Short-lived sin­gle

Big twins have al­ways been the sig­na­ture of the Mil­wau­kee mod­els, but for a while, Har­ley-David­son also pro­duced some ex­cel­lent sin­gles, which are to­day ex­tremely rare.

Old Bike Australasia - - 1930 HARLEY-DAVIDSON MODEL C - Story and pho­tos Jim Scaysbrook

The late ‘twen­ties weren’t ex­actly salu­bri­ous times in USA. Down came the stock mar­ket, and with it the air of con­fi­dence that had been build­ing since the end of WW1. Still, life had to go on, and in Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cling terms, that meant ba­si­cally Har­ley-David­son and In­dian, and to a much lesser ex­tent, Ex­cel­sior/Hen­der­son. In the case of In­dian, the com­pany had been en­joy­ing a phe­nom­e­nal run of suc­cess on the track, wip­ing the floor to clean up na­tional ti­tles in 1928 and 1929. But while the v-twins con­tin­ued to sat­isfy the home mar­ket, al­beit a shrink­ing one, sin­gle cylin­der mod­els gained valu­able trac­tion for Har­ley on the ex­port side.

The sales suc­cess of In­dian’s Prince, a side-valve 350 cer­tainly did not go un­no­ticed by the folks in Mil­wau­kee, and in 1925 Har­ley re­sponded with their own 350 side-valve, the Model A, which had mag­neto ig­ni­tion, fol­lowed by the Model B with bat­tery ig­ni­tion. At $210, the Model A 350 was the cheap­est mo­tor­cy­cle in the com­pany’s range. The Model B was aimed mainly at the ex­port mar­ket, with a three-speed hand-shift gear­box and the op­tion of full elec­tri­cal equip­ment. For the 1926 model year, the B was joined by an over­head valve ver­sion known as the Solo Sport which pro­duced a healthy 12 horse­power. Like the side-valvers, this ver­sion was avail­able with mag­neto ig­ni­tion (Model AA) or the BA with bat­tery ig­ni­tion and lights. A sin­gle-gear com­pe­ti­tion model that im­me­di­ately found favour on the nascent speed­way scene in Eng­land, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, of­fi­cially the Model S with Sager front fork, be­came known as the Peashooter, due to its pop-pop ex­haust note from the stubby open ex­haust. Run­ning on al­co­hol, with 8.0:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio, they re­put­edly pro­duced around 30 horse­power. The new 350s ac­counted for al­most one-third of Har­ley’s pro­duc­tion in 1926, and for 1927 the cylin­der head on the OHV model be­came a twin ex­haust port de­sign, with a sub­se­quent in­crease in power. By 1928, the 350cc line-up had been re­fined with al­loy pis­tons, air fil­ters, an oil pump con­trolled by the throt­tle open­ing, and front wheel brakes in place of the spool hubs. As the eco­nomic belt tight­ened, Har­ley de­cided to ex­pand the sin­gle cylin­der line up with the ad­di­tion of a 500cc ver­sion – the Model C – which was listed for 1930, although there is an of­fi­cial sales list that shows the Model C was ac­tu­ally avail­able in 1929 and sold 1,570 units. This model ba­si­cally used the bot­tom end of the 21, with an en­larged bar­rel and spe­cial head, pro­duced for Har­ley by the le­gendary Harry Ri­cardo. Har­ley claimed the head could be re­moved, de­coked, valves ground and re­assem­bled in twenty min­utes, with no spe­cial tools re­quired. The 500 also had a new sta­ble mate in the 750cc Model D vee-twin,

