This extremely rare 1908 Strap Tank Harley-Davidson roared into the record books with the highest auction sale ever.
By Dan Bova • Feb 13, 2023
In 1941, David Uihlein found a complete 1908 Strap Tank Harley-Davidson motorcycle tucked away in a barn in Wisconsin. Uihlein held onto it for the next 66 years and finally put the extremely rare ride up for auction in January.
And when the auctioneer’s gavel fell at the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas, a new record was set. With a final price of $935,000, the Harley became the most expensive bike ever sold at an auction.
Named Strap Tank because of nickel-plated steel bands holding the fuel and oil tanks to the bike’s frame, it is believed that less than a dozen are still in existence, and those that are don’t come close to the condition of Uinlein’s barn find.
The bike was expertly restored, and per Mecum’s listing, its original tank, wheels, engine belt pulley, seat cover and muffler sleeve were included in the sale. “This Harley-Davidson Strap Tank is among the oldest surviving models of this extremely rare breed,” explains the auction house. “In terms of Harley-Davidson history, there is no more important model than the legendary Strap Tank—it’s the first of the breed, and the earliest Harley-Davidson model one will ever find, as the prototypes that preceded it are long gone.”
Of the sale, Greg Arnold, Motorcycle Division Manager at Mecum Auction told Fox News, “We marketed the bike well, and Harley is by far the most famous American motorcycle brand, so we had a feeling it would do well in auction, but obviously, you are surprised anytime you sell the most expensive bike ever.”
While $935,000 seems like a lot of money (mostly because it is a lot) it sounds like a bargain when you compare it to the most expensive car ever sold at auction. That record belongs to a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupe” that sold via Sotheby’s for $142 million. Now before you barf in disgust that someone could blow that much dough on a car, the good news for humanity is that according to the Robb Report, the money raised in the auction went entirely to the Mercedes-Benz Fund, “a global scholarship program meant to aid young people working to make the world a more sustainable place.”