In the late 1950s, a new competitor by the name of Honda began nipping at Harley-Davidson’s heels. When your bold and brash motorcycles begin losing ground to compact imported bikes and scooters, how do you strike back?
For Harley-Davidson, the answer was this: The Harley-Davidson Topper. Produced for only five years, and with production estimates hovering in the four-digit range, it holds the honor of being Harley’s only foray into the world of scooters, so far anyway. With one coming up at Mecum’s Las Vegas Motorcycles 2022 auction, it can also hold a place in your garage.
Harley-Davidson is best known for their roaring V-Twin engines, making the Topper a true odd duck in their lineup. It features a single-cylinder, flat-mounted two-stroke putting out between five and nine horsepower. While it’s unclear which of the three models of Topper is being offered here up by Mecum, know that none of them will be setting land speed records any time soon.
Those few lonely horses reach the ground via an early continuously variable transmission, feeding power out to a 20-inch rear wheel. Period motorcycling magazines make mention of a pull start cord hidden in the chrome instrument cluster — perfect for those of us who can never seem to get kick-starting right.
The Topper may not have MotoGP performance, but it’s an absolutely gorgeous vehicle when parked. Its combination fiberglass and stamped-steel construction lend it an aesthetic that’s immediately identifiable as early-1960s, but timeless in its simple beauty. More than a vehicle, this is an art piece — just, art you can ride to work.
Mecum’s Las Vegas Motorcycles 2022 auction will kick off January 25, 2022, and run through the 29th of the month. Interested buyers should look for the Harley-Davidson Heritage Collection to pick up this piece of history. You may have to outbid me for it, though.