Harley-Davidson has a long and storied history as one of the premiere motorcycle manufacturers in the world today. One of their most significant models went for more than $48,000 at auction. The 1915 Harley Davidson 11F to be precise. This is a motorcycle that Harley enthusiasts with an interest in the history of the development of the brand and its motorcycles take a sincere interest in and collectors know its value as such. What is it that made this such an important bike in the history of Harley? A closer look at this prolific and popular edition reveals why.
The history of the 1915 Model F
Harley Davidson was going through some very positive changes in the early 1900s. This was a time when some huge advances were made in motorcycle technology with breakthroughs that were well-received by the public. In 1914, the step starter and floorboards made their first appearance on the bikes. Further innovations were made and by 1915, the three speed transmission along with a system for electric lighting for a taillight with a magneto were standard equipment. The taillight could be removed if it was needed to provide light at nighttime. Things were a lot different back then and Harley bikes offered a great deal of convenience for getting from one place to another quickly. The 1915 F-11 was also equipped with an acetylene gas powered Prest-O-Lite as its headlamp
The engine was an F-head V Twin 61 cubic inch which excelled over the Flathead engines used by the competition back in the day. Harley Davidson technicians were able to achieve an 11 horsepower output with the addition of larger intake valves and an automatic oilier, which were both new innovations and the brand offered a unique statement to the public by issuing a guarantee that the bike would achieve 50 miles per hour. This bike became known as the "poor man's Harley" because the acetylene lights were cheaper by $35 which was a tidy sum in 1915. This made the bike more affordable for even those who couldn't afford many luxuries. The 11-F became one of HD's most popular models after its release because of the affordability as well as its amazing racing capacity as board tracks and dirt ovals were popular at the time. There were a total of 9,855 11-F models sold in 1915.
What is the significance of the Harley Davidson 11-F?
If you go back in time to 1915, the 11F was a significant bike for Harley as well as for motorcycle technology throught the world because it was among the most advanced motorcycles in existence. Harley-Davidson's confidence was so high in the bike that they were comfortable providing a written guarantee. It signaled a new generation for the brand and new ways of doing things on a mechanical level. This is perhaps one of the most significant events that the model stands for symbolically today, driving up its importance and, ultimately, its value. The revolutionary starter and new engine design established a new step forward and it is a historical event. As an additional benefit to the brand, the popularity of the model helped to establish the name, distinguishing it from the competition coming out of Europe as well as the United States.
Five models for the 11 hp 3 speed
The 1915 Harley Davidson models featured a total of five, which each were issued with the guarantee of at least 50 mph for the rear hub two speeds and 65 mph for the 11 hp 3 speed versions. The three speed gear was new on the market in 1915, which was a good drawing card and sales point for the brand and they even offered a stock model that was stripped down for those who were more interested in gaining speed, particularly for racing, with some of the bikes achieving speeds over 74 mph. This was Harley's claim to fame and we still see their generous offerings of variety in a broader spectrum. They aim to please and the early evidence of this philosophy was present all the way back in 1915.
A snapshot in time
For many collectors, the 1915 Harley Davidson 11-F represents a historical nod to an era that is long past, but it also stands as a symbol for innovation and advances in motorcycle technology. The 1915 signaled a turning point for Harley, that gave sales a boost and also showed the world just what their design team was capable of accomplishing. Successful sales of the 11-F gave them a real boost that kept them on a forward moving trajectory which has continued through the present. As a collectible, the historical significance of the 1915 11-F is immense but as for its inherent value, there is that simply because it's a vintage Harley.
Harley-Davidson history buffs and collectors are fascinated with the 1915 Harley 11-F and others like it from the early 1900s because of their importance in the history of the company. Quality and guarantees of satisfaction have been to the forefront of the brand's ultimate goal, aside from designing bigger and better motorcycles. They succeed in reaching a diverse audience of riders with the variants within a model and have done so throughout the years. The early 1900s was an era which kicked off a volley of new advancements in motorcycle engineering and the company has been fairly consistent throughout their long and storied history in keeping this practice and the spirit of innovation alive. In more recent years, a tremendous focus upon rider comfort has been given, whereas earlier designs attended to the mechanical workings of a more practical nature. Harley is still practical in their approach but they know how much we like our creature comforts. They've come a long way since the 1915 11-F and it serves as a nice reminder of that.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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