Friday, May 19, 2017

Behind the Scenes @ Sons of Speed - Episode #43

By: David L. Morrill
@Deadly Dave's Blog

Updated: September 22, 2017

Author's Note:

Billy Lane
, and the Sons of Speed Racers, return to the New Smyrna Speedway on Saturday October 21, 2017 during Daytona Biketoberfest. Come out and see the Sons & Daughters of Speed!

Billy Lane @ New Smyrna Speedway in March 2017
Since I first threw a leg over a dirt bike in the early 70s, I have been blessed to have taken  part in many exciting motorcycle adventures; but in March, I had an opportunity to play a small part in one I will never forget.



Like most of the folks, who play with old racing bikes, I had heard of Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. plans to hold a race for recreated board track racers, and had followed his photo posts of the racers he was building, but knew little of the details for the actual race. When I left my place in Alabama, headed down to Florida for Daytona Bike Week, I was determined to make it to the event. I offered my services as a wrench to American Iron Magazine publisher, Buzz Kanter, who was entered in the race, and he graciously accepted. This was the beginning of a grand adventure!

Team American Iron @ Sons of Speed
Photo Credit: Jim Dohms
On the Sunday before the race, I took Rat Racer, my 1921 Harley-Davidson racer to the True Grit Motorcycle Show @ Rossmeyer's Destination Daytona.



When we arrived at the show, Warren Lane, Billy's brother, had his Atomic Metalsmith's 1917 Indian Sons of Speed racer on display. I parked my bike next to Warren's bike, and left my buddy Joe Niles to watch it, while I went to park the truck and trailer. When I returned, Joe told me Warren had invited us to take part in a Sons of Speed closed practice session on Wednesday @ New Smyrna Speedway.

Rat Racer & Warren Lane's 1917 Indian Racer
@True Grit Vintage Bike Show
Photo Credit: Jack Mcintyre
Buzz on Rat Racer @ the True Grit Show
Photo Credit: Deadly Dave
The chance to ride my old racer on a modern half mile banked speedway, was just too big a temptation. My buddy, John Melin volunteered to go along, and help me with my bike, and he also ended up on Buzz's Team.

With much effort, I squeezed my big grit eattin butt into my old race leathers, and hit the track, for the first time since the mid 90s. Riding a bike with tall skinny tires, a 96 year old engine, maybe 8 horse power, no suspension, brakes, or tranny, is a very different experience, but something I will never forget!

Rhett, Buzz, Paul, and Dave
Photo Credit: John Melin

After I came in from a few laps, Buzz arrived with his bike. A careful inspection revealed a problem with the rear wheel, and we jumped into action to get it fixed.

Buzz's Rear Wheel Minus Two Sprocket Studs
Photo Credit: John Melin

Buzz, Jim, and John remove the rear wheel
Photo Credit: Deadly Dave

Rear Wheel Repairs
Photo Credit: John Melin
By Thursday, Buzz's bike was track ready, and Buzz was working up to speed on the track. John, and I needed to stay in Ocala Thursday, and take care of family obligations.  We returned on Friday for the practice day. All went well until the final practice session, when Rhett Rotten went down hard coming out of turn 4. Rhett was pretty banged up, with a couple of cracked ribs. Buzz came into the pits, and I noticed his front tire was nearly flat. Turned out there was a missing rim strip, and the clincher rim had cut the tube causing a slow leak. John grabbed his giant roll of duct tape, and a new tube, the front tire was soon fixed. The rear wheel was found to have the same problem, and was also repaired.


Dave warms up the #15 Team American Iron Racer
Photo Credit: Amy Jacques


By race day, I found myself drafted to assist with event scoring. Thanks to a great group of volunteers, who stepped in at the last moment, the event took place without a serious incident.

Flagging & Scoring
Photo Credit: Amy Jacques
Buzz went out and won the first Sons of Speed heat race on his Team American Iron 1915 Harley-Davidson.

#15 Buzz Kanter takes the lead from #1 Billy Lane
Sons of Speed Heat #1

The race finale came down to a battle between young Brittany Olsen on her 20th Century Racing 1923 Harley-Davidson, and Matt Harris on his 40 Caliber Customs 1923 Harley-Davidson. Brittany took the checkered flag first followed by Matt, with Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe third, and Buzz Kanter 4th.

