For some reason, collectibles found in unusual places have been cropping up time and again in the recent auction markets. And the most recent is perhaps the last thing you'd expect to uncover in the bathroom of an Australian treasure mine: a 1929 Harley-Davidson 21ci Peashooter motorcycle.
Yet that's exactly where this Peashooter was discovered by an enthusiast in the late 1940s. Collector AL Bicker had heard stories that this machine was still in a wooden crate and traced the Harley-Davidson to a mining operation in Western Australia.
His father located the motorcycle and it was indeed in the men's room of the mine. What's more, the machine was a factory racer with overhead valves. The bike was essentially a 20-year-old motorcycle at the time - although very desired, it was yet to be coveted as an antique.
The mine owner was unable to get the bike running. He sold it to Bicker, who was able to revive the Harley easily and perhaps run it for the first time since it was imported. The starting procedures employed by Bicker are extensively documented, and will be included in the sale of this bike in Las Vegas on January 6, 2011.
Bicker stated that he believed this Harley-Davidson Peashooter may have been shipped over as part of a factory effort for 1929. However, this provenance was a matter of subjection.
Another possibility relates to the fact that factory rider Ralph Hepburn raced in Australia during those years. Australian grass tracks and cinder tracks were popular racing venues in those days and many Peashooters made it to those shore beginning in 1926.
The Peashooter's engine had a 21 inch (350cc) displacement which developed from new race classes when the American Motorcycle Association was formed. According to 1953 Harley Davidson archives, the bike has a high compression fuel burner developing peak horsepower at 5500 rpm with a 10:1 compression ratio.
This was later put to the test by Bicker, who raced the Peashooter to 84.71mph over a quarter mile, although the bike was capable of 100mph when given its full rein. The chassis was lightened by eliminating any unnecessary brackets at the factory, bringing the weight of the motorcycle down to 215 lbs.
According to auctioneer Bonhams' lot notes, this 1929 Harley Davidson is "in exceptional original condition, perhaps the best known in the world."
Finished in Harley's Olive Green and boasting known racing heritage, "this motorcycle is in remarkable shape and virtually untouched from the time it left the Milwaukee factory in 1929" and will auction with an $125,000-150,000 pre-sale estimate.
Bonhams' sale is taking place at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.
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