I GOT THIS 1915 11-K Model Harley Boardtrack Racer as a basket-case from a mate of mine, Elton Brown, in Canada. Obviously, being a basket-case, I wasn’t exactly sure how the finished bike would look so I had a look at few examples on the internet, and sure enough it was a sweet looking bike, so I grabbed it.
It’s virtually impossible to get older bikes here in Australia; those who have them won’t part with them anyway; and if they do, you’d be paying a huge premium for them. It’s one of those things — you sit and wait.
Elton rebuilt the engine and components in Canada. All the fiddly stuff was done here in Australia by me along with some help from my mate Eric. I do all my own tuning too.
With the money involved, it needs to be done 100 percent correct, right down to the cloth-covered wires; the whole works. It’s hard to get a lot of history on a bike that’s a 100 years old. The original owner would be long gone; it probably spent years pushed up in a corner of a shed. But as with all my bikes, the engine and case numbers have to be correct. I’m pretty pedantic about having the correct numbers. If you’re going to invest a lot of money in a bike, it’s got to be right and the numbers are a very important part of that.
I wanted a 100-year-old Harley. The standard 100-year-old Harley isn’t the most attractive bike in the world, and to have something different, I went with this one. The racing side of things interests me but that wasn’t the driving factor. I just like the look of the Harley Boardtrack Racer.
If you looked in a 1915 Harley catalogue, there were seven models available including two singles. You had various configurations of the road versions with optional lights and transmissions, and then you had this one, the ‘stripped stock’ Model 11-K production racer fitted with the famous ‘Rivet Tank’. This is how Harley addressed the problem of tanks splitting during the intense beating they received when racing; other companies used straps and bracing around their tanks. Harley realised if they solder and rivet the seams it kept the tank clean allowing Harley-Davidson to paint their name in larger letters so people in the grandstands could clearly see who was winning the race.
It’s a 1000 cc (60.3 cubes) and it’d probably be, as most boardtrack racers were, good for 80-plus mph… with no brakes.
I finished the bike in Renault Grey Paint, the colour of the day, and fitted optional oil lubricated dampers on the lower front fork.
There’s very little footage of the bikes racing but the guys were crazy. They used to wire the throttle wide open full. You pushed start and gone… and how they used to slow them down was to hit the kill button on the magneto, and just the compression of the motor would slow you down… if you had to stop quickly… you just crash. Loads of people died, both riders and audience.
I’ve had it running half a dozen times. You start it by the back wheel — you prime her up and just flip the old back wheel. It runs sweet, sounds good, loud, really loud, with lots of blue flames shooting out.
It’s never been ridden for obvious reasons — no brakes…
Photos by Brain White; words by Glenn