This used to be a CHP bike.
We cover a lot of barn find cars on Motorious, but we’ve featured a few motorcycles left to sit. However, this is the first time we’ve featured a former police bike brought back from the brink. The vintage Harley-Davidson VL was sitting in a storage area in an industrial part of Orange County, California with boxes hiding it. As you can likely imagine, a motorcycle of this age can be worth a considerable amount.
One thing you have to watch for when rescuing vintage motorcycles is originality. Yes, it’s an issue with cars as well, which is why checking tags to ensure the factory-original engine and transmission are installed is an excellent idea before you make an offer. With bikes, the ease with which anything can be swapped means you’re even more likely to find these cobbled-together Frankenstein motorcycles where they’re really multiple bikes cannibalized to build one strange contraption.
Persistence and patience, plus keen negotiating skills are absolutely critical if you want to be a barn find hunter. When you hear the story of this 1931 Harley getting rescued, you’ll realize the guy wasn’t pushy about buying the bike. Most people would try to strong arm the seller, figuring they can wear him down quickly and get a quick score.
When someone has held onto a machine for so long, even if they keep it in a storage area away from their house, there’s usually a reason for that, whether it’s sentimental attachment, a psychological issue, etc. If you push too hard and try to storm the beaches of Normandy, you’ll burn the bridge and never get the vehicle. This guy was savvy enough to realize that, and even though he had to wait for a long time to get the classic motorcycle, at least he didn’t walk away empty-handed and completely shot down.
You’ll note when you watch the video this Harley looks pretty rough. Too often, YouTubers or car shows on TV stage these ridiculous barn find situations where the vehicle basically has just a light covering of dust which looks like it was sprinkled over it just days or hours before the shoot. While every barn find motorcycle or car is different, oftentimes the tires have flat spots, rust is usually evident (this was near the coast, so even though in California that’s usually not much of an issue, it was here), and like in this case the saddle looks like it’s about to deteriorate if you were to dare to sit on it (although it thankfully doesn’t).
As for the dust covering, when it’s really sat on paint, chrome, and other surfaces for years, the stuff doesn’t budge so easily. That in part depends on what the dust is made of, so in different regions the composition will vary, but overall you can’t just wipe a portion of the vehicle clean and instead have to put some soap, water, and elbow grease to work.
While rescuing a barn find is rewarding in so many ways, learning the story behind the vehicle makes the find even cooler. With this vintage Harley the story is especially interesting since it used to be a California Highway Patrol vehicle. The officer who rode it during his time on the force bought the motorcycle when it was retired from the fleet. He rode it as his own pleasure cruiser. It’s really a cool story and in the video you get to see more photos and video of the bike.
Again, you can check out the video from YouTube account Carcheology. These guys rescue a lot of barn find cars, but here we have the tale of a vintage Harley-Davidson getting the treatment it so richly deserves.