Tag Archives: Harley-Davidson
Most of you are probably familiar with the Crosley and King Midget mini-cars that enjoyed a brief period of popularity in this country following World War II, but cycle cars and “baby” cars, have been around since the very beginning of the Automobile Age. Voiturettes enjoyed a racing class of their own in Europe both before and after the First War, and proved popular as economical road transportation as well. Photo (above) appears to have been shot at a bicycle racing track that was in France.
The first two cars pictured here today fall more into the category of novelties, although they appear to be very finely crafted. According to writer Robert Cunningham the two might be the work of “Bird Boy” Art Smith, a pioneer aviator who contracted with the Perkins and Magini motorcycle shop in San Francisco to build several dozen copies of his design. They specced out at less than 30 inches high at the cowl and rolled on a 60 inch wheelbase with a 40 inch track. With V-twin motorcycle power, they were said to be capable of 60 miles per hour. Some earlier cars of the same type can be seen in these previous posts on The Old Motor The latter features racing great Ralph De Palma posed behind the wheel of one. The photo (above) was taken in Boston by Leslie Jones and it was reported that the driver later died in a “Loop the Loop” accident in Maine.
This last one was built by the future automotive writer and publisher Floyd Clymer in 1920. Driven by Hart Hueraine “Hal” Bowman (pictured behind the wheel) in 1920, it was the only car of it’s type in the Midwest at the time and had to compete with the big cars on dirt ovals. Although the car’s nickname might be viewed unfavorably today, with it’s Indian V-twin power it beat the bigger cars as often as not and in fact once set a record of a thirty second lap on a half mile track.
This is the first of a series of articles about the American cyclecar and baby car phenomenon that we hope to present in the near future.
Top photo courtesy of the National Library of France. Center photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Leslie Jones Collection © Copyright Leslie Jones. Bottom photo courtesy Bob Lawrence.
William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built the first Harley-Davidson single-cylinder model in 1903 and by the fall of 1904 three machines had been produced and sold. The well made machine soon gained and excellent reputation and by 19o7 sales were up to 153 for the year.
In 1909 the first 61 c.i. v-twin was introduced and by 1912 the firm was offering an optional all-chain drive which replaced the earlier leather flat belts. By 1914, the year our feature bike was built, the company had added a successful two-speed transmission, which was located in the rear hub assembly. It was a good year for H-D and a reported 7,956 H-D machines were produced.
What we are viewing here is one of the few that has survived to this day, proudly wearing it’s original paint and lettering. Good original paint early bikes are quite rare and have always been highly valued by motorcycle collectors. This example has had a successful touring history over the last thirty years of completing many pre-16 rides that are popular with early motorcycle enthusiasts.
A special thanks to Jared Schoenemann Photography, of South Pasadena, CA, for sharing his work with us of this quite special machine. And thanks also go out to Tim Graber of Classic Motorcycle Consignments, located in Costa Mesa, CA, for sharing with us this bike that he has handled in the recent past.
Photos and an advertisement (below) all from 1914, show two of the machines back in the day. The left hand photo shows the new two-speed transmission being but to good use; the popularity of sidecars made a single-speed impractical as the final drive ratio needed to be lowered for the extra weight, but it severely limited the top speed. On the right hand side can be seen the single-cylinder model also offered for 1914.
Today we have a pair of photos showing the Kulp brothers, along with their motorcycles and girlfriends they referred to as “The Valley Girls”. The caption with the photo (above) which was written by one of the older brothers reads as follows: “Here is our cracker eater. He now has an X and sidecar. Looks good don’t he and has no trouble to get girls. Then again neither do we.” The “cracker eater” in this photo was William, the youngest of the three brothers and the X refers to his handsome Excelsior machine.
This photo shows one of the older brothers along with their motorcycles and girlfriends. The motorcycle on the left appears to be a Harley-Davidson and the right hand machine is a rare Yale with the top front panel on the sidecar lettered with the Yale name over a banner.
This photo (above) shows a hill climb in Old Maid’s Woods, held by the Reading Motorcycle Club, which the Kulp brothers were active in at the time. The event is described in the Reading Eagle newspaper as follows: “The new 350-foot course running from the bottom of the hill at the Mountain View Hotel, opposite Old Maids Woods in a direction toward the Archer farm”.
All of the big names at the time including Orrie Steel, (Indian), Frank Sandruck, (Excelsior), The Westfield Brothers, Ben and Walter (Harley-Davidson) and Red Wolverton and John Seely, both on (Ace 4-cyl machines), were competing with other entrants from the centeral PA. area. Unfortunately we do not have the final results of the climb.
The photos are courtesy of Paul Rigsby, and you can see the rest of the series of interesting photos of his grandfather William and brothers, on their motorcycles in the Reading, PA, area here.