Intrigue Builds Around Original Bike
veteran manufacturers know the where abouts of their original
product. That ís one of the intriguing aspects of Harley-Davidson
ís recent restoration of the first bike the company
ever built in 1903.
Another wrinkle is the mystery surrounding the story behind
the first bike ever produced by William Harley and the three
We know where our first bike is,î says Harley-Davidson
Historian Martin Rosenblum. ìIts story is a real mystery,
though. Weíve been working day and night to find the
true story behind serial number 1.The original Harley-Davidson
was diligently restored to its 1903 configuration by Motor
Company Archives employee Ray Schlee with assistance from
John Rank, a Milwaukee car and truck dealer who restores motorcycles
as an interest.Those who attend the 95th Anniversary celebration
next year can see the bike, which was recently displayed at
Bike Week in Daytona.Rosenblum and Schlee are certain they
have the first production Harley -- a single-cylinder engine
with 26.84 cubic inches of displacement that makes 3*hp. Evidence
suggests it was a prototype made for racing. Harley-Davidson
built two additional 1903 models for sale, but there is no
trace of either one.
According to one possibility, the first bike was sold to a
Mr. Mayor of Chicago in 1904 and changed hands three times
before Steve Sparough, an automotive repairman from Chicago,
ìI make trips with my machine to repair cars if they
get into trouble out in the country,î Sparough wrote
to a Harley-Davidson distributor, C.H. Lang, on April 15,
Sparough may have sold the motorcycle back to Harley-Davidson
between 1912 and 1915.
Another possibility was recently discovered when studying
Milwaukee County Historical Society photos that are part of
the original Archive collection.
The first Harley may have been put into storage at the company,
then dusted off in 1915 to be displayed at the Pan-American
Exposition motorcycle show in California.