c.1929 Harley Davidson 30ci Peashooter
Engine no. 30CA 505
The Harley Davidson 'Peashooter' was HD's entry into the burgeoning world of Dirt Track racing which exploded in popularity in middle 1920s. American riders had always raced on unpaved tracks, or on board tracks, but the sport of Dirt Track, or Speedway racing as it became known, evolved a specialized breed of racing machine which was light, low, and stripped down for maximum acceleration and agility while navigating the minimal traction of a loose dirt racing surface. The sport grew specialized in Australia, and crowds found the sight of open-piped, broadsliding racing motorcycles which kicked up rooster tails of cinders, by far the most exciting sport ever, and crowded in their tens of thousands to race meetings. The large crowds meant huge ticket sales for race promoters, and within a short two years, Dirt Track racing had spread to England and America. Initially dominated by Douglas flat-twin racers with fast overhead-valve engines, by 1929 the Rudge chassis and single-cylinder OHV motor proved more agile and dominated the sport. Harley Davidson, always keen in the early part of the 20th Century to enter competition to advertise their products, soon intoroduced the 'Peashooter' single-cylinder OHV racer, with a chassis closely based on the Rudge design.
This machine is a rare 30 cubic inch or nominal 500cc model (most Peashooters were 21cu", or 350cc) from 1929, in remarkably original condition. The history of this very rare Harley-Davidson is remarkable. This 1929 30CA, Engine # 30CA 505, is thought to have originally been the example purchased by racer Frank Duckett of San Francisco, who, in common with many Speedway racers, traveled the globe with his machine to fill a year's calendar of racing. In the winter of 1929 he joined an American 'Star Speedway Tour', and both Ducket and his Peashooter traveled to Adelaide, Australia, where the Speedway scene was well established, and good riders could make an excellent income in the 'winter' months. Duckett did well in Australia, racing the machine in the 1929 and 1930 seasons, and winning the Australian Dirt Track Championship with this very machine in 1930. In 1931, it appears the Peashooter was badly crashed, and the petrol tank was damaged, then replaced. The original short exhaust pipes were replaced with the longer pipes as shown.
Multiple photos exist of Duckett aboard his machine racing in Australia, as it was the fastest Speedway motorcycle on the tracks in 1930 and attracted much attention, including that of the vendor's father, who also raced on the Adelaide tracks in 1929. It made such an impression that 15 years later he was able to track down the machine and purchase it, and it was kept in the family garage for over 55 years. This Model 30CA Peashooter is extremely rare for the combination of its capacity (500cc), its originality, and although no documentation exists conclusively proving this is Frank Duckett's bike, it has always been known as such and was the only Peashooter around at the time. Its globe-spanning story is full of appeal, and the unmolested 'as last raced' condition is rapidly becoming the gold standard for collectible competition motorcycles.