Once in a while you come across a beautifully restored bike that is as old as the term “Hog” itself. It was in 1914 that Harley-Davidson established an official racing department. The race team became known as “The Wrecking Crew” and they had a team mascot which was a small pig. Team members used to take the pig for rides on victory laps which helped popularize the reference to Harley-Davidsons as “Hogs”. On April 4, 1915, team member Otto Walker gave Harley-Davidson its first national victory by winning the 300-mile road race national held in California.
The 1915 Harley-Davidson F model featured a 61 cubic inch F-head V-twin with a factory cost new of $275. It was the first year for the 3-speed transmission and the last year for the crank pedals. It also featured a magneto ignition, double pump oiling, and larger intake valves which were guaranteed by Harley-Davidson to boost output to 11 horsepower. It was the only power claim backed in writing offered by any motorcycle manufacturer of the time.
This particular bike unfortunately was forgotten along the way and suffered many years of neglect. It was discovered in a field in western Kansas in 1974 with a tree growing around it. It had to have been there for a while because it was not a small tree but the tree was sacrificed and the bike was cut loose from its wooden restraints and the road to recovery began.
It was restored to its present condition by Harlan Oppeboen and Ross Van Etten from Colorado Springs who acquired the bike two years ago. Ross has about 1500 hours invested and has done all the work to it with the exception of the pin striping, nickeling, and seat cover. “If you give it 2 ½ cranks to prime the gas, it’ll start on the third every time”, said Ross.
This is not Ross’s first restoration. He has a collection of six Harley-Davidsons and Indians that he has restored featured at the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum. I salute Ross and others like him that so passionately restore these rolling pieces of our history so that younger generations can see what it was like to ride ~ back in the day!