Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Harley-Davidson's First Racer - The 1910 Model 6E Factory Stock Racer - Episode #42

By: David L. Morrill
@Deadly Dave's Blog

Motorcycle Illustrated - November 26, 1910
One of the great mysteries of early Harley-Davidson racing history, is the 1910 Model 6E Factory Stock Racer. While Harley-Davidson had been involved with endurance, and reliability competitions from their very beginnings, they had steadfastly avoided direct involvement in the deadly business of professional racing on the early dirt, and board tracks. By 1910, Harley could no longer ignore the value of race wins in driving sales of production motorcycles. With numerous companies offering specialty racing bikes through their dealers to both factory riders, and select privateer racers, there was plenty of competition.

When the 1910 product line was announced by Harley-Davidson, few people noticed the inclusion of the Model 6E in their lineup, but to a few privateer Harley racers, it would be welcome news. When the 1910 model specifications were listed on a two page spread in the edition January 15, 1910 of Motorcycle illustrated, there was nothing that identified this model as a specialty racer. It was one of five single cylinder belt drive bikes with a rated four horsepower. All featured a 30ci. displacement with either magneto, or battery ignition, and were offered for sale through their network of Harley-Davidson dealers.

Motorcycle Illustrated - January 15, 1910
Page 1 (cropped)
The only thing that seemed to separate the Model 6E, from the four other single cylinder models, was a was a list price of $275. This was $25. more than the other single cylinder models.

Motorcycle Illustrated - January 15, 1910
Page 2 (cropped)

But word was already tricking down through Harley's dealers, who were involved in racing that help was on it's way. Within Harley-Davidson the new model was referred to as Model 6E - Factory Stock Racer, 30ci F Head Single.

In April, 1910 the new racer made it's first foray to the winner circle on the 1/3 mile banked dirt oval tack Tuileries Park dirt track in Denver, Colorado. The Denver Harley-Davidson dealer, and privateer racer, Walter Whiting, rode one of the new racers to a win in the  Five Mile Amateur Race for Stock Machines. The event results were published in the April 16, 1910 edition of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, however Whiting was miss-identified as "J. Whiting" in the article.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - April 16, 1910
On Decoration Day 1910, a grueling 112 Mile Road Race was held from from Denver to Greeley, Colorado that was open to both amateur, and professional riders.  Walter Whiting, again grabbed the spotlight finishing first, followed by his business partner, W. S. Wunderle  also riding one of the Harley-Davidson dingle cylinder racers. What made this win most noteworthy, was that both Whiting and were amateur riders riding single cylinder machines. Whiting, and Wunderle, beat the top finishing professional rider Joe Wolters time, who rode a twin cylinder Flying Merkel, by just short of ten minutes.  The event was covered in an article in both the June 4, 1910 edition of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, as well as the June 15, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Author's Note: These large articles are more easily read by clicking on the article to enlarge it.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - June 4, 1910

The Motorcycle Illustrated featured one of the few photographs on the new racers.

Motorcycle Illustrated - June 15, 1910
Harley-Davidson was quick to tout their victory over an established professional racer on a twin cylinder bike in their advertising. An ad in the June 11, 1910 edition of Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review mentions the wins at both the Tuileries track and the Denver to Greeley Road Race.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - June 11, 1910
There was also an ad touting the the Denver to Greeley Road race win in the July 1, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Motorcycle Illustrated - July 1, 1910

In September 1910, a little known event involving the the Model 6E Factory Stock Racer, took place. Out in Waco, Texas a young rider named Eddie Hasha, was making name for himself winning races in the Dallas on both an Indian Single, and an Indian twin.

Eddie Hasha - 1912
Chris Price @ Archive Moto
Hasha's chief competitor, was the acknowledged Southern Champion Robert Stubbs, who was a former member of Indian's Racing Team, that set several new speed records for Indian at Ormond Beach, Florida in 1909.

