellow member of the Harley-Davidson’s factory team was third. Jahnke’s victory ushered in several years of Harley-Davidson success in US racing, even after the company discontinued its official team following a totally dominant 1921, in which it swept the board by winning every single National Championship category. Nominally available to privateer riders in compliance with the then governing body FAM’s rules that any factory’s racing motorcycle had to be offered to the public, the 998cc V-twin eight-valve Harley Model 17 was listed for $1500 in 1916 - a huge sum at that time. This effectively restricted the eight-valve’s availability to factory team riders and favoured privateers, and accounts for the very small number of such bikes made between 1916 and 1928 - perhaps as few as 20 but certainly no more than 50. Only five or six original examples of the V-twin are known to exist today, making it undoubtedly the rarest and most valuable Harley-Davidson model ever built. The last time one was Auctioned was when a barn find was sold for $600,000 by Shannons in September 2015.