Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates The Race of Gentlemen

Hot rods from The Race of Gentlemen on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum | William Hall
Hot rods from The Race of Gentlemen on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum | William Hall

When Jim Nelson and friends returned home from World War II to Carlsbad, California, they had two things on their minds – girls and speed. In 1945, they formed a club to pursue the latter, and The Oilers Car Club was born.

Their exploits might have been lost to time if not for their inclusion in the award-winning 2003 book, The Birth of Hot Rodding: The Dry Lakes Era by Robert Genat and Don Cox. A lifetime away on the opposite coast, Mel Stultz and friends obsessed over the book’s images of the early days of post-war hot-rodding, reaching out to author Genat who put them in touch with the original Oilers. Continue reading

Bookshelf: Rainy day memories with the Davidsons

A vintage Harley-Davidson parked in the rain at the family get-together | William Hall photos
A vintage Harley-Davidson parked in the rain at the family get-together | William Hall photos

Every now and again, weather interjects itself into the best-laid plans of the vintage motorcyclist. Experienced riders know to take the hint; oftentimes the universe is aligning a different experience, and a sudden downpour is merely the suggestion that one should be open to the unexpected.

Such was the case while attending a recent event held by the Badger Heritage Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Heavy rain was predicted all day, but I still obligingly attended because I knew the organizers would be there working hard, rain or shine. Besides, most antique motorcyclists are a plucky bunch (“Weather? Hell, that’s the least of my worries.”) Continue reading

$38 well spent: Harley-Davidson’s Steel Toe Tour

Motorcycle on the assembly line on Harley's York plant | Harley-Davidson photos
Motorcycle on the assembly line on Harley’s York plant | Harley-Davidson photos

In addition of collecting cars, I am a classic motorcycle collector. While I love my classic bikes, they are not without their issues.

A few months ago I went out to my shop to fire up one of my old bikes. I tried the Norton Commando and it would not start. Next, I tried my Triumph, same story. Finally I got on my BMW and even it would not run properly. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Happily, there is a bike you can buy today that offers many of the things that a classic motorcycle offers both in looks and sound, yet is reliable and can be used as a daily rider with ease. That bike is the Harley-Davidson. Continue reading

Vintage motorcycles hit jackpot for Mecum in Vegas

Terry Gambill and Clara Baker examine a 1950 Harley-Davidson | Bob Golfen photos
Terry Gambill and Clara Baker examine a 1950 Harley-Davidson | Bob Golfen photos

The Mecum motorcycle auction rolled into Las Vegas last weekend for the second time this year, adding the sale of about 400 vintage bikes to the nearly 1,000 that crossed the block in January. This was the first spring Vegas motorcycle auction for Mecum, and with $4.4 million in sales (not including auction fees) and an 80 percent sell-through rate, it most likely won’t be the last.

“Once again, Las Vegas proves itself as the premier vintage-motorcycle enthusiast gathering place,” said Ron Christenson, president of the Mecum motorcycle division. Continue reading

Mecum back in Vegas with another motorcycle auction

THe 1931 Indian flat tank four is a featured bike from the Ernest 'Bud' Cox collection | Mecum Auctions photos
THe 1931 Indian flat tank four is a featured bike from the Ernest ‘Bud’ Cox collection | Mecum Auctions photos

Mecum launches its inaugural summer motorcycle auction in Las Vegas this weekend, with about 600 vintage collector bikes consigned for the three-day event. The sale takes place at the South Point Casino, Hotel and Spa, with a preview day Thursday and motorcycles crossing the block on Friday and Saturday.

The sale is the second motorcycle auction held by Mecum in Vegas this year, the other one taking place annually in January, a longstanding event that the auction company continued four years ago when it acquired MidAmerica Auctions. Mecum also holds a motorcycle auction during Monterey Car Week in conjunction with its collector car auction in Monterey, California. Continue reading

Historic racing motorcycles take over Harley museum

The exhibit includes (from left) a Harley XRTT road racer, a XR750 flat tracker and an MX-250 motocrosser | WIlliam Hall photos
The exhibit includes (from left) a Harley XRTT road racer, a XR750 flat tracker and an MX-250 motocrosser | WIlliam Hall photos

Harley-Davidson is known more for its traditionally styled boulevard cruisers than for competition motorcycles. However, a trip to the new exhibition, “Racing Machines: From the KR to the XR,” at Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson Museum offers an eye-opening look at the American motorcycle manufacturer’s remarkable racing efforts.

