Rare OHV Classic Harley DAH Racer From Wheels Through Time Museum

Wish I could remember more about this bike I shot a few years ago in the excellent Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, NC. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory on it.

Rare OHV Classic Harley Motorcycle Racer

I do remember Dale and Matt Walksler had recently joined the rare DAH Harley OHV engine with the frame after decades apart. As I recall Dale had the rolling chassis for years and found the engine and then realized they were a perfect fit – something rare in these old factory racers.

Did you notice this old Harley racer has four exhaust pipes? Two on each side. Not something you see very often – even in a world class motorcycle museum like Wheels Through Time. 

A close-up of the OHV top end. Pretty impressive design especially considering how old it is. And below is how Dale and Matt got the orange race bike started.

One Way To Start A Classic Harley Racer

They backed it up to Matts street bike and let the spinning tire of the street bike spin over the racer. It was pretty cool.

ADDENDUM: Thanks to Daniel Statnekov for sharing his knowledge and insight into the history of these Harley factory DAH racers. The following is reposted with permission from Daniiel Statnekov and his excellent American Vintage Racing Motorcycles blog

By 1928, Harley-Davidson could no longer ignore the potent 45 cubic inch motors fielded by their competition.  Two years earlier, Excelsior had demonstrated race-sustaining speeds in excess of 107 mph with their 45 cubic inch Super X, and in 1928 Indian overhead 45’s took the lead in National Championship events at speeds in excess of 111 mph.

Harley-Davidson did not have a motor with which to compete in the new 45 cubic inch class of racing.  The company’s initial effort was to modify their 21 cubic inch “Peashooter” OHV top end and combine it with their race-proven, 61 cubic inch 2-cam motor.  The result was a hybrid 2-cam overhead-valve 45.  Although the Milwaukee company fielded several examples of this motor in 1928, the H-D “hybrid” was not competitive with the Excelsior and Indian entries.

The Davidson brothers and William Harley watched helplessly as their Springfield rival won every National Championship race contested that year.  Even the greatly diminished Excelsior company was able to advertise significant victories in both flat track and hillclimb events.

With a resurgence in motorcycle sales as an incentive, H-D authorized the design of an entirely new 45 cubic inch race motor with the hope of regaining their formerly dominant position in American racing.  Harley’s new motor, an overhead 45 cataloged as the “DAH,” made its debut at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hillclimb in July of 1929.  With two stubby exhaust stacks exiting each cylinder and Schebler barrel-valve alcohol carburetor, the new H-D entry announced Milwaukee’s serious intentions.

Indeed, Bill Ottaway’s presence at track side, conjured up the vision of year’s past when Harley-Davidson, in any given race, was favored to receive the checkered flag at the finish.  Maybe Ottaway’s presence brought the Milwaukee company good luck.  John Grove, aboard the new machine, won the Pittsburgh hillclimb’s 45 cubic inch expert event, giving H-D their first significant victory of the past two years.

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2 Responses to Rare OHV Classic Harley DAH Racer From Wheels Through Time Museum

  1. Sandro Miliotti says:

    Dear all, wow this motorcycle is really particular, but are you sure that it’s an original race factory Harley, perhaps is more probably that this bike was used by a private pilot, because the frame and the components are more older than the engine also if this type of DAH “with four exaust pipes” is the same of the early engine fitted during 1928 on original JDH botton end. In according at my knowledge during the thirties years was a standard practice to modify the civialian bike with more power parts or complete engines ….. for example I have here in Italy one of this hybrid Harley motorcycle, my bike is derived from a standard VLD 74 ci. and after strengthened with EL parts cylinders and heads, to compete in the race.
    Thanks to all for the opportunity to make this reply.

  2. fretherne says:

    Hi Sandro
    Could you post some pictures of the bike.