Joe Petrali

Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures.
I don't profess to know the whole Joe Petrali story, Harley racer, hill climber, record holder - including with the Super X for Ignaz Schwinn. But on the occasion of his birthday, February 21 (1904) I thought I'd post a couple of photos of him that perhaps some have not seen before.
For a good on-line biography of "Smokin' Joe" go to the   AMA's Hall of Fame
Wichita, Kansas had an Excelsior dealership until the end of production in 1931 when Schwinn famously uttered, "Gentlemen. Today we stop." The inventory of the Wichita shop was transferred to a barn in Valley Center, Kansas and was subsequently lost in a fire. The only items that were not lost were the shop's ledger book and a promotional photo of Joe Petrali astride the Super X that broke the Altoona, PA board track records in 1926. This is a digital copy of that photo:
A more obscure piece of history turned up recently. As a teaser, check out the reverse side first. Written on the back, complete with the misspelling of Joe's last name are the words, "116 M.P.H. by Joe Petrole [sic] on Henderson about 1930-31 Ray Brusso on Henny"
The story behind the picture — On April 29, 1930, the new Henderson "Special" KL solo was demonstrated on a new smooth four-lane concrete Illinois highway, the St. Charles Road out of Chicago. Joe Petrali achieved 116.12 mph and 109.09 mph on two recorded runs, averaging 112.61. The KL has higher compression two-ring pistons, and an enlarged 1-1/4" carburetor, producing 45 hp at 4,500 rpm.
We learn more about Brusso (sitting backwards on the Henderson) and the guys on the fence from Vol. 2, No. 3 of the Excelssior Henderson “Bulletin” produced by Otis Spiker in the late 1970s. In it he re-types and article from the May 1930 issue of “Motorcycling” magazine which identifies Ray Brusso as the Harley dealer from North Avenue in Chicago. Also in attendance were the Indian sales guys Tampa Williams and Sam Bernardi. Independent motorcycle dealer Frank McDonald was there, as well as the Excelsior Henderson representatives Henry Weiderman and Emil Kastin. Two private owners (in jodhpurs) rode out for the demonstration, and hung out next to Joe dressed in necktie and white coveralls holding a white cloth racing cap. Arthur Constantine ran the string across the road for the electric timer and calculated the speeds attained on his slide rule.
Here's Brusso. Note the board track style tires. Chain removed at the moment. What size rear sprocket? No headlight, no tail light and no the need for the generator.
Look closer. The speedometer and dashboard have been removed. Tank pad on the tanks for ergonomic streamlining. Carburetor with racing air intake horn. Possibly an oil pressure gauge mounted above the magneto drive area of the timing cover facing upward.
The sound of Joe's speed trial ride can still be heard through the reporter's words that April day, “Our listening ears catch a faint high pitch drone. It sounds like a big Tri-Motor plane in the distance.”   “Now we can see the machine is hurtling down upon us with the speed of a projectile looming larger and larger.   It is next to impossible to distinguish the separate explosions of the motor, and the droning becomes a high pitched roar.”   “…he comes tearing along as though the devil on a sky rocket was chasing him.”
 Happy Birthday Joe Petrali February 21, 2013 
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