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Patina You Can’t Fake: 1945 Harley-Davidson

In years past, collectors would put a lot of time and effort into restoring nearly every collectible vehicle to showroom new condition as a matter of course.  Leaving a vehicle with faded and chipped paint, torn upholstery, and a myriad of other age marks was simply unthinkable.  Thankfully that mentality has gone the way of the dodo bird.  If you are looking for a running and driving motorcycle with real-life patina, then check out this 1945 Harley Davidson, complete with a sidecar, for sale on eBay in Gales Ferry, Connecticut.  This wartime relic looks like it just rolled out of a barn and can find its way to your garage under its own power if you win the auction.  With that auction currently sitting at $39,100 with one day to go, what will it ultimately sell for?

The war was a godsend financially for many American companies that had barely survived the Depression.  While government contracts paid a paltry average of 5% profit, there was a lot of work to be done and the work was steady.  For a company like Harley Davidson, which to this day is irretrievably tied to the nation’s economic health as a producer of objects that are not quite necessities, the war gave them a chance to modernize and get back on sound financial footing.

Yet it was the rise of the vehicle that would come to be known as the Jeep that prevented Harley from achieving even greater heights.  Motorcycles were used by the military primarily for police work, scouting, and courier work.  When the Jeep took over those roles, the need for motorcycles was not so urgent.  Still, Harley Davidson managed to produce over 70,000 for the United States military and over 30,000 for allied countries according to some accounts.  Of those countries, the Soviet Union got most of them.  Many of the Soviet models were equipped with sidecars.

After the war, several motorcycles ended up on the surplus market.  many of them were factory new and unused.  If you needed transportation, these leftover motorcycles fit the bill at a very low cost.  During the war, these motorcycles were painted olive drab, with an occasional black one here and there.  Many of the surplus Harleys were returned to a more civilian look by their new owners.  With chrome, badging, and new paint jobs, these motorcycles helped fuel the postwar motorcycle boom.  An interesting side note is what happened to all the Harleys that found themselves behind the Iron Curtain.  After the end of the Soviet Union, a number of these motorcycles were repatriated back to the United States.

The motorcycle you see here is one that the seller claims to have known for fifty years.  The faded red paint you see was sprayed over what the seller believes to be the original grey finish.  Given that the motorcycle was produced during the war years when olive drab was the order of the day, perhaps it was repainted after the war to that color.  Or this may be a primer of some sort.  At any rate, we are told that the sidecar matches the motorcycle.  Unfortunately, we do not know if the motorcycle was produced with this sidecar from the factory.  Hopefully one of our Harley expert readers can give us some background here.  The seller has been thorough in providing pictures of many of the original parts that this remarkable Harley still wears.

The motorcycle is said to run and drive “absolutely perfect.”  It is fresh from the barn look just adds to the charm.  This would certainly be a really neat bike to ride to your local bike night or as something to tear down the backroads with a terrified passenger riding shotgun in the sidecar.  There is just something about an old Harley that is appealing to the soul of every red-blooded American.  It remains to be seen what this auction will top out at, but someone will get quite the fun machine when it is over.

What do you think the story is on this wartime Harley?  If you can shed some light on this motorcycle’s likely history, please share your information in the comments.


  1. Avatar photo Maggy

    Real cool bike.I’m not a bike expert and I was curious and looked it up for a few minutes.Navy dove Grey was the only color available in 1945.There was so much of it because of ship building so it got used as the only color.I wouldn’t mine owning this one.I wonder what it will go for? I bet double what it is now.glwts

    Like 6
  2. Avatar photo geezerglide 85

    This one is the 74ci flathead, most wwll Harleys were the 45ci for solo riders. They used the big flattie for side cars so that may original to the bike. I also noticed it has the buddy pegs for a rear passenger but a solo seat, they may be a later addition. The gray was a navy color, maybe that’s why Harley had so much of it.

    Like 2
  3. Avatar photo James

    Don’t kid yourself. Not saying this isn’t original (looks like it) but there are patina masters out there that can make anything look like it’s been through a war and then some. check out https://www.instagram.com/dbabin/ for one example. These guys are magicians when it comes to patina.

    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Warby Parker

    American Pickers

    Like 2
  5. Avatar photo Troy

    That’s cool, go through the lights and brakes and just drive it

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo Rallye Member

    I’m not a Harley expert but I did look at one of these real close this past Tuesday at the McDonalds car show. It was a 1944 in Olive drab. It had pegs and a seat for a passenger (his wife). The long haired GSD rode in the sidecar. First thing I looked for was to see if this had a siren, no siren. I looked for a long time and had to ask about the weird looking round thing with holes all the way around it and a cable going to it. It was just in front of the saddle bag by the rear tire. The cable makes the other end contact the tire and spins the siren.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo maggy

      like a playing card rubbing against bicycle spokes in the old days.Kinda.

      Like 1
  7. Avatar photo leiniedude Member

    Sep 02, 2023 19:37:46 PDT
    Current bid:
    US $43,100.00
    Reserve not met
    [ 35 bids ]

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo geomechs Member

    Wow! Drop this off at my place; I’ll find something for it to do.

    The Big Twin wasn’t used a lot during the war. The Navy used bikes similar to this, configured very close to this one, for the Shore Patrol. They were an off-white color and they had the plain gas tanks and the oil-bath aircleaner. Now the subsequent owner(s) of this bike could’ve added the trim as well as the red paint job and conventional air cleaner. Keeping the bike in its battle uniform was probably not what people wanted, especially those who had gone through the war. Of course, if it WAS used as a war bike, I would like to know where the military equipment ended up…

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Lawrence Pendergast

    I am the owner of this bike ,
    In 1945 harley only offered 1 color. That’s the color under the red . I have had this bike for 4 yrs put 4k miles on it been all over the East coast on it . As of now I decide I will not renew ebay ad as the bike costed me over 50k 4 yrs ago. And it was not running order when I bought it. .btw I’ve had over 20 old motorcycles this is by far the most correct original example I’ve owned .

    Like 2
  10. Avatar photo losgatos_dale

    Patina is not Harley vocabulary.

    Really nice bike & sidecar, sadly can’t afford it

    Like 1

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