Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vintage Engine Pornography

So here I am minding my own business and from the same seller pops up another vintage engine that is so lovely I just want to bang my head on the wall.  Yes I know that is over the edge and deep into pathetic.

I don’t know what it is but there is something unique, basic, primal and beautiful about the early single cylinder racing engines.  They are perfect expressions of form follows function.  They were built by men and not designed by computer or committee.  Yes I know I’m writing all this on a computer.

So this is the latest offering.  See it here if you dare.  Buy it now is $175,000.00.

This is what he has to say about the engine.

Offered for sale is a very rare and unique piece of history.  This Excelsior engine,  built by the famous Joe Petrali and Gene Rhyne,  long time friends and motorcycle racers,  is a one off circa 1931 Excelsior Over Head Valve racing  21.35 cubic inch single.  It features a Schebler barrel valve racing carburetor and a German Bosch magneto ignition.  It won the 1931 one mile dirt track class National Championship at El Centro, California.  That was its first and only race.  The rider was Joe Petrali.

Joe Petrali worked at Excelsior from 1926 to 1931 when the company closed because of the Great Depression.  According to his Excelsior contract, Joe rode a 45" Twin Super X in hill climbs and board track races.  Petrali had been racing and winning on Excelsior's factory race team since 1925.  Excelsior did not make a racing machine for dirt track racing where engines were restricted to 21.35" or 350cc.  At the direction of Ignatz Schwinn, the owner of Excelsior, Joe began developing a 21.35 " OHV racing single of his own design  to qualify for the dirt track class.  His life long friend and fellow racer, Gene Rhyne, former racing department engineer for indian, teamed up with Joe at Excelsior to build the 21.35" dirt track racer.  The first and only 21" racing machine was assembled with this 21.35" OHV dual port single racing engine by Joe and Gene at the Excelsior plant in Chicago.

When finished, the machine was prepped by Joe and Gene and taken by them to El Centro, CA. for race testing in April, 1931.  On the way they received a telegram from Mr. Schwinn informing them their services were no longer needed as Schwinn was out of the motorcycle business.  They were NOT to race the machine but to immediately demolish it.  Joe and Gene had come a long way from designing  and scratch building the racer only to have their hopes dashed of proving it on the race track.  They ignored the telegram and went on to race successfully at El Centro.  Joe not only won the race, but set a new speed record for the 21.35" motor class for one mile dirt track solo for the 1931 National Championship.  Documented published proof of the engine's existence and race history can be found in "American Racer, 1900-1940" by Stephen Wright on page 195 which shows the winners of the National Championships for 1931.  The one mile dirt track solo for 21:35 cu. in. motors was won by Joe Petrali with this Excelsior engine on April 5, 1931.

Gene Rhyne went to work for Al Crocker in Los Angeles building all the Crocker motorcycle engines; singles and twins.  Joe Petrali was hired back at Harley Davidson and went on to build more racers and set more records.  In 1938 Joe retired from racing and returned to Los Angeles where he landed a job at Hughes Aircraft.  His engineering experience was rewarded with the flight engineer's chair beside Howard Hughes at the controls of the "Spruce Goose" when it lifted off for its maiden flight in 1947 at Long Beach Harbor, CA.

Gene Rhyne and Pete Smiley, a noted racing personality,  rebuilt this Excelsior engine in the late 1970's.  The engine has not run since the rebuild.  Engine turns over and has good compression.  This one off engine could be used for display or be rebuilt into a dirt track racing machine.  It may require some cosmetics, inspection, and tuning.

Well I just figured out what the value of one of my kidneys is! 

But if I push back the lust and focus my attention by quieting the internal dialog I remember that I have this in the Kiotee Garage.  Well actually I have two like this.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Roy,
    I'm Andrew from Jakarta, Indonesia. I am a beginner in the classic engine motorcycle. I had hear from my older brother in old motorcycle if JAP engine is one of expensive engine.
    And in Indonesia I think now is the time for this engine be the topic to discuss and owned.