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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Isis
Isis
2 months ago

Ha, that bike is in a condition that David would describe as ‘New, In Box’

Nice project. Get some better side cases, or at least paint those if they are original.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
2 months ago

Well, I have to ask; does the Electra starter work? ( ͡• ͜ʖ ͡• )

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
2 months ago
Reply to  Shooting Brake

Hi tech wireless bike.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
2 months ago

Sadly, yes!

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago

Whelp, that must have sucked when you saw that giant hole. Don’t worry, it’s a small hole compared to what will be in your wallet soon 😀

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
2 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Definitely was a surprise.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
2 months ago

It now is a great “display” vehicle of the fork-and-blade connecting rods, so at least you’ve got that going for ya?

Gubbin
Gubbin
2 months ago

I think I can see a busted rod in that picture of the holed engine case. That looks like a great static display bike for HK, and a really good project for a specialist once it gets shipped (intact!) back to the US. Definitely not something to wrench on in HK!

CSRoad
CSRoad
2 months ago

Man that’s a great project, nice potential.
Everything should be available, either real or reproduction.
I’d budget 10,000 USD as an off the top of my head amount.
It may not make any sense from a purely financial perspective, but then again what does?

Major Malfunction
Major Malfunction
2 months ago

Well at least the age old saying about Harleys continues to be true. If there ain’t oil under it, there ain’t oil in it. Good luck!

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago

I have a friend with two Harleys that he inherited that have been sitting in storage for nearly a decade. He has drip pans under both, and last time I was in his garage I noted that the pans were clean and asked if he had finally got them road worthy and replaced some gaskets and seals. His response was to laugh and simply state “Nope, no oil left to drip out. I cleaned the pans so the dogs wouldn’t step in the oil pond”.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
2 months ago

You have two weeks to get it running and ride it to Moab.
Go!

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
2 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

It’s so cold now the Bering Strait would freeze over and DT can ride it across.

JDE
JDE
2 months ago

one of the older chopper things was to build a pan shovel, they seemed to use Shovel head jugs on a Pan case, this may not really work for your endeavor and I am not really sure how much access you might have to the aftermarket over there, but S&S sells a complete Panhead motor for around 10K. then their is the route of just making it ridable.

Shineray is cloning Harley sportster motors in China, it would involve a bit of work to fabricate the mounts and would probably be a pain in the but in the end, but I suppose it is doable.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
2 months ago

You know an older Harley will leak you. You now have a head start on it. Good lick with the project.

And give us the story on the HonDucati.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
2 months ago

Ooof this is going to be expensive. It’s the last year of the panhead. You can get a new one (not from china). I do wonder how well the paint will clean up on the bike. Good luck on your endeavors sir. If and when you get it done bring it stateside and go on an epic adventure. Bring Mercedes along with her airhead to see what autopian vintage motorcycle reigns supreme.

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago

Holy crapola. At least it won’t take up a lot of space.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

There weren’t any kittens living in it so you’re ahead of David there.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago

WOW! That’s a heckuva project! Good luck finding that engine, it won’t be easy, and it will be much more expensive than the bike itself. But that is a VERY cool bike, and I hope you can pull it off.

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

In keeping with the family approach, you could assign yourself the deadline of getting it ready in time for Moab Sturgis.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
2 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Yeah, but then you have to go to Sturgis.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753804/

I have no comment on Harley fans or motorcycles – but if your festival becomes the basis of an epidemiological paper, I feel that maybe you should reconsider a couple things.

Ben
Ben
2 months ago
Reply to  Redfoxiii

I’ve never gone to Sturgis, but it frequently overlaps our annual camping trip to Wyoming. It’s always a bit of an experience to drive through that area during the rally, but in 2020 it was especially…colorful. I tried very hard to avoid even going into gas stations to use the restroom. So many people making bad decisions, and that’s saying something when you consider how people behave at a “normal” Sturgis rally.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago

What makes those parts valuable is the same thing that makes that project a stretch.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

‘slight issue’, ‘significant oil leak’.
Yeah, I’ve had some cars like that 🙂

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
2 months ago

It is a nice bike that deserves to be back on the roads.

