Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Introduction of Harley-Davidson's Early OHV Racers - Episode #33

By: David L. Morrill

Updated: April 15, 2015

The idea behind this episode comes from a single photograph shared on Facebook by Lonnie Isam Jr. Lonnie's family has a long history of involvement in antique motorcycle restoration.  The photo shows a rider, whose name escapes me, seated an early Harley-Davidson single cylinder overhead valve OHV) half mile dirt track racer.

Early Harley-Davidson Blanked Off OHV Single Cylinder Racer - ca. 1916
Lonnie Isam Jr. Collection
The introduction of Harley-Davidson's all conquering eight valve racers of the teens and twenties, is a bit of a mystery. Little is known about the development of these engines, but I have been able to find a few period articles that may shed a little light on the story. In Episode #30, on the birth of Harley's 11-K racer, I detailed Harley-Davidson's late entry in the professional motorcycle racing game.  When they did, they started with a racing engine loosely based on their 1914 production pocket valve single cam V twin. While this engine was quickly competitive, Harley's chief competitors on the track had been racing exotic overhead valve racing engines for years. Harley's Race Engineer, Bill Ottaway, realized he would quickly reach the limit of the pocket valve racer's development, and so he began developing special four overhead valve cylinders. The exact history of when this development started has been lost to time, but it appears it began sometime in 1915.

1915 Harley Davidson Single Cylinder Pocket Valve Racer
R. I. Jones Collection
While Harley-Davidson had a 1915 single cylinder racer, for reasons unknown, Ottaway chose to use the V twin bottom end, as the test bed for his new engine. This was accomplished, by blanking off one cylinder. By removing one cylinder, piston, rod, and rebalancing the crankshaft he created a blanked of 30.5 ci. single. The 30.5 ci class had been created to slow down the 61ci V twins, which were previously used on the half mile dirt tracks popular in the period.

It is pure speculation, but Ottaway may have chosen to develop the new OHV cylinder, on a single cylinder engine, because the single has a straight intake from the carburetor to the cylinder. The V twin uses the same T shaped intake used on the production engines, with the carburetor sticking out to the right or left of the engine.  That style intake creates more turbulence of the incoming gas/air mixture.

By April 1916, the OHV single was ready for it's first race test. Several bikes were sent to the half mile races held at Roanoke, Virginia on April 30, 1916. The new single cylinder OHV racers were fast right from the start, with team rider Ray Weishaar wining several races.  He even lapped an "OHV ported" Indian in one of the races.

Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated - June 1916
Harley-Davidson wasted no time in advertising the new racer's win, with a two page ad in Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated.

Harley-Davidson Ad - Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated
July 9, 1916
Now, there was certainly more to Ottaway's plan than just building a single cylinder half mile racer, and there was. He was also, at the same time, developing an eight overhead valve V twin to challenge Indians eight valve racers.

8 Valve Harley Racer - ca. 1916
Lonnie Isam Jr. Collection
For this venture, he also used the 11-K V twin bottom end. New front and rear OHV cylinders were added, and testing began. By June 1916, the new V twin OHV racer was ready to race, and was shipped to held at Detroit, Michigan on June 11, 1916.

 Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated - June 1916
Bill Brier won a heat race on the new eight valve racer, but the new racers suffered teething problems in the longer races, and development continued.

On July 4, 1916, the new 8 valve racer proved it's speed by winning the pole for the biggest race of the year, the Dodge City 300. Floyd Clymer, on his first time on board the new 8 valve racer, set the pole time. While Clymer led the race, he eventually slowed with engine problems, Irvin Janke went on to win the race for Harley-Davidson on one of 8 valve racers.
Motorcycle Illustrated - July 6, 1916 

Harley-Davidson Racing Team - 1916 Dodge City 300

The new 8 valve racers showed also their dominance in the 100 Mile Championship Race at Sheepshead Bay, New York. Harley-Davidson took five of the top six spots, proving the new 8 valve racer was more than a match for it's competition.
Harley-Davidson 8 Valve RacerAd - July 6, 1916
Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated 
Soon a new two cam bottom end was developed for for both the V twin racer, and the blanked off single. In the hands of Harley's 'Wrecking Crew" Racing Team riders, both of these bikes went on to become a dominant force in racing for years to come. Few examples of the these bikes survived, and they are among the rarest of Harley-Davidson's early racers.


Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review

Lonnie Isam Jr. Collection

Motorcycle Illustrated.

R. I. Jones Collection

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Strange Case of Louis Delibero - Episode #32

By: David L. Morrill

Updated: March 14, 2015

Family stories are an interesting thing. They come down to us from older relatives, and are sometimes dismissed by others, because they assume their recollections of events long passed are suspect. This story comes from a reader, who asked me to help find more information on the mysterious death of a family member in 1918. The family story she shared with me, was so intriguing, i thought it was worth of looking into.

Luigi "Louis" Delibero  
Delibero Family Collection
Luigi "Louis" Delibero was born in San Lorenzo, Italy in 1892.  By the early teens, he was part of a wave of Italian immigration to the United States. Delibero, along with other family members settled in the seaport town of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Delibero Americanized his first name to Louis, and eventually found work as a mechanic at the Automatic Machine Company. The Automatic Machine Company was part of  Bridgeport's ship building industry. With World War 1 raging in Europe, and assumptions that America would eventually be drawn into the war, ship building was an important industry.

Bridgeport, CT.  Telegram - 1918
Louis Delibero - Automatic Machine Company ca. 1918
Delibero Family Collection
Motorcycling for both transportation, and recreation, was well established in the Bridgeport area. They had an active motorcycle club going back to the early teens. It was also the home of Stanley T. Kellogg, who was one of the most accomplished motorcycle racers of this period, and also the local agent for Excelsior motorcycles.

Bridgeport was also close to two centers of early professional motorcycle racing, the Motordrome board tracks in Newark, New Jersey, and Brighton Beach, New York.  Top racers from around the world competed on these steeply banked circular wooden tracks, drawing large crowds of spectators. A tragic crash at the Newark track in September 1912, killed two well known racers, along with several spectators, and led to the banning of motorcycle racing in Newark. After the Newark tragedy, motorcycle racing shifted back to the dirt oval horse racing tracks common in the area.

Atlanta Constitution - September 1912
The Bridgeport Motorcycle Club, which boasted fifty members in 1911 began sponsoring motorcycle competitions at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, the Nutmeg Driving Park, and later at the Seaside Park Racetrack.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - 1911
Motorcycles provided cheap transportation in the days when automobiles were out of reach of all but the affluent. Like many young men of this age, Louis Delibero was also drawn to the freedom, and excitement, of motorcycles. He purchased an Indian Motorcycle, most likely from the Bridgeport Cycle Company, which was the local Indian dealer.

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram -1918
Louis Delibero with Family Members
Delibero Family Collection

Louis Delibero of Bridgeport, Connecticut was listed as motorcycle owner #743 on the State of Connecticut List of Registered Motor Vehicle dated August 15, 1914. As he became more involved in motorcycling, he joined the Bridgeport Motorcycle Club, and began to compete in their motorcycle events.

Bridgeport, CT. Motorcycle Club - ca. 1918
Delibero Family Collection

In the September 30, 1915, edition of Motorcycle Illustrated, and article stated Bridgeport's Stanley Kellogg would be in charge of the motorcycle races at the nearby Danbury, Connecticut Fair.

In the June 29, 1916 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated, an article stated the Bridgeport, Connecticut Motorcycle Club had affiliated with the Federation of American Motorcyclists (F.A.M.) and stated there were now thirty members.

Delibero became an accomplished racer, in the dangerous world of dirt track motorcycle racing. The Bridgeport Motorcycle Club's races, were now held on the horse track at Seaside Park. The results of these motorcycle races, were not covered by the local newspaper, so there no known articles documenting Delibero's racing. 

Seaside Park Racetrack - Bridgeport, CT.
Bridgeport Baseball History - Mike Roer
In the

As America's involvement in World War 1 approached, Louis Delibero registered for the draft in June 1917.  His state draft registration, revealed he was not Naturalized American Citizen,  had a wife and child, and listed his occupation as a "gasoline engine mechanic".  When asked if he could ride a motorcycle, he responded he was "A Racer."

