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Thread: WLDR ball-bearing "cheater" motor information needed!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    Wisconsin
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    1,809

    Default WLDR ball-bearing "cheater" motor information needed!

    Fellow AMCA Members:

    I'm eyeball-deep working on a story about early Class C and outlaw motorcycle racing in the time frame 1932-'42, and need your help.

    One of the subjects I'm trying to crack open is that of the so-called "cheater" motors. By that I mean Harley 45 cu. in. WLDR engines running ball-bearing camshafts and/or mainshafts. It is my plan to offer new evidence concerning possible factory-built motors of this type, but I need help.

    Right now I have some 1939-'40 memos referring to WLDR modifications and who inside the red brick factory may have been involved. I also have a few statements from old factory guys (now all dead, bless their souls) on the same subject. Also a good database of WLDR motor numbers and names of original owners. I know a lot about these guys and who among them had good connections with the Harley factory.

    What I need from you is information about existing/surviving WLDR "cheater" motors in your possession or ones that you know of. That is, what components inside these motors are ball bearing equipped and what makes you believe these and other modifications may have been done at the Harley factory before World War Two, and not post-war by some backyard tuner with machine-shop access. Lastly, I need the complete motor number (VIN) on these engines.

    With that information, I may be able to match existing WLDR ball-bearing motors back to their original owners. I may also be able to determine whether or not the guy who owned the bike also raced Class C. Lastly and most importantly, I may also be able to connect him to the Harley factory in Milwaukee. Not absolute proof of a factory-built ball-bearing WLDR, but pretty darn close!

    I've already assembled a list of late 1930s-1940 Class C riders with factory connections and their WLDR motor numbers that I suspect could have been ball-bearing. What I don't have and need in order to make the connection are motor numbers of surviving ball-bearing WLDR's. If we can link existing motors to pre-WWII Class C riders with factory connections, then the 1939-'40 factory memos and dead guys' statements about motor mods add further proof of what was going on behind the scenes. From older posts it seems like there are a few of these WLDR ball-bearing motors still around at "Wheels Through Time" and in other hands. Those are the motor descriptions and numbers that I need to figure this thing out.

    I also know that some of you guys don't like to give out motor numbers and I respect that. So I promise not to share or publish these numbers unless you grant permission. My only intent is to shed light on this historical puzzle and to further our knowledge about Harley-Davidson, Class C, and outlaw racing in the 1930s of which many myths and untruths abound. If we can nail down this factory "cheater" motor thing a little more, it will add to our knowledge base and fun. If you do not want to post your motor number here, you can PM it to me instead. I won't put it online, publish it, or share it without permission.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Hopefully you get the info you need Herb. This sounds like a very cool story!!!
    Cory Othen
    Membership#10953

  3. #3
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    Cory,

    It feels cool and more. Right now I'm back in 1938-'39 reliving Class C racing with guys like Johnny "Milwaukee Demon" Spiegelhoff, etc. It feels to me like they are on the track racing their Sport Scouts and WLDR's again. Really stirring up the ghosts this time!

    It is also very difficult because of the many myths and untruths about early Class C. But I've got a TON of new information and it should come together in a very nice manner if I do my part!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Central Oregon, High Desert
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    Herb,
    I don't claim to be any expert on WR's, but maybe this bit of info will help. In 1968 a buddy of mine was building a 45 and we went up to Tom Sifton's place to get some parts. His "barn" was full of old racing stuff, and he showed us all kinds high-zoot motors and parts. One thing that really stuck in my mind was all the ball bearings in the lower ends, as I had not seen anything like that before. My memory is not good enough to remember if he said it was factory, or if it was his work. I think it was his work, and the factory may have copied him later. He was famous for building motors that could leave the factory racers in the dust. Just look at the record of Sam Arena #79, starting in the 30's, and continuing after the war, and a bunch of other famed riders post-war.
    Doug.
    Doug McLaughlin #6607
    Central Oregon, USA

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    GA
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    Louie
    FaceBook >>>Modern Antique Cycle
    Blog Site >>> http://louiemcman.blogspot.com/
    YouTube >>> LouieMCman

    Make Plans to Attend the 10th Annual Southern National Meet May, 2019
    Denton FarmPark, Denton, NC

    http://www.amcasouthernnationalmeet.com/index.htm

  6. #6
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    Herb,

    I look forward to your findings. If it's race related, it always makes for interesting reading and I am eager to take a trip through the 30's!!!

    Doug,

    I think we are going to have to get you to a hypnotist and drag those particulars out of your head... I would imagine it would have been quite the sight when you stepped into Sifton's "barn"!
    Cory Othen
    Membership#10953

  7. #7
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    GA
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    Cool

    Found this pic on the web.....

    "Sam Arena gets the buck during his final run at the Modesto Hillclimb Chapionships in 1948. Sam was riding a Tom Sifton prepared 80" rocketship. Epic photo courtesy of Bob Pilgrim. "
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Louie
    FaceBook >>>Modern Antique Cycle
    Blog Site >>> http://louiemcman.blogspot.com/
    YouTube >>> LouieMCman

    Make Plans to Attend the 10th Annual Southern National Meet May, 2019
    Denton FarmPark, Denton, NC

    http://www.amcasouthernnationalmeet.com/index.htm

  8. #8
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    Cool shot Louie!!!! Talk about a promotion for Sifton power!!!
    Cory Othen
    Membership#10953

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    8

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    Herbert,
    Were you able to get the WLDR answers you were looking for?
    I am extremely interested in your results. Was the WLDR a fully factory ball bearing motor?
    Thanks,
    Dan

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Southeastern,Wisc.
    Posts
    286

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    Herb,
    If in your research for WLDR ball bearing bottom ends, contact me if you run across any info on ball bearing Peashooter bottoms like mine, so far this is the only one that has shown up.
    Regards
    Ken S.
    Ken S., # 6457
    1926- H-D BAF-Peashooter
    1954-H-D Panhead

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