The XLA Sportster, Harley’s Last Military V-Twin

Originally posted on Riding Vintage


During WWII, Harley-Davidson produced thousands of WLA motorcycles for the United States and it’s Allies.  Some sources estimate the total number of motorcycles at 70,000 units and enough spare parts to build 30,000 more.  Other sources are more conservative, but the fact is, Harley-Davidson produced a lot of motorcycles for the military in the 1940′s.  This left a huge surplus of motorcycles after the war and with the motorcycle being phased out in favor of the Jeep 4×4, it wasn’t until 1957 that the military placed another order for motorcycles with Harley-Davidson.  This time they weren’t interested in an combat ready machine, but instead a patrol vehicle to use on base.  Harley’s answer was the Sportster XLA. Continue reading

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Gene Walker and the Four Valve Classic Harley-Davidson Racer?

David Morrill of Deadly Dave’s Blog

They say a pictures worth a thousand words, and this old photo is certainly worth a few. To start with, Daytona 200 winner Don Emde sent me this photo as part of some research I was doing a few years back. It was taken in 1923, and the rider is Gene Walker, of Birmingham, AL.

Gene Walker - 1923

Gene Walker – 1923

Now some folks will tell you, Gene Walker was an Indian rider, and that is mostly correct. From the time the Birmingham Indian dealer, Bob Stubbs, put young Walker on an 8 valve Indian racer at the Alabama State Fairgrounds, through many of his race wins, and numerous track records, Gene Walker raced Indians.

So how did one of the most famous Indian riders of his time come to be photographed on a Harley-Davidson racer?

And even more interesting, how did he come to be part of Harley-Davidson’s 1923 advertising?

The story starts with America’s entry into World War I. Professional racing was curtailed, and Indian Factory rider Gene Walker returned to Birmingham. As his widowed mother’s sole support, Walker was exempted from the draft. He found work as a motorcycle machinist at the Harley-Davidson shop run by Bill Specht. During the winters, Walker supplemented his income, working as a Birmingham Motorcycle Police Officer. Walker also kept is hand in racing, winning a few non championship races at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway on a privately entered Harley-Davidson.

With his return to the Indian Racing Team in 1919, Gene Walker again won races, set track records, and even set the first officially recognized motorcycle land speed records for Indian.

So how did he come to fall into disfavor with the Management at Indian?

In July 1921, Walker agreed to compete in the biggest race of the year, the 300 Mile Coyote Classic in Dodge City, Kansas. A few days before the race, Walker notified his bosses he would not compete at Dodge City. Walker contended he didn’t like the dusty, dangerous conditions, at Dodge City, but he may have had another reason.

Walker entered a race in South Bend, Indiana just two weeks after the Dodge City race. His bosses at Indian, accused him of “cherry picking” races for easy wins, and purses. The dispute played out in the motorcycle press for the next month.  Gene continued to win races on Indians, and it appeared the dispute was settled, until Walker was unexpectedly released by Indian at the end of the 1921 racing season. The reason given by  Indian’s Management, was his failure to meet his Continue reading

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Happy New Year For All Classic Harley Enthusiasts

As the founder of this Classic Harley Motorcycle & Info blog I’d like to thank everyone here for your support and to wish you a wonderful New Year in 2014.

Happy New Year from Buzz Kanter on his 1936 Harley EL Knucklehead.

Every year I try to start the new year with a motorcycle ride. Today I was out in the chilly (mid 20 degrees) New England weather on my 1936 Harley EL Knucklehead. It took a little extra effort to get the Knuck to start, but then she ran just fine and seemed to like the cold.

Wishing you some great rides on some great classic motorcycles in 2014.

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Happy Harleydays To All From Classic Harley Motorcycle & Info

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Classic Harley News: Motorcycle Cannonball 2014 Route, Dates and More

This is the route and planned dates for the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball. In working on this route for the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball endurance event, they have tried to fulfill several criteria:

A coast-to-coast route across the United States. We start the run in Daytona Beach, Florida on the worlds most famous beach. We finish the run after 4150 miles, on the Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

Approximately a two-week schedule. We start on a Friday in Daytona Beach, and finish in Tacoma two weeks later on a Sunday. The route is 17 days total, 16 days on the road, and one rest day in Junction City, Kansas. The day off is on a Friday, a week after the start, a weekday when shops are open. The two days before the start in Daytona Beach we will have registration, vehicle inspection, an optional practice run, a short classroom session, and a hosted welcome reception.