Robert Stubbs - Ormond Beach, Florida - 1909
Chris price @ Archive Moto
As the Birmingham, Alabama Indian dealer, and a former Indian Racing Team member, Stubbs had access to the latest versions of Indian racing bikes. This was making it tough for Hasha to compete with Stubbs, especially in the single cylinder race.  Harley-Davidson co founder Arthur Davidson had befriended Hasha, early in his career. Davidson shipped one of the 6E single cylinder racers to Hasha in Waco.  How this came to pass, has never been revealed.  Over a three day event starting on August 29, 1910, Hasha cleaned house against Stubbs, and the other competitors. Hasha won all three single cylinder professional class races with the Harley-Davidson, and a couple of professional class races on his Indian twin. The event was reported in a short article in the September 15, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Motorcycle Illustrated - September 15, 1910
The fact that Arthur Davidson had provided Hasha a single cylinder racer was not picked up by the press. It may not have been lost on Stubbs, who would have passed it on to Indian's Race Department. This appears to have been the only time, Hasha rode the Harley single, as returned to riding an Indian single in the remaining races that season. Whether this was due to pressure from Indian, or the fact Harley did not have a twin cylinder racer is unknown, but Hasha would remain an Indian rider for the remainder of his career. Over the next couple of years, Eddie Hasha rose to the top ranks of professional racing on the newly introduced steeply banked circular board tracks known as Motordromes.

On September 8, 1912, Hasha was killed, along with fellow racer Johnnie Albright, and six young spectators in an horrendous accident at the Vailisburg Park Motordrome in Newark, New Jersey.  In the aftermath of Hasha's death, Arthur Davidson penned a memorial editorial to his friend, which appeared in the Harley-Davidson Dealer's News in October 1912. In that editorial, the story of the 1910 Waco race was finally revealed:

"The News that Eddie Hasha, John Albright and six spectators met death at the Vailisburg Park Motordrome, at Newark, N.J. on September 8th, was no doubt startling to everyone, but to non more than the writer for the reason that a close friendship had existed, for some time, between Hasha and myself, dating back to the time at dallas, Texas, when Hasha was starting his racing career. At that time we had a racing machine shipped to Dallas, and Eddie Hasha was given a chance to ride against Robert Stubbs, and defeated him. From then on his entry into the racing game was fast and remarkably successful. Not very long ago, Mr. Hasha took up the selling of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Dallas, but the race track fever got him again and he went back to it. And, while it was with very deep regret that I heard the story of his death, as well as that of John Albright, I was not a great deal surprised, as I had expected it to come in the course of events. But to cause the death of spectators was more than any of us had predicted."

Arthur Davidson Editorial - Harley-Davidson Dealer News - October 1912.

The fellow who appears to have had the most success, with the Harley single cylinder racer was one Thurman Constable of Union City, Indiana. The 1910 Racing Season, was Constable's first season as a professional racer, he logged 52 First Place finishes, in 56 events. His photograph appeared in the November 26, 1910 edition of Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review. This maybe the only photograph of the Model 6E Factory Stock Racer in track racing trim.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - November 26, 1910
He also appeared in an article in the December 1, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Motorcycle Illustrated - December 1, 1910
Despite the fact, that only a handful of Model 6E factory stock Racers were produced, it appears to have been highly successful. Although, it was always billed as "stock" it's success against highly developed single cylinder racers ridden by seasoned professional riders, leads one to believe that the rated stock 4 horsepower, was a a bit of an understatement. The internal secrets of these early racers have been lost to time. However, they allowed both privateer amateur, and professional racers to purchase a competitive Harley-Davidson racer through their local dealers.  The race wins gave Harley-Davidson a performance image to go along with their reputation for endurance and reliability. As racing improves the breed, surely the lessons learned with these racers, were incorporated into the later production singles.

The Model E single racer did not appear in the 1911 models. The emphasis in racing was moving to twin cylinder racers. They could reach much higher speeds of the newly popular Motordrome boards tracks, and the ever increasing speeds, and subsequent danger, filled the stands with paying spectators. It is clear from Arthur Davidson's editorial on Hasha's death, that Harley-Davidson had no interest in being involved in Motordrome racing.

