1918 Harley-Davidson 60.33ci Model 18J By Bonhams

The year 1909 marked the appearance of Harley-Davidson’s first V-twin, though it was not until the adoption of mechanically operated inlet valves in 1911 (replacing the ‘atmospheric’ type inherited from the single) that production really took off. Known by the sobriquet ‘pocket valve’, this inlet-over-exhaust engine – built in 61 and 74cu in capacities – would remain in production for the next 20 years.
The need to make better use of the engine’s power characteristics, particularly for sidecar pulling, prompted the introduction of a two-speed rear hub for 1914, by which time chain drive and a proper clutch had been adopted. Later that same year a conventional, three-speed, sliding-gear transmission with ‘step starter’ was introduced on the top-of-the-range version of the twin which, with full electrical equipment, was listed from now on as the Model J, not F.

The Model 18F, air-cooled 45-degree IOE v-twin of 60.33ci made about 15 horsepower (as a solo machine) at a heady 3,200rpm. (A police motor would have perhaps two more horsepower!) With a 3.75 to 1 compression ratio coupled with a 1-inch Schebler carburetor and battery-and-coil ignition, and 3-speed gearbox, the Model 18 would ‘run right along’ in spite of its cast iron pistons. Only a rear brake was available for retardation which was probably enough for a bike which weighed only 330lb dry even if actual modulation was sketchy. Also, the Model J had a generator for ignition instead of the magneto for the other Model 18. Representing the top of Harley Davidson line at the time, and the most powerful engine of the company, it was not rare to see a sidecar attached to the bike which permitted some very comfortable rides for the passenger.

Perhaps equally important to record is that from 1918 until 1923 Harley offered more for those whose needs were not met with a standard motorcycle. For example, there was a ‘Special Motors’ range which offered, among other things, lightweight aluminum pistons for more power and reliability. The US automobile industry had been using the material with great success since 1915. Numerous smaller improvements made sure that Harleys were still more reliable and robust. Arguably this beautiful original ‘survivor’ 1918 Harley v-twin is the world’s finest example still to have its original factory paint and still intact complete with the H-D decal on the steering head. Equally, it comes complete with its original, factory-installed headlamp, taillight, horn, and luggage rack. The H-D stamped leather saddle is also the genuine article. In addition, the following factory, era-correct, original options are fitted: Stewart 75mph speedometer and drive gear, tank-

mounted toolbox and frame-mounted tire pump. From the factory in 1918 the ignition was problematic, and most were replaced. It appears that this bike’s ignition was updated in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and a factory tank-top ammeter and bracket were added at that time.

Regrettably the battery box top was lost long ago and the box itself suffered battery acid abuse on some of its finish and structure. The kick starter pedal is a newer replacement. When ‘kicked’ the engine responds with proper compression but the seller has never tried to actually start it.

Report by bonhams.com
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