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An Up Hill Battle

Great photography of the Oakland, California Motorcycle Club’s  hill-climb event, circa 1924. From the look at the many cars in the parking lot this must have been a quite an event that possibly attracted big name entrants.

10 responses to “An Up Hill Battle

  1. David,
    This is probably the Capistrano Hillclimb at San Juan Capistrano, California. This was, as you mentioned, quite an event. I think it was ‘the’ premier Hillclimb back in the day.
    Thanks for the great photos. It’s also a coincidence as I was going to post a couple of Hillclimb photos of a couple of gentlemen that climbed this actual hill.

  2. Not sure David. The club had members of their own that took part in hillclimbs throughout the country. I assume the Capistrano hill was the Oakland Club’s home turf and i can’t think of any other club in the area that would have held meeting’s there. San Luis Capistrano is actually the ‘most haunted’ place in the U.S. believe it or not. There’s an old story from the late 1800s which brands the Santa Ana {or santana; meaning devil’} winds that pass through the area as spooky or something.
    Enough of this history lesson, now enjoy this video, it may be the same hill we’re talking about.

    • Actually San Juan Capistrano CA. is 424 miles from Oakland CA. I have never heard of San Luis Capistrano. San Luis Rey was a Mission town also. I was born in SJC and remember hearing the stories about the hillclimb event. Lots of motorcycle history in SJC with the Capistrano Eagles MC was founded in 1952. These were the kids who would have been in the crowd when the national hillclimbers came to town each year to try the Capistrano Hillclimb. My Grandfather and Great Uncle we among the founding members of that club..

  3. In an article by Carlos Olvera in the Dana Point
    Times March 1, 2013 : It’s History: Motorcycle Hill the author states that the event started in 1916, I heard from somewhere it was 1915. Carlos Olvera also states that the races lasted until 1927 (don’t know if he was referring to this specific Hill which he said was at the intersection of Camino Capistrano & Doheny Park Road), but his description may less than factual. Recently I acquired a large trophy from the estate and personal collection of Hutchins Harley Davidson which started in Los Angeles in the 1920s, moved somewhere, and then relocated finally in 1979 to Yucca Valley, CA. The sale was held in early December 2017. The trophy reads HARLEY DAVIDSON TROPHY FIRST PRIZE CAPISTRANO-HILL-CLIMB APRIL 4, 1930 WON BY RICHARD BUDELIER The trophy is plate with a nickel silver look, it is large, it is deco in design, is architectural, with two repairs and a smaller front side dent.
    IT IS MAGNIFICENT! In my opinion it is iconic and an important American artifact. I don’t even own a bike, but appreciate its place in history and its stately presentation. One of the picker associates who was there when Mike Baker picked it at the sale, the one know as Arron, offered that one of the repairs may have been a bullet hole. The repairs were professional and add to the piece. It brought a princely sum by the time it hit my hands. It’s the type of thing where any true biker would love to have it tucked under their arm when their casket is finally buried. At the bottom is reads 37 cu-in which would be the engine category.

  4. Further research revealed that Richard Budelier was the Harley Davidson in Los Angeles. The agency must of have been started pre-1922, because there is an excellent article in Motorcycle Times? dated 1922 covering the opening of Budelier Harley Davidson new facility in 1922. Google search BHD. It comes with pictures of the original facility and documents over 3 days the Grand Opening. Good early Los Angeles history.

    After WW2 Dick “Hutch” Hutchins wanted to work around motorcycles and he went to work at the Budelier Harley Davidson store. He bought the business after working there over the years. Eventually he ended up moving operations to Yucca Valley back in the late 1970’s. The trophy came from his estate.

  5. I’ve seen a small collection of photos dated from a hillclimb held at the Capistrano hill on April 8, 1931. Included in the photos is a picture of a very rare Indian Altoona which features an engine which in 1926 set the record for the highest speed ever achieved (120.3 mph) on a board track (Rockingham track in Salem, New Hampshire) in America. At the end of the board track era (1928) the record-setting engine was repurposed by Indian and installed in a hillclimb chassis. 1931 was notable as the first year in which both east and west coast hillclimb championships were held. The Pacific Coast Championship was contested in Oakland, Calif. which perhaps explains some of the confusion with regard to the San Juan Capistrano (Southern California) and the Oakland, Calif. (northern California) hillclimbs.

  6. Daniel, thanks for the historical data. Sounds like you know your bikes. As a collector, as a native Californian it is great to be holding history in my hands. Finding the 1930 hill climb video was unreal.

  7. If any of your readers have photos, stories or objects from the San Juan Capistrano Hill Climbs I would like to hear from them. This May 16, as part of out History Preservation Day, we will have a street side activity to pass on the background and history of this seldom mentioned part of our heritage.

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