1924 Harley-Davidson 61

1924 Harley-Davidson 61

Sometimes you find a bargain in the strangest of places. Ed Fisher found this one in Australia.

Fisher, a former racer who competed on the old beach track in Daytona, wasn’t looking for motorcycles to buy when he went to Australia to watch last year’s International Six Days Enduro. But every day when he left the hotel, this beautiful 1924 Harley-Davidson 61 was sitting on the sidewalk in front of a house, sporting a “for sale” sign.

After passing the bike for three days, Fisher stopped and asked about this American classic in a faraway land. It turned out it came from an Australian motorcycle museum that was thinning its collection.

A bit of haggling followed, and soon, the bike was crated for shipment to the U.S.

When it arrived, Fisher was pleased to discover that he got more than he bargained for. As expected, the bike has quite a bit of history, but once he reconnected a carb float, it fired right up, too!

“It’s a really nice bike to ride,” says Fisher. “It’s unbelievable to me that something from 1924 would run so good after all this time. It’s really well balanced with the sidecar.”

From a historical standpoint, this 61 illustrates the innovation Harley-Davidson showed while fighting for market share with Indian and Excelsior-Henderson.

The 61-cubic-inch, inlet-over-exhaust-valve motor was the smallest V-twin you could buy from Milwaukee, and to help it make more power, it sported four-ring aluminum pistons and connecting rods that had been drilled for lightness. Those mods, adapted from the Motor Company’s race program, bumped optimum rpm from under 3,500 to nearly 4,000.

New for ’24 was a more efficient, box-section muffler, running gear that could be lubed with a grease gun, a redesigned flywheel and new paint schemes. As usual for the time, the bike has two twistgrips -- one working the throttle and the other controlling spark advance.

The Goulding sidecar is another interesting piece. It features a foot plate proudly proclaiming its manufacture in Melbourne, Australia. The Goulding company was started there, then moved to the United States in 1925. That makes this rig a piece of both American and Australian motorcycling history.

The bike also happens to date from a momentous year in motorcycling history -- the year the American Motorcyclist Association was born.

Not bad for a machine found by the side of the road.

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