State of Connecticut Draft Registration - March 2, 1917
Though his skills as a mechanic, and motorcycle rider, where in high demand by the Army, Delibero was not drafted. He had a wife, young child, and also worked in an industry important to the war effort, so he was exempted from the draft.

Louis Delibero with his Indian Racer - ca. 1918
Delibero Family Collection
The deadly nature of dirt track motorcycle racing was confirmed in July 1918, when fellow Bridgeport racer James Pollozo, was killed competing in a motorcycle race on the one mile dirt oval at Pottstown, Pennsylvania. An article on his death appeared in the Bridgeport Telegram, under the headline:

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram - July 6, 1918

On October 4, 1918, Louis Delibero, died of injuries sustained, when his Indian Motorcycle collided with a box truck some where outside Bridgeport. The collision literally broke his motorcycle in half. There is little information on the fatal crash, other than the story passed down through his family.

These two post crash photos of the remnants of Delibero's motorcycle, which were taken after it was returned to his family, show the violent nature of the crash.

Remnants of Delibero's Indian Motorcycle - October 1918
Delibero Family Collection

Strangely, there is no mention of the accident, in the local Bridgeport newspaper, which regularly covered serious motorcycle accidents. Because what remained of Delibero's motorcycle, was returned to his family, I would assume the accident took place somewhere close to Bridgeport. Older family members, who were just children at the time of Delibero's death, remember seeing the remnants of the motorcycle in the attic of the family home years after his death. Now, this might have gone down as just another tragic accident involving a young man, a fast motorcycle, and an inattentive truck driver, were it not for one other small element of the story.

After Delibero's death, it was rumored that his fatal accident was staged by the local Black Hand members, because he refused to fix the outcome of upcoming motorcycle races. The Black Hand, which had origins in Sicily, was well established within Bridgeport's Italian American Community. Their principal crime was extortion from Italian owned businesses, and they where suspected in several local murders. This June 1918 article details  a local murder, in which local Black Hand members were the suspects.

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram - June 6, 1918
Motorcycle racing was popular in Italy, and betting on the results of races, which was controlled by local crime figures, was common. It was also common practice at American race tracks of the time to gamble on the outcome of motorcycle races. A local Italian racer, would have been a crowd favorite with Bridgeport's Italian race fans. If the story passed down through the Delibero family was true, the local Black Hand also wanted to fix the outcome of the races.

Luigi "Louis" Delibero, was buried in the St. Michaels' Cemetery in nearby Stratford, Connecticut. He was twenty six at the time of his death, and left behind his wife Rose Masisco Delibero, and young sons Louis, and Frederick Delibero.

Coincidentally, eight days after Delibero's death, the Italian Societies of Bridgeport sponsored a Carnival at Seaside Park to Celebrate both Columbus Day, and Liberty Day.

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram - October 12, 1918

The Carnival celebration featured several motorcycle races, and drew large crowds from the local Italian Community. Were these races the Black Hand was trying to fix?

Whether this just a tragic accident, or a ninety seven year old unsolved murder mystery, will never be known. Crime within immigrant communities of the time, did not garner the attention of law enforcement, it would in other communities. With the demonstrated violent nature of the local Black Hand, anyone with information, would have surely feared to came forward. The local press liked the sensational headlines generated by this type of crime, but they seldom followed up beyond the initial headlines. There is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to question if the death of Louis Delibero was in fact an unsolved murder.



Atlanta Constitution

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - 1911

Bridgeport, CT. Telegram

Delibero Family Collection

Mike Roer@Bridgeport Baseball History

Motorcycle Illustrated - 1908, 1915, 1916

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Herbert McBride, Birmingham's Amateur Champion - Episode #31

By: David L. Morrill

Updated - February 20, 2015.

This early 1920s photo of a man at the beach on an Indian Motocycle keeps showing up on social media, but few people know the story behind it. It is the story of three men from Birmingham, Alabama, each of whom played a part in early motorcycle racing history. Time to tell their story.

