Ex-factory race bike, documented history from new
1929 Harley-Davidson 21ci Peashooter
Engine no. 29SA511
When conjuring thoughts of treasure mines, no one would envision finding an original and intact rare Harley-Davidson in the bathroom of an Australian gold mine. However that is exactly what occurred to one enthusiast in the late 1940's. A. L. Bicker had heard stories of this machine still in a wooden crate and traced the Harley-Davidson to a mining operation in Western Australia. His father located the motorcycle and it was indeed in the men's room of the mine. Best of all, the machine was a factory racer with overhead valves. Essentially a twenty year old motorcycle at the time, it was not coveted as a rare antique but still a desirable machine to own and use. The owner at the mines was not able to get the bike running so he sold it. Removing the wheels, the motorcycle was carted home in the back of his father's car. Bicker was able to revive the Harley easily, perhaps running it for the first time since it was imported.
The Harley-Davidson Peashooter was originally marketed for the lucrative market in Australia and New Zealand for lightweight motorcycles in which both Indian and Harley-Davidson competed. At first the Harley, introduced in late 1925, was an economical side valve engine and quickly it developed into a potent overhead valve engine for competition. Some Peashooters of this later period came with two-port heads having twin cut-down exhaust pipes, but still with only a single exhaust valve. These bikes gained the name Peashooter from the popping sounds made by the exhaust. Also in 1928, the heads were modified for improved cooling. Engine numbering for this Harley-Davidson denoted, by the "SA" indicated it was delivered with a Schebler barrel carburetor for competition. All Harley-Davidson racers of this era began with a 500 series number, making this machine the 11th Peashooter racer produced in 1929.
Documentation provided by Bicker stated that he believed this Harley-Davidson Peashooter may have been shipped over as part of a factory effort for 1929 however this provenance was a matter of subjection. Factory rider Ralph Hepburn raced in Australia during these years. Australian grass tracks and cinder tracks were popular racing venues in those days and many Peashooters made it to those shore beginning in 1926.
Bicker also documented his starting procedures, beginning with draining the sump oil and ensuring the "carby" float was free. As the carburetor had no choke, he went on to describe backing the rear wheel to draw fuel into the cylinder and precisely setting the throttle and spark to ensure the proper light off of the engine. He had a procedure to start the engine by hand or bump starting machine as it had neither a clutch nor a transmission. Late in 1956, Bicker retuned the engine for sprinting and relocated the seat and foot pedals to allow him to lie on the bike for streamlining. During one flying quarter mile sprint in 1957, he achieved a speed of 84.71mph even as he adjusted the carburetor on the run.
The Peashooter's engine had a 21 inch (350cc) displacement which developed from new race classes when the American Motorcycle Association was formed, and Class A competition still ruled the tracks. Harley-Davidson archives that still existed on this motorcycle in 1953 stated that 29SA511 was a high compression fuel burner with its ignition timed to ½ inch before top dead center. It would develop peak horsepower at 5500 rpm with a 10:1 compression ratio. This particular Peashooter had the twin port exhaust head with a single intake and single exhaust valves, both exposed. Lubrication of the Peashooter's engine was by a total loss system, and a hand oil pump was conveniently placed on the left side of the gas tank when an extra squirt of oil was needed during a race. The Robert Bosch magneto was manually operated and at full retard, would short out allowing the rider to kill the motor. This magneto cut out was very necessary as the race bike did not possess a clutch. With no transmission, it had only one speed and that was fast. Schebler provided the racing barrel carburetors for the SA Peashooters and these particular carbs lacked choke boxes as to not inhibit the motors' ability to develop power. While Bicker's quarter mile sprint netted him an 84.71mph pass, the Peashooter was capable of nearly 100mph when given its full rein.
The chassis was lightened by eliminating any unnecessary brackets at the factory, bringing the weight of the motorcycle down to 215 lbs. The telescopic racing forks made by Harley looked suspiciously similar to the famed Merkel forks that were competition standards ten to twenty years prior to the Peashooter. The foot pedals remain as relocated by Bicker in 1956. No brakes were provided as was standard for racing in America.
This 1929 Harley-Davidson Peashooter is in exceptional original condition, perhaps the best known in the world. Finished in Harley's Olive Green, the tank was banded with a broad maroon stripe outlined with black pin striping and a complementary color center pin stripe. With its known racing heritage, this motorcycle is in remarkable shape and virtually untouched from the time it left the Milwaukee factory in 1929. Offered on a bill of sale