Sons of Speed Winner Brittany Olsen
20th Century Racing 1923 Harley-Davidson
This event was covered by the motorcycling press from around the world, and I will let them fill you in on all the personalities involved, and numerous twists & turns throughout the event. Thank you to Billy Lane for sharing you dream with all of us!

More behind the scenes photos of Team American Iron @ Sons of Speed:


Buzz
Photo Credit: Jim Dohms

Dave & Buzz
Photo Credit: Jim Dohms
Unidentified Videographer & Dave


Buzz & Paul Ousley
Photo Credit: Jim Dohms

Buzz & John
Photo Credit: Jim Dohms




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Press Release #8 Good Rides Journal - Sons of Speed

By David L. Morrill
@Deadly Dave's Blog

A big thank you to Terry Quesnel, and the folks @ Ocala's Good Rides Journal for including a photo of my 1921 Harley-Davidson racer in their article on Billy' Lane's Sons of Speed race held @ New Smyrna Speedway during Daytona Bike Week.



You can check out Good Rides Journal on Facebook @ 


Here's Terry's article on the race:






Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Harley-Davidson's First Racer - The 1910 Model 6E Factory Stock Racer - Episode #42

By: David L. Morrill
@Deadly Dave's Blog

Updated: November 2017

Thurman Constable - Union City, Indiana
Motorcycle Illustrated - November 26, 1910
One of the great mysteries of early Harley-Davidson racing history, is the 1910 Model 6E Factory Stock Racer. While Harley-Davidson had been involved with endurance, and reliability competitions from their very beginnings, they had steadfastly avoided direct involvement in the deadly business of professional racing on the early dirt, and board tracks. By 1910, Harley could no longer ignore the value of race wins in driving sales of production motorcycles. With numerous companies offering specialty racing bikes through their dealers to both factory riders, and select privateer racers, there was plenty of competition.

When the 1910 product line was announced by Harley-Davidson, few people noticed the inclusion of the Model 6E in their lineup, but to a few privateer Harley racers, it would be welcome news. When the 1910 model specifications were listed on a two page spread in the edition January 15, 1910 of Motorcycle illustrated, there was nothing that identified this model as a specialty racer. It was one of five single cylinder belt drive bikes with a rated four horsepower. All featured a 30ci. displacement with either magneto, or battery ignition, and were offered for sale through their network of Harley-Davidson dealers.

Motorcycle Illustrated - January 15, 1910
Page 1 (cropped)
The only thing that seemed to separate the Model 6E, from the four other single cylinder models, was a was a list price of $275. This was $25. more than the other single cylinder models.

Motorcycle Illustrated - January 15, 1910
Page 2 (cropped)

But word was already tricking down through Harley's dealers, who were involved in racing that help was on it's way. Within Harley-Davidson the new model was referred to as Model 6E - Factory Stock Racer, 30ci F Head Single.

In April, 1910 the new racer made it's first foray to the winner circle on the 1/3 mile banked dirt oval tack Tuileries Park dirt track in Denver, Colorado. The Denver Harley-Davidson dealer, and privateer racer, Walter Whiting, rode one of the new racers to a win in the  Five Mile Amateur Race for Stock Machines. The event results were published in the April 16, 1910 edition of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, however Whiting was miss-identified as "J. Whiting" in the article.


Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - April 16, 1910
On Decoration Day 1910, a grueling 112 Mile Road Race was held from from Denver to Greeley, Colorado that was open to both amateur, and professional riders.  Walter Whiting, again grabbed the spotlight finishing first, followed by his business partner, W. S. Wunderle  also riding one of the Harley-Davidson dingle cylinder racers. What made this win most noteworthy, was that both Whiting and were amateur riders riding single cylinder machines. Whiting, and Wunderle, beat the top finishing professional rider Joe Wolters time, who rode a twin cylinder Flying Merkel, by just short of ten minutes.  The event was covered in an article in both the June 4, 1910 edition of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, as well as the June 15, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Author's Note: These large articles are more easily read by clicking on the article to enlarge it.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - June 4, 1910

The Motorcycle Illustrated featured one of the few photographs on the new racers.

Motorcycle Illustrated - June 15, 1910
Harley-Davidson was quick to tout their victory over an established professional racer on a twin cylinder bike in their advertising. An ad in the June 11, 1910 edition of Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review mentions the wins at both the Tuileries track and the Denver to Greeley Road Race.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - June 11, 1910
There was also an ad touting the the Denver to Greeley Road race win in the July 1, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Motorcycle Illustrated - July 1, 1910

In September 1910, a little known event involving the the Model 6E Factory Stock Racer, took place. Out in Waco, Texas a young rider named Eddie Hasha, was making name for himself winning races in the Dallas on both an Indian Single, and an Indian twin.

Eddie Hasha - 1912
Chris Price @ Archive Moto
Hasha's chief competitor, was the acknowledged Southern Champion Robert Stubbs, who was a former member of Indian's Racing Team, that set several new speed records for Indian at Ormond Beach, Florida in 1909.

Robert Stubbs - Ormond Beach, Florida - 1909
Chris price @ Archive Moto
As the Birmingham, Alabama Indian dealer, and a former Indian Racing Team member, Stubbs had access to the latest versions of Indian racing bikes. This was making it tough for Hasha to compete with Stubbs, especially in the single cylinder race.  Harley-Davidson co founder Arthur Davidson had befriended Hasha, early in his career. Davidson shipped one of the 6E single cylinder racers to Hasha in Waco.  How this came to pass, has never been revealed.  Over a three day event starting on August 29, 1910, Hasha cleaned house against Stubbs, and the other competitors. Hasha won all three single cylinder professional class races with the Harley-Davidson, and a couple of professional class races on his Indian twin. The event was reported in a short article in the September 15, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Motorcycle Illustrated - September 15, 1910
The fact that Arthur Davidson had provided Hasha a single cylinder racer was not picked up by the press. It may not have been lost on Stubbs, who would have passed it on to Indian's Race Department. This appears to have been the only time, Hasha rode the Harley single, as returned to riding an Indian single in the remaining races that season. Whether this was due to pressure from Indian, or the fact Harley did not have a twin cylinder racer is unknown, but Hasha would remain an Indian rider for the remainder of his career. Over the next couple of years, Eddie Hasha rose to the top ranks of professional racing on the newly introduced steeply banked circular board tracks known as Motordromes.

On September 8, 1912, Hasha was killed, along with fellow racer Johnnie Albright, and six young spectators in an horrendous accident at the Vailisburg Park Motordrome in Newark, New Jersey.  In the aftermath of Hasha's death, Arthur Davidson penned a memorial editorial to his friend, which appeared in the Harley-Davidson Dealer's News in October 1912. In that editorial, the story of the 1910 Waco race was finally revealed:

"The News that Eddie Hasha, John Albright and six spectators met death at the Vailisburg Park Motordrome, at Newark, N.J. on September 8th, was no doubt startling to everyone, but to non more than the writer for the reason that a close friendship had existed, for some time, between Hasha and myself, dating back to the time at dallas, Texas, when Hasha was starting his racing career. At that time we had a racing machine shipped to Dallas, and Eddie Hasha was given a chance to ride against Robert Stubbs, and defeated him. From then on his entry into the racing game was fast and remarkably successful. Not very long ago, Mr. Hasha took up the selling of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Dallas, but the race track fever got him again and he went back to it. And, while it was with very deep regret that I heard the story of his death, as well as that of John Albright, I was not a great deal surprised, as I had expected it to come in the course of events. But to cause the death of spectators was more than any of us had predicted."

Arthur Davidson Editorial - Harley-Davidson Dealer News - October 1912.

The fellow who appears to have had the most success, with the Harley single cylinder racer was one Thurman Constable of Union City, Indiana. The 1910 Racing Season, was Constable's first season as a professional racer, he logged 52 First Place finishes, in 56 events. His photograph appeared in the November 26, 1910 edition of Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review. This maybe the only photograph of the Model 6E Factory Stock Racer in track racing trim.

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review - November 26, 1910
He also appeared in an article in the December 1, 1910 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated.

