New to the Harley-Davidson Archives collection is a rare factory sidecar racer.
This Class A racer is outfitted with an FLXI racing sidecar built by the Flexible Sidecar Company of Loudonville, Ohio. What makes the sidecar unique is its ability to ‘lean’ with the bike as the chassis articulates.
The story of this machine dates to 1924, where photos in the Harley-Davidson Enthusiast show Wrecking Crew member Ralph Hepburn in the lead of the 5-mile National Sidecar Championship in Syracuse, N.Y. on this very bike!
The “keystone” chassis construction also allowed the ability to quick-change engine combinations so the same bike could compete in multiple classes such as single cylinder (30.50 cubic inch) or 61 c.i. twin class.
The sidecar was removable, and the wide handlebars were replaceable with “drop” style for Class A solo classes as well. This prevented having multiple machines for each factory rider.
Jump ahead a few years and the bike is back at Juneau Ave, with a freshly reconditioned chassis and awaiting a new engine.
In August 1928, S.F. Pratt, a Harley-Davidson® dealer from Lynchburg, VA purchased the bike from the Motor Company -- outfitted with a new 1929 FHAC engine.
The bike was campaigned throughout the American east coast by dealership employee Ralph Kelly.
The H-D Museum and H-D Archives can confirm details of the bike’s history thanks, in part, to their robust collection of digitized publications like The Enthusiast. But more importantly, through the care of previous owners who documented the story and preserved artifacts related to the machine.
A cancelled factory check, an original title, and a wooden crate the special factory mixed racing fuel was shipped in are all items that have traveled with bike and speak to its exciting history.
The bike remained at the Lynchburg dealership until the 1970s when it was purchased, restored, and raced by West Babylon, New York dealer Gene Baron.
It was sold one more time before coming to the Harley-Davidson Museum, who is happy to take on the care of its legacy.
The FLXI racer will be on display in a special temporary exhibit starting June 2023.