In the early part of the twentieth century, board track racing was hugely popular in the US. The races took place on oval courses, normally made of wooden planks.
By the late 1920s, there were at least 24 tracks around the country, and the racing attracted huge crowds of up to 80,000. The bikes were capable of speeds well in excess of 100 mph, but the bikes had no gears and no brakes. The omission of brakes was considered necessary to avoid crashes. When crashes did happen they were often not pretty or pleasant, and large splinters in unsavoury places were par for the course.
The racers themselves were the equivalent of today's NASCAR drivers. They were both famous and rich. A rider could earn £1000 for a weekend, and that was a hundred years ago!
Initially, Harley Davidson was not keen on racing. Its management thought it was too dangerous, and risked bad publicity for the business. But companies like Indian, Excelsior, Pope and Cyclone had been selling factory racers since 1908, and it was clear that race wins helped when it came to selling road bikes in the showroom.
And so, in 1914, Harley finally started a race programme. By 1917, Harley Davidson had become one of the top three teams. By the end of 1919, Harley Davidson’s racing manager, Bill Ottoway, had put together a team of the best and brightest racers, forming a group that would become known as the Wrecking Crew, who dominated the sport.
But a change of heart by Harley Davidson’s president, Arthur Davidson, meant that the factory withdrew from racing at the end of the 1921 season, but many racers were allowed to purchase factory machines, and so the Harley name continued to be represented.
The 1928 Harley Davidson FHAC Board Tracker
The 1928 Harley Davidson FHAC Board Tracker featured an eight valve oval-port engine that was ground-up engineered for racing. At around $1500, it was several times the cost of a fully equipped road bike. In reality, it had very little in common with road-going Harleys other than the 45° angle of the twin cylinders.
Drive was via a jack shaft. There was no clutch on the bike, and to start it you had to either pull or push it.
The absence of a clutch also meant that board track races always featured rolling starts.
The rake, trail and wheelbase differed greatly from the road bikes, as the board trackers were made with one objective in mind.
An innovation from Harley on this particular bike was the fork design; a system patented by Joe Merkel, known as the ‘Truss’ fork. It can be seen as the predecessor of the later telescopic fork.
The bike delivered 24 horsepower from its 61 cubic inch engine (c. 1000cc). Capable of around 115 mph, only a small number were produced. Experts suggest that number was between 10 and 50, and today only a handful survive.
The Vintage Motor Brands 1:6 scale replica
VMB, as the company is known, is a relatively new player on the market.
Their first bike, the Triumph Bonneville Tangerine Dream, was a masterpiece that exhibited levels of accuracy and attention to detail never seen before.
The Harley Davidson Board Tracker is the company's second release. It is once again a 1:6 scale replica that is made from a combination of diecast and resincast parts. It measures around 13" in length.
If the bike is slightly less intricate and detailed than the Bonneville, it is only because that, back in 1928, motorbikes were much simpler, less complex machines than they were in the late 1950s.
But every detail from the original bike is captured in this stunning model; from the correct ribbing on the tyres and the delicate spoked wheels, to the suspension, seating, the V-twin engine and its intricate oil pipes.
This is the second bike in the series, and it couldn't be more different to the original release, but over the coming years the collection will build to include some of the most famous classic bikes of all time.
The next bike to follow on from the Harley Davidson is an MV Agusta 750S. After that there will be a BSA DBD 34 Goldstar, and then a Vincent Black Shadow. Work has also started on a Barry Sheene bike and a Manx Norton.
If you want to become an owner of what will become the most collectible range of replica motorbikes of all time, you really don't want to miss out on this fabulous Harley Davidson Board Tracker.
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