Motorcycle Illustrated - December 1, 1910
Despite the fact, that only a handful of Model 6E factory stock Racers were produced, it appears to have been highly successful. Although, it was always billed as "stock" it's success against highly developed single cylinder racers ridden by seasoned professional riders, leads one to believe that the rated stock 4 horsepower, was a a bit of an understatement. The internal secrets of these early racers have been lost to time. However, they allowed both privateer amateur, and professional racers to purchase a competitive Harley-Davidson racer through their local dealers.  The race wins gave Harley-Davidson a performance image to go along with their reputation for endurance and reliability. As racing improves the breed, surely the lessons learned with these racers, were incorporated into the later production singles.

The Model E single racer did not appear in the 1911 models. The emphasis in racing was moving to twin cylinder racers. They could reach much higher speeds of the newly popular Motordrome boards tracks, and the ever increasing speeds, and subsequent danger, filled the stands with paying spectators. It is clear from Arthur Davidson's editorial on Hasha's death, that Harley-Davidson had no interest in being involved in Motordrome racing.

I am not aware of any surviving Model 6E racers. The identifiers, that would separate them from a normal 1910 Model 6 single are pretty much unknown.  If one of these early racers did turn up, with a verifiable provenance, it would surely command a princely sum.  If that racer could be verified as  the one Eddie Hash rode in the 1910 Waco race, it would be the rarest bit of early Harley-Davidson racing history.

Sources:

Bicycling World & Motorcycle Review

Chris Price @ Archive Moto

Google

Harley Davidson Dealer News 

Motocycle Illustrated

Tech's Web Harley-Davidson VIN Info 1903 - Present


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Montgomery, Alabama's Van Diver Park Race Track - Episode #40

By: David L. Morrill
@ Deadly Dave' Blog

Updated - February 17, 2017

This episode is a continuation of my search for early Alabama motorcycle racing history.

In the early 1900s, motorcycle racing was sweeping the country drawing large crowds of spectators to local horse tracks, and the new wooden  motordromes. By 1909, Birmingham, Alabama was the established motorcycle racing capital of Alabama. The Alabama State Fairgrounds Raceway began holding motorcycle races in July 1907. Birmingham Indian Motocycle dealer, Robert Stubbs, was recognized as the Southern Champion. Stubbs was a member of the Indian Factory Racing Team, that set several speed records at Ormond Beach, Florida in March of 1909.

Robert Stubbs - Ormond Beach, Florida - March 1909
Chris Price @ Archive Moto






Montgomery, Alabama's Capital City, would soon follow Birmingham in embracing the motorcycle racing craze. In 1907, the legislature of the State of Alabama passed a bill funding upgrades to fairgrounds around the State of Alabama. The Montgomery County Fairgrounds was the recipient of $8,500. to up grade their facilities. Among the improvements added in the next year, was a large horse track. The exact length, and dimensions, of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds track at Vandiver Park are lost to time, but from the few surviving photos, it appears to be a 1 mile oval dirt track. Horse racing was a popular fair exhibition, and with the increasing popularity of automobile racing, the Vandiver Park track also began hosting automobile meets. Motorcycle racing was soon to follow.

In May of 1909, a motorcycle race was included at the Fairgrounds race track Automobile Meet. Bob Stubbs traveled to Montgomery, and "easily won the 5 mile handicap." Stubbs also rode a 5 Mile Exhibition for the crowd that day.


Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - May 5, 1909

When the professional motorcycle races held in conjunction with the 1910 Montgomery County Fair during October rolled around, Bob Stubbs again dominated, and his win received coverage in the national racing press.

Motorcycle Illustrated - November 1, 1910

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - October 29, 1910
With the formation of the Montgomery Motorcycle Club in mid 1911, amateur racers were ready to tackle the big  dirt oval. The club held a members only session at Vandiver Park in late August 1910, and planned a regular race in September. These events were mentioned in the September 7, 1911 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated magazine.