I am not aware of any surviving Model 6E racers. The identifiers, that would separate them from a normal 1910 Model 6 single are pretty much unknown.  If one of these early racers did turn up, with a verifiable provenance, it would surely command a princely sum.  If that racer could be verified as  the one Eddie Hash rode in the 1910 Waco race, it would be the rarest bit of early Harley-Davidson racing history.


Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review

Chris Price @ Archive Moto


Harley Davidson Dealer News 

Motocycle Illustrated

Tech's Web Harley-Davidson VIN Info 1903 - Present

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Montgomery, Alabama's Van Diver Park Race Track - Episode #40

By: David L. Morrill
@ Deadly Dave' Blog

Updated - February 17, 2017

This episode is a continuation of my search for early Alabama motorcycle racing history.

In the early 1900s, motorcycle racing was sweeping the country drawing large crowds of spectators to local horse tracks, and the new wooden  motordromes. By 1909, Birmingham, Alabama was the established motorcycle racing capital of Alabama. The Alabama State Fairgrounds Raceway began holding motorcycle races in July 1907. Birmingham Indian Motocycle dealer, Robert Stubbs, was recognized as the Southern Champion. Stubbs was a member of the Indian Factory Racing Team, that set several speed records at Ormond Beach, Florida in March of 1909.

Robert Stubbs - Ormond Beach, Florida - March 1909
Chris Price @ Archive Moto

Montgomery, Alabama's Capital City, would soon follow Birmingham in embracing the motorcycle racing craze. In 1907, the legislature of the State of Alabama passed a bill funding upgrades to fairgrounds around the State of Alabama. The Montgomery County Fairgrounds was the recipient of $8,500. to up grade their facilities. Among the improvements added in the next year, was a large horse track. The exact length, and dimensions, of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds track at Vandiver Park are lost to time, but from the few surviving photos, it appears to be a 1 mile oval dirt track. Horse racing was a popular fair exhibition, and with the increasing popularity of automobile racing, the Vandiver Park track also began hosting automobile meets. Motorcycle racing was soon to follow.

In May of 1909, a motorcycle race was included at the Fairgrounds race track Automobile Meet. Bob Stubbs traveled to Montgomery, and "easily won the 5 mile handicap." Stubbs also rode a 5 Mile Exhibition for the crowd that day.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - May 5, 1909

When the professional motorcycle races held in conjunction with the 1910 Montgomery County Fair during October rolled around, Bob Stubbs again dominated, and his win received coverage in the national racing press.

Motorcycle Illustrated - November 1, 1910

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - October 29, 1910
With the formation of the Montgomery Motorcycle Club in mid 1911, amateur racers were ready to tackle the big  dirt oval. The club held a members only session at Vandiver Park in late August 1910, and planned a regular race in September. These events were mentioned in the September 7, 1911 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated magazine.

Motorcycle Illustrated - September 7, 1911
On September 26, 1911, the club hosted it's first amateur race. The proceeds from the race went in support of the Anti-Tuberculosis League of Montgomery.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - September 9, 1911
In October, 1911, the Montgomery County Fair returned to the Capital City, hosting both amateur, and professional motorcycle races. Just a week before the fair, Bob Stubbs, received a serious eye injury during a race at Birmingham. While Stubbs was on his way to a full recovery, his wife convinced him to retire from track racing. This opened the door for one of Stubbs' sponsored riders, Gail Joyce to replace Stubbs.

Bob Stubbs Indian Riders -Birmingham, AL. ca. 1913
Richard Gayle, Gail Joyce, Gene Walker
Furman Family Collection
This would not be a cake walk for Gail Joyce. He would face serious competition at the Montgomery race from Texas rider Eddie " The Texas Cyclone".  Hasha, who was quickly proving he was one of the best riders in the south. In September of 1910, Hasha had defeated Bob Stubbs at Waco, Texas riding an early Harley-Davidson racer loaned to him, by Harley-Davidson co founder Arthur Davidson.

