Paul Gold­smith

When the David­sons of­fered him a ride in the 1940s it was a gate­way to a life of racing on the ragged edge. And a beach. And along­side life-tak­ing fire­balls.

Classic Racer - - NEWS - By Norm Dewitt

When he had a tele­phone call from Mr Har­ley and Mr David­son, invit­ing him to race for them in the 1940s, Paul Gold­smith knew he had ar­rived. Gold­smith is an AMA Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum Hall of Fame res­i­dent, a Day­tona 200 win­ner and a five-times AMA Na­tion­als win­ner. But it’s his mem­o­ries of racing on a shift­ing sands beach course whilst bat­tling other rid­ers and an in­com­ing tide that will stick in your mind.

Born in West Vir­ginia dur­ing the fall of 1925, Paul Gold­smith moved as a teen to the Detroit, Michi­gan area which, as it turned out, was in­stru­men­tal in the on­go­ing story of his life. In the late 1940s-60s Detroit was the man­u­fac­tur­ing hub of the emerg­ing au­to­mo­tive per­for­mance cul­ture, mean­ing Paul was in the per­fect place to pur­sue a ca­reer in motorsport. His mo­tor­cy­cle racing started soon af­ter the end of the Sec­ond World War when Gold­smith took his money from work­ing at Chrysler and bought a Har­ley-david­son. He said: “Dur­ing the war H-D made 45ci bikes and I bought one of those in Detroit just af­ter the war when things started up again… it was my first mo­tor­cy­cle in the be­gin­ning of 1946. “I met the lo­cal Har­ley dealer there, Mr Ro­bi­son. There was go­ing to be an ‘out­law’ race there, as it wasn’t sanc­tioned by the AMA. The Har­ley dealer fixed up my bike like a race bike, and I fin­ished third or some­thing like that. It was a lit­tle dirt track just out­side of Detroit, I did pretty good com­pared to the com­pe­ti­tion I had… hell, I made $27! That was easy money. “About two weeks later the AMA was sanc­tion­ing a race in Mar­shall, Michi­gan. It was a half-mile flat dirt track at the fair­grounds, which was the way most mo­tor­cy­cle races ran at that time. The dealer said: ‘Hey, would you be in­ter­ested in run­ning over there? We can work on your bike and get it fixed up to where you can race against those rac­ers over there.’ So, I went and you ran one year as a Novice, then an­other year as an Ama­teur, and then you were in Ex­pert class. “So, I’m run­ning this half-mile dirt in prac­tice and, hell, I qual­i­fied about as fast as the Ex­perts were run­ning. The AMA guy was short on Ex­pert rid­ers, so he came to me and asked if I would run with the Ex­pert class and I said ‘sure, I’d be happy to, they pay more money than the Novices.’ So, they put me up into the Ex­pert class. I think I fin­ished sec­ond or third again, made de­cent money and I thought ‘hell, this is what I want to do!’” Was it more money than the $27 earned just out­side of Detroit? “Oh yes, I think it was about $100 now. The next day, af­ter I got home, the phone rings and it’s Wal­ter David­son call­ing me. He wanted to know if I would be in­ter­ested in racing Har­ley-david­sons. I said, ‘well heck yeah, that would be great.’ He said, ‘well, get a truck or trailer and come on over here and visit us as soon as you can.’ I said ‘I’ll be there to­mor­row.’ “I bor­rowed a trailer from the dealer and away I went. I went over to Mil­wau­kee and met Wal­ter David­son, Bill David­son and I think John Har­ley was there. They set me up with a racing bike and all the ma­te­ri­als that I would need… gear ra­tios, tyres, wheels, chains – all the stuff you would need.” It took Paul Gold­smith just two races on his first mo­tor­cy­cle to get what took most rac­ers years of racing to achieve. In 1948, Paul had his first Day­tona 200 race, fin­ish­ing fifth in a race best known for Floyd Emde lead­ing the event start to fin­ish on his In­dian, al­though at the fin­ish it was close be­tween Floyd and Billy Mathews, who had fought hard to re­cover from a dis­as­trous mid-race pit stop with his Nor­ton.

