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Scene: Harley-Davidson board tracker

Historic racing machine from 1918

Content of

Andreas Wehrmann’s dream was a historic racing machine from before 1920. His choice fell on a Harley-Davidson board tracker from 1918.

E.To be honest, it was two dreams that came true. By chance I came across motorcycle parts for a classic single cylinder in 1987. Research in Erwin Tragatsch’s books revealed that it was an extremely rare English 500 RudgeWhitworth rudiment from 1926. But there were absolutely no parts to be found in the zone for this four- valve model, ”says Andreas Wehrmann, born in 1958, describing his “lucky in the unhappy situation” in the GDR at the time. Then came the turning point, and from 1995 the restoration began, based on the example of the legendary Brooklands track racers. The racer was ready just in time for the 1999 Oldtimer GP at the Hockenheimring. “On this occasion I got to know the board track experts Stefan and Thomas Bund with their extraordinary racing machines. I immediately knew that a machine like this from the pioneering days of American racing was missing to my true motorcycle happiness. The next dream bike was already in my mind, ”reveals the old-timer fan from Thuringia.

“As a 12-year-old, our neighbor took me with him on his pre-war Zundapp KS 600. The sound of the robust boxer engine exerted an indescribable fascination on me,” recalls the likeable mechanical engineer. Similar to his fellow species in the West, he tinkered with mopeds. At the age of 17 he began restoring an NSU OSL 501 from 1935 and says: “In the meantime, I had passed my Abitur in one go with my apprenticeship as a cutting machine operator at Zeiss in my hometown of Jena. My hobby brought me together with other motorcycle enthusiasts, and during this time I also collected my manual tools. Speaking of OSL, I still own the fully restored steam hammer today. "

The life planning proceeded according to plan. In 1978 he did basic military service for a year and a half, then studied mechanical engineering and then returned to Zeiss as an engineer in quality control. Motorcycles remained his hobby. Old machines were refurbished, exchanged, sold and even sent to the West by parcel for “hard” West Marks. Fortunately, the “Iron Curtain” wasn’t quite as tight, and from 1985 he could call himself the proud owner of a BMW R75 / 5. After reunification, the Wehrmann family moved from Jena to North Hesse in 1991. The mechanical engineer found a new professional challenge in an automotive supplier company.

After visiting Hockenheim in 1999, he paged through specialist literature and made further contacts with the tracker scene. In 2005 a 1000 series Harley-Davidson Pocketvalves series engine from 1918 was on the workbench, with which the racing fan had set himself a huge challenge. "In order to be able to understand the functionality, structure and the almost 100 years old, species-appropriate movement of the racers, a sound background knowledge of this sport is essential", reports Andreas Wehrmann. Since board trackers dispense with clutch and gearbox in terms of driving technology, but also for weight reasons, the focus was on the contemporary hairdressing of the V2 engine. Inlet and outlet channels of the cylinder heads with OK control, ie one hanging inlet valve and one standing outlet valve each, have been revised, the connecting rods have been lightened, the crankshaft has been finely balanced, two aluminum pistons have been installed and the carburettor has been optimized.


Wehrmann with his favorites: Rudge track racer from 1926 and Harley-Davidson board tracker from 1918.

Wehrmann was able to organize the special, unsprung Keystone frame for the board trackers in Saarland. Other parts could only be obtained from the USA. In contrast to the standard tubular frame, the Keystone chassis was open at the bottom, and the motor, bolted using gusset plates, sat deeper in the frame. With this trick, the cylinders could be dismantled without removing the engine. Another advantage was the lower center of gravity, which significantly improved handling. “In the 1910s, the Harleys still had pedals. The engine was started with the cranks and if the V2 went on strike, it could be trampled home on foot. Since braking systems were forbidden in the board track, the pedals served as footrests. For safety reasons, I kept the rear brake on my Racer. During the restoration, I attached great importance to attention to detail and function, which is recognized by insiders. But it wasn’t just the technology, the aura of board track racing should also become a great passion, ”emphasizes Andreas Wehrmann.

From 1900 in North America, motorcycle manufacturers shot up like mushrooms all over the country. Those who wanted to attract attention took part in competitions. Jack Prince invented the board track oval for motorcycle races based on the model of the Velodrome. His first Motordrome made entirely of wood was created in Los Angeles in 1909. Other arenas soon followed across the States, each with two steep wall curves, often inclined at over 60 degrees.

The regulations of the "American Motordrome League" were modeled on US baseball. There were A and B groups, heats, elimination races, individual and team competitions, sprint and long-distance races. The machines were either pushed with muscle power or pulled by a production motorcycle. If the engine was running, the introductory lap started. The race got off to a flying start. In a crowd, the actors thundered over the wooden planks at full throttle, slipstream races were the order of the day. If a driver wanted to reduce the speed, he briefly pressed the kill switch.

Board track events were by far the most spectacular, but also the most dangerous motorcycle races in the United States. Again and again there were accidents with seriously injured and fatalities due to daring driving maneuvers, technical machine defects or oil-smeared boardwalks. But the racing cracks, but above all the battle strollers, loved the thrill in the "Murderdromes".


With up to 200 things, the actors rushed over the unplaned wooden planks.

For the 1913 newly founded racing department at Harley-Davidson one hired the racing experienced William "Bill" Ottaway, who was poached by Thor. Soon there were pocketvalves board track racing machines for sale, and from 1916 the Harley team launched thoroughbred 1000 factory racing machines with four-valve OHV technology. Trackers with OK control cam to a top 160, the oven-valve factory racers managed 200 km / h, continuous speed of course! In the 1921 season, the Harleys basically won everything there was to win at the time.

Back to the roots Thanks to the "German Wrecking Crew", the board track history has become more and more well-known in recent years. At classic car events, the teams compete for presentation runs. "Compared to before, when it was a matter of fame and honor for the drivers, but also often about head and neck, we take it easy," says Andreas Wehrmann. “The driving pleasure lies in the originality. Hardly any other racing motorcycle is so reduced to the essentials, engine, frame and wheels. Should the horses ever run away with me, the engine is additionally supplied with lubricant via the oil hand pump on the tank. The mechanics, which are almost 100 years old, ultimately need to be looked after. "

Technical specifications


The driver only has to concentrate on the throttle grip on the handlebars and the oil pump on the tank .

Harley-Davidson Board Tracker (1918)

Air-cooled 45 degree V2 four-stroke engine, ioe control (inlet over exhaust), a camshaft below, 84 mm bore, 89 mm stroke, 998 cm³ (61 cui), Schebler carburetor type H, Bosch USA magneto ignition, approx. 20 HP, without clutch and gearbox, final drive via chain

Landing gear:
"Keystoneframe" HD racing frame open at the bottom, unsprung, motor bolted to gusset plates, 28-inch spoked wheels, 28×2¼ bulging strips, air pressure 3 bar, weight 100 kg, possible cruising speed approx. 160 km / h

Andreas Wehrmann’s blog:

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