Tag Archives: vintage harley davidson

1941 Harley Davidson Flathead

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.50.36 AM Years back a friend decided he wanted to live “Off The Grid”, I think that at sometime in life quite a few of us have thought of that. Then reality hits. A wife, kids, going to PTA meetings, and how far away is the nearest grocery store? Dan decided to wait until PTA meetings were over and kids were off to college before he headed down the path of “Off The Grid”.
Dan had spent years planning this transition in life (much to his wife’s dismay and consternation) and then the day came…”Honey, I found us a piece of land in Arizona that would be perfect for getting out of the Rat Race.
Now I’ve known Dan for years and over those years he acquired quite a motorcycle collection, some were pieces of junk (we all have those) and some were very special. He sold ’em all to buy this piece of land and an Airstream trailer to plant on it. Again, his wife just sat there shaking her head and wondering what kind of medications could help her husband. Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 8.18.39 AM
Fast forward about a year…This “living off the grid” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be and more importantly Dan missed his motorcycles. Sell the land, the Airstream, move back to town and buy a motorcycle. This time he decided on a classic bike instead of something modern.
How ‘Vintage’ is vintage, how ‘Antique’ is antique? Dan opted for Pre-war American. Indian, Harley, Excelsior??? Dan found a beautiful Harley WL model Flathead that needed some love. A few months later, and about as much money as he paid for his Airstream he had a big smile on his face and his overly tolerant wife was happy to have central air conditioning.Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.50.24 AM
The ‘Flathead’ design motor was very common throughout motoring history. Dating back to the early 20th century it was used in cars, tractors, pretty much anything motorized. The design was simple, dependable and relatively cheap to manufacture. However, it’s design did limit its power output, there are always trade offs. The WL Model Harley Davidson was a 45 cubic inch model that eventually found itself doing service in World War Two for not only the US troops but also for the Russian Army, they bought nearly 30,000 of them. After the war, the WLA model (A was for Army’) was very popular with returning GI’s. There is a lot more history available out there about the Flathead Harley’s and it’s quite fascinating. When it comes to Flatheads though there is nothing like the sound of a Ford Flathead to wake up you soul!
Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.48.12 AMI found a really beautiful 1941 Harley WL model on Ebay this morning. Earlier in this story I talked about my friend Dan and his Airstream. He paid nearly $30,000 for that trailer, he sold it for about the same. After he finished all the work he had done on the 1940 Harley, he could have bought back his trailer and given his wife a dish washer and air conditioning. It didn’t matter, he loved the bike. The bike I found on ebay this morning is a deal!
It is ready to ride. It does show it’s age and that is just great. If you’re not the adventurous type or a skilled mechanic you may not want to ride the bike across the country, but for weekend outings, it’s perfect and well worth the money.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. There’s an old saying out there “God rides a Harley”…there is another one that goes along with it, “If God rides a Harley, God rides slow”. On this bike, slow is just fine.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 5.31.19 PM1941 Harley Davidson Flathead

1947 Harley Davidson Custom

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 7.33.48 AMThere are times you remember that are still stuck in your mind decades later. Some are good and some you regret. One that I regret was a first date with a beautiful girl way out of my league. I was a senior in High School when the movie Easy Rider came out. My car was all clean and shiny, the interior was vacuumed, and I was showered and shaved. I was ready!

Now here is the ‘DFU’ moment came in, I took her to the Sepulveda Drive-In theatre to see Easy Rider. I don’t know what kind of movie she thought it might be, but it sure wasn’t what she hoped it would be. The thought of any back seat romance went out the window (the one that held the speaker) and I took her home before the movie was over.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.41.21 AMI found an old school ‘Long Bike’ on ebay today and it is what brought back that memory. If you think Saturday Night Fever was the best movie made and the Bee Gees the best musical group..then this is the bike for you. If you love ‘Tuck and Roll’ interiors and metallic paint jobs on classic cars…this bike is for you. If you want a motorcycle that would be painful to ride but you look cool…this bike is for you.

