Wheels Through Time Uncovers Unknown Harley Sidecar Racing History

Do we get to hear the 1919 racing machine fired up in this video? Of course!

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One of the most interesting things about history is that you don’t always know how special things, events, or memories may be until much later on. Recently, Matt Walksler over at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina got his hands on what could be some of the most significant motorcycle racing history he’s seen in his lifetime. Even better, it was stored carefully and handed down through one racer’s family for generations.

Those interested in motorcycle history (and particularly American motorcycle history) are probably already well aware of Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum, which Matt’s dad founded. Several years ago, Matt picked up an exceedingly rare 1919 Harley-Davidson racing motorcycle with an even rarer racing Flexible sidecar rig.

The bike didn’t have an engine in it, but that didn’t matter—it was way too good a piece of motorcycle racing history to pass up. Between then and now, Matt got his hands on the right racing engine—which, like the bike itself, was found in Michigan. Somewhere along the way, Matt’s wife noticed the very hard-to-see lettering on the sidecar, which read “Cliff Palmer, Battle Creek, Michigan.” You can also see a faint “Flexible Sidecar” (the name of the company that made the rig) close by on the same side.

With just that name to go on, Matt started to do some research, hoping to find out any information that he could about this racer and the bike’s history. One day, he got a phone call from a guy who turned out to be Palmer’s great-grandson. After a long conversation, the great-grandson offered to mail a big box of racing history over to Matt—and that’s what you get to see him unbox in this video.

He knew some of the contents of the box before it arrived, but some of it was also left as a cool surprise—which is all the more reason that both he and the great-grandson almost had heart attacks when it got lost in the mail temporarily. Thankfully, the box finally made its way to WTT—and the racing scrapbooks inside are absolutely priceless.

While Matt knew he would be seeing some scrapbooks, he didn’t know about the other extremely cool thing in the box. It turned out to be a very carefully wrapped silver national sidecar championship trophy that Cliff Palmer won in 1926.

Now, clearly, two big scrapbooks full of historic racing clippings and photos will take some time to go through. Matt says he plans to do another video about the scrapbooks after he calls Cliff’s great-grandson Andrew up to talk about them. If you’re interested in this kind of history, the WTT YouTube channel is an absolutely stellar subscription.

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