Harley-Davidson is a manufacturer that needs no introduction. As the longest standing American manufacturer of motorcycles, they have been there from the beginning and remain a staple in the motorcycle industry the world around. Harley’s earliest production models, starting in 1905, were all single-cylinder variants based around their 28.84 cubic inch engine. V-Twin models were not introduced until 1907 and were often seen as being too complex and costly, leading to the continued popularity of the single-cylinder through the early 1900s.
The year 1912 saw a few key changes take place across the model range. An all-new modified frame provided a more modern look while lowering the seat height. The oil tank was also moved below the new Troxel saddle, which, for the benefit of the rider, was mounted on a sprung seat post dubbed the “Ful-Floteing Seat.” The most significant and likely historically most crucial update to the 1912 model year was the addition of a clutch mechanism (denoted by the model name X8A), allowing both smoother starts as well as worry-free stopping, a real game-changer in the world of motorcycles. With its 30.17 cubic inch engine producing 4.3 horsepower and weighing just 316 pounds, the 8A was a very robust and useable motorcycle for the time. Production figures are not very clear, but it is believed that approximately 550 of these 8A machines were produced with a price when new of around $235. Today these machines remain an important look into not only the early days of Harley-Davidson history but also two-wheeled transportation as a whole. While many of the early bikes have been relegated to display status, they certainly remain somewhat relevant and useable as shown by the yearly tradition of the cross country Motorcycle Cannonball Run, where participants gather to ride their early motorcycles from coast to coast in an attempt to relive the history these fabulous early motorcycles have seen.
This particular example, 4848B, is a 1912 Harley Davidson 8A single cylinder. It is currently finished as it would have left the factory in 1912. The case and cylinder number stampings match and are believed to be original. This particular example was built by Dave Kaftan of Lodi, California, starting in 2008 and finishing in 2010. Dave then rode it in the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball, where it completed about 1,600 miles. We, unfortunately, do not have any info on the condition of the bike before it was built by Dave, but the current owner and consignor purchased it in 2015 from Dave to be ridden on the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, where it completed a little over 600 miles. The bike only did not make it due to the atmospheric intake valves being defeated by the steep hills once it reached Colorado.
The current owner and consignor have stated that he believes the tin, gas tank, and fenders are reproductions; however, they are very nicely done and match originals perfectly. The bike still wears the same finishes it wore during the cannonball run, so there are some minor knicks in the paint in high wear areas, a dent on the front fender under a cross member for the suspension (very hard to notice), as well as some minor scratching on the handlebars, all of which are pointed out in the photos above. Mechanically, this Harley is excellent condition and starts with only a few pedals. Audio of this Motorcycle starting and running can be heard above, and video is available by request. The previous owner had a disk brake setup for the bike to give a little extra stopping power during the cannonball run, which is included amongst a few other spare parts and detailed starting and care procedures that the current owner took the time to put together. Motorcycles of this early vintage provide an outstanding look into the early days of transportation. While they may look phenomenal on static display, they have the unique power of allowing anyone who climbs aboard for a ride to be instantly transported to an earlier and more simple time. Finding an early motorcycle in this kind of outstanding mechanical and cosmetic condition is not an easy task, and to have one with its mechanical prowess proven by two entries into the Motorcycle Cannonball Run is certainly a rare thing indeed.
- Exterior Colour Silent Grey Fellow