If you’re at all interested in motorcycle history, chances are excellent that you already know what a gift Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum is. What started as a passion project has only grown in significance over the years, as first assembled by the inimitable Dale Walksler and enthusiastically continued by his extremely knowledgeable son, Matt.
Still, even if you know all that, and you know what WTT’s specialties are, an important question remains. Much like choosing a favorite child, how exactly do you select the rarest of the rare bikes from the WTT collection? The 2023 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance posed exactly this question, but to be totally fair, the event organizers did at least narrow it down to ‘Board Track Motorcycles’ as a class designation.
WTT was invited to bring not one, not two, but three extremely rare board track machines to Amelia in 2023. In this video, Matt Walksler gives the kind of detailed overview of each of these bikes that only he can. Although all three fit into the same category, it’s the stories behind them that really set them apart—both from one another, and also from any bikes they might be competing against in the modern era.
What unbelievable gems did Matt Walksler choose to bring to Amelia Island in 2023? The first of the three is a 1914 Harley-Davidson A-motor factory race bike, which he says is the only example of this bike currently known to exist in the world. Additionally, it was the very first year that the Motor Company decided to go racing, which makes it extremely important in both brand history, and also American motorcycle history in general. It has a large fuel tank with rivets, a rear wheel clutch, and a back pedal brake setup, which weren’t common features, even at the time.
The second bike that Walksler chose is a 1929 Harley-Davidson DAR. Like the 1914 bike, it’s very much a one-of-a-kind machine, but that’s likely where the similarities end. It features an extremely rare 750cc overhead valve DAH engine, of which only 20 were ever made. This motor was specifically designed for hill climb duty, and documentation so far has only shown them to have been developed for factory hill climb racers. Of those 20, Walksler says, only 10 are known to survive today.
As the story goes, when Dale Walksler first got his hands on this bike, it didn’t have an engine—but then, because he was a guy with a particular set of skills, he managed to track down this specific engine within one week of picking up the chassis. Because fate is funny sometimes, it wasn’t only a correct engine—it was the exact engine that had originally come in this specific chassis. It’s a magical story, and you really need to hear Matt tell it (and you also need to hear the bike run at the end of that segment, which it does).
Last but absolutely not least, the final bike—and 2023 Amelia Island Best in Class award winner—is an absolutely stunning 1909 Reading Standard board track racer. Hailing from Reading, Pennsylvania, the company’s bikes were produced in limited numbers until around 1922, but it made extremely few race bikes during its tenure. Like the two Harley board track racers, it’s the only one known to still exist in 2023.
Opinions are completely subjective, but there’s a unique and visually arresting quality to this engine that is extremely appealing. As the story goes, this machine was actually lost in the depths of the Henry Ford Museum for untold years, but they eventually found it and sold it in the early 1990s, which is how it came to WTT in the first place.
This 1,000cc engine features ports at the bottoms of the cylinders, which Matt refers to as ‘a primitive form of supercharging.’ They’re also super cool to look at, as you can see the pistons moving and also witness the combustion when it’s running. (Are they oily and messy? Yes, but so were a lot of bikes at the time.) At the very end of the video, you get to witness this bike running, too—and as always, your favorite headphones or earbuds will be your very best friend here.