Home » I Found A 1965 Harley Davidson Abandoned In Hong Kong, Then I Bought It And Discovered A Huge Problem

I Found A 1965 Harley Davidson Abandoned In Hong Kong, Then I Bought It And Discovered A Huge Problem

Harley Ts2
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How can you tell that David Tracy and I are related? We are both idiots when it comes to vehicles with “soul,” especially those that have been neglected. 

Back in January, I received a WhatsApp message from my good friend, fellow rider and bike builder Andre:

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The message, which includes a picture of a Harley Davidson — a bike one rarely sees on the streets of Hong Kong, especially not of this vintage — reads: “This has not moved in 8 months, no plates, no paperwork. Must’ve 1980’s surely.”

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Image: Harley Davidson

After a bit of back and forth about how old we thought the bike was, whether it was abandoned or whom it might possibly belong to, I conducted a few Google searches and found that this is a 1965 Harley Davidson Electra Glide, a machine that was quite a significant milestone for Harley Davidson. Not only did this bike have the last of the Panhead engines but also the first electric start (hence the name), making it a single year release with such a configuration. (Also, Elvis Presley is said to have owned one).

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How on Earth did such an incredible bike end up in Hong Kong, ultimately left to rot on a small street of an industrial district? In hopes of getting some answers, Andre, another good friend/fellow rider Aaron and I agreed to meet up the very next weekend to have a gander, take a few photographs and ask nearby shops about the bike. 

Harleyside

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The motorcycle looked nice from about 10 feet away but on closer inspection, it had its faults. Plenty of chrome had peeled with the underlying bare metal rusted, a few screws and parts were missing, and the bike appeared to have been painted where you wouldn’t want paint, like on the spark plugs and gas tank petcock valves. All rubbers and wiring were cut from the bike, and the speedometer appears to have been filled with water at some point. It seems that the last owner really wanted a beautiful but non-functioning bike, like those that can be found in Kiehl’s stores at shopping malls all around Hong Kong.

We spent a good half hour discussing and photographing when a nearby mechanic came over and asked us what we were doing (in Cantonese), probably curious as to why three foreigners (“gweilo”) were loitering around such an older beater that most folks wouldn’t find interesting.  I responded that I was only taking photos (“ngah yin-seung”); he didn’t seem to understand, probably because of my mispronunciation. A few moments later two other mechanics came by who spoke a bit of English and also asked what I was doing. This time I responded that I was photographing the motorcycle, but was also interested in possibly buying it. One of the mechanics immediately got on the phone with the owner of the bike who stated that he does not have any paperwork and that he could only sell it as a “Display Car”.

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I asked how much he was looking to sell it for, to which he, to our surprise, responded “$2k to $3k HKD” ($256 to 384 USD). I thanked the three mechanics and told them I would think about it. Like a team huddle, Andre, Aaron, and I turned to each other and discussed how the price was too good to pass up on, and that some of these parts alone were probably worth the gamble. I asked Andre if he wanted to purchase the bike since he’d found it, but, seeing the excitement on my face, he said “If it’s going to make you this happy, then you better buy it. It’s really a no-brainer.”  Andre also mentioned he has enough to sort out on his current Honda-Ducati build.

I walked over to the shop in which the 3 mechanics were working and asked if they would take $2k HKD cash. They agreed and filled out a bill of sale with the seller’s ID and the VIN of the “Display Car.” I was officially the owner of a classic Harley Davidson! 

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It’s been over a week since I’ve owned the Harley and have found that this project is not an easy task and will take a while, especially with my limited tools, small workspace, and novice wrenching background.  This past weekend I started to disassemble the bike with yet another good friend Laurent. One slight issue we came across was that there is quite a significant oil leak, with the entire lower end of the engine block missing.

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Yikes. That’s definitely a problem.

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This means I’ll need to somehow find and replace the engine case with one that comes with a title (since the case has the VIN on it), and I’ll have to swap whatever other parts are unusable due to the lack of oil and more importantly moisture intrusion.

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Now why am I taking on such a project that seems impossible to finish in Hong Kong? There’s nothing like learning from wrenching on a bike. Simply getting a bike that was considered scrap in Hong Kong back on the road State-side and handing it down to my future kids is the ultimate goal. Plus, buying foolish projects is in my blood.

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PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago

If this were stateside, you’d never find this at that price. But given the lack of real value there, and the logistics involved, it’s 100% understandable that the owner would sell it for pocket change.