A little history here…you knew that was coming. In 1936 Harley Davidson replaced the ‘Flathead’ motor with the new OHV (overhead valve) motor. An interesting part of this story is that development of the new motor was all done during the “Great Depression”. The Flatheads came in two sizes 74 and 80 cubic inches and produced between 30 and 36 HP. Not bad for the time.Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 7.35.37 AM

When the new OHV motor came out it was only 61 cubes but produced 40HP! Smaller motor but more power, what more could you ask for? Well, riders did ask for more so in 1941 it pumped to 74 Cubic inches and a bit more power.

The 1947 Harley Davidson was the last of the “Knuckleheads” It was called the ‘Knucklehead’ because of the way the head was shaped and the valve cover. Later on The Motor Company changed some components and put a different valve cover on and the bike became the ‘Panhead’. The thing is is that the Knuckelhead lasted only 12 years but the same ‘basic’ design is what still powers your new HD Ultra Glide CVO Classic today.

Now back to the bike I found on ebay today. You gotta dig metal flake, you gotta think long bikes are way cool, you have to be a massochist and more importantly, you want to look cool!!!
This is a bike that will draw attention no matter where you go. Because of it’s size, you will always a parking spot to yourself, you will get more attention than a Sports Illustrated bikini model (well maybe not that one…), and you’ll be seeing your Chiropractor on the Monday after riding on Sunday. But, it will be worth it.

This is a very cool bike just because. It’s had a bunch of work done on it and looks great for a period piece. Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.

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Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 7.26.22 AM1947 Harley Davidson Custom

1979 Harley Davidson Cafe Racer

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.01.15 PMA while back I applied for a job at a Harley dealer. The general manager, the owners wife and I were having a good interview until I said the only Harley I really wanted to own was an XLCR. If you put your money on me not getting the job, you win.Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.58.39 PM

I remember when the XLCR showed up in 1977. It was Wille G Davidson’s first design job and I, being a Brit bike guy, was stoked! We all know that the AMF years were not Harley’s finest (mechanically) but we did get the XLCR and the original ‘Superglide’. Not too bad. But really, the bikes were junk. “Hardley Abelson”, “Hardley Driveable” and other names were applied that I can’t print here, but it was a good design time. Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.59.02 PM

The XLCR was a modified Sportster…same lump of a motor, some slight chassis changes and some cool styling. But…according to the purists it wasn’t a Harley. It was the Redheaded stepchild. Thats why it only lasted a couple of years. But, I still want one. I got the next best thing…a Buell.

I found a really cool 1979 XLH Sportster on ebay this morning that a guy, who just like me wanted an XLR, built a better one. This is one sweet Harley Davidson. Good upgrades, a beautiful tank and tail section…all of it. Yeah, you’re going to have pay attention to it…there is an old adage about vintage British bike, “Ride it for one hour…Work on it for two”, well this bike is probably right in there as well. But I think it will be worth it.

Click on the pics below for more info and pictures

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Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.39.22 PM1979 Harley Davidson Cafe Racer

Vintage Harley Davidson Mother Lode

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.35.49 AMI don’t quite know where to start here…what an amazing collection of bikes and parts. I mean, really, if you are into old Harley Davidson’s either for your own use (now that requires a full psychiatric evaluation) or you own a motorcycle salvage business (which may also require professional counseling…my daughter is a licensed therapist her number is **&^%$U&% she can help she has been around this sickness long enough) or lastly you build custom Harley’s. I mean you get all these parts and complete bikes and the 20′ container they are stored in. It doesn’t get any easier.Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.37.25 AM

Honestly, it’s a lot of money to buy this container but from what I have seen on the market lately, so far, it’s a hell of a deal.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This really is somebody’s idea of heaven!

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Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.22.45 AMVintage Harley Davidson Mother Lode

1977 Harley Davidson XLCR

Picture 9It’s that time of year that I start searching for, working on and writing about ‘winter projects’. Here in Southern California winter is all about having to switch from shorts to long pants and maybe a long sleeve t-shirt. OK…I said that just to make all of you that live in colder climates a bit jealous but the truth is, it does get cold here for us motorcyclists and though we may not have heated basements to build bikes in, my journalistic hero Peter Egan has the best, but we do have to warm up the garage at night to work on bikes.