Motorcycle Illustrated - September 15, 1910
This was a rare move for Harley-Davidson, who had up to that point had avoided the deadly business of track racing. For the Montgomery race, Hasha, like Gail Joyce, would be back on his Indian twin cylinder racer.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - October 28, 1911
When Hasha, and Joyce squared off on the track, later that week, Hasha won three races, with Joyce claiming two races. Period press accounts sometimes confuse Gail Joyce's first name, with his Stubbs Indian teammate Richard Gayle's last name.

Eddie " The Texas Cyclone" Hasha - 1912
The next race event held was held in conjunction with an aviation, and automobile exhibition at the Spring Celebration on March 4, 1912.
Motorcycle Illustrated - March 7, 1912
That event was followed up on March 10, 1912, holding the races that had been rained out the previous weekend.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - March 16, 1912
Sadly, on September 9, 1912, Eddie "The Texas Cyclone" Hasha, along with fellow rider Johnnie Albright, and 5 spectators were killed in a horrendous crash at the Vailsburg Park Motordrome board track in Newark, New Jersey.

Asbury Park, New Jersey Press - September 9, 1912
I have been unable to find any further mention of motorcycle races at the Vandiver Park track in the period motorcycle press. There is however one item I found, which may explain why the track did not hold more races. During the 1912 Montgomery County Fair, Aviator Louis Mitchell was killed in a crash barnstorming over the Fairgrounds track. This followed a similar fatality during the fair in Birmingham a week earlier. Some ten thousand spectators observed the Vandiver Park crash, and City father's may have re-evaluated such dangerous exhibitions, and races.

Greenville, Alabama Advocate - October 30, 1912
The racetrack at Vandiver Park had been used as a training site for Alabama National Guard units beginning in the early teens. With America's build up to entering World War 1, the Vandiver Park racetrack/Montgomery County Fairgrounds site was condemned. It was taken over by the United States Army, as a training site in 1916, and renamed Camp Sheridan. It was just 50 years from the end of the Civil War, and having a U. S. Army camp named after a prominent Yankee general just a few miles from the original Capital of the Confederacy, was probably not very popular with some Montgomery residents.

 While I was unable to locate any period racing photos of the track, a portion of one of the dirt track's turns and straight away can clearly be seen between the building in this photo of Camp Sheridan.

Camp Sheridan @ the old Vandiver Park Race Track - ca. 1917
State of Alabama Archives
Camp Sheridan was mentioned one final time in the February 7, 1918 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated magazine. The article was about a visit by the Goodyear Friars of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. The Friars were entertaining former Goodyear employees, who were receiving Army training at both Camp Sherman in Ohio, and Camp Sheridan in Alabama.

Motorcycle Illustrated - February 7, 1918
The site of the old Montgomery County Fairgrounds and race track is marked by a State of Alabama Historic Marker, recognizing it as the scene of Camp Sheridan during World War 1.


Asbury Park, New Jersey Press

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - Smithsonian Collection

Chris Price @ Archive Moto

Furman Family Collection


Greenville, Alabama Advocate

Motorcycle Illustrated - Hathi Trust Collection


State of Alabama Archives

State of Alabama Historic Markers

Friday, December 30, 2016

Rat Racer Returns - Episode #39

By: David L. Morrill
@ Deadly Dave's Blog

Updated 12-31-2016

Rat Racer at the Rat's Hole Bike Show at Ocala, FL. Bike Fest
Photo by Julius Williams
Well, it's been about a year since I have given an update on my 1921 Harley-Davidson replica racer, which I call "Rat Racer." It's always a continuing work in progress, with several changes since I last wrote about it in Episode 29. To start with, it made an appearance in the Rat's Hole Bike Show at Ocala Bike Fest this past July. Teddy Smith, and his staff at the Rat's Hole do a first class job, and were great folks to work with.

The day of the show, a photo of me sitting on Rat Racer appeared in the Ocala Star Banner article on Bike Fest. Pretty cool!

We were lucky enough to walk away with a win in the Pre 1935 Antique Bike Class and received a great plaque designed by Teddy Smith.

