Rare 1908 Harley-Davidson becomes most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction

A 1908 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank motorcycle sold for $935,000 after fees at Mecum Auction in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auction)

An extremely rare 1908 Harley-Davidson motorcycle auctioned off in January has become the most expensive bike to ever be sold at an auction, according to Vintagent, a website that tracks vintage motorcycle sales.

The Strap Tank Harley-Davidson sold for $935,000 after fees at the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas on Jan. 28, the auction posted on Facebook. The model was named Strap Tank because nickel-plated steel bands suspended the fuel and oil tanks from the bike's frame.

"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.

Arnold said the record-breaking bike was restored but still had many of its original parts, including the tank, wheels, engine belt pulley, seat cover and muffler sleeve.


The bike that was auctioned off in Las Vegas was discovered as a complete motorcycle in a Wisconsin barn by David Uihlein in 1941. Uihlein kept it in his possession for the next 66 years.


The 1908 Strap Tank Harley-Davidson still had many of its original parts when sold on Jan. 28, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auction)

The Strap Tank was then expertly restored by Paul Freehill of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Of the 450 motorcycles produced by the company in 1908, less than 12 are believed to still be out in the world and even fewer are in the mostly original condition.


On the auction's website, the Strap Tank was described as one of Harley-Davidson's most rare surviving models because it's the first of the breed. It is also the earliest model one could possibly find since older prototypes are long gone.


The 1908 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank motorcycle sold at Mecum Auction in Las Vegas is believed to be one of less than 12 of its kind still out in the world. (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auction)

The coveted models are said to be the most legendary because they established the pattern for future production – clean and conservative styling combined with a somber color scheme, heavy-duty cycle parts and an engine a little bigger and stronger than the rest.

A 1907 Strap Tank that was not restored sold for $715,000 after fees.

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