Herbert McBride - Ormond Beach, FL. - April 1920
Bettman Image Collection
Herbert Foster McBride Sr., also known as Percy, was born in Jefferson County, Alabama in 1901. Like many young men of this time, he was drawn to the freedom, and excitement of early motorcycles. How Herbert McBride was introduced to motorcycles has been lost to time, but eventually the sixteen year old McBride, landed a job working in the machine shop of William F. Specht Jr's Harley-Davidson Motorcycles machine shop in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

Also working in the machine shop at the time, was an up and coming local racer named Gene Walker. With the help of the Birmingham Indian Motocycles dealer, Robert Stubbs, Walker built a winning reputation, in the races on the one mile dirt oval at the Alabama State Fairgrounds in Birmingham. In 1915, Walker was hired as a member of the Indian Motocycles Factory Racing Team, and relocated to their headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Gene Walker - Birmingham, AL.
O. V. Hunt - 1914 (cropped)

With the approach of America's involvement in World War 1 in 1917, professional motorcycle racing shut down, and Walker returned to Birmingham. Both Walker, and McBride were exempt from the 1917  military draft. Walker was the sole support for his widowed mother, and McBride was too young.  Walker, and McBride, worked together at Specht's machine shop for the next year or so. With then end of the war in 1918, Walker returned to the professional racing, while McBride remained working as a machinist in Birmingham, but switched to working for Bob Stubbs at the Birmingham Indian dealership.

At the end of a successful 1919 racing season, the Indian Motocycles Factory Racing Team, decided they would go after the existing motorcycle speed records at Ormond Beach, Florida in April 1920. Beginning in 1909, racers used the sands of Ormond Beach, Florida for motorcycle speed records. The course was laid out along the beach, at low tide. Gene Walker's former boss at the Birmingham Indian dealer, Robert Stubbs, was a member of the Indian Motocycles Factory Racing Team in the 1909 Ormond Beach event.

Robert Stubbs - Ormond Beach, FL. - March 1909
Chris Price @ Georgia Motorcycle History
Stubbs still had considerable influence with the Indian factory, and Gene Walker was chosen to go after the existing professional class speed records in 1920.

Gene Walker  Ormond Beach, FL. - April 1920
Don Emde Collection
For this attempt, Indian built racing bikes with four different engines. They were the eight valve V twin, the Power Plus side valve racing V twin racing, a stock 61ci Production side valve V twin, and a four valve racing single. A decision was made to go after both the National records measured in miles,  and the International records measured in kilometers in both the amateur, and professional classes.

1920 Indian Eight Valve Racer
R. I. Jones Collection
The decision to also go after the amateur records, opened a slot on the team for another team rider, who was not a professional racer. Gene Walker, recommended his friend from Birmingham, Herbert McBride, to be his amateur teammate. This was a great opportunity for McBride, who would ride some of the best racing bikes in the country, under the supervision of one of the countries' most successful professional racers. It did not take long for McBride to accept Walker's invitation.

Between April 12, and April 15, Walker, and McBride set twenty four new National, and International motorcycle speed records. Walker was credited with the first official F. I.  M. World Motorcycle Speed Record of 104.12 mph. on a stock 61ci side valve Indian Scout.  Walker also set a new National Motorcycle Speed Record of 115.79 mph. on an eight valve racer.  Walker's faith in his amateur teammate was well placed, as McBride's new amateur record speeds were higher than the previous professional class records. The new records received coverage in newspapers across the country.

Oregon Daily Journal - May 9, 1920

Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated - April 1920

The Washington Times (Washington, DC.) - May 8, 1920

The new records were touted in Indian Motorcycles advertising, and were covered in the May 1920 edition of Indian's newsletter, known as Wigwam News. As a result of the new records set by Walker, and McBride, the Indian Power Plus production bikes, would come to be known as "Daytonas".

Indian Motorcycle Ad - May 1920
Wigwam News - May 1920
Furman Family Collection
May 1920 Wigwam News
Carol Watson Collection
With the records set, and the hoopla over, Hebert McBride returned to his job a a machinist at the Indian dealership. In October of 1921, "Percy" McBride was mentioned as an entry for a contestant in a 500 mile motorcycle endurance race through Georgia, and Alabama.

Atlanta Constitution - October 16, 1921.

In November 1921, Herbert McBride married Amy Bell George, and retired from motorcycle competitions. McBride took a job as a Plymouth/DeSoto automobile salesman for Street Motors in Birmingham. They had a son, Herbert Foster McBride Jr.