Rats Hole Bike Show Plaque
By Teddy Smith

With the bike show commitment completed, I could concentrate on converting Rat Racer to ride on the street. There were several problems to solve, including working brakes/clutch, and a better carburetor. I tackled the carburetion problem first. Over the past few years I have tried both period Schebler  & Linkert carburetors. The problem was neither could be leaned out enough to use on a single cylinder bike. I finally decided to go with a 1970s era 34mm Mikuni VM carburetor. Yeah, I know it's blasphemy to use a modern Japanese carburetor on a 95 year old Harley-Davidson. Funny thing is, before switching over to fuel injection, all the modern carbureted Harleys used Japanese carburetors.

The Mikuni, being a much more modern carburetor, has several advantages. First they are relatively cheap, especially compared to period alternatives. Second tuning parts are readily available and reasonably priced. Finally, I am very familiar with tuning these Mikuni carburetors from my AMA road racing days. With a little tuning, the engine ran strong throughout the rev range with the Mikuni.

The next problem was a working brake. The rear wheel assembly with the Free Wheel Clutch assembly I am using, also comes with a period style drum brake on the right side of the hub. The trouble is the hub assembly with the clutch and brake, would no fit my racing frame. I opted to use the hub with the clutch assembly, and find an alternative brake for the front end. This required a pretty significant offset in the lacing of the rear wheel to get the tire aligned with the centerline of the frame, but after a few hours of painstaking adjustment, everything lined up.

Free Wheel Clutch Rear Wheel After Alignment
After some time searching Bay, I located an early 80s Kawasaki dirt bike front wheel with a small drum brake. 

Front Wheel Assembly with Drum Brake

With all the major problems solved, it was time for a road test.

Rat Racer Road Test - November 6, 2016
Lee Merkel Field - Sylacauga, Alabama
The bike ran very well, reaching about 55pmh, tracking straight, the plug reading was good, and the front brake worked superbly. Mission accomplished!

Rat Racer - Road Ready


Deadly Dave's Collection

Ocala Star Banner

Julius Williams

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Lena Cohen Rose - Early Motorcycle Thrill Show Rider - Episode #38

By: David L. Morrill
@ Deadly Dave's Blog

Updated: December 28, 2015

Birmingham, AL. News - October 13, 1913

Over a year ago, I was doing research at the Birmingham Public Library Archive. As I scrolled through the microfilm of the October 1913 editions of the Birmingham News, I suddenly came across a grainy newspaper photograph of a women wearing an early leather motorcycle helmet. Because I was pressed for time, I printed out the article, without reading it.  Sadly, that article sat in a stack of some 20 pages printed out that day for over a year.

One day, I shuffled through that stack looking for another article. When I came across her photo, I finally took time to read the article. It was then that I realized it documented one of the earliest known women to perform in a motorcycle thrill show.

In 1911, the first Motordrome Thrill Show was built in Luna Park on Coney Island New York. These early Motordrome shows where the precursor of the motor cycle Wall of Death Shows that still travel the country today.

New York Times - July 3, 1911

This steeply banked circular wooden track was sunk in to a hole in the ground. Descriptions in the press vary slightly, listing the track's diameter at either 65, or 80 feet. The wooden planks making up the track were laid vertically at either a 65,  or 72 degree angle. This formed a track that looked like a large saucer, hence the name "Saucer Tracks.". The riding surface of the track was only two feet wide, but the small racing cars, which first used the track could hit 50 miles an hour, ripping round the tiny Motordrome.

New York Times - April 30, 1911
The New York Daily World - August 10, 1912

Motorcycle Illustrated - August 22, 1912
Motorcycles soon took to the track as well, and large crowds of enthusiastic spectators watched the riders zip around at break neck speed, standing on a wooden platform around the top of the Motordrome. On May 18, 1912, the danger of the thrill show, struck home. Rider "Daredevil Dick" was lapping the track on his motorcycle up close to the top of the wall. Suddenly he got too high on the wall, and he and his motorcycle were propelled out of the attraction. His motorcycle struck several spectators on the way out injuring them, and "Daredevil Dick", whose real name was William Mullen, was killed.

