1936 Harley-Davidson 74ci VL Police Spec
Engine no. 36VLR2897
Beginning in 1929, Harley-Davidson flirted with sidevalve engines in both a response to the popularity of Indian's sidevalve heritage in the Scout and Chief series motorcycles, and perhaps a concession to economics. First came the 45 cubic inch engine, and following in 1930, the 74 cubic inch V series engine. Harley-Davidson's lineage was in the F-head engine, a design that carried the company from its inception, but the technology was dated, prone to wear and at the end of its development. Sidevalve engines were not as affected by wear and improperly adjusted valves, and were less expensive to mass produce. In the years of the Great Depression, these were serious considerations for the survival of the brand. Harley-Davidson's initial experience with sidevalves was neither encouraging nor profitable. The 45's vertical generator was a point of ridicule and the 74 V engine required a complete redesign even as the machines were being shipped to dealers. The fix required larger flywheels, among other flaws, which in turn meant new crankcases and frames. Ever the conservative company, Harley-Davidson continued with the design through the 1930's with thoughtful evolution of development.
The 1936 model year for V series Harley-Davidsons debuted several new designs to the motorcycle however it was the final year for this series of engine. New for 1936, the engine barrels and heads both gained greater cooling fins and incorporated improved Ricardo combustion chambers. Eighty inch engines were being sold late in 1935 but were not cataloged until the following year. For the 1936 year, both 74 cubic inch and 80 cubic inch engines were made available as were low compression and high compression engines. While Indian moved to dry sump oiling systems, Harley-Davidson retained a total-loss lubrication and a simple sheet metal primary cover that usually "marked its spot" with oil.
This 1936 Harley-Davidson VL is from the Bud Ekins collection of American motorcycles. It has a history of use in the movie industry and has been treated to many repaints during its life. It is still finished in police colors for its last role. The motorcycle, with the sidecar Mona also offered for sale (Lot 402), was used for the Great Race, a transcontinental competition of timed trials, by Ekins and his brother Dave. A relatively rare motorcycle, this VL has a unique story behind it.
- The title for this lot is in transit.