With his retirement from motorcycling,  McBride could look back with pride to those four days in April 1920, when he set twelve new speed records, and was the Fastest Amateur Motorcyclist in the World. Not a small achievement for a young man from Birmingham.


Three years after the Ormond Beach Record runs, Gene Walker died of injuries from a practice crash in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He was returned to Birmingham, and buried at historic Elmwood Cemetery.

Birmingham News - June 24, 1924
For more information on Gene Walker's career, please check out Episode #2 - Gene Walker Birmingham's Lost Racing Champion at:

Robert Stubbs died of cancer in 1922, and was buried at Eastlake Cemetery in Birmingham.

For more information on Robert Stubbs' career, please check out Episode # 6 Bob Stubbs Birmingham's First racing Champion at:

Herbert Foster McBride Sr. died in Birmingham, Alabama in 1946.  He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery, not far from his friend, and racing mentor Gene Walker.

Elmwood Cemetery Section #23
Birmingham, Alabama



Atlanta Constitution

Bettman Image Collection

Birmingham News

Birmingham, Alabama Public Library Archives

Carol Watson Collection

Chris Price @ Georgia Motorcycle History

Don Emde Collection

Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated


R. I. Jones Collection

The Washington Times

Wigwam News

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jan/Fed 2015 Edition of The Antique Motorcycle - Press Release #5

Thank you, Joe "SloJo" Gardella, and the folks at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, for a mention of Deadly Dave's Blog, in Joe's article on his Barber Vintage Festival Century Race win in the Jan/Feb edition of The Antique Motorcycle. 

If you are a fan of old motorcycles, and are not a member of the AMCA, please consider joining:

For more information please check out History Repeats Itself In Birmingham - Episode #28

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Harley-Davidson 11K Stripped Stock, Birth of a Racer - Episode #30

Updated: January 16, 2015

By: David L. Morrill

The story of Harley-Davidson's entry in racing in 1914, is one of the great success stories of early American Motorcycle Racing. Harley-Davidson was late in entering Championship Racing. They faced stiff competition from Indian, Excelsior, and others, who all had long histories of competition at the championship level. Harley's weapon of choice, would come to be known as the 11K Stripped Stock Racer. Although it started out as little more than a production bike stripped for racing, with hard work, and perseverance, it evolved into a race winner in less than a year.

1914 Harley-Davidson 11K Stripped Stock Racer

The story of Harley-Davidson's first true racer goes back to 1910. In their 1910 Model 6 production line they listed the Model 6E. It was described as a "Factory Stock Racer, 30ci F head single." There is little other information and no available photographs of this on this early production racer.

While Harley-Davidson steadfastly avoided entering the deadly serious business of early board, and dirt track, Championship racing, they did compete in endurance run events. Around this time, road race events became popular. These events were generally run over courses made up of public road ways, and therefore did not require the specialized racing machines used in track racing.

This form of racing appealed to the Harley-Davidson management, as it highlighted both the speed, and reliability of their production motorcycles. When their customers' had success, it found it's way into their Harley-Davidson's advertising.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - September 1912

Harley-Davidson Ad
The Call-Leader (Elwood, Indiana) 

October 2, 1912
William "Bill" Ottaway
Pioneers of American Motorcycle Racing
The first serious step towards developing a true racer came in 1913, when William Harley hired engineer William "Bill" Ottaway away from rival Thor Motorcycles, and had developed their highly successful  Factory racers. Ottaway became  Harley's assistant in the newly formed Harley-Davidson Racing Department, and was given the monumental task of developing a competitive racer from the 1914 Model 10 production bike. Through 1913, Ottaway slowly adapted the 61ci Pocket Valve IOE (intake over exhaust) production V twin engine for racing.

Daniel Statnekov, author of Pioneers of American Motorcycle Racing, believes that the basis for the race engine was a production motor built with looser tolerances for use by police departments. This motor came to be referred to as an "A" motor. That certainly makes sense, as these early engines had cast iron top ends, and total loss oiling systems. Racing drastically increased the heat, and stress engines components were subjected to.

By July of 1914, the new racers were ready for their first test in a major race. The new racers were shipped off to Dodge City, Kansas for the biggest race of the year, the 300 Mile Coyote Classic held on July 4th.

