Original Paint Survivor: 1915 Harley-Davidson 11F

As anybody with a pulse on the auction scene can confirm, antique motorcycles are hot right now, with Harley-Davidson Knuckleheads selling for over $100k. While a restored bike can be an accurate representation of what it looked like when it rolled off the assembly line, only a survivor can tell the story of its years. As the saying goes, it’s only original once, and in this market originality is everything. Every imperfection in the paint, every weathered piece of fabric, and even crude repairs made by former owners add to the character and create a one-of-a-kind motorcycle. This 1915 Harley-Davidson 11F, found here on eBay, has recently been made roadworthy once again and is ready to add another chapter to its rich history.

Today, Harley-Davidson is known for its V-twin engines, but for its first six years, the Motor Company manufactured only single-cylinder models. Harley’s first V-twin was introduced in 1909, had a rough start, and was pulled from production the same year. The next generation, known as the F-Head, was introduced in 1911 and would continue in the lineup until 1929. The improved V-twin now measured 61 cubic inches (nearly 1000cc) and provided 11hp. The F-Head engine of our feature bike is said to have been in pieces when the present owner acquired it. However, it has now been professionally rebuilt, complete with nickel-plating to restore it to factory appearance. The engine is said to be ready to run, with zero miles as of yet.

One can only imagine what it would be like to ride a motorcycle like this when it was new. With a list price of $275, equal to nearly $7500 today, it was likely used as the original owner’s only means of transportation. With Henry Ford driving down the price of his cars every year (a 1915 Runabout was $390) motorcycles were now squarely in the sights of carmakers, creating fierce competition for a buyer’s hard-earned money. For 1915, the 11F now featured a mechanically-driven oil pump and a three-speed sliding gear transmission with a clutch interlock system, adding up to a more rider-friendly experience. Comfort was not yet a priority, with a leading-link system up front, a non-existent rear suspension, and a sprung saddle providing minimal relief from the rough roads of the time.

After a lifetime undoubtedly filled with miles of adventure, followed by a period of storage before finally being put back on the road, this century-old motorcycle is ready to take its new owner on exhilarating road trips or draw a crowd at any show. This bike would be right at home at either The Race of Gentlemen or The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, allowing it to once again live a full life in the public eye. Are you ready to be the next caretaker for this outstanding specimen of early motorcycling?

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Comments

  1. Tooyoung4heyday Member

    I dig it… No doubt a conversation piece at any bike show or rally. Im sure it rode rough back then but id be curious on a decent paved road.

    Like 1
    • SMS

      They are not bad to ride. Don’t compare it to a modern day motorcycle. Think of riding a long beach cruiser with a motor. They are narrow and don’t weigh that much. Something around 300lbs.

      When we would go on rides it was often a top speed of 30MPH. On smooth pavement they glide. Over washboard road you go slow and standup.

      You sit erect and it is easy to ride. Where it gets tricky is starting, handling and braking.

      Pity that they are so expensive now. They are a blast to ride and the antique motorcycle clubs are a real hoot. Sold my Excelsior about 20 years ago and now they are going for around $50-$70k which is silly to me.

      Like 1
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    This bike could come to my place anytime. But I wouldn’t be one to preserve it for posterity; I would strip it down and give it back its original dignity. What I see here is a rusty bike, something that has worn its original finish out and needs some freshening up. I’m not talking about a $20K paint job; these were never treated to anything elaborate from the factory. Just tear it down, make it look presentable, put it back together and go for a RIDE. Many rides for that matter. You can still make it look nice without it owning you. ENJOY IT!

    Like 14
  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    Actually the more I look at this bike the more I think it’s newer, like a 19 model. One thing about a trip to the H-D Museum, you get to see them ALL! Remember these ones, Howard?

    Like 7
    • Derek

      That one has curved petrol tank sides; the one for sale has flat sides.

      Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        I noticed that same thing. The feature bike could well be somewhere between ‘15 and ‘19. But I’ve seen a few old bikes that had a mixture; if something was broken you replaced it with something that fit reasonably…

        Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      I sure do, pal, that visit ranks right up there with some of the ATHS outings. I have yet to repay you for that wonderful day. In case anyone is wondering what kind of guy Geomechs is, he has family in Wisconsin and on a visit, called me to see if I would like to go to the HD museum, as his wife had other plans. Kind of funny, Milwaukee is my hometown, but had never been to the museum. All I can say, anyone in the Milwaukee area and has an interest in H-D’s, the museum is a must see. I’m still fascinated at the one and only “Penster” that was on display. What’s a Penster, you say? Oh nothing, just a product that probably could have given H-D a needed boost, but was cancelled. Can-Am got all the 3 wheeler glory.
      https://blog.motorcycle.com/2011/08/04/motorcycle-news/shelved-harley-davidson-penster-tilting-trike-prototypes-revealed/

      Like 3
  4. Scuderia

    What paint?

