Patina Posterchild: 1934 Harley-Davidson VL Barn Find

Harley-Davidson has been making motorcycles since 1903 so by the time 1934 rolled around, they knew what they were doing. This 1934 Harley-Davidson VL is a testament to the quality of Harley-Davidson at the time. Located in Calgary, Canada, this motorcycle is for sale here on eBay for $15,495 US dollars. While not as famous as the Harley EL a.k.a the Knucklehead that succeeded it, the VL is a great example of a 1930s American motorcycle. This auction has been bid up to $14,995 after 8 bids, so it is very likely this will sell. With only one day left, it’s now or never!

There are two sides of the debate on “patina” and whatever your opinion, this bike has it in spades. This motorcycle has been ridden hard and put away wet, and wears its faded, mismatched paint well. This motorcycle sports the 74 cubic inch (1200 cc) Big Twin that Harley developed in 1929 and is ready to ride, according to the seller. It has been mechanically and electrically sorted and the seller includes in the pictures a dated list of maintenance they have completed, an excellent additional piece of documentation any prospective buyer will appreciate.

In those notes, the seller mentions that the heads are of a slightly later date than the bike, late 1935, which considering the age and condition of the bike, is not that surprising. Given that, I suspect there are more parts on this bike that have been replaced in the past. The seller states the motorcycles has new wiring, gaskets, brake parts, the list goes on. One hilarious thing to note about this bike is, it does not have a speedometer. Instead, you have a single ammeter.

Buying and owning a motorcycle in the early 20th century was very much a labor of love. Motorcycles were not inexpensive and did not have even close to the utility of a standard sedan for the average American. Coupled with the Great Depression really biting for Americans come 1933, Harley-Davidson sold only 3,703 motorcycles that year from a peak of 21000 just 4 years before! This rare bike is a great example of an early 1930s American motorcycle in an original, rideable state. With the “patina” look, you won’t have to worry about paint scratches, dings, or chips. Would you restore the bike or ride it as is?


  1. Mark hoover

    As is ride. That beauty

  2. Howard A Member

    People know my views on something like this, it is a great find, I mean, they simply have to stop coming out of the woodwork at some point. While many old school bikers will admit, this is how they looked. However, I think those folks are dying off, and to many in the future, it’s just going to be an old derelict motorcycle. Now restored, if you got the “pockets” for such an endeavor today, is where people will really take notice. Got to admit, restored, it’s one sharp bike!

    Like 5
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Would have a tendency to leave it in an environment like it’s shown in the picture. Just sitting around with a cold beer and looking at it could be as much fun as riding it. Surely we’re not the only ones with something like this inside their house…

    Like 8
    • Bob

      Actually, sitting around with a cold beer looking at it might actually be better than riding it!

      Like 8
      • rev rory

        Having done each at great length, I concur.

        Like 6
  4. John S Dressler

    I’d park it in my garage right next to my police package Road King and take it out on bike rides with my buddies whenever we got together to ride. It would be a conversation piece every place you went and you could have fun talking to all the bikers about it’s history.

    Like 4
  5. chrlsful

    make sure it runs, even add a prt or two to assure it, makes it around & just out of the neighborhood – but no, this would not B my daily driver. I’d “respect it” more than that but keep it out of a museum. Have a long gun and revolver like that too. They do not get my meals but they are pretty neat items to have, handle, use & share…

  6. Al

    What’ss with the ’53 Indian battery box? Nice bike & have seen these sell for a lot more. Being mech gone through, would love to add this to my collection to just take out on the back mountain roads the way it is. Wouldn’t bother ‘restoring’, you’d dump way too much in & wouldn’t recoup little more than half if that. Would love to go back in time & wander around the industrial complexes of the day, what a scene that must have looked like. The casting companies & foundry’s & so forth.

    Like 1
  7. geomechs geomechs

    Rider quality restoration for me. I just cannot see continuing down the same road it’s been on. And I WOULD ride it. The total-loss lube system would take some getting used to but it would go thousands of miles once set properly. Incidently, the VL didn’t beget the EL; the EL (and later FL) came out on their own, and were likely inspired by the JD. The VL begat the UL. Those old Flathead 74 and 80 inch bikes had a class all their own. JMHO…

    Like 1
  8. Richard Haner

    restoring this would be a shame…there are fewer left like this at this point in time, than there are restored versions…as the saying goes, it can only look this way once…and in this case, that took 86 years to happen…and at what point do you stop on a restoration…?..I did a 38 knuckle not touched since 1960 4 years ago, and I can tell you it’s just as hard if not harder to keep something like this looking as is when adding missing bits, then it is to restore…my
    advise would be…do the mechanicals and rubber…and call it good….

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