Are you a Harley-Davidson enthusiast intrigued about the first Harley-Davidson bike and how much it is worth? If so, then you’re definitely in the right place.
The first Harley-Davidson worth was actually $200 and only 38 copies of the first bike were made. It was known as The Harley-Davidson Serial Number One, and it dates back to the 1903-1904 era. The first bike is an antique classic and its cost today is a mind-blowing $15 million, which makes it one of the costliest bikes ever.
In this article, you’ll get to know all about the first Harley-Davidson bike, how much is the first Harley-Davidson worth, the history of Harley-Davidson bikes, and more. Continue reading to get all the answers that you’re looking for.
Features and facts about the first model
In early 1901, William S. Harley developed a project for a small engine capacity of 7.07 cubic inches. The next two years or so, William Harley and his friend Arthur Davidson labored on their motorcycle with an engine in the garage of their friend’s house. Their work was completed in 1903. It was shortly followed by working on a new, modern bike. It was the first “real” Harley-Davidson bike, and it had a bigger engine of 24.74 cubic inches with 9-3/4 inches flywheels that weighed 28 pounds.
The prototype got completed on September 8th, 1904. The same day saw it being used in motorcycle racing in the State Fair Park. The rider using the bike ended up finishing in the fourth place. It was the first documented appearance of a Harley-Davidson bike.
The 1905 Harley-Davidson was almost identical to the motorcycles built in 1903 and 1904. It had an inlet-over-exhaust engine, 24.74 cubic inch capacity, a single-speed belt drive transmission, a tubular loop frame, and a 40mph top speed. The pedal-power was often required when the engine alone didn’t offer enough power.
In January 1905, small advertisements got placed in the Automobile and Cycle Trade Journal offering bare Harley-Davidson engines for do-it-yourself trade. By April, complete motorcycles started to be produced on a limited basis. The same year, the first Harley-Davidson dealer, Carl H. Lang, sold three motorcycles from the five motorcycles built in the Davidson backyard shed. In 1906, a new factory was built on the Chestnut St. site, before later being renamed Juneau Avenue. Staff size got increased to six full-time employees.
Moreover, the first bike catalog was produced by the company, while the nickname “Silent Gray Fellow” got used for the first time. The company manufactured as many as 50 bikes that year. Harley-Davidson Motor Company was started on September 17th, 1907. The stock was split four different ways among the four funders. The staff size also got more than doubled from the previous year.
How much is the first Harley-Davidson worth?
The Harley-Davidson Serial Number One was the very first bike produced by the iconic American manufacturer Harley-Davidson. The official price of the bike was $200, and only 38 copies were made of the original bike.
Harley-Davidson Serial Number currently resides in the Harley-Davidson lobby at Juneau Avenue, and it dates back to the 1903-04 days. The founders of the company also built a prototype before the first model. Of course, the production machines after the first model differed both in general configuration and power of the engine.
Meticulous research by experts and archive researchers has proven that Harley-Davidson Serial Number One was actually built without fenders. It was used in competitions to illustrate the power and reliability of its motor. After all, as the company name implied at the time, Harley-Davidson Motor Company sold not just bikes but motors too.
While it is clearly identified on numerous components as Serial Number 1, it wasn’t actually the first Harley-Davidson bike invented. That distinction belongs to one of the prototypes instead. It was the developmental platform from which the first Harley-Davidson street bike originated. It is also the first Harley-Davidson bike to be considered ready for manufacturing and except for refinements that civilized the bike as a street machine, it’s the same as the models that followed it.
Harley-Davidson Serial Number One isn’t actually the first Harley-Davidson bike invented, but it’s the first true Harley-Davidson bike as they were later developed. Beyond any doubt, it’s also the oldest Harley-Davidson bike in existence today.
The beginning of the Harley-Davidson journey
The roots of Harley-Davidson brand go back to the early 1900s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wisconsin. William Harley and Arthur Davidson had grown a few houses apart from each other. Like most of the boys in that era, the two friends were big fans of bicycles. Williams was such a big fan that he took a job at a bicycle factory at the age of 15. Little did he know that the job would see him starting a motorcycle company eventually.
He rose through the ranks, starting out as a cycle fitter to a drafter. It gave him the opportunity to start working as a draftsman at the Barth Manufacturing Company. It was at the Barth Manufacturing Company that he created an internal combustion engine for the first time. The design of the engine was based on the French di Dion-Bouton engine. It would end up being used by numerous early motorcycle manufacturers. Arthur and William had a plan. They spent the subsequent years working on a prototype during their spare time.
The prototypes before the first Harley-Davidson bike was created
While the first prototype had its faults, it gave the aspiring mechanics an invaluable discovery. The two discovered that they needed to bring a competent machinist to their team. They chalked up a plan to take the help of Walter Davidson, the elder brother of Arthur.
Walter was a seasoned machinist who used to work at the Milwaukee Railroad. However, Walter was residing in Parsons, Kansas during those days. The two penned a letter to Walter Davidson. They claimed that they had already made a motorcycle and wanted Walter to be the first one to ride it. Walter believed the letter and immediately came to Milwaukee. He arrived expecting a fully functioning motorcycle, but saw nothing but a mess. He noticed that the bike wasn’t even partially assembled, but just a pile of parts.
The idea of a 2-wheeler machine that was self-propelled greatly appealed to Walter. He decided to stay there and help William and Arthur with their dream of building a bike.
Although things moved slowly, especially with William Harley busy at engineering school, the second time got completed in 1903. The model still survives until now. The model is displayed at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and is referred to as Harley-Davidson Serial Number One. It even became the first Harley to be documented as a participant in a motorcycle race.
Harley-Davidson Motor Corporation officially becomes a major player
Harley-Davidson was incorporated in 1907 with Walter Davidson being made the first president of the company. William Harley became the works manager. Arthur became the general sales manager and the secretary. By this time, William Harley had completed his engineering degree and assumed the role of the chief engineer and treasurer.
Harley-Davidson has come a long way since being just a dream in someone’s mind. After William Harley made plans for a small engine for a regular bike frame, he started working with the Davidsons to build a motor bicycle. The friends finished up the first prototype by 1903. Although the bike needed pedalling assistance and wasn’t able to climb hills, the dream still lived on.
The boys didn’t give up on their plans and started their work on an improved machine. They decided to go for a bigger engine with a loop-frame design. After completing the prototype in 1904, they decided to enter a local motorcycle race with the bike. But they could only manage to finish 4th.
They had a working model at last. The barer Harley-Davidson engines could get listed in the January 1905 Automobile and Cycle Trade Journal. Four months later, the motorcycles started production officially. In the first year, they were only able to make five motorcycles. Three of them got sold by Carl H. Lang, who became the first Harley-Davidson dealer in history. By the next year, the founding members decided to move into their first factory.
In the first year at the newly opened factory, they were able to manufacture 50 bikes. This was 10x the production that they were able to get the year prior. Within a year of starting the factory, they had plans to expand to a second floor. In September 1907, the company was incorporated officially. The year saw them producing 150 bikes and even selling them to police departments.
Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know a lot more about the first Harley-Davidson bike, how much is the first Harley-Davidson worth, the history of Harley-Davidson bikes, and more. The first Harley-Davidson bike was the Harley Davidson Serial Number One, and it was priced at $200. Only 38 copies of the bike were made, and it dated back to the 1903-1904 era. The first bike is an antique classic and its cost today is a mind-blowing $15 million, which makes it one of the costliest bikes ever.