    Like 2
  5. Frank

    Money bike get it running and leave it alone or you will depreciate it. Check out World of Wheels for information. Dale knows his stuff. I purchased a 0 miles 84 Harley XR-1000 from Dale years ago.

    Like 1
    • John S Dressler

      This is a far cry from the 06 Police Package Road King in my garage, but if I found one like this the only thing I would do esthetically to it is repairing the seat which is the only thing these bikes had when it came to suspension. After that, I’d ride the heck out of it just like it is. The aged condition of a running bike like this is precisely what people want to talk about wherever you go. On today’s roads, it would be as smooth as a fat tire bicycle.

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Frank, Did you mean Wheels Through Time?
      I enjoyed Dale’s television show when it was on – I learned a lot about vintage motorcycles.

  6. Morley Brown Member

    This is ther worst selection of B/F and on the weekend too? I am looking for a hot rod project–34 Ford pick up would be nice , but all that was issue here was some used cars. A bit harsh I know but I do look forward to the dailey selection. Oh well tomorrow might be better. Thanks B/F

    Like 2
    • jwaltb

      Duh- BF is used cars.

  7. Ralph

    My grandpa had one of these. When his old Ford was not running he would ride his in Northern Mich. The fact that it only had one seat was a plus for him. He could go to his favorite watering hole and leave grandma at home.

    Like 5
  8. Dave G

    Current bidding at $45,400 – reserve not met.

    Like 1
  9. curtis marquart

    beautiful !!!

  10. Jpl

    I hope that that rickety frame has had a good inspection, hate to have it crack in half before it had a mile on it.

  11. Jon G

    1915 was the only year with the V-Twin and flat sided tanks. Curved tanks came in ’16. That makes these among the most desirable to find. Fun fact: the rear coaster brake is an A.J. Musselman hub. The exact same hub I had on my 1941 Colson Hi-Lo 2 speed bicycle.

    Like 3
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Here’s what I find odd: Compared to the pics from the museum, the ‘15 model has the flat-sided tank, just like this one. Yet this one has the kick-starter, brake and headlight like the ‘19 model in the museum. These are somewhat curious. I have seen some other H—Ds, some Indians and even a Henderson that somehow had components from other years grafted on…

      Like 3
  12. SMS

    Maybe I have a different view of this because I owned and rode something similar. Don’t quite understand the negative comments. This is a 106 year old machine that you can ride. Imagine what it was like to be propelled on something that had the same power as 11 horses. This thing in the right hands was faster than most any train.

    They are easy to work on. The frames are just like bike frames and brazed together. Many of the parts can be sand cast and machined.

    This was a marvel in its day and in many ways it still is. Ride this and then drive a Model T. Tell me which you would rather own?

    Like 5
    • Howard A Member

      I suppose, it’s I just can’t wrap my noggin around what is worth $50G’S with these??? I can appreciate your experience with one, but few, if any, have any experience with actually operating one, just starting it goes beyond what most can comprehend. The only thing in common with today’s bikes, is a gas motor and 2 rubber tires. I think of what $50g’s could buy, something useful, like that new kidney you’ve been hankering for, but to spend this kind of money on a limited, if any, use machine, you have to be nuts,,,or rich, same thing.

      Like 2
      • SMS

        I am right with you. In fact I have trouble seeing paying $50k for a useful motorcycle or car unless it was a commercial rig.

        Like 1
  13. Richard Haner

    although I can appreciate a restored machine,they are only this way once and it took over 100 years for it to gain its for lack of a better word “patna” even though I hate the term at this point in time,as its been so overly used in all the wrong ways…I am re-doing my 39 knuckle I have owned for 30 years…and if it had not been through a fire, I would never have done it so completely….but I had no choice….this one is a true survivor that I would not touch a thing on…

    Like 5
  14. Terrry

    Roadworthy? With that rusty chain and no air cleaner/filter? Uh…

  15. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Made it to $45,600, Reserve Not Met.

    Like 1
  16. Jpl

    Sometimes I feel that there is a such thing as too much “patina”.

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