1948 Harley-Davidson FL Panhead Billy Bike at Mecum Las Vegas Auction

1948 Harley-Davidson FL Panhead Billy Bike at Mecum Las Vegas Auction

From The Tim & Linda LaQuay Collection:

Engine 1200cc 
Color Red/Yellow 
VIN/Serial 48FL12741

Custom built for Tim LaQuay by Jack Lepler, Rimrock, Arizona
Lepler is known for his accurate 'Easy Rider' replicas
1200cc OHV Twin engine
Red and Yellow finish
If asked to name the two most famous motorcycles in history, most people would say the choppers from “Easy Rider.” This replica of the Billy Bike has been built in homage to that famous machine, ridden in the film by the director, Dennis Hopper. While the 1969 film did well at the box office, its impact resonated worldwide via the potent imagery of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper aboard those outrageous Harley-Davidson Panhead choppers. The story behind those choppers was obscured for decades but is an amazing tale stemming from a chance encounter between Fonda and Cliff Vaughs, a filmmaker and radio reporter working in LA in 1968.

After interviewing Fonda about his arrest for marijuana possession, the pair began talking motorcycles, as Vaughs rode an outrageous green Harley-Davidson Knucklehead chopper built by Ben Hardy. Fonda mentioned his next project was a “motorcycle western” with Hopper tentatively titled “The Loners,” and Vaughs related his experience of riding his chopper in the South in 1963-64 while registering black voters with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Vaughs was hired as associate producer and designed and built the choppers with Hardy. He also came up with a much better name for the film based on a Mae West poster in his living room and his experience riding across the U.S. on his chopper. The tragic ending of “Easy Rider” was based on Vaugh’s experience in Alabama in 1964, when a pickup truck made a U-turn to chase him and his passenger Iris Greenburg, firing at them with a rifle and missing.

Vaughs and Hardy originally built both of the “Easy Rider” bikes with standard frame geometry, but both they and Fonda agreed that Captain America needed to be more outrageous, so the frame was taken to Buchanan’s in LA to be raked and re-chromed, giving the look we know today. The Billy Bike was kept as is. This 1948 Harley-Davidson FL Panhead Billy Bike was custom built for Tim LaQuay by Jack Lepler of Rimrock, Arizona, who is well known for his accurate “Easy Rider” replicas. A few details differ from the original, most notably the front disc brake, which makes it a much more rideable motorcycle.

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