You’ve done him a favor while he’s given you the steal of a lifetime.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
1 month ago

Hi, I was wondering about the word “gweilo”. Google says it’s an outright racial slur that means “white devil” or “white ghost”. While that certainly doesn’t sound complimentary or even friendly, how do people actually use it? Does everyone use it or is it something the lower class says openly while wealthier/more sophisticated people are too polite to say it out loud? If you have a darker complexion will they still call you that? Racism is bad but I think understanding the ways a culture manifests it can give insight into that culture even if what you learn is negative.

Anyway have fun with the Harley. I haven’t worked on many bikes but I’m told an impact screwdriver is key if you want to drill out less fasteners.

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
1 month ago

Howdy, Mike here. “Gweilo” can have many uses, both neutral and sometimes negative. It’s common amongst all levels of hierarchy and mainly means “western white folk”. There’s a beer company named Gweilo, so it can’t be too offensive.

Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted on the build.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago

Is gweilo in similar vein as Japanese word, gaijin?

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

First time I heard “gaijin” was last week’s while watching Tokyo Drift for the first time. I guess it’s quite similar.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

Oh shit. I think we have the display why.

I’m guessing someone bottomed that bike hard. Trying to jump it or something? The hole is just so big I can’t think of anything else. Wow.

Erik Solie
Erik Solie
1 month ago

I think you’re making excellent life choices!

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
1 month ago
Reply to  Erik Solie

My wife thinks so too.

Chris Campbell
Chris Campbell
1 month ago

You are a lunatic, and this endeavor is fraught with peril. I fully support this, and wish you luck. May Bill and Art look down on you with favor.

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris Campbell

Thank you.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 month ago

Even if you can’t get an engine or get it running in Hong Kong, I’d highly suggest bringing it home. A rare bird like this Harley is easily 40k with the right buyer.

Space
Space
1 month ago

Does it truly need a matching VIN if it’s that old? I recall some other Tracy doing something with a missing paper FC.

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
1 month ago
Reply to  Space

If it doesn’t have paperwork, it’s good as scrap here in HK.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
1 month ago

Andre also mentioned he has enough to sort out on his current Honda-Ducati build.

That seems more interesting than what’s likely an eternal display model (or something best parted out for profit).

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

Of course a Tracy is involved. I just hope your Electra Glide in Blue has a happier ending than the film with Robert Blake.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

I am seriously impressed by this reference. Thank you sir. Great movie.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

For that matter, a happier ending than Robert Blake.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
1 month ago

Beware of re-importation tax. US Customs do not always understand what “Made in USA” means when calculating tariffs.

As me how I know.

R Rr
R Rr
1 month ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

I’m not an import specialist, but from what little I know, anything “Made in USA” should be exempt from any tariffs if imported back in the USA.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
1 month ago
Reply to  R Rr

If I get a penny every time they tried charging tariff on re-importing US-made stuff… I would be a few pennies richer.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
1 month ago

New note to self: Check the underside of a sweet sub-$1,000 non-running motorcycle. :O

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
1 month ago

sweet

sub-$1,000

non-running

Just like “fast/cheap/good”, only two of the three can apply simultaneously.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 month ago

My dad builds Harleys, hot rods, and other boomer chariots for a living. So I showed him this. Dudes out here punching air about the whole buying this for 300 bucks thing. According to him, this thing has most of the “King of the road” package, which later became the beloved Road King, He is saying 5k would probably be reasonable going rate around here, and he’s the cheapest person I know. If you were to restore it, the mechanical bit is pretty easy. Put that acquiring parts bit is going to be challenging. Being one HD model year only, there is a few things that get real expensive. He rough estimated 20k for a full strip, power plant and painting it properly. With a sale price of around 30-35k, I guess these are very popular with the Elvis community, and that dude can’t stand Elvis so a bit different then his standard market.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

My eye caught the clutch overcenter device* on the left side. I’m not sure if that was a stock item or not. Last time I remember seeing one was on an old HD set up for a side car.

*basically once pulling in the clutch, this assembly “overcenters” and the effort needed to hold the clutch is reduced to almost nothing.

Nick Weaver
Nick Weaver
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

They did come standard that year but they also came with hand shift so you need the vin to know for sure. Most Harley people I know call it a mousetrap xd.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Weaver

neat

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
1 month ago

It will keep it’s rust until it comes State-side. Does you dad have any advice on how to keep the rust from continuing to rust?

Serial Thriller
Serial Thriller
1 month ago

Ask your brother and then do the opposite.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago

That is…definitely a display car.

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