Monday, 26 April 2010


No brakes, no gears, no problem! The Harley-Davidson “Peashooter” was a full-on racing machine. Anything that didn’t help it go faster was just dead weight that was removed in a quest for victory.
Introduced in 1926, the 350cc singles were Milwaukee's response to Indian's Prince of the same displacement. They came in two variants, an economical side-valve for general lightweight transportation, or the more ferocious over-head-valve version. Known as the 'Peashooter' because of its staccato exhaust note, the 350cc roadster engine produced 8 horsepower, while the OHV racing version produced 12 horsepower and came equipped with a magneto.
The racer gained its performance advantage thanks to special combustion chambers designed by British engineer Harry Ricardo. A design feature called a 'squish band' created turbulence in the fuel charge, resulting in a fuller burn and thereby greater horsepower. In addition, the competition Peashooter engine also featured pressure oil feed to most of the bearings and had a sodium-cooled exhaust valve. It also featured a shorter wheelbase than the roadster and weighing only 215lbs, the racing "Peashooter" possessed an excellent power-to-weight ratio too.
Although introduced in the mid-1920s, the Peashooter's heyday was the early 1930s. By this time virtually all the expensive-to-maintain banked wooden board tracks closed and the focus of American motorcycle sport shifted back towards flat-track racing where the 350cc Harley excelled in the 21' cubic inch "Class A" . Flat track racing had started in the early 1900s on half-mile and mile-long horse tracks which were loosely  surfaced, hence the alternative name of "dirt-track" racing. The "Peashooter was also exported and proved its worth on the speedway circuits of Australia and Europe.
Harley-Davidson factory rider Joe Petrali
By the mid-1930s the focus of American racing had switched to the production-based "Class C" machines and the British J.A.P. engine had replaced virtually everything in the speedway world... The "Peashooter's" day had passed.

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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.