An ultra-rare Harley-Davidson motorcycle has become the most expensive two-wheeled automobile ever to be auctioned. The 1908 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank sold for a record-breaking $935,000 after fees at the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas on January 28, according to a Facebook post by the auction house. “We marketed the bike well, and Harley is by far the most famous American motorcycle brand, so we had a feeling it would do well in auction, but obviously you are surprised anytime you sell the most expensive bike ever,” said Greg Arnold, Motorcycle Division Manager at Mecum Auctions.
The earliest examples of the Strap Tank are the most coveted motorcycles ever to be produced by the American manufacturer. That’s because it is the earliest Harley-Davidson model; the prototypes that preceded it don’t exist anymore. The model gets its name from its unique design in which the fuel and oil tanks are suspended on the frame using nickel-plated steel bands. What makes this particular Strap Tank so special is that it is among the oldest surviving models of this extremely rare model. It is one of the 450 motorbikes Harley-Davidson produced in 1908. It’s believed that only a dozen of them still exist and only a select few are in their original condition.
The 1908 Strap Tank was discovered as a complete motorcycle in a Wisconsin barn by David Uihlein in 1941 who kept it in his possession for the next 66 years. While it was expertly restored by Paul Freehill of Fort Wayne, Indiana, the historic motorcycle still retains most of its original parts, including the tank, wheels, engine belt pulley, seat cover, and muffler sleeve. According to the auction website, the Strap Tank “established the pattern for all future production, combining a clean yet conservative styling, a somber color scheme, heavy-duty cycle parts, and an engine a little bigger and stronger than the rest.”