Collection X: Weird and Wacky Wonders from the Harley-Davidson Museum
A quick peek at rare artifacts and no-go ideas from the Motor Company's archives.
Motor Company Oddities
Apart from producing premium motorcycles, Harley-Davidson is also well known for experimenting with almost anything that has a motor. Back in 2011, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, put on an exhibition entitled Collection X: Weird, Wild Wonders of the Harley-Davidson Museum that celebrated the Motor Company's oddities and failed endeavors. Here is a step back in time and a look at a few highlights.
Drawn from the archives, the exhibition included prototypes that were never manufactured, motorcycle paraphernalia, and photographs. Concept items ranged from mowers to snowmobiles, airplane engines, and even a rocket engine. Vintage Harley-Davidson riding apparel on display included goggles and belts, along with thousands of photographs such as this Harley-Davidson Servicar with a hobby horse on the back during a 1950s American Legion parade.
It's not the first time the Motor Company has tried its hand at winter sports. A prototype called the Cyclone Motor-Sled, nicknamed 'Pop’s Trolley' was a ten-foot-long, canvas and spruce covered sled. Powered by a 1925 J-Model 74-cubic-inch V-Twin, the motor-sled was sold as a kit by the Mead Ice Yacht Co. of Chicago, Illinois during the 1930s.
Model 11F. Not only good at dealing with gridlock, but the motorcycle was also adept at cutting ice. Before electric refrigeration, ice was harvested for stores and sold in blocks. Other converted machines included a gold-mining cart that used a 1926 Harley-Davidson engine, a motorcycle-powered plow, and chainsaw.
In the category of 'labor of love' was a three-quarter scale Harley-Davidson chopper made entirely from leather. From the wheels to the frame to the headlight, every item was leather — even the tools in the leather tool bag. Made in 2000 by twenty craftspeople at Red Moon, a Japanese company specializing in leather goods, the project took more than two years to complete.
Soaring to lofty goals was this 1927 airplane engine based on a Harley JD V-Twin. Built by Wilson Miller, the engine is part of a rare and ingenious airplane — the 'Miller Light Plane.' Wilson's unique mono-wing design could achieve top speeds in excess of 75 mph, with cruising speeds around 65 mph. The airplane was found in its original condition by Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1992.
Also on display was the rather unique LR-64 Rocket engine. Working with U.S. Navy specifications, Harley-Davidson produced more than five thousand LR-64 engines at their York, Pennsylvania, assembly plant between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s. The model LR-64 was predominantly used in the AQM-37A 'Jayhawk' supersonic target drone missile that was produced by the Beechcraft Corporation.
Shown here is a 1913 General Electric transformer from Milwaukee’s Juneau Avenue factory being delivered. The eight-foot-tall, eight thousand pound transformer helped power the Harley-Davidson factory (now the corporate headquarters) from 1913 through the 1990s. This image was displayed next to the actual item.
Kristen Jones, the museum’s senior curator, said certain items were chosen to tell particular stories. In the past, only special tours would get glimpses of the archives. Jones elaborated, “You see the look on people’s faces when you let them into the climate-controlled storage area and we begin to pull out this treasure.” One can only hope that another round of these rare artifacts will be put back on display soon.
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