Missing Link: 1919 Harley-Davidson Model W Sport

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The leading-link front fork of the Model W Sport used a central spring link connected to the downtubes through pull rods instead of a more common leaf spring.
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The horizontally opposed twin sits inline with the frame.
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Thom McIlhattan's 1919 Harley-Davidson Model W Sport.
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The clutch is operated by the rider’s left foot.
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Thom McIlhattan's 1919 Harley-Davidson Model W Sport.
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Thom McIlhattan's 1919 Harley-Davidson Model W Sport.
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The handshifter sits on the left side of the tank.
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The single 3/4-inch Schebler carburetor feeds both cylinders.
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The central front fork spring.
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Thom McIlhattan's 1919 Harley-Davidson Model W Sport.
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Owner Thom McIlhattan and his Model W Sport.

1919 H-D Model W Sport
Engine: 35.64ci (584cc) air-cooled sidevalve horizontally opposed twin w/cylinders in line w/frame, 2-3/4in x 3in (69.9mm x 76.2mm) bore and stroke, 3.75:1 compression ratio (est.), 6hp (factory claimed)
Top speed: 50mph
Carburetion: Single 3/4in (19mm) Schebler
Transmission: 3-speed handshift, chain final drive
Electrics: Magneto ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Single downtube keystone-style w/engine as stressed member/57in (1,448mm)
Suspension: Trailing link w/single spring front, rigid rear
Brakes: 7in (178mm) external contracting drum rear
Tires: 3in x 26in front and rear (3in x 20in modern equivalent)
Weight (wet): 250lb (114kg)
Seat height: 29.5in (749mm)
Fuel capacity: 3gal (13.6ltr)
Price then/now: $355/$25,000-$45,000

During most of its long existence, Harley-Davidson has built its reputation more on making powerful, reliable and sturdy V-twin-powered motorcycles than on innovation. Yet in 1919, Harley introduced an entirely new engine with essential features that wouldn’t become part of the family lineup for almost another decade.

By the end of 1918 and with World War I over, the Harley-Davidson company looked forward to peace, prosperity, and selling motorcycles — especially to veterans who had been introduced to motorcycles while in the military. Company engineer William Harley thought these new riders would want an innovative, user-friendly motorcycle with updated features, and he headed for the drawing board to deliver.

The bike that H-D introduced to dealers in mid-1919 was definitely innovative. Advertised as the Harley Sport, the Model W was the first Harley with a sidevalve top end, which was state of the art at the time. Before 1919, all Harley-Davidson engines featured the intake-over-exhaust valve configuration used on most motorcycle engines since the 1890s. Running without valve seals, inlet-over-exhaust engines routinely blew oil mist all over the rider’s pants. Competitor Indian was proving that sidevalve engines were not only quieter and cleaner, but also powerful, reliable and fast, and Indian’s sidevalve motorcycles regularly won both speed contests and endurance races. It seemed reasonable for Harley to experiment with a setup that had been proven by other companies.

Harley’s flat twin

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