Harley-Davidson is the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the United States, founded in 1903 in Milwaukee – Wisconsin (USA) by two legendary figures: William S. “Bill” Harley (1880 – 1943) and Arthur Davidson (1881 – 1950). The first Harley-Davidson bike was powered by a small gas engine and was created in 1903.
Nowadays, when people think of Harley-Davidson, they immediately think of the expensive touring motorcycles priced from 500 million to several billion Vietnamese dong.
Harley-Davidson bikes are often known for their large size, powerful performance, high fuel consumption, and suitability for relatively tall riders. However, few people know that the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles were small in size and had a simple operation. Among them, the 1927 production version of Harley-Davidson is one of those examples.
With his passion for vintage motorcycles, recently Mr. Tran Gia Tuan, the owner of Saigon Vintage Market, successfully restored a Harley-Davidson motorcycle from 1927.
According to Mr. Tuan, the owner of the bike, “Harley-Davidson motorcycles have always inspired creative enthusiasts like us. Restoring a 1927 model with the design and operating technology of the first generation motorcycles in the world is a challenge. However, because of our passion, my friend and I were determined to collect and restore this bike.”
“After a long search, we luckily found a suitable vintage motorcycle frame for the restoration of this Harley-Davidson 1927. This was the key point to restore the bike to its original condition,” Mr. Tuan said.
The original motorcycle frame was too old and unusable, so Mr. Tuan had it reworked to match the 1927 Harley-Davidson dimensions. Because it was restored based on the Harley-Davidson 1927 model, the bike has a vintage design with early 19th-century technical engineering. The special feature of this bike lies in its unique details, such as the ambulance bag from World War II, the acetylene gas lamp, and the alarm horn.
Specifically, the lamp details are impressive with the use of acetylene gas to create light. This lamp design was first commercially produced in 1880 by Prest-O-Light and Corning Conophore companies.
In addition, the company designed an additional valve detail to adjust the flow rate, thereby increasing or decreasing the brightness of the lamp. Before 1917, Corning’s headlamp design could illuminate from a distance of up to 152m, making it the first advanced headlamp design at that time, before electric lamps were invented.
Compared to modern Harley-Davidson motorcycles that use LED headlights, the vintage lamp design of this bike using acetylene gas is a process of scientific and technological development.
On top of the bike, the alarm horn was taken from a ship’s horn and adjusted with a vintage design to match the overall look of the bike.
Below, the long and narrow gasoline tank was reworked to match the original design of the bike, and under the bike frame are the characteristic designs of late 19th-century Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The handlebar was reworked to match the sitting position of the bike rider.
Looking from the rear, the air horn set on the rear seat was collected from a vintage player, which is a distinctive design of the 1940s. In terms of operation, the original 1924 bike is equipped with a second-generation V-Twin engine (F-Head) introduced in 1911 and became one of the most durable engines, helping the Harley-Davidson brand achieve good business results. This engine was used until 1929.
However, due to difficulties in the search process, Mr. Tuan used an old 2-stroke (cycle) engine. The engine works by transmitting power through a belt, which makes the wheels spin. This principle is similar to the famous motorized bicycles such as Mobylette and Vélosolex.
This engine is combined with a gearbox with a lever mechanism created by Mr. Tuan to adjust the tension of the belt, thereby changing the transmission ratio to increase or decrease the bike’s speed. It must be noted that this bike is only suitable for display in cafes and not suitable for use on the road.
Collecting vintage motorcycles is a hobby of many wealthy motorcycle enthusiasts in Ho Chi Minh City. Nowadays, this “playground” is not just a few individuals who like collecting vintage bikes, as in previous years, but it has formed many groups and communities of their own. Rare models, high prices, many enthusiasts are willing to spend a significant amount of money to collect for the sake of their passion.