Motorcycle Illustrated - September 7, 1911
On September 26, 1911, the club hosted it's first amateur race. The proceeds from the race went in support of the Anti-Tuberculosis League of Montgomery.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - September 9, 1911
In October, 1911, the Montgomery County Fair returned to the Capital City, hosting both amateur, and professional motorcycle races. Just a week before the fair, Bob Stubbs, received a serious eye injury during a race at Birmingham. While Stubbs was on his way to a full recovery, his wife convinced him to retire from track racing. This opened the door for one of Stubbs' sponsored riders, Gail Joyce to replace Stubbs.

Bob Stubbs Indian Riders -Birmingham, AL. ca. 1913
Richard Gayle, Gail Joyce, Gene Walker
Furman Family Collection
This would not be a cake walk for Gail Joyce. He would face serious competition at the Montgomery race from Texas rider Eddie " The Texas Cyclone".  Hasha, who was quickly proving he was one of the best riders in the south. In September of 1910, Hasha had defeated Bob Stubbs at Waco, Texas riding an early Harley-Davidson racer loaned to him, by Harley-Davidson co founder Arthur Davidson.

Motorcycle Illustrated - September 15, 1910
This was a rare move for Harley-Davidson, who had up to that point had avoided the deadly business of track racing. For the Montgomery race, Hasha, like Gail Joyce, would be back on his Indian twin cylinder racer.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - October 28, 1911
When Hasha, and Joyce squared off on the track, later that week, Hasha won three races, with Joyce claiming two races. Period press accounts sometimes confuse Gail Joyce's first name, with his Stubbs Indian teammate Richard Gayle's last name.

Eddie " The Texas Cyclone" Hasha - 1912
The next race event held was held in conjunction with an aviation, and automobile exhibition at the Spring Celebration on March 4, 1912.
Motorcycle Illustrated - March 7, 1912
That event was followed up on March 10, 1912, holding the races that had been rained out the previous weekend.

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - March 16, 1912
Sadly, on September 9, 1912, Eddie "The Texas Cyclone" Hasha, along with fellow rider Johnnie Albright, and 5 spectators were killed in a horrendous crash at the Vailsburg Park Motordrome board track in Newark, New Jersey.

Asbury Park, New Jersey Press - September 9, 1912
I have been unable to find any further mention of motorcycle races at the Vandiver Park track in the period motorcycle press. There is however one item I found, which may explain why the track did not hold more races. During the 1912 Montgomery County Fair, Aviator Louis Mitchell was killed in a crash barnstorming over the Fairgrounds track. This followed a similar fatality during the fair in Birmingham a week earlier. Some ten thousand spectators observed the Vandiver Park crash, and City father's may have re-evaluated such dangerous exhibitions, and races.

Greenville, Alabama Advocate - October 30, 1912
The racetrack at Vandiver Park had been used as a training site for Alabama National Guard units beginning in the early teens. With America's build up to entering World War 1, the Vandiver Park racetrack/Montgomery County Fairgrounds site was condemned. It was taken over by the United States Army, as a training site in 1916, and renamed Camp Sheridan. It was just 50 years from the end of the Civil War, and having a U. S. Army camp named after a prominent Yankee general just a few miles from the original Capital of the Confederacy, was probably not very popular with some Montgomery residents.

 While I was unable to locate any period racing photos of the track, a portion of one of the dirt track's turns and straight away can clearly be seen between the building in this photo of Camp Sheridan.

Camp Sheridan @ the old Vandiver Park Race Track - ca. 1917
State of Alabama Archives
Camp Sheridan was mentioned one final time in the February 7, 1918 edition of Motorcycle Illustrated magazine. The article was about a visit by the Goodyear Friars of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. The Friars were entertaining former Goodyear employees, who were receiving Army training at both Camp Sherman in Ohio, and Camp Sheridan in Alabama.

Motorcycle Illustrated - February 7, 1918
The site of the old Montgomery County Fairgrounds and race track is marked by a State of Alabama Historic Marker, recognizing it as the scene of Camp Sheridan during World War 1.



Sources:

Asbury Park, New Jersey Press

Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - Smithsonian Collection

Chris Price @ Archive Moto

Furman Family Collection

Google

Greenville, Alabama Advocate

Motorcycle Illustrated - Hathi Trust Collection

Newspaper.com

State of Alabama Archives

State of Alabama Historic Markers