Closing in on 12 decades of business, the Harley-Davidson name now has quite a bit of history behind it. Completing their first prototype in 1903, the company grew fast in a world new to and starved for cheap mechanized transport. They completed the construction of their first factory in 1906 with approximately 50 machines rolling off their assembly lines that year. Early versions of their motorcycles looked undoubtedly more like bicycles with small single-cylinder engines producing somewhere between 3 and 7 horsepower but as demand increased for their product, so did the technological innovations that came out of their factory.
By 1913, the company had been officially incorporated for 6 years and had been doing a successful business producing single-cylinder machines along with their early v-twin offerings which still hadn’t gained the traction and infamy that they eventually would. A new sport had also been introduced as the popularity of motorcycling grew ever faster; Board Track Racing. Professional daredevils would climb aboard specially tuned machines, many of which were direct drive with no gears and no brakes, to ride as fast as they could around a banked circular track composed of long planks of wood roughly thrown together. If it sounds dangerous, it’s because it was, with deaths occurring so frequently that they became somewhat normalized in the sport. But as the sport grew in popularity, sometimes amassing crowds of more than 80,000 spectators, so did the technology being incorporated into the machines that were run on these tracks, with these innovations having a direct correlation to the machines that manufacturers were selling to their slightly more mundane everyday street rider.
For 1913 Harley-Davidson offered 2 versions of their now tried and true single-cylinder machines, the Model 9A which was belt-driven, and the Model 9B which had a chain drive. Both versions featured a single-cylinder 35 cubic inch F-head (or pocket valve) engine producing around 4.34 horsepower and featured magneto ignition. Additionally for 1913, in a huge leap forward, mechanically operated intake valves of the pushrod and rocker arm type, were now included on the single-cylinder models, as opposed to the finicky atmospheric intake valves utilized on their earlier models. The inclusion of this system also meant that an additional cam would need to be included, one for the exhaust and one for the intake, making these machines the first two cam Harley machines in history. It was the addition of these mechanically operated valves that really paved the way forward for not only Harley-Davidson but all motorcycle manufacturers, to begin pushing their engines to higher horsepower in the never-ending quest for more speed. Production numbers for both models rounded out to be approximately 1510 9A examples produced and 4601 examples of the Model 9B.
The outstanding success of these early machines played a large role in Harley-Davidson becoming the household name that they are today. Solid production numbers and massive success on the race tracks meant that more motorcycles were sold which provided them more money to invest back into the production of new models and technology. Today, Board Track Racing machines stand as a testament to a different era, with far less safety and regard for human life but a necessary developmental stage in both the quest for speed as well as bringing solid and reliable two-wheeled transportation into the 20th century.
The example on offer here is a 1913 Harley-Davidson 9B Single Cylinder, engine number 934D. This fantastic and rare early Harley-Davidson has been built in the style of a board track racer complete with a direct chain-drive mechanism, iconic downward sweeping board track style handlebars, locked out pedals, and lacking brakes. Not much is known about the first 100 years of this machine’s life but around 20 years ago it was built by a gentleman in Texas in the manner it is presented today. The current owner and consignor, an early Harley-Davidson aficionado, purchased the motorcycle approximately 15 years ago at which time it joined his collection of numerous other early Harley-Davidson machines. It has not been run in some time, but was stored properly and always cared for. The restoration still presents very nicely, with the correct colored grey paint laid down smooth and seamless over the tank, frame, and fenders. There is some scattered spotting in the paint on the tank that appears almost as imperfections in the clear coat, smooth to the touch but apparent nonetheless. The pinstriping was applied appropriately and remains striking and clean, minus where the previously mentioned spotting has affected it on the tank. Cosmetically the engine and mechanical pieces show in nice order with bright metal, and no signs of any major issues. There is some spotting and minor pitting present on some of the metal surfaces with a slightly larger pitted section located on the right-side cam cover as well as on the left base of the cylinder. The finned cylinder head shows no signs of issues and all fins appear to be solid. The correct Schebler carburetor shows two small spots where the metal had been rubbed smooth in a previous life, likely before being fitted to this machine, but the finish remains relatively smooth and consistent. This bike is equipped with a Bosch Type ZE1 magneto which appears in good cosmetic shape but of which the mechanical prowess has not been tested. The rear wheel stand is missing some of its mounting hardware, making placing the motorcycle on its stand a bit cumbersome but once locked into place it sits secure and sound. This would be a relatively easy fix to undertake. The rider’s right-side chain tensioner bolt has been bent as well. This 9B wears a fantastic reproduction Messinger seat which is in great condition and hard mounted to the frame, as you would expect from a board track racer. It currently sits on white reproduction Firestone tires sized in 28 x 2 1/4 which show some cracking in the sidewalls as well as some discoloration and dirtiness but are perfectly suited to static display. The inside of the tank is dry and relatively clean but does have a bit of surface corrosion beginning to form simply from sitting and being uncoated. The iconic and sweeping drop handlebars present nicely, finished with the appropriate style wrapped grips and featuring leather control cable wraps, a nice finishing touch.
Overall this motorcycle represents an amazing look into the early days of motorcycling and the death-defying sport of Board Track Racing that grew up alongside these amazing machines. While it is currently likely best suited for static display, as the centerpiece of a collection, office, or cafe, it could be made to run with a bit of effort and sorting should any future owners desire to feel the daring boldness of early Board Track Racers.
Please Note: This motorcycle is being sold on a Bill of Sale only.
- Year of manufacture 1913