Most days 300 miles or shorter. Our goal was for all days to be at most 300 miles, but in some areas there just aren’t enough cities at appropriate locations with sufficient hotel rooms for a group our size. Two days are longer, both are after the rest day. The typical schedule for a 300 mile day ,assuming the motorcycle maintains 50 mph on straight flat roads, will be an 8:00 am start and a 4:00 pm finish, for a total of 8 hours on the road. This schedule includes a 45 minute lunch break ,and three 15 minute refueling breaks. Time will also be set aside for viewing scenic and historic sites.

Short days for the Start and Finish. The first and last days will each be the shortest days, with a late morning start in Continue reading

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1934 Harley-Davidson CAC Classic Motorcycle Racer

Originally posted on Riding Vintage.


In the 1930′s, speedway racing was rising in popularity across the US. British JAP and Rudge machines dominated the sport, racing on tracks covered with fine cinders (a by product of coal fired plants). This was more than Harley-Davidson factory racer Joe Petrali could take and he urged Harley to build their own speedway racer. It is rumored that Harley was not interested in the project at all, but let Petrali build the motorcycle himself at the HD plant on the weekends. Whether it was Petrali or a team of HD engineers, a new machine designated CAC was released in 1934.


The CAC was powered by a 500cc single-cylinder engine which borrowed heavily from the British JAP engine. The compression ratio was a whopping 16.5:1 and the engine revved up to 6,000 rpm. There was no transmission or clutch as the engine was directly connected to the rear wheel by a short-coupled jackshaft and drivechain. Brakes were left off too, because racing is about going fast, not stopping.


There seems to be some question as to the number of CAC actually built. Harley-Davidson states that they built 20 complete race bikes and 5 spare engines. Many other sources claim that only 12 complete machines were built. Either way, it is an extremely rare machine with only nine machines currently known to exist.


If you read Harley’s press release for the CAC, it sounds like quite a machine: “The short track racers we are offering are the result of much study and actual trial by our racing department. Extensive tests were conducted on the West Coast on actual tracks with outstanding short track racing stars and in competition with the best of the foreign machines. Our experimental machines came through every test with flying colors. Improvements incorporated as a result of these trials will make these new racing models even better in power and performance.”  Not the kind of machine you would expect to be cancelled after one year of production, but that’s exactly what happened.  More rumors abound about why Harley ceased production; cam issues, cam timing problems, poor performance etc.


Still, I’d like to see one sliding around a corner on a cinder track…

Want to learn more about Harley history?  Check out Riding Vintage for more great articles!

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Classic Harley Tech – Penetrating Oil Bath or No?

On the advice of a friend who has been messing with classic Harley and Indian motorcycles about as long as I have, I bought and sprayed a can of Gibbs penetrating oil all over my mostly original paint 1924 Harley JDCA.

I soaked my classic Harley in Gibbs penetrating oil to look and run better.

I am told this oil was designed for high tech applications and is used by collector gun enthusiasts. I am told it will help the life and the look of raw metal, plated metal and even old painted metal. I bought a few cans and just sprayed the bike down.

The other side of the classic Harley after spraying it down with penetrating oil.

I plan to leave the oil on the old Harley for a week or so to penetrate in. Then I will carefully wipe off the excess with paper towels. I have tried other products including StrongArm and Kroil, both of which seem to work well.

Anyone else have other suggestions on similar processes?

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1929 Harley JDH at Wheels Through Time – Factory Repaint or Other?

Original paint or factory repainted? Interesting question that we might never know the answer to. Especially when it comes to this wonderful 1929 Harley JDH Two Cam that has been on display (and ridden) at Wheels Through Time museum.

1929 Harley JDH at Wheels Through Time museum

According to the folks at Wheels Through Time, “The Harley Davidson JDH is among the rarest production machines built by the Motor Company in its 110 year existence. This 1929 example was brought back to the factory in 1936 for a fresh coat of paint. Notice the 1936 decal and stripe on the gas tank.”

We like it, a lot. And we are curious about the history of the unoriginal exhaust muffler.

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Classic Harley Panhead Cutaway Engine

We can’t decide if this is art or something else, but we here love it. A cutaway Harley Panhead engine.

Cutaway of Classic Harley Panhead Engine

Sometimes the Harley factory training department created these cutaway engines for use in the school to show the mechanics how the various components operated in place.

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Classic Harley Motorcycles; 1936 Harley Knucklehead & 1948 Harley Panhead

A few months ago I made the mistake of pulling the good 6-volt battery out of my 1936 Harley Knucklehead and installing it in my 1948 Harley Panhead that had been sitting for more than a year without a battery. Yes, I got the Panhead sorted out and running strong, but at the cost of my beloved 1936 EL sitting, battery less, unused for months.

1936 classic Harley EL Knucklehead back on the road after sitting for too long.

In the last few months I rode the Panhead to the Indian Larry block party in Brooklyn, NY, through New England on the American Iron Magazine Kickstart Classic and to my  Continue reading

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