On display are the historical artifacts from their motocross, road-racing, flat-track, short-track and land-speed record efforts. Continue reading

Mama Tried – and succeeds – at being a unique motorcycle show

A rigid-frame Harley-Davidson stands like a curated work of art | William Hall photos
A rigid-frame Harley-Davidson stands like a curated work of art | William Hall photos

Unlike the hapless subject of Merle Haggard’s wistful honky-tonk classic from which it derives its name, Milwaukee’s Mama Tried Motorcycle Show has proven to be a standout success among vintage and custom motorcycle shows.

Held each February in a century-old urban industrial warehouse in the shadow of main-sponsor Harley-Davidson, the event celebrates the art of the motorcycle in a hip, fresh exhibition of more than 100 invited builders and collectors from around the country. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1978 Harley Davidson XLCR Sportster

The black Harley-Davidson XLCR Sportster has a menacing look
The black Harley-Davidson XLCR Sportster has a menacing look

I have been a fan and collector of classic motorcycles, primarily British, German and Italian bikes from the ’60s and early ’70s, since I was 19 years old.  That being said, the one motorcycle brand I have never given much time or thought to is Harley-Davidson.

Although I have even owned around nine Harleys over the years, I never dug into the company’s history and never really became a fan. Continue reading

Bonhams adds special auction of American-motorcycle collection

A classic 1930 Indian four-cylinder motorcycle with matching sidecar will be offered | Bonhams photos
A classic 1930 Indian four-cylinder motorcycle with matching sidecar will be offered  at auction | Bonhams photos

Bonhams’ motorcycle auctions in Stafford, U.K., will have a strong American twist this year with the special sale of 60 antique and vintage predominantly U.S. bikes, some more than 100 years old, coming from a private museum in Italy.

The collection will be offered October 17 during the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show at Staffordshire County Showground, followed October 18 by the annual Autumn Stafford Sale of more than 280 mostly British, Italian, French and Japanese motorcycles at the same location. Continue reading

Update: Jerry Lee Lewis’ Harley hits $385k at auction

The ’59 Harley owned by Jerry Lee Lewis was a star vehicle at the Florida auction | Dan Duckworth/Mecum
The ’59 Harley owned by Jerry Lee Lewis was a star vehicle at the Florida auction | Dan Duckworth/Mecum

Although the pristine 1959 Harley-Davidson FLH owned by rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis failed to achieve the forecast million-dollar mark Saturday at Mecum’s auction in Kissimmee, Florida, it did sell for a resounding $385,000, including auction fee.

The Harley has just over 2,000 miles on its odometer and until its sale was owned since new by Lewis, 79, who appeared with the motorcycle during the bidding. The celebrity provenance approximately tripled the inherent value of the desirable and highly original full-dress Harley.

Before the Florida sale, auction founder and chief Dana Mecum estimated that the motorcycle would cross into the seven-figure range, an extreme rarity for any two-wheeler.

“This could be the $1 million motorcycle,” Mecum said in a news release prior to the event.

The result for the Harley was the eighth-highest vehicle sale so far during the huge Kissimmee event, which boasted around 3,000 vehicles at auction.

The ’59 Harley FLH with its iconic Panhead V-twin engine was presented as a gift to Jerry Lee by Harley-Davidson, which gave a second one to another famous ‘50s rock star, Elvis Presley.

The highest known price ever achieved for a motorcycle happened in October when the “Captain America” Harley-Davidson chopper purportedly used in the movie Easy Rider was sold at auction for $1.35 million, even though its authenticity was in question.

Read the earlier story about Jerry Lee Lewis’ motorcycle at Million-dollar Harley?