Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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

By: David L. Morrill

Updated: November 2017

Thurman Constable - Union City, Indiana
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

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