Another record breaker from the recent EJ Cole Collection auction in Las Vegas was this 1907 Harley-Davidson Model 2 ‘Strap Tank’. This was one of the bikes that we tipped would make a great deal of money and it didn’t let us down. The hammer came down at $650,000 ($715,000 – or £434,000 – after the buyers premium), making this the most expensive Harley ever sold at auction, and almost doubling the price of the previous record holder, Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1959 FLH Hydra Glide.
By 1907, Harley-Davidson had moved into its first factory on Chestnut Street, Milwaukee (subsequently renamed Juneau Avenue and still the MoCo’s world headquarters) and would, that year, produce 150 motorcycles. Incredibly, that figure would leap to 1149 machines in 1908.
This particular bike was the 37th to roll off the production line and was sold to the splendidly named Albert Bongers of Butler County, Nebraska. Remarkably, the strap tank (so called because of the nickel plated steel straps hold the petrol tank onto the frame) would remain in the Bongers’ family for 85 years. After Albert’s son, Leo, died in 1992, the strap tank went to auction and was bought by EJ Cole for $140,000 which was, at that point, a record price for a motorcycle sold at auction. It’s considered to be the best unrestored strap tank in the world.