Sunday, May 2, 2010

Harley-Davidson inspection day

Some months ago I joined the Vintage Motorcycle Club of WA. I had hoped to have the Ariel ready for annual presentation day in February but it was not to be. I'm pretty sure the Ariel will be able to make the next big event in May. Fingers crossed!

After I joined the club I found that two of my relatives are also members and so we got in touch. On Sunday Shelly and I went over for a visit while club inspectors conducted their annual inspection of one of my uncle's collection of Harley Davidsons.

I've never been much of a fan of Harley Davidsons but the three Harley's in his shed were absolutely gorgeous. The bikes hadn't run for a while so each took some tinkering before they burst into life. I didn't get to have a ride but it was great just to spend the time talking about the bikes, their individual stories and the ups and downs of collecting. All up it was a great afternoon.

1928 Harley-Davidson Pup

This 350cc Pup was oldest bike in the collection. The Pup was introduced as an economy model for export markets in 1925 but its small engine meant it wasn't a very popular model. Front brakes were introduced until 1929 so perhaps it best that it doesn't go that fast!

1935 Harley-Davidson VLD 1200cc

This monster was a former police bike that was picked up at auction in Geraldton in the 1960s. My uncle had heard about the auction and made a fairly ridiculous bid, not expecting to buy the bike. But the day before the auction there had been a storm that had prevented many bidders from attending the auction so he won it by default. He had it tidied up and repainted as you see it now. It's a truly marvellous machine. The engine took a little while to start (there was a bit of a petrol leak) but when it did, it really did! The inspectors, who both had a ride, came back gushing about what a wonderful 'piece of kit' it was. It ran so smoothly and just tore away. Here's a short video of the engine idling along after it was first kicked over.

1942 Harley-Davidson WLA 750cc

This was an ex-army surplus bike that my uncle also picked up at an auction. It was just as impressive as the VLD in appearance, but after the growling, deep throated power of the 1200, it seemed kind of pale in comparison. This one needed a bit of push start but once it had 'cleared its throat' it just rolled as smooth as silk.

I find it interesting that these bikes have totally different controls to modern bikes - a foot clutch, a hand gear change and left hand throttle. I recall somewhere that Harley (and Indian), who had major contracts with US police forces placed the throttle on the left hand side so that the police would have their right, gun hand free, but this has the ring of an urban myth.

After a couple of hours of chat and numerous cups of tea, the bikes were wheeled back into the shed and the bedsheets were furled over them again. They'll probably be out for a couple of runs later this year and this time I hope to be along to report on them.

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