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Lot 355: Harley-Davidson Model T Twin

Motorcycle and Motorcars, Bonhams & Butterfields (14 November 2009)

Boyhood friends William S Harley and Arthur Davidson began experimenting with powered transport in the early 1900s, producing their first complete motorcycle in 1903. Little more than a motorized bicycle, the prototype Harley-Davidson proved fragile, prompting a major redesign and the establishment of a reputation for ruggedness that endures to this day. Like many of their contemporaries, Harley-Davidson laid out their first engine along De Dion lines. A single-cylinder four-stroke displacing 25ci (400cc), the latter remained in production essentially unchanged until superseded by a 35ci cubic-inch (575cc) version in 1909. Of greater significance though, was the appearance that same year of the firm's first v-twin. Dropped at the year's end, the twin returned for 1911 in redesigned form boasting mechanically operated inlet valves (replacing the 'atmospheric' type inherited from the single) and production really took off. Known by the sobriquet 'pocket valve', this inlet-over-exhaust engine - built in 61 and 74ci capacities - would remain in production for the next 20 years. The Harley single's transmission arrangements - direct drive by means of a leather belt - were continued at first on the twin, but the need to make better use of the engine's power characteristics, particularly for sidecar pulling, prompted the introduction of a two-speed rear hub for 1914, by which time chain drive and a proper clutch had been adopted. Later that same year a conventional, three-speed, sliding-gear transmission with 'step starter' was introduced on the top-of-the-range version of the twin which, with full electrical equipment, was listed from now on as the Model J. Two important developments in the twin's evolution occurred in 1916: the most immediately obvious being the adoption of a gently curved fuel tank that replaced the slab-sided tank used previously. Inside the engine, the cams were altered from two-lobe to four-lobe, making alterations to valve timing - previously achieved by reshaping the followers - that much simpler. The Harley-Davidson twin in this general outline would endure for the next eight years. This superb 'pocket valve' Harley is offered fresh from a professional 100-point restoration completed in June 2009. Fully equipped with acetylene lighting, the machine has covered fewer than 100 shakedown miles since completion and is said to start easily, idle nicely and run and ride perfectly. Indeed, on a recent test ride it was radar-clocked at 61mph by the Wisconsin Highway Patrol. Offered with Certificate of Title, this is an excellent touring motorcycle that can be ridden anywhere with complete reliability.

Lot Details
Auction Motorcycle and Motorcars
Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles
TypeMotorcycle
Lot Number355
Estimate$60000-$65000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1917
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number17T1127
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors