Oldest-Known US Motorcycle on the Block
1903 Indian Motorcycle on the Block
After hanging on a dentist’s wall for 30 years and then being stowed in a garage and then a basement, a 1903 Indian motorcycle will have a new owner.
On Saturday, April 21 at the Frederick County Fairgrounds, Maryland, bidders from around the world will compete to own a piece of two-wheeled history from Charlie Alder, Jr.’s estate.
“This motorcycle predates the Harley – the bike most Americans associate with homegrown motorcycles,” explained Steve Rinker, who runs Buck’s Indian, an Indian motorcycle restoration firm in Romney, WV. “The handful of 1902 Indian models that were built were deconstructed, their parts used to build the 1.75-horsepower 1903 models. And as far as we know, this is the only unrestored 1903 still in existence.”
“What makes this bike particularly intriguing is that it’s never been restored. Except for a few nuts and bolts used for early repairs, this bike is all original,” added Josh Ruby, the auctioneer entrusted with selling the motorcycle for the Alder estate. “And I do mean ‘bike.’ This is one of the most primitive motorized vehicles you’ll ever see – a real peek into what innovation looked like over a hundred years ago.”
The motorcycle has already travelled more miles in 2012 than it has cumulatively in the last 90 years – albeit in the back of a van. “It was a hit at Daytona [Bike Week],” said Rinker, who has been storing the bike at his private museum of antique motorcycles until it makes its trip to the auction in Western Maryland.
Multiple pre-1930 Indian and Harley Davidson motorcycles – and even a side car – will accompany the 1903 model on the auction block. While those models have some limited sale comparables, Ruby admits he doesn’t know what to expect as far as number of bidders or sale price for the 1903.
“This motorcycle hasn’t been sold since the 1950′s. The last time it changed hands outside of the family was during a barter for $50 of construction work by Charlie’s dad – before the bike was considered to have collectable value. So, it will be exciting for all of us, as those bids come in.”
The auction will also include 1940′s automobiles, World War II memorabilia, and antique railroad items – over 900 lots of collectible antiques in all. Online bidding is available via proxibid.com. Descriptions of each motorcycle are available at wolfeauctions.com.