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R14m chopper sale: Fonda bike a fake?

2014-10-20 08:15

CLASSIC MOVIE BIKE SOLD: Seller Michael Eisenberg rides his Captain America Harley. The chopper, used in the movie 'Easy Rider', was sold for the equivalent of R14-million. Image: AP / Damian Dovarganes

CALABASAS, California - One of the world's most famous motorcycles, the star-spangled 'Captain America' chopper from the film 'Easy Rider', was sold for the equivalent of R1.35-million, making it the world's most expensive motorcycle. Ahead of the auction in Calabasas, California, doubts were raised as to its authenticity.

As the skeptical Billy from the 1969 cult film might have asked: "What's the reality, man?"

The red, white and blue, chromed Harley-Davidson, was auctioned late on Saturday (Oct 18) and was sold with certificates of authenticity, according to the auction house, Profiles in History, but more than one version of the bike was built for the film. According to the auction catalogue, the one for sale is the only one that survived.


The motorcycle was used in the climactic crash sequence at the end of the film and restored by Dan Haggerty, who had a bit part in the film and vouched for its authenticity. Peter Fonda, who played Wyatt and rode the bike in the movie, also vouched for its authenticity, according to the auction house.

The Harley Panhead Chopper more than doubled the price of the previous most expensive motorcycle sold at auction (a 1910 Winchester) and eclipsing the price of the most expensive motorcycle sold yet (a R11-million 'Bathing Suit' Vincent Black Shadow).

The seller, Michael Eisenberg, also has a letter from the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, which displayed the bike for 12 years, saying Eisenberg's is the only surviving 'Captain America' bike.

Another collector, Gordon Granger, says he owns the authentic chopper and also has a certificate signed by Haggerty to prove it. Haggerty acknowledged to the Los Angeles Times that he authenticated and sold two 'Captain America' bikes.

Now Haggerty says just one of the bikes is legitimate, and it's Eisenberg's: "I'm concerned. If you throw enough rocks at something, it casts a shadow of doubt about something. I'm damaged."

Fonda, the 74-year-old actor who co-wrote 'Easy Rider', says he has no idea which bike is the real one: "There's a big rat stinking someplace in this."


Eisenberg, a Los Angeles estate agent and collector of Hollywood memorabilia, bought his chopper in early 2014 from John Parham, a Mid-Western motorcycle parts magnate who had bought the bike from Haggerty 12 years earlier.

Haggerty did not deny that he also signed Granger's authenticating documents. He now says he signed something that simply was not true: "That was my mistake. It's not the real bike."

Granger, furious about the prospect of this weekend's auction, insists he owns the genuine article: "They know damn well they don't have the real bike. I own the original remaining Captain America bike. The one to be auctioned is a replica."

The chopper features a forward-angled front wheel and handlebars, fish-tail exhaust pipes and a teardrop fuel tank where the movie's protagonists stashed their cash. It was designed with input from Fonda who insisted on it being decorated with the American flag.

Read more on:    california  |  usa  |  bikes  |  motorcycle  |  auctions

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