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The $181,000 Speedway Bike

Yes, this rare Harley speedway bikes fetched over $180 grand at the recent Mecum Auction in Las Vegas.

This is what the Mecum site said about this 1935 Harley-Davidson Works CAC

Joe Patreli was quite possibly the best American motorcycle racer in the first half of the 1900s. Petrali was setting records on the board tracks, dirt tracks and hill climbs. In addition to setting a one-mile land speed record of 136.183 MPH on a specially built and streamlined Harley-Davidson in March 1937, he won 49 AMA national championship races as a Class A star—a record that stood until Scott Parker won his 50th AMA national in 1992. Smokin’ Joe Petrali’s motorcycle racing career spanned 20 years, from 1918 to 1938, a career during which he raced factory machines for Indian, Excelsior and Harley-Davidson. In the 1930s, Speedway racing was very popular in the UK, Canada and Europe. Tracks were short, made of cinders or sometimes grass, and the machines that raced on them were light and quick steering with a very sharp fork angle. Engines had a single cylinder, and a clutch, gearbox and brakes were not necessary, as the chain went direct from the engine shaft sprocket to the rear wheel sprocket; racers were in a power slide from start to finish. Harley-Davidson’s factory racer Joe Patreli wanted a speedway bike. It was rumored that Harley-Davidson did not want to invest the money developing such a bike, so Petrali built most of the bike himself on weekends at the Milwaukee plant with the help of a few Harley-Davidson engineers. It is not known how many machines were built, though it is thought between 12 and 20 total CAC racers were made, making the Harley-Davidson CAC one of the rarest models ever created. This 1934 Harley-Davidson CAC Speedway is a true Harley-Davidson works racer with very few parts that are interchangeable with any other production Harley-Davidson. Displaying Engine No. XX2040, this factory Speedway racer is one of fewer than 12 known to exist today and is in genuine condition with no modern replacement parts. It is a rare treat to see a Harley-Davidson CAC, let alone for one to become publicly available. If you are building a collection of rare American racing motorcycles, the motorcycle presented here is a buying opportunity not to be missed.

FURTHER READING: If you dig old speedway bikes get your eyes around these features printed in glorious detail:

Jawa 500DT blueprint feature - Sideburn 34

1929 Norton DT blueprint feature - Sideburn 20

Speedway in a warzone, military speedway in WWII - Sideburn 8

All photos courtesy of Mecum


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