Harley Davidson 1917 989 cc IOE V-twin in racing trim engine # 17T5848
In 1917, the first year of war for the U.S., olive green became the standard colour for all Harley Davidson machines. The twin could be ordered with magneto ignition (“F”) or battery and coil ignition (“J”). Changes to the valve gear led to extended valve overlap, resulting in significantly more power. The output now was 14 HP @ 3,200 rpm. Compression ratio was relatively low at 3.75:1 and the unladen weight of the solo machine amounted to 150 kg.
The 1917 catalogue was by no means shy about the engine’s performance:
““ Pep” is the one word which best describes its performance. A giant in power, this motor has the “jump”, “punch”, “getaway”, and that extra burst of speed that will make it the talk of the trade. Such snap has never been built into a motor before. Slowed down on a hill it will pull, and keep on pulling. We believe this motor will outrun and outpull any other stock motor. We make this statement because the Harley-Davidson has won every big race of the past season, and each one of these contests has taught us something new about motor performance, and all of this experience has been built into the 1917 twin motor.”
No wonder these machines were often converted into racing mounts by enthusiast who could not get hold of the much coveted but rare factory racing equipment, but were very proficient in tweaking the standard engines that were robust and reliable. This particular machine was found a number of years ago in Sweden. She has some interesting features: the frame has been slightly lowered, the tank has been professionally shortened and the gear lever has been mounted at the front of the petrol tank. There was one specific racer in Sweden that raced with machines that had these modifications. That was Ivar “The Meatball” Liljekvist, one of the three best Harley racers in Sweden in the nineteen twenties. Ivar was relatively small in stature so the modifications were very practical. There’s a photo of Ivar available on which he is posing with one of his converted racers.