Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Hill Cimber's History - Larry Franz's Last Harley finds it's way to me

The Proud New Owner!

With the original fork, wheels, bars and tail section

Jerry Franz (son of Larry and Hillclimber in his own right) lets Thom have a whiff of Nitro...
(Thom happens to be the one who sold me Larry Franz's First HD Hillclimber decades ago)

Fill 'er up!

It fired up and ran GREAT after a" few" kicks.

Jerry let me do all the "mule" kicking and he took the Victory Kick!

This chapter of the Larry Franz story starts like this:

Last year at Wauseon my Canadian friend Rick Wolfe sent a gentleman my way who said he had a Hill Climber for sale. I spoke to this gentleman for a few minutes and realized it was Jerry Franz! I told him that I had one of his dad's bikes and a bunch of his dad's racing stuff. He said, "your the guy in Pennsylvania that has my Dad's first Harley." ...Yup that's me.

Well we got to talking and he said that he still had the bike that he (Jerry) hillclimbed and that his dad ran up until '84. It was his dad's last Harley Hillclimber a much modified 1937 factory model (Larry Sr. retired from Hillclimbing that year).

I said I was interested and gave him my info....months went by and I didn't hear from Jerry. Then one cold winter day there was a thick envelope in the mail. Jerry sent me a note saying he had heart surgery just after Wauseon 2010 and, was I still interested in the his dad's bike and "stuff" that he had. In the envelope were many pictures of the bike and a vast amount of parts and literature that all belonged to Larry Sr.

I studied the pictures and thought...Hell Yes! I'm interested! We worked out the details and it was decided that I would stop by and have a "look see" on my way to Wauseon Ohio in July.

Well the day came and I headed out with only my WLDR (for racing) in the van. I wanted to have plenty of room for what awaited me in central Ohio. I arrived at Jerry's place at noon and look and see I did! I spent 6 hours looking and seeing!

Jerry and his wife treated me like family, the Mrs. even made me lunch and brownies for the ride to Wauseon.

Some of the fantastic "stuff" that I loaded into my van that day were all the original pieces that came off this bike when Larry designed and fabricated the extended swing arm and gas shock rear section. The bike had been through many iterations over the years to remain competitive, the swing arm was the final version. Jerry kept everything, the original hard tail section, spring fork, handlebars, wheels, etc.

Now... parts to this particular bike were not the only extras that Jerry had in the pile...

The "Holy Grail"(to me) was also mixed in...the original 1932 R Engine with WLDR top end complete with the Schebler Racing Barrel Carb that was in my (Larry's first HD) Hillclimber that I have had for decades! Holy shit! There it was... the motor that A.W. French won the 1939 Championship with!

The literature was also incredible. Among the four boxes of letters, articles, magazines, parts books, manuals, etc. was a letter to Larry Franz Sr. from the Harley Factory Engineering Department dated March 1941 answering some questions Larry asked them about his HD Hillclimber including a question about the very same Schebler Carburetor that I was holding in my hand when I read it! Wow!

I will get some more pictures posted soon...still digging!

1 comment: