1908 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle 1 Cylinder Strap TankSOLD

RM Auctions - Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction - August 16-18

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Estimate: $150,000-$175,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $198,000

4bhp, 570cc single-cylinder engine, single-speed belt drive, leading-link fork and solid rear suspension, rear wheel coaster brake.

William S. Harley and his school pal Arthur Davidson began experimenting with internal combustion engines in the late-1890s. After successfully tinkering with 400cc and 475cc engines, they commenced production of the first Harley-Davidson, offered for sale in 1904. Known as the Silent Grey Fellow, it was continually improved and remained in production for the next fourteen years. With its quiet, efficient mufflers, Renault gray paint, and reliability, it was certainly a fitting name.

As the pedals fired-up the engine and provided initial motion, there was no starter or gearbox. The 570cc single- cylinder engine had a single-speed belt drive fitted with a Schebler carburetor and a Bosch magneto. Full loop construction of 14 and 16-gauge tubing provided additional strength to the frame. Shortly after production began, a leading-link fork was fitted. There were a number of improvements, however, that differentiated the 1908 Silent Grey Fellow from a 1907 model. The gas-filler, for example, was moved from the side to the front on the now rounded bottom tank. The wider fenders were redesigned and the exhaust was modified, while the front fork was made more robust and the belt tensioner received multiple adjustment points.

In 1908, the $210 Silent Grey Fellow was capable of a top speed of 45-50mph, winning numerous trophies and earning a reputation for reliability and speed. In 1908, three days after scoring a perfect 1,000 points at the 7th Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest, Walter Davidson went on to establish the FAM economy record at 188.234 miles per gallon. It was also the first year that a Harley was sold for police use.

Dave Uihlein originally discovered the Silent Grey Fellow in 1941, as he drove to the University of Wisconsin to take his entrance exams. Stopping for fuel in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, 65 miles outside Milwaukee, he struck up a conversation with the gas station attendant who clued him in to the location of a very old motorcycle; after finding the old shed on an isolated farm and its owner, he purchased the motorcycle on the spot, largely intrigued by it being belt-driven. It is very possible that no. 2241 may have been purchased in 1908 direct from the factory with the inquisitive, young college student being only its second owner.

The Harley, although presently in excellent condition, was naturally in need of an expert restoration, which was executed by Paul Freehill. The frame, fenders and forks were completely stripped and painted in original Renault Gray with the correct Carmine Red pin-striping and Harley-Davidson script. The plating has excellent luster and the single-cylinder engine was completely rebuilt and detailed with authentic style, layered leather, and 1x12- inch belt. All alloy castings were polished to highlight the mechanical beauty of this single-cylinder design. The seat was restored and recovered in black leather and two vintage-design white tires were fitted. During the restoration the original tank, rim and engine belt pulley were replaced but are understood to accompany the Harley in its sale.

Of the 450 Silent Grey Fellows and V-Twins built by Harley-Davidson in 1908, less than a dozen are thought to exist today. Few, including the example in the Harley-Davidson factory museum, are as original and correct as this particular example.

In April 1908, Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review stated, ô Of the latter day motorcycles, none so quickly earned a reputation as the Harley-Davidson. It is a machine the very appearance of which suggests substantiability and power, and its performance has borne out its appearance. ö The Harley-Davidson we have the pleasure of presenting here on behalf of Mr. Uihlein, after 66 years of single ownership, offers its next owners the rare opportunity to immediately own one of the most significant, important and peerless motorcycles of its kind.

Reference Number 10106

as of 6/1/2007

Car 1908 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle 1 Cylinder Strap Tank
VIN 2241 
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