The fol­low­ing years were all Nor­ton, as Billy Mathews and Dick Klam­foth traded wins, Klam­foth in 1949, Mathews in 1950. 1949-50 had brought pre­cious lit­tle Day­tona suc­cess for Gold­smith on the Har­ley, and he didn’t race there again un­til 1953. Klam­foth added two more Nor­ton wins in 1951/52 as the Bri­tish bikes again dom­i­nated the Day­tonaa 200 on the beach course. Har­ley-david­son team-mate Everett Bras­hear had got the first AMA Na­tional win for the new KR at Stur­gis in 1952 on his mas­sively re­vised new Har­ley-david­son KR. Everett: “Paul was al­ways a top rider to start with, and then he proved that in stock cars later on. He was very ca­pa­ble. We were al­ways on the same team with the Har­ley fac­tory and I was very happy to have been one of Paul’s best friends. I would have met Paul in my first Ex­pert year and of course I got to be real good friends with him over the years in the dirt track racing. Later on I worked with Paul, as I guess he worked in the whole­sale car busi­ness for a while. Paul was a real sharp old boy and, of course, he was on the front steps of ev­ery fac­tory up there in Detroit and he could get along with ev­ery­body. “I would send cus­tomers to Detroit or I would de­liver cars for him. Paul was the one that got me my rides with NASCAR, a very sharp old boy. I call him an en­tre­pre­neur.” Paul won his first pro-ama Na­tional in 1952 at the Mil­wau­kee Mile: “I think that was the last year that the Mile was dirt, they paved the track af­ter that. I won an aw­ful lot of mo­tor­cy­cle races in that pe­riod of time in Iowa and Penn­syl­va­nia.” Smokey Yu­nick was of­ten a fac­tor in Paul’s prepa­ra­tion of the mo­tor­cy­cles as well. The au­to­mo­tive con­nec­tions in Detroit also pro­vided great div­i­dends. “Har­ley-david­son would give me bikes, they would come up with one ev­ery year. I would mod­ify them quite a bit, change the mo­tor­cy­cle weight-wise, en­gine-wise. I had en­gi­neers from the GM tech cen­ter that I knew and when I was in doubt about mak­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent for the bike, they would en­gi­neer it and some­times make the part for me and I’d use it. For in­stance I had all-alu­minium clutches, and dif­fer­ent chain. The teeth for the chain at the gear­box were alu­minium, I’d say my bike was 35lbs or more lighter than Joe Leonard’s. I never told him that (laughs)… so that made a lot of dif­fer­ence when you were go­ing through a dirt cor­ner.” Upon his 1953 re­turn to race at Day­tona (af­ter not racing there the pre­vi­ous two years), Paul had the re­cently in­tro­duced KR, the foot­shift model. It didn’t ex­actly han­dle well: “I changed an aw­ful lot to make that thing han­dle. Smokey helped me with that, there was this paved road out in the jun­gle north of Day­tona and we would try out dif­fer­ent things on it. A1a was pretty wavy and rough, so I worked on the han­dling out there a lot. Bras­hear made a num­ber of changes to his as well, ev­ery racer had his se­crets.” What was im­proved on the KR? Everett Bras­hear: “Nothin’, it was worse. I paid for my first KR with my WR win­nings. I didn’t want a KR, but the fac­tory thought I ought to have one, it was a piece of junk. It didn’t han­dle, the frame ge­om­e­try was worse, I got one and went to work on it, mod­i­fy­ing the frame, rake and trail, rear sec­tion – every­thing – but I didn’t re­ally get it han­dling un­til the end of the sea­son, I was win­ning all my races with the WR. “Win­ning Stur­gis on the KR was what made me look good to Har­ley, and then they started pretty much work­ing with me full time. By the end of the sea­son it worked re­ally good at the Mile at Du Quoin and won on the mile-and-a-half at Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, the only mile-and-a-half we ran on.” Day­tona 1953 was a big bat­tle be­tween Everett Bras­hear, Ed Kretz, John Has­cal, Dick Klam­foth, and Paul, even­tu­ally set­tling into a straight fight be­tween Paul and Kretz. “Ed was lead­ing it for a while. It was a real big race for Har­ley-david­son with a new type of mo­tor­cy­cle. I think Wal­ter David­son and Bill David­son were in the pits and were about to have a ner­vous break­down when Ed Kretz was lead­ing. I’ve got pic­tures of them and they’ve got their fin­gers crossed, hop­ing I would pass him and win the race and 1953 was when I won it with a mo­tor­cy­cle on the Day­tona Beach.” Everett Bras­hear: “The KR – by 1953 we had it work­ing pretty good, but horse­power is what it’s all about. The fac­tory ver­sion of a KR needed peo­ple like Tom Sifton to re­fine the horse­power curve on them. Paul earned it that day when he won at Day­tona… he rode it good and he had a good pit crew on it.” It cer­tainly didn’t hurt that Gold­smith had the bril­liant Smokey Yu­nick in his cor­ner. Everett: “Well, that’s true, he and Smokey were re­ally close. But I think most of his en­gine work was through the Har­ley dealer in Detroit and Paul raced the bikes out of his shop. Smokey Yu­nick, with­out a doubt, was one of the top en­gi­neers in stock car racing and Paul drove for him too. They were a good team, he and Smokey be­came the tough­est team in NASCAR, that’s for sure. I don’t know that Smokey could get more hp out of a Har­ley than a guy like Tom Sifton… but at Day­tona Paul just rode the tail off it.” In that 1953 race, Red Far­well was killed when he hit a spec­ta­tor. It had been the first fa­tal­ity in the Day­tona 200. Paul: “I saw part of it as I went by. That was too bad. There was a Har­ley rider, Jimmy Chan, who got hurt real bad when he hit a spec­ta­tor, too. “There were peo­ple run­ning across the track, you would be amazed. Peo­ple would be on the right side of the road, then cross to the in­field to watch the beach side. It could have hap­pened to any of us, and it was the same way with the cars there as well.” 1953 was also a big win for Paul at Langhorne in the 100-mile race, one of the leg­endary dirt tracks of that era. Gold­smith: “But I didn’t win Spring­field, I think I fin­ished sec­ond or third, some­where in there.” It was the fi­nal year in which the Na­tional cham­pion was the win­ner at Spring­field.


Left: Paul Gold­smith has the looks and the skill to not only get the fans ex­cited, but also to at­tract the in­ter­ests of Messrs David­son and Har­ley. A phone call set him on a path newly-formed.

Whether on two wheels or four, Paul Gold­smith was in­stru­men­tal in a ma­chine’s devel­op­ment.this is him in the Indy car that spanned the 1959 and 1960 sea­sons.

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