Time Warp Cycle: 1931 Harley-Davidson VL


It took me a good 15 minutes to read through this auction listing with all the great pictures and the story behind it. Thanks to reader Randy C for this wonderful story and motorcycle. The bike is listed here on eBay, with bidding already over $21,000 and still climbing. The seller tells the story of finding this bike 5 years ago and trying to buy it for that whole period. Until a little while ago, the answer was always “no”. It didn’t take him long after the “yes” finally came to pick the bike up. As far as the seller can tell, it’s a 1931 ex-California Highway Patrol cycle that was purchased by the patrolman after it’s mileage was high enough that it was taken out of service. Although the engine is free and feels like it has good compression, he hasn’t gone any further towards starting it. There are pictures in the ad of how the bike was discovered; while some of the dust blew off on the trip home, apart from a little windshield cleaning nothing else has been done. The license plate dates from 1939, although based on the age of the spark plugs and a few of the tools it’s been on the road since then. Best guess is that it hasn’t been started in 30 years. I encourage you to look at the auction listing, the great photos and great story. And let us know if you decide to buy this terrific find!


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  1. Mark E

    “…let us know if you decide to buy this terrific find” Um, no, if I had 25+ large to spend, it would be on a car. Whether a collectible one or the new Miata I guess we’ll never know, right? Oh and if I DID buy it the temptation would be too great – I’d get it running and enjoy riding it to shows.

    As a side note, I’m surprised there was a highway patrol in 1931 as there were only two lane state highways back then! Then again, at the state fair the highway patrol has an exhibit which includes a cool 1920s or 30s patrol car! ^_^

  2. blindmarc

    Rebuild the engine, repair the seat and new tires. Then ride it.

  3. JW454

    Interesting but what it comes down to is, you have yourself a flipper using a heartstrings approach. A flipper is still a flipper. I didn’t read anything that says “I’m selling it for just what I have in it”. The real reason for all the pictures is to push up the number of bids.

    Like 1
  4. Luke Fitzgerald

    Too right JW – it made me laugh about the lusted after biz – he hammered the dude on the price and now it’s payday – if he loves it so much, why doesn’t piss off some of the other old crap he’s got and keep it? – because it’s payday

    Like 1
  5. Luke Fitzgerald

    ….I did enjoy the story with pics tho’ – especially the fat bastard with the girls – weird

  6. blindmarc

    Of course he’s a flipperJW, he doesn’t know crap about vl harleys. But if someone restores this, they’ll lose a lot of dollars. He probably gave no more than $12,500 for it.

  7. blindmarc

    I sent a message to the flipper. We’ll see if he answers.

  8. Blake

    If you guys had the opportunity to buy this for a song but didn’t have the dough to restore you would do the same darn thing. Quit hating. It’s like buying a scratch off lottery ticket and winning the jackpot. You turn the ticket in and get your cash. It’s all good. Eventually it will find a good home.

  9. capNjeff

    Why do people question the motives of sellers? Anybody selling anything wants money for it. Who cares?

    Whatever the situation, that’s a hell of a find. I hope whoever gets it leaves it unrestored. Would be a shame to lose that look.

    Fat bastard with the girls? WTF? I didn’t see that!

  10. Howard A Member

    Now, now, let’s not judge too harshly. Who here can honestly say, if they found this, and not really into antique Harley’s, wouldn’t do the same thing? This is somewhat akin to finding a suitcase of money. I have no real attraction to this. Maybe if a family member had one, that’s different. Interesting note, I believe the seat post was like a shock absorber, ( note small hinge at the front of the seat) but still must have been a rough ride. Cool find, though.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Howard. I can’t say if that seatpost was a combined shock absorber/spring or just a spring. My 45 had a post and I’m sure that it was just a spring. My friend’s ’72 Electra Glide still uses the seat post with the BUDDY seat. My ’81 FXE still had provision for the post spring but I would’ve had to weld a stop at the bottom of the tube to use the spring. They actually rode pretty well. One old timer told me a story about riding into a herd of antelope on a hard-tail Harley; bald prairie, rift with gopher holes, badger holes, blind gulleys and the odd rock. It’s so amazing what a guy will do when he’s consumed more than a safe quantity of whiskey.

  11. Luke Fitzgerald

    Yeah – good on ’em – if that’s the mechanism they want to use to flog it, then great – I would too – hope the buyer loves it – very polished ad

  12. Wayne

    I agree with most of the comments. He sure used up a lot of words to say “I’m a flipper”

    Like 1
  13. George

    “On August 14, 1929, the California Highway Patrol was created through an act of the Legislature. The new law gave Statewide authority to the Highway Patrol to enforce traffic laws on county and State highways – a responsibility which remains in effect today, along with many additional functions undreamed of in 1929.”

    Like 1
  14. Mike_B_SVT

    If I were a rich man…

    I’d clean it gently and display it proudly in my living room on a nice oak pedstal topped with a strip of asphalt as a piece of art. Beautiful.

    Like 1
  15. geomechs geomechs Member

    I sure wouldn’t turn a bike like this one down. They were tough as a boiled owl. About the only thing I didn’t like was the TOTAL LOSS oil system but when you had it adjusted correctly, it worked just fine. I might add that I’ve since had some experience with said Total Loss oil system.

    I read a story in Cycle(?) Magazine many years ago where a guy bought one and put it through the mill. He described riding down the street, spinning out in a puddle of water and getting too close to a pickup truck, the frame catching the truck’s front bumper. To paraphrase: ‘The bike made a sudden stop while Stan kept on going for another 100 feet or so. The bike was undamaged and with braces and levers, we managed to pry the truck’s bumper back into place.’ This is talking early 50s where steel really was what it was supposed to be.

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