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Thirty Speed Records Set by Harley-Davidson at Daytona Beach in 1920

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  • Harley-Davidson riders with a racing machine and a Bullet Sidecar

In February of 1920, the Harley-Davidson racing team descended on Daytona Beach, Florida with a number of its racing machines and their star riders intent on setting the record books on fire. There they set up camp during the second week of the month and by the time it was over, the effort had set thirty world’s records. Expert riders Leslie Red Parkhurst and Fred Ludlow can be seen above posing with a Harley-Davidson 8-Valve racing machine and the newly-designed Bullet Sidecar rig that they used to set five records with.

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The pair set a new five mile record with an average speed of 87.52 m.p.h. and on the same run they set four more records in the sidecar class at the 1 kilometer, 1 mile, 2 mile and 3 mile marks. Without the sidecar, Parkhurst set a record of 111.98 m.p.h. with the machine in the kilometer and also set records at one, two and five-miles. The photos are courtesy of Harley-Davidson, and the period magazine article is courtesy of David Morrill. Learn more about the runs at Harley-Davidson. 

5 responses to “Thirty Speed Records Set by Harley-Davidson at Daytona Beach in 1920

  1. While Harley did have 8 valve engines, this must have been prior to their use, as the bike definitely has F head cylinders (sometimes call “pocket valve” back then), indicating a J series motor.

    Years back, coming home from a meet with a restored JD and a buddy in the ”chair”, I held it wide for about a mile, indicating 83MPH on the notoriously inaccurate Corbin speedo, on a flat stretch of good road. Sorta scary now when I think of it–clincher tires, an nearly no brakes–with a machine that we had borrowed.

    Herb Kephart

    • Herb, follow the link at the end of the post to Harley-Davidson. There they describe both the 8-valve and the pocket valve models that ran for the records and there are more photos. It appears that the top photo shows a pocket valve model that also must have run w/a sidecar.

  2. Was the top photo a stock photo given to dealers of Harley Davidson’s? My Great-grandfather sold them and we have the picture with Ludlow and Parkhurst, but also with three gentlemen in the background. I was able to find the original picture but it is on a german website that sells posters.

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