Harley-Davidson | Buckboard Engine History

Motorcycle History

From 1905 to 1908, The Harley-Davidson Motor Company sold the Buckboard engine. Like the later industrial motors of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the buckboard motors could be used in various ways including marine applications.

Traveling back into time, a buckboard is a four-wheeled wagon of simple construction meant to be drawn by a horse or other large animal.

The buckboard is the front-most board on the wagon that could act as both a footrest for the driver and protection for the driver from the horse’s rear hooves in case of a “buck”.

This type of transportation originated back in the 1700s around the same time as horse-drawn carriages.

Originally designed for personal transportation in mountain regions, these distinctively American vehicles were widely used in newly settled regions of the United States.

The Harley-Davidson Buckboard name most likely came from the use of attaching these motors to the buckboards of carriages for propulsion, replacing the horses.

Harley-Davidson letterhead from 1905 even implied that a buyer could build his own motorcycle with the motor. The Buckboard motors started with a hand crank and produced three to four horsepower.

In a 1905 letter from Arthur Davidson, the motors were quoted as costing $54; however, increased quality meant higher cost.

By 1908, the price had reached $75. The exact production date of the motor acquired by the H-D Archives and now in the Harley Museum is not known.

Ultimate MotorCycling would like to thank the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Historical Archives for the Photo.