Discovery in Hong Kong: Abandoned 1965 Harley Davidson Reveals Major Issue After Purchase

How can you discern the familial connection between David Tracy and me? Well, our mutual ineptitude with vehicles possessing a distinct "soul," particularly those neglected over time, is a dead giveaway.

In January, a message popped up on my WhatsApp from Andre, a close friend, fellow rider, and bike enthusiast. The message included a snapshot of a Harley Davidson—an uncommon sight on the streets of Hong Kong, especially one of such vintage. It read: "This has not moved in 8 months, no plates, no paperwork. Must be from the 1980s, surely."

After some debate about the bike's age and ownership status, I did a bit of online sleuthing and discovered it was a 1965 Harley Davidson Electra Glide, a significant model in Harley's history. It boasted the last of the Panhead engines and the first electric start, making it a unique release for that year. (Rumor has it, Elvis Presley even owned one).

How did such a remarkable machine end up abandoned in Hong Kong, left to decay in an industrial backstreet? Eager for answers, Andre, another riding buddy named Aaron, and I planned to meet the following weekend to inspect the bike, take photos, and inquire with nearby shops.

The bike looked decent from a distance, but up close, its flaws were evident. Chrome peeled, exposing rusted metal, screws and parts were missing, and there were inexplicable paint jobs on critical components like spark plugs and gas tank valves. Rubber and wiring were severed, and the speedometer seemed to have been filled with water at some point. It appeared the previous owner desired aesthetics over functionality, akin to display bikes found in upscale stores.

As we discussed and photographed, a curious local mechanic approached, inquiring in Cantonese why three foreigners were lingering around such a decrepit bike. I tried to explain we were only taking photos, but my pronunciation likely caused confusion. Moments later, two other mechanics with English skills approached. This time, I expressed interest in purchasing the bike for display. One mechanic promptly called the owner, who explained he had no paperwork and could only sell it as a "Display Car."

To our surprise, he offered it for $2k to $3k HKD ($256 to $384 USD). We huddled and decided it was too good a deal to ignore, with valuable parts alone justifying the purchase. Despite Andre finding it, he graciously insisted I buy it, noting my excitement. I negotiated the price with the mechanics and became the proud owner of a classic Harley Davidson.

Owning the bike proved to be a daunting task, especially with limited tools, workspace, and mechanical skills. Last weekend, with the help of another friend named Laurent, I began disassembling it. However, we discovered a significant oil leak, with a portion of the engine block missing.

This setback means sourcing a replacement engine case with a valid title, along with addressing other parts compromised by oil and moisture damage.

Why embark on such a challenging project in Hong Kong? For me, it's about the learning experience and the satisfaction of resurrecting a scrap bike. Ultimately, I aim to restore it and pass it down to my future children—a testament to the thrill of taking on seemingly impossible projects, a trait seemingly inherited from David Tracy and myself.