aimed squarely at In­dian’s pop­u­lar 750cc Scout. The new Model D was also avail­able in a high­com­pres­sion ver­sion, the Model DL, and both 500 and 750 ver­sions used side-valves. Like all 1930 mod­els, the C boasted an elec­tri­cal sys­tem that au­to­mat­i­cally in­creased its out­put when the head­light was switched on. The new 500 sin­gle, which H-D em­phat­i­cally stip­u­lated was for solo use only, used the same frame as the 350cc Model Twenty-one (21 cu­bic inch) and the Model D, although when the 750 re­ceived a new chas­sis (with a wheel­base of 57.5 inches or 1460mm) in 1930, it was also used on the Model C. This gave a lower seat­ing po­si­tion and ex­tra ground clear­ance. A cheaper ver­sion of the 500, the Model CB (of which just 310 units were built) sold for just $197.50 and con­tin­ued with the early-style Model B frame un­til the sin­gles went out of pro­duc­tion. Along with the new frame and front forks, the 500 and 750 were fit­ted with front brakes as stan­dard equip­ment. Although not a ru­n­away sales suc­cess, the 500 claimed a ma­jor share of the 350’s mar­ket, and the smaller sin­gle was dropped for the 1931 model year, only to reap­pear a year later, dras­ti­cally re­duced in price as the De­pres­sion bit even harder. But it wasn’t just USA that was feel­ing the ef­fects, and as the eco­nom­i­cal cli­mate rapidly de­te­ri­o­rated in Europe (and Aus­trala­sia), Har­ley’s ex­port mar­kets dried up. 1934 would be the fi­nal year of the sin­gles from Mil­wau­kee. The Model C used en­gine di­men­sions of 78.5mm bore x 101.6mm stroke, giv­ing 493cc, with a list price in USA of $255. Ini­tially, horse­power was listed as 8 hp, but by 1932 this had risen to 10, and 10.5 hp at 3,400 rpm for the fi­nal 1934 ver­sion. Weight of the fi­nal ver­sion was listed as 365 pounds (166 kg). On later mod­els, the klaxon horn was re­placed with the so-called sun­burst faced type, and the twin head­light be­came a sin­gle unit. Which all adds up to make the Model C quite a rare mo­tor­cy­cle these days, with just 4,472 pro­duced in the pro­duc­tion years 1929 to 1934 in­clu­sive. In­deed, the ma­jor­ity of the sin­gles were ex­ported, and cer­tainly helped to es­tab­lish the brand in the eyes of the Euro­pean mar­kets. One of those mar­kets was Aus­tralia, but it is un­clear just how many reached these shores. It is clear how­ever, that only a hand­ful sur­vive. There was even a spe­cial speed­way ver­sion of the Model C, the Type CAC which was pri­mar­ily in­tended for ex­port to the UK and Aus­trala­sia.

Our fea­tured mo­tor­cy­cle be­longs to Alan Phillips, who un­til 2016 was the or­gan­iser of the pop­u­lar Mac­quarie Towns Mo­tor­cy­cle Restora­tion & Preser­va­tion Club’s an­nual Show Day on the banks of the Hawkes­bury River at Wind­sor in north western Syd­ney. This par­tic­u­lar ma­chine was among

1930 HAR­LEY-DAVID­SON MODEL C “1934 would be the fi­nal year of the sin­gles from Mil­wau­kee.”

lit­er­ally dozens col­lected by the late Arthur Pendle­bury, and it spent many years lan­guish­ing in Arthur’s fac­tory in Par­ra­matta, sur­rounded by dusty bed­fel­lows from many dif­fer­ent manufactur­ers. Fol­low­ing Arthur’s death, the col­lec­tion passed to his son Rob, who is also a mem­ber of the Mac­quarie Towns club and a close mate of Alan’s. “I used to bor­row Rob’s 350 Har­ley to ride in club runs,” says Alan, “but what I re­ally wanted was the 500. Even­tu­ally, Rob agreed to sell it to me. I was just 18 at the time. It is a 1930 model, with the twin head­lights, and the tool­box on the front forks, in the same frame used for the 750 twin, so it is quite dif­fer­ent to the ear­lier Model C which used the 350 frame.”

Af­ter rid­ing his new ac­qui­si­tion for a short time, Alan suc­cumbed to the in­evitable and dis­man­tled the bike. “It was painted sev­eral shades of green so it didn’t look very nice,” he says, “but in my restora­tion at­tempt I also com­mit­ted the usual sins of chroming things that shouldn’t have been chromed and so on. The bike then lay around for a very long time be­fore I de­cided to do it prop­erly. The paint­work was ac­tu­ally done by Peter Scott, the mag­neto man, back in 1981 and it still looks per­fect to­day, so in about 2010 when I de­cided to get stuck into it, I al­ready had a big chunk of it done. I was for­tu­nate that some of the bits that are pe­cu­liar to this model, or to the sin­gles, were all in place, so I didn’t have to find much. One thing I just have not been able to source is the cor­rect car­bu­ret­tor, which is a Schebler type G4. They were used on the 350 sin­gles as well, although with a smaller choke. I saw one for sale on eBay a while back and they wanted $1500 for it! The one I have on the bike is a Schebler Deluxe as used on the 750 twin, and ac­cord­ing to some spec­i­fi­ca­tions, this could have been cor­rect, but I have seen pho­to­graphs with the G4 fit­ted to the 500, which is dis­tinc­tive with its rec­tan­gu­lar float bowl, whereas the Deluxe bowl is cir­cu­lar.” So is Alan’s rare and de­sir­able Model C a won­der­ful rally bike, as he re­mem­bered it from all those years ago? “Not re­ally. It’s flat out at about 60 km/h, so you tend to get left be­hind. But it is nice to look at.”

Twin head­lights were shared with the 750. Dis­tinc­tive si­lencer. Front brake re­placed ear­lier spool hub.

Har­ley de­scribed the 500 en­gine as “re­mark­ably sim­ple and ac­ces­si­ble”. In­stru­men­ta­tion is not ex­ten­sive. The lu­bri­ca­tion depart­ment. Three-speed hand­change gear­box. Bar­rel-shaped tool­box came on stream for 1930.

Owner Alan Phillips with his Model C. 1930 HAR­LEY-DAVID­SON MODEL C

Where to put the suit­case.

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