An extremely rare 1908 Strap Tank Harley-Davidson is now the most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction after selling for $935,000, after auction fees, last month at the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas.
It’s believed to be one of only 12 of the model in the world. Here’s why the cycle sold for so much and what makes it such an important piece of Harley history.
A rare piece of Harley-Davidson history
Arguably one of the most important models for Harley’s initial success, the motorcycle is considered the earliest model that collectors can get their hands on — with earlier ones either being destroyed or in collections.
Built in Harley’s original one-story factory in 1908, the Harley-Davidson Strap Tank model was renowned, then and now, for its study nature. The Strap Tank was given the moniker because of how the bike’s fuel and oil tank are attached to the cross-bar of the frame via nickel straps.
Greg Arnold, Motorcycle Division Manager at Mecum Auctions, said bikes like this rarely ever come to auction and finding a “real” 1908 Strap Tank can be a challenge.
“It’s not that other bikes are fake, but often times people will make a bike like this out of various parts, and this bike has many of its original parts which makes it that much more rare,” Arnold said.
Original parts on the motorcycle include the tank, wheels, engine belt pulley, seat cover and muffler sleeve.
The most expensive bike ever sold at auction
The 1908 Strap Tank Harley is the most expensive bike ever sold at auction according to vintagent.com, a website that tracks the most expensive vintage motorcycles ever sold.
Arnold said he had a feeling the latest bike would do well, but it is always a surprise when a bike sells for as much as the Strap Tank did.
“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,” he said.
Strap Tank Harleys have a reputation for selling for high prices. In 2015, a 1907 Strap Tank sold for $715,000 after auction fees — good enough to make it the fifth most expensive bike ever sold at auction. That Strap Tank was never restored, which is why it did not fetch as much as the record setting 1908 Strap Tank.
“There is a growing appreciation that people have for things that are built this way and I think this bike speaks to people because of that,” Arnold said.