Washington Post - May 19, 1912

About this same time, Lena Cohen, of Savannah, Georgia, was working as a stenographer and bookkeeper for a Wall Street Firm was drawn into this dangerous profession. After meeting her future husband, "Wild Billy" Rose, one of the motor dome thrill show riders in 1912, the adventuresome girl convinced Rose to teach her to ride the Motordrome.  Lena was an accomplished bicycle rider, and took to the risky sport quite easily.  Soon she quit her Wall Street job to ride in the Motordrome show. She is said to have performed at the Coney Island attraction during the summers of 1912, and 1913.

By 1913, Lena had married Billy Rose, and they were traveling with a new "portable" circular wooden motordrome that appeared in Fairground Midways across the South.

Motorcycle Illustrated - May 15 1913
The new portable motordrome is described in a September 13, 1913 Nashville Tennessean article:

Nashville, TN. Tennessean - September 13, 1913
It was similar in design to today's Wall of Death Shows, except the track was only 60 feet across, and was banked an angle of about 65 degrees. These early traveling Motordromes came to be known ad Whirl of Death attractions.

In May 1913, the American Motordrome Company's portable Whirl of Death Motordrome attraction made it's first visit to Durham North Carolina for a Carnival Fund Raiser. Durham motorcycle dealer S. E. Rochelle (far left) was photographed, along with the attraction performers, if front of the attraction.  This is one of the few known photographs of an early traveling Motordrome attraction.

American Motordrome Company Portable Whirl of Death Motordrome
Durham, NC. May 1913
S. E. Rochelle Collection - Durham County Library
Durham, NC. Daily Herald Ad - May 4, 1913
In October 1913, Lena Rose, and her husband, brought their Motordrome Thrill Show to the Midway at the Alabama State Fairgrounds in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Alabama State Fairgrounds Midway
O.V. Hunt Collection ca. 1914

A lengthy article detailing Mrs Rose's career appeared in the Birmingham News on October 3, 1913. 

Birmingham, AL. News - October 13, 1913

The Birmingham article mentions that Lena Rose tried to get the Fair Management to let do some laps on her motorcycle around the Fairgrounds Raceway's 1 mile dirt oval. The Fairgrounds Raceway was hosting National Championship motorcycle races, with some top professionals in the country, competing during the fair. Fair Management, and Race Officials, would not allow her on the track, which really disappointed Lena, as she had ridden on several dirt track, along with the Vanderbilt Cup Auto Race Course in her hometown of Savannah.

After Birmingham, there is no further mention of Lena as "Mrs. Billy Rose."  Perhaps her husband finally convinced her to give up the dangerous pursuit. Interestingly, a female Motordrome rider named Rose Moore and billed as the "Champion Motorcycle Rider of America",  begins appearing with the Allman Brothers Big Shows Motordrome in 1914. 

Lead, SD. Daily Call - June 26, 1914

It's possible, Lena and Billy split up. She may have gone on the road with another show, along with a new stage name, or it may be a totally different performer.  It is interesting there are no ads for  Rose Moore before 1914. After the 1914 season there are a couple mentions in Fair-Carnival ads for "Motordrome - Dare Devil Rose" in 1917.

What happened to spunky lady rider from Savannah, Georgia has been lost to time.  Billy Rose continued to travel with his "Wild Billy"s Motordrome, for years to come. Two 1920 ads indicate that Wild Billy Rose was still using female motordrome riders, so it's possible Lena was still performing in Billy's Show.

Billboard Magazine - January 31, 1920
Logan-Pharos, IA. - May 24, 1920
Regardless of what happened to Lena Rose, she was a veteran performer of the earliest Motordrome Thrill Show in the country, and helped start the tradition of women Wall of Death performers that continues to this day.


Billboard Magazine

Birmingham Public Library Archives

Birmingham News

Lead, SD. Daily Call

Motorcycle Illustrated

Nashville Tennessean

New York Times

O. V. Hunt Collection

Washington Post