Harley 8 Valve Racer..

I wanted to share some additional research I’d found about a beautiful and rare Harley that I learned about because I saw a beautiful picture.  The bike is an 8 valve Harley racer.  In the pictures I’d seen, what makes it stand out to me is that it has additional valve gear to work the eight valves.

Buzz put a link to the bike on this blog earlier, but the link is now broken and I’ve done some additional research on the bike(s) that I thought you would find interesting.

Harley-Davidston 8 Valve Racer

Harley-Davidston 8 Valve Racer

In the late teens, it continued to be more and more important to win races and Harley developed the 8 valve racer. The racer had incredible technology for the time. While it used production Harley 61 cases, all of the rest of the technology was much improved. The heads were 8 overhead valve heads that were controlled by a single camshaft. The engine used high compression and high gearing that required compression releases and towing until the valves could be lowered. I’ve since learned by watching a video posted by Buzz below that the compression release was a hand lever on the right handlebar.

Racers of the time needed to be bikes which were on sale, similar to the regulations that were in place for Trans Am or NASCAR racing. These type of rules have given us great street cars like the Plymouth Superbird. In the case of the 8 valve racer, Harley priced this motorcycle at about 5 times the price as Indian did for its similar racer of the time.  While Indian was happy to sell a bike to customers, Harley-Davidson’s pricing clearly kept to the rule of having the bike available to the public, but most believe Harley did not want to really sell bikes to customers.   Harley exiting racing in 1921. There was never a reported sale of a 8 Valve Racer to the public. There was reported to be a very small number of factory racers. As a result of the lack of customer bikes and the few factory racers account for the bikes scarcity today. There are only 4 known remaining examples.

Harley-Davidston 8 Valve Racer

Harley-Davidston 8 Valve Racer

The racers were successful throughout the 20’s overseas but were not seen in the US after 1922. There are 4 of the 8 Valve racers known to exist, and that’s a pretty neat feat considering there is less than three whole bikes parts. Some is due to the continued variability and modification that goes on with racing motorcycles, some due to parts being destroyed. On the four remaining bikes, some of the pieces have had to be reproduced. Most of the 8 Valve racer parts were found in Europe and one of the most complete bikes is still in Italy.

While nothing would make me happier than to tell you more and more about the 8 Valve Racer, there is an excellent piece that I just don’t think I could improve on at:


The video below is of a Harley 8 Valve running with some other beautiful bikes in Germany http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpDRgVAwSZo

Buzz Kanter shows of Dave Fusiak’s 8 valve racer reproduction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hedv8RGcvMQ

About Steve Kastell

Born in 1961 in Brooklyn, New York, I currently live in Manalapan New Jersey. My day job is implementing and managing the systems that run large companies. Currently I work for a medical device company based out of Boston. I have an undergraduate degree in Business from SUNY Albany and a MBA in Finance from NYU. Like many of you I rode as a kid, both dirt bikes and street bikes and then was interrupted by school, work and family. I added to my time away by living in NYC for four or five years and Divorce. I love Muscle Cars and Bikes, Harley-Davidsons, Duks and BMWs top my wish list. I current own a Harley Davidson Softail Deuce thats been considerably changed from the way Harley shipped it and I'm shopping for a BMS K1200R. A decent amount of success has lead me back to my passion - writing about cars and bikes and I'd like to do more of what I like now that most of the family can stand on their own two feet. I'm very capable. My dad owned 3 gas stations and I learned about cars from him and bikes from Joey Pitch in the back. I worked my way through college in Uncle Mikes Auto parts store (Everything Automotive on CIA for you Brooklyn kids). I built a 55 Chevy 150 coupe from scratch amongst a number of other projects in my time and have done much of the work on my bikes throughout the years. Most of my friends think I know more about bikes and cars than anyone they've met and I love to hear that. Would love to hear from you at nine11c2@gmail.com or nine11c2 on twitter. I'd love to hear about things you'd like to see on Classic Harley..
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