Harley-Davidson Pea Shooter

Harley Davidson vintage motorcycle
To my eyes, many of the most desirable Harley-Davidson vintage motorcycles are those that were built between the Wars. And not just the heavy machinery: the lightweight racing ‘Pea Shooters’ had an elegant style that has worn well over the years.

These very rapid singles came into being after the AMA launched a ‘21 cubic inch’ racing class in 1925; Indian was ready, with its Prince model, but Harley was not. So Milwaukee got its skates on, and within months had designed and built two new singles. One was a side-valve flathead, and the other was an overhead-valve. The ‘S’ was the racing version of the OHV, with an innovative detachable cylinder head, and that’s what you’re looking at above.

The bikes were known as ‘pea shooters’ on account of their distinctive popping exhaust note, and they cleaned up on the flat tracks of the day—both in the US and abroad. Weighing a mere 98 kg (215 lbs), the highly tuned engines nudged the S models towards the magic ‘ton’. Which in those days, was a remarkable achievement. Many of these supposed race bikes ended up as road machines; they became a popular choice for enthusiasts in Europe, and some were even used as everyday bikes.

This particular example, a 28S in excellent condition and with a lovely patina of age, lives in Holland. It’s for sale for €45,000 (US$60,000) at the dealer Yesterdays, which is a veritable treasure trove of vintage motorcycles and worth a browse if you have a few minutes to spare.