Worst case, David will fly HK with a case full of parts and write an article like “Have 36 hours to save this bike but may be impossible”.

And at the end, it will start and run for a block or two before something bad happens.

Alec Rosenbaum
Alec Rosenbaum
2 months ago

My forecast for this project, no offense meant:
It will be torn down and end up in various boxes stretched between three Hong Kong apartments. It will eventually be determined the project only has hope being finished properly if it comes stateside. (unless it gets a Chinese scooter drivetrain swap with booger welded mounts and a kick start) David and Jason will then persuade Beau to buy two or three other vehicles to ship back to the USA so that the bike will have a container to ride in. Then it will end up sitting on the Galpin lot for an additional three years until David gets all the parts together to restore it. It will then be restored with a mix of Tracy ingenuity, swap meet parts, way too expensive NOS parts, and Harbor Freight specials. All the while Mercedes will be drooling over and pining for it.

It may end up being the most expensive vehicle in the Tracy stable if it is restored with proper parts.

Am I close?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Alec Rosenbaum

The Chinese engine swap is a non-starter, as I don’t believe it can ever be put back on the road in China, they impose a pretty strict age limit on motorcycles/motorbikes, so it has to come back to the US to ever see anything beyond static display use

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
2 months ago
Reply to  Alec Rosenbaum

That sounds about right. Though, I might want it even more if they put some horrible tiny Chinese scooter drivetrain in there. 🙂 OH, maybe a twin scooter drivetrain!

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
2 months ago

Ain’t gonna happen.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago

Plus, buying foolish projects is in my blood.

You still have a loooooong way to go to rival David, but this is an excellent start.

Mac
Mac
2 months ago

Even with an obliterated case, this thing was an absolute steal. As knuckleheads are quickly elevating to a level of unobtanium prices, panheads are not too far behind. I am not sure what Hong Kong’s trade and shipping relationship with Japan looks like, but Japan has a killer antique motorcycle scene that you could source parts from if not from the good ol’ US of A.

Great find.

Last edited 2 months ago by Mac
Brockstar
Brockstar
2 months ago

All I can think of is a saying that one of my best friends and I often use to justify these types of purchases. “I bought it because I didn’t want to lose money on the deal.”

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
2 months ago

I’d part it out…but that’s how I roll.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

Good luck Michael. I wonder what getting parts for this is going to be like? Polly, “Hey, David, I’m looking for this and this and this and this. Can you source them in the US?”

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

That’s an awesome project. My brother in law has a half dozen of them, including his father’s shovelhead

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Does he happen to have an extra case lying around? 😀

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

He probably doesn’t, but I’d bet that one of his friends does. Other than 1965 Shovelhead, what should I ask?

KansastoHongKong
KansastoHongKong
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

1965 Panhead engine case both left and right, preferably with matching numbers and title. Thank you!

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

I’ll fire off a text

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

I got ahold of him. He said he will ask around, but its likely that anything he finds is going to be a complete motor and that it will need a full rebuild. At that point you’re likely looking at $10k for a worst case scenario.
He also said that anything he finds is likely going to be on some old-timer’s shelf and probably won’t have a title attached. There may be a few ways around that, but we can work with that when we get to that stage.

He asked for the VIN on the neck of the bike just to ensure that whatever we find has the best match. (FLB, FLFB, etc).

He also asked if you’d be interested in going with a newer motor to get it running while you searched for the correct one.

Matt Hardigree has my email, or you can reach out on the Discord. same username on there

Last edited 2 months ago by Mr. Asa
Mac
Mac
2 months ago

I know it is not original, but if you are simply looking to get the motorcycle on the road, the following is a legitimate option:

https://www.sscycle.com/products/super-stock-generator-style-crankcases-for-1965-69-big-twins-with-stock-bore-natural/

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