August 4, 2011
Classic Harley Indian Motorcycle War – Vintage Grand Prix Race 2011
Every year, during the Mountainfest motorcycle event, several of the streets in downtown Morgantown, WV are closed down for a few hours to create a Grand Prix track for classic motorcycles. The classes are generally by engine displacement up to 500cc, and none of them can be liquid cooled or have disc brakes. There are also classes for scooters, sidecars, hand shifters and there is a “Cannonball” class for pre-1916 motorycles.
This year the Cannonball class had three antique motorcycles entered, a pair of 1915 Indians and one 1915 Harley-Davidson. One of the Indians and the Harley were legit Motorcycle Cannonball motorcycles that crossed the US with 43 other pre-1916 motorcycles. The Indian was ridden by Jim Petty and the Harley by me (Buzz Kanter) in the photo shown below.
Many of the spectators at this event might have though the three riders were going to cruise around the roughly 1/2 mile track on this antique motorcycles. Boy were they surprised when all three riders cranked it up and put on quite a show throwing these 96 year old vintage motorcycles around hard down the straightaways, through the twisty chicanes, and around the sharp 90 degree turns on the city streest.
The Indian on the left in the above photo has not been defeated on this course in the last five years. The Harley and Indian on the right have never been ridden here. So all three riders were anxious to see what might occur during this modern version of the Harley Indian motorcycle wars – almost a century later.
In the first heat the Indian on the right got the hole shot. But I, on my classic Harley, tucked in and throttled hard to take the lead by the first turn. The Harley was pulling away from the two Indians when it dropped out acting like it had run out of gas on the second of five laps. A few moments later the Indian on the right went too hard into a turn and crashed lightly, scuffng the bike and scratching the riders knee. Both Indian riders realized how fast the classic Harley was before it ran out of gas.
I checked over my 1915 Harley and found it suffered from a gas vapor lock. I cleaned out the gas cap vents and reinstalled them loosely with some duct tape holding them on. Then, crossing my fingers, I kickstarted Selma, my 1915 Harley and rolled to the start line for the final race of the Cannonball class.
The undefeated Indian rider, perhaps having seen how much faster my Harley is, didn’t wait for the starter’s flag to drop before he took off and was at least 10 bike lengths out before I and Jim Petty were moving. I took 4 of the 5 laps to catch the Indian but did pass it and pulled out ahead to take the win.
So much for the revivied Harley Indian motorcycle wars.