It’s no secret that I love the Harley Davidson XLCR, it really is one of the few Harley’s that I really do lust after…note here…Santa (wife) are you listening??? The XLCR was not one of ‘The Motor Company’s’ shining moments, at the time, but it has become quite a cult classic. XLCR models in beautiful condition are selling for upwards of five times their original selling price!!! Honestly, Harley dealers were selling them at ‘fire sale’ prices two years after they quit making them. A little less than 2000 of the CR models were made and as I have said before they went over like a fart in church. It’s too bad to because a number of the features that went into XLCR ended up helping make the standard Sportster a much better motorcycle.Picture 13

Willie G. Davidson penned this bike from the ground up. He went after the BMW R90S and the Ducati SS. The XLCR was the quickest and fastest of the Sportsters. THe CR was 5hp up on the basic Sporty, it was under 500LB’s (which the BMW was not) and had a top speed over somewhere a bit north 110mph (which in itself was really not that big a deal at that time). Willie G. pulled some of the chassis design straight off Harley’s own flat track dominating XR750. But, to the faithful, it was not a real Harley. Yes, there were the AMF quality issues with the bike but all told, the XLCR was a good bike. Harley tried the Sportbike market again decades later with Buell but again pulled the plug. Harley knows their market.

Back to winter projects, I found an XLCR on ebay this morning, that if you’re brave enough, will be a great winter project. It’s pretty rough, it’s not a basket case but, it is rough. This is a bike that is going to need a lot of love and elbow grease. The seller is very honest about what has and hasn’t been done to/for the bike, what parts he has, the condition of said parts and what he wants to keep off the bike for his collection and what goes with it. Some of the stuff is good, some is questionable but all in all if you want a good winter project, this is pretty good choice. The bike is a runner so that in itself gives you a good starting point. With this XLCR you have a really have an easy choice to make…clean it all up (but leave it a little ratty), piece it back together and ride it. Or…go the full restoration route and invest a whole lot of money, that you will never get back if you want to sell it, and it will be a really cool motorcycle for a collection. And with a little work, it could end looking like this one…
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Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures.

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1977 Harley Davidson XLCR

1964 Harley Davidson Topper

Picture 12Over the more than 100 years Harley Davidson has been building motorcycles they have dipped their toes into the waters of bikes other than big twins a few times. Their short lived love affair with Aermacchi, the horizontal singles and small two strokes came from Italy, and more recently a partnership with sportbike builder Erik Buell (of which I now own one, and much to my chagrin, I LOVE). But, The Motor Company always seems to come to it’s senses and goes back to what it sells best…big, heavy, twins that owners can make louder than a Led Zepplin concert.

Let’s take a short walk back to the early 1960’s and the world of scooters. Harley Davidson was doing everything it could to keep their market share here in the U.S of A while the British and more importantly, the Japanese, were whittling away at it. As mentioned before, the working with Aermachhi to enter the small bike market didn’t go quite as well as the bean counters in Milwaukee would have liked. What about building a scooter?? Could it, would it, work?? It didn’t matter, Harley was throwing money (money it didn’t really have) almost anywhere to keep selling motorcycles. Enter the Topper.Picture 14

Harley Davidson built the Topper to cash in on the growing market of beginner riders and those that just wanted something fun to ride but wanted an American built machine. Well, the Topper went over like a fart in church. Harley built a medium sized 165cc, 9 horsepower, 2 stroke motor with a rope start (just like the one on your Craftsman lawnmower today) and top speed of about 46mph in a fairly modernistic designed, and…well, like I said ‘went over like a fart in church’.Picture 17 Harley kept it on the market for nearly 5 years but only sold about 3,000 of them and today only about 100 are still alive. That statistic alone gives it a very high cool factor.
So, today, I found one of the one hundred on ebay and it’s really cool. It’s no secret that I love scooters and I know that someday soon I’ll have another to ride around, a Harley Topper might just be more to my liking than a Vespa or Lambretta (is that because I now have a Harley powered motorcycle??…am I really headed to the dark side?? Oh Lord, please help me..). The one I found today is in great running condition with just a few small cosmetic flaws and only 6915 miles on the clock. It looks really great and would be perfect for someone who simply wants an around tow n grocery getter or a fun Sunday ride if you don’t have to get on the freeway.

If you are thinking about a vintage scooter that is very unique and quite rare, click on the pictures below for more info.

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Picture 101964 Harley Davidson Topper