From 1903 Harley produced very capable single-cylinder motorcycles, until the appearance of their forst v-twin in 1909. Innovations came thick and fast and in 1911 with the adoption of mechanically operated inlet valves (replacing the ‘atmospheric’ type inherited from the single) that production really took off. Known as the ‘pocket valve’, this ‘F-head’ (inlet-over-exhaust) engine – built in both 61ci/1,000cc and 74ci/1,200cc capacities – would remain in production for the next 20 years. The desire to pull a sidecar prompted the introduction of a two-speed rear hub for 1914, by which time chain drive and a proper clutch had been adopted over the belt drive. 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 JD. Periodically revised and updated, the model had gained a front brake, a stronger fork and pumped lubrication by the time production ceased in 1929
For 1925, they left behind the loop frames that served them well since 1903, and brought many other modernizations to their family of motorcycles including smaller-diameter wheels. The next few years saw only incremental improvements. Hailed as the most significant innovation for 1927, Harley-Davidson introduced a new distributor-less ignition system that used a circuit breaker. While one spark plug fired on compression, the second plug was also firing but during the exhaust stroke producing a “wasted spark”. It remained a hallmark into the 1959 model year. Reportedly the Juneau Street company sold 9,691 JDs in 1927, a not insignificant number, quoted retail price $320.
By 1927, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was selling motorcycles in more than 70 countries and employing nearly 3,000 workers. The old squared-off tanks were gone, replaced by the new streamlined teardrop art-deco tanks with the stylistic cutouts on the right side to clear the motor’s valve-gear. The fenders were redesigned with a rounder, sleeker profile, and the wheels were made wider and of smaller diameter for a huskier look. Still, Harley-Davidson offered only one color, olive green.
This 1927 Harley-Davidson JD would make an excellent motorcycle to participate in vintage touring and pleasure riding. As part of a discerning collection of cars and motorcycles, the bike has been on static display in a climate-controlled environment since recent purchase and is presented in all round very good condition. The bike has been featured in several Harley books, and is steeped in desirable accessories, including the very rare buddy seat.
With only the toolbox as a reproduction part, this all-original machine was restored by a former AMCA president and physician from NH and went on to spend many years in a private museum in Columbus, OH and was ridden in The Pewter Run and other events in Northwest. All in all, an ideal vintage touring machine.