Harley Davidson Racing Team - 1914 Dodge City 300
The bikes in the Team photo above, show the production roots of the Harley-Davidson Team's new racers. They feature frames, that are similar to the 1914 Harley production V Twin frame, and spring front fork. They retain the floor boards of the production bikes. The engines appear to have new gear case covers, with oil pumps cast into them.

The blistering July heat in Dodge City, was a test of both man, and machine. The new racers showed competitive speed, but lacked the reliability for such a long event. Only two of the six teams bikes, where running at the end of the race.

Despite the set back at Dodge City, continued develop the racing engines. By the end of the initial development, the race motors would feature larger intake ports, manifold, carburetor, along with stiffer valve springs, a special cam shaft, and steel flywheels, and the oil pump, which was cast into the gear case cover mentioned earlier. These motor would come to be referred to as "Fast" motors.

Track testing continued, and in September, a two page ad touting the 11K's recent race track victories appeared in the September 22, 1914 edition of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review.

A few days later, Leslie "Red" Parkhurst won the 10 Mile Stripped Stock race at Wisconsin, and his team mate Roy Artley finished second.

While the Wisconsin race was a only regional race, Parkhurst, and Artley, did beat Excelsior team rider Joe Wolters.  Parkhurst and Stratton had the similar results at Brainerd, Michigan State Fair's 3 Mile, and 10 Mile Stripped Stock Races.

The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (Brainerd, Michigan) - September 14, 1914

Atlanta Constitution - November 15, 1914
In the October 6, 1914 edition of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, the first ad appears mentioning a 1915 Close Coupled Stripped Stock Model 11K for sale for $250.00. The ad claims the bike has 11 horsepower, the same as the 1915  V twin Production bikes. There is little doubt at this stage in development, Bill Ottaway was getting much more horse power, from his 11K racing engines.

The 11K racers were ready for another track test in Championship event by early October. "Red" Parkhurst traveled to Birmingham, Alabama for the One Hour FAM Championship Race. He was joined in Birmingham by Atlanta racer Johnny Aiken, and New Orleans racer Arthur Mitchell, who were provided racers through the new Birmingham Harley-Davidson dealer William F. Specht Jr.

The bikes run on the one mile dirt oval in Birmingham were track bikes, featuring a short coupled racing frame, and the new girder style rigid front fork pictured below.

Arthur Mitchell at Specht's Harley-Davidson Birmingham, Alabama
O.V. Hunt - 1914
Despite stiff competition from Indian riders Gene Walker and Gail Joyce, along with Excelsior rider Joe Wolters, Parkhurst won the One Hour FAM Championship Race, along with several preliminary non championship races held at Birmingham. Parkhurst win in the Championship Race survived two post race protests, and Harley wasted little time in touting their first "Championship" win. Parkhurst's win showed the 11K racer could compete on equal footing with serious competition. This was a big step forward for the Harley-Davidson racing program.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - October 1914
In early November, Parkhurst won the 5 , 10, and 25 Mile Races at the San Angelo Track in Phoenix, Arizona. Team mate Roy Artley, finished second in the 10, and 25 Mile races. As a result of the positive press Harley-Davidson got from their wins in both Birmingham, and Phoenix, Harley-Davidson decided to send a full team of riders to the Savannah 300 Mile Road Race on November 25, 1914.

1914 Savannah 300 Harley-Davidson Team Riders 
Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - December 1914
At the end of the grueling event run over 11 miles of public roads, Harley-Davidson rider Irving Janke finished third. The bikes used by the team riders appear to be the same style production framed racers used in the earlier Dodge City 300. Sadly, Harley-Davidson rider Gray Sloop of Mooresville, NC., and Zeddie Kelly of Savannah, were killed in separates accidents during the event. Sloop and Kelly are in this team photo above.

Harley-Davidson made a major change to the 1915 production V twin engine, casting a new wider crankcase, with webbed reinforcement,  a wider/heavier crankshaft. Several race motors based on the new 1915 motors were built, but testing proved them to be slower, than the narrow case race motors. The narrow 1914 style case continued be used throughout the life of the pocket valve race motors. It was updated several times, with new castings to adapt to changes in cylinders, etc.

