Although in their early years, Harley-Davidson cut their teeth in the world of motorcycles by producing small single-cylinder engines, it was the introduction of the 45 degree V-twin engine that would leave its mark and make Harley-Davidson the worldwide name they are today. The company began experimenting with attaching 2 single-cylinder engines together on a common crank as early as 1907. The atmospheric intake valves which were commonplace at the time made getting it to run properly and reliably was extremely difficult at best. Experimentation continued, with different prototypes being built but it wasn’t until 1911 when they offered a newly designed v-twin with mechanically actuated valves that their twin sales really started to accelerate. Innovation across the transportation industry during these early years was occurring at a truly impressive pace and vehicles were beginning to become more reliable and comfortable for their owners.
For the 1915 model year, Harley-Davidson’s twin cylinders were really coming into their own. Utilizing a 61 cubic inch v-twin engine that now offered a 37 percent increase in horsepower, up to 11, thanks to a larger intake manifold, bigger inlet valves, as well as the valve seats being chamfered at 45 degrees. With their 1915 models, Harley introduced many new technological innovations, as was common in the early years. Some of the most important, however, were aimed at making the riding experience of their machines much more user-friendly. The first and most important was the 3-speed sliding gear transmission and primary-case clutch. This allowed the rider the ease of shifting gear while on the move providing for a much easier riding experience. This 3-speed transmission proved to be incredibly durable, so much so that it was in use through 1936. Another important addition was electrically powered headlight and taillight, offered on the 11H and 11J models while the 11F kept the acetylene powered lamps which were commonplace at the time. Lastly, an automatic oil pump, driven off the engine, was added which freed up the rider from having to maintain proper oil feed to the machine. The price for the Model 11F was $275 with the 11J featuring its electric lights coming in at $310. It’s clear that many people opted for the cheaper, more proven at the time, acetylene lights since the 11F made up 9,855 of the 16,645 motorcycles to roll off Harley’s Milwaukee assembly line for the year of 1915.
The example on offer here is a 1915 Harley Davidson 11F Twin, engine number 6231K. It is a highly original bike showing a fantastic patina throughout and presenting with an immense amount of character. The early history of this machine is a bit unknown but according to the current owner and consignor, this Model 11F was owned by the president of AMC in Australia approximately 20 years ago. The current owner has been in possession of this example for the last 5 years where it has resided in his collection of other early Harley Davidson machines. A sticker from the 2009 Radnor Hunt Concours D’Elegance remaining on the headlamp indicates that this 11F was shown throughout the years. The machine was clearly repainted as it now wears an olive green finish, the color of post-World War 1 motorcycles starting in 1917 from the American manufacturer. Judging by the condition and the patina throughout the machine, this repaint was carried out quite a long time ago but remains in overall fair condition with plenty of patina and character to it. This 11F wears a “Corbin” speedometer and tachometer combo mounted correctly to the top of the tank which is finished as the rest of the machine. The gauge face is readable and shows a fantastic patina throughout. There is also an acetylene-powered headlight and tank mounted to the front of the bike. Both show extensive pitting of the finish and some minor dings but the condition matches the rest of the machine wonderfully. Currently, the tank has been stored dry and the interior of it appears in a clean and serviceable manner. The paint throughout the motorcycle shows some chipping, pitting, and cracking, especially along the frame behind the front wheel. The tank paint is relatively smooth and consistent with bright and clean graphics. There is a bit of spotting in the paint finish, as well as a chip near the fuel regulator knob, and some discolored spots on the top of the tank but nothing that takes away from the character of it. Bright surfaces, including the handlebars, are serviceable, still showing good shine but containing pitting and imperfections consistent with the character displayed through the rest of the motorcycle. The engine is cosmetically in line with the rest of the motorcycle. The cylinders are painted black, along with the exhaust system, and both show some surface corrosion developing in a few spots. The cases are bare metal and show some pitting and scratches, collected throughout this machine’s 107-year life span, but everything appears to be complete from the outside. The brightwork pieces of the engine show some pitting in their surfaces as well.
This 11F has a Bosch ZEV magneto mounted behind the engine, the condition of which matches the rest of the machine. The seat is of the correct style however the leather is cracked and separating and it appears the springs for it have been replaced as of recently as the condition of the metal surfaces does not align with the rest of the machine. In the rear, there is a luggage rack mounted in addition to the correct style acetylene-powered tail lamp. The chain appears in good mechanical condition, although it is covered with old grease that has hardened a bit over time. Rubber components throughout the bike remain in good condition, with the grips showing solid and the floorboards being in good condition with ample tread. The Dunlop Motorcycle Extra Heavy tires appearing in decent condition, likely older but having solid sidewalls and ample tread. While we have not tested the mechanical prowess of this machine, judging by the dry tank it has not been run in a fair amount of time, the owner is confident that with a bit of upfront service work and tuning that this machine would run and ride down the road.
Overall, this 1915 Harley Davidson 11F provides an incredible amount of character and a beautiful look at the early days of motorcycling. It would undoubtedly spark numerous conversations when out on a ride and would be a fantastic addition to any collection centering around the early days of motorcycle history or American motorcycles in general.
Please Note: This 1915 Harley-Davidson 11F is being sold on Bill Of Sale only.
- Chassis Number 6231K
- Year of manufacture 1915