Car Lists

Four Standout Vintage Motorcycles From the 2017 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

A handful of two-wheelers from the earliest days of motoring

In addition to a large selection of vintage automobiles ranging from attainable to unobtainium, the 2017 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance hosted a number of vintage motorcycles as well. While we don’t normally cover two-wheeled machines, these are worthy of an exception.

1905 Erie Moto Bike

Not much information is available about this early motorcycle, but it is easily one of the earliest documented motorized bicycles in history. When the motorcycle was invented, many small motorcycle start-ups often mixed and matched frames to proprietary engines. This 1905 Erie Motor Bike is supposedly one of those examples. Owned by Paul Ousey, it made an appearance at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it won Best in Class.

1918 Harley-Davidson Model J

After the United States entered World War I in 1917, the U.S. military placed an order with The Motor Company, purchasing 20,0000 motorcycles from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, manufacturer. This 1918 Model J is one of 6,571 produced that year. With a 989-cc V-twin, output rang in at 15 horsepower, which was sent to the rear wheel via a three-speed countershaft gearbox.

1913 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer

Founder Joseph Merkel established The Merkel brand, which built bicycles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1902. But in 1903, he also created The Merkel Motor Co., which made single-cylinder motorcycles. In 1910, Merkel merged his company with Light Motor Company and relocated to Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where he created The Flying Merkel, pioneering the monoshock rear suspension system used on most modern motorcycles. By 1913, like this example, The Flying Merkel came with a potent two-cylinder motor with 6 horsepower and a two-speed gearbox, allowing for a top speed of 60 mph. Its performance made it a racer’s favorite as the American motorsports scene emerged. A 1912 Flying Merkel went up for sale at the 2017 Bonhams Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction with an estimated price of $135,000-$150,000.

1916 Harley-Davidson Model 17 8-Valve Board Track Racer

The Harley-Davidson Model 17 8-Valve is most known for its victories in American motorcycle racing. It was designed and built to pick a fight with the Indian and Excelsior models that were winning trophies at the time. Its debut took place at the 1916 Dodge City 300-mile race, where it took first place. With its 999-cc V-twin motor, it sold for $1,500 in 1916 — about the cost of a nice house in Milwaukee. By comparison, Indian’s most expensive race bike of the day didn’t pass $350. A 1927 Model 17 was sold for $600,000 in 2015.