Having proved the 11K racer could be competitive, in the countries most demanding races, the bike was put into production for 1915. The new racers were provided to both factory riders, and through their dealer network to select racers. There were some eight versions of the new racer listed as "Specialty Models"for sale in 1915.

1915 Harley-Davidson 11KT

These two photos, show the two major versions of the new 11K racer. Factory rider "Red" Parkhurst is pictured with the 11TK Track Racer, and Joe Wolters with the 11KR Roadster Racer model.

Red Parkhurst - 11KT (left) Joe Wolters - 11KR (right)
Harley-Davidson Archives
Joe Wolters, who had provided stiff competition to Parkhurst at Birmingham, and denied a win in the Savannah 300, due to a last lap blown tire, had switched  from Excelsior, to the Harley-Davidson Team for the1915 racing season.

Joe Wolters - 11KR (left)  Joe Wolters - 11KT (right)
Harley-Davidson Archives

According to Tech's Harley-Davidson VIV Information Guide 1910-1920 the eight variants of the 11K Racer were:

Specialty Models

Model 11K4 - Track Racer, F head single with magneto
Model 11K5 - Roadster Racer, F head single with magneto
Model 11K12 - "Fast Motor", F head V twin with magneto
Model 11K12H - "Fast Motor", F head V twin with electrical system
Model 11KT - Track Racer, F head V twin with magneto
Model 11KR - Roadster Racer, F head V twin with magneto
Model 11KRH - Roadster Racer, F head V twin with electrical system
Model 11KTH - Track Racer, F head V twin with electric

The new racer quickly proved to be a winner, in the hands of team rider Otto Walker. In April, Walker won  the Venice, California 300 Mile Road Race. He followed that up in July, with a win at the Dodge City 300. These were two of the biggest races in the country, and Otto Walker and the new racer became a force to reckon with. The new racers had proven they could win major Championship races against the best riders in the country.

Daniel Statnekov@Pioneers of American Motorcycle Racing
After the 1915 season, Harley Davidson made two major changes to their new racer. The first was a new Keystone frame, which removed the frame loop under the engine, and sandwiched the engine between two mounting plates on the sides of the engine. The second was the introduction of a new overhead valve cylinder, with four valves per cylinder.

Bill Ottaway, took a "Fast" Motor" bottom end, removed the front cylinder, piston, and rod. With a rebalanced crankshaft, he created a "blanked off" four valve 30.5ci. single. Maldwyn Jones, who had recently come to Harley-Davidson from Merkle, won several races using the new engine.  Eight valve racing V twin racing engines were also built, which used the "Fast" motor single cam bottom end. The "Fast" motor bottom end was eventually replaced by a special two cam racing bottom end.

Maldwyn Jones  Harley-Davidson Blanked Off
Single Cylinder 2 Cam 4 Valve Racer
While development continued on the pocket valve engines, they were usually relegated to backup status to the eight valve racers. In the longer races, the eight valve racer, were used as rabbits, to make the competition run harder to keep up. The eight valve engines, were faster than the pocket valve motors, but did not always have the reliability to finish long races. Several of the tried and true pocket valve racers, were often entered as insure a win.

Harley-Davidson Single cam 8 Valve racing Engine

In 1921, the factory built several " blanked off" racing engines, using the latest pocket valve cylinders. These single cylinder racers were known as SCAs (single cylinder alcohol), as they they ran on alcohol. 

Harley-Davidson Keystone Frame SCA Racer
Wheels Through Time Museum Collection

Harley-Davidson SCA "Blanked Off" Pocket Valve Racing Engine
The pocket valve racing engine, which debuted with the 11K racer, stayed in production through the 1920s, with various updates of the engine cases, cylinders, etc. While it would come to be overshadowed by the eight valve racing engine, it was Harley-Davidson's first Nationally competitive racing engine, and was directly tied to the development of it's eight valve replacement.



Atlanta Constitution

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - 1914

Birmingham, Alabama Public Library Archives

Brian Slark & Kelly Stewart@Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Chris Price@Georgia Motorcycle History

Daniel Statnekov@Pioneers of American Motorcycle Racing

Harley-Davidson Archives

Matt Walksler@Wheels Through Time Museum

Tech's Harley-Davidson VIN Information 1910-1920

The Call Leader - Elwood, Indiana - 1912