HomeThe Market‘Goodness gracious!’ Auction of Jerry Lee Lewis' Harley could hit million-dollar mark,...

‘Goodness gracious!’ Auction of Jerry Lee Lewis’ Harley could hit million-dollar mark, Mecum says


The 1959 Harley-Davidson owned solely by Jerry Lee Lewis is in pristine condition | Dan Duckworth/Mecum photos
The 1959 Harley-Davidson owned by Jerry Lee Lewis is in pristine condition | Dan Duckworth/Mecum photos

While million-dollar-plus collector cars are seen relatively frequently these days, the very idea of a million-dollar motorcycle still seems far-fetched. But Dana Mecum, head of Mecum Auctions, believes he might have a potential seven-figure motorcycle coming over the block Saturday at Kissimmee, Florida.

The bike is a 1959 Harley-Davidson FLH with just over 2,000 miles and single ownership by one of the greatest names in rock n’ roll, Jerry Lee Lewis.

“This could be the $1 million motorcycle,” Mecum said in a t news release. “Its history, and the continuous ownership by Jerry Lee since 1959 should drive the auction price to record numbers.”

The 79-year-old rocker is scheduled to appear at the sale
Lewis, 79, is set to appear at the sale

Helping boost the sale will be the presence of “The Killer” himself. The 79-year-old Lewis will be on hand when his motorcycle comes on stage at the Florida auction.

The Harley was the first 1959 Panhead and was presented as a gift by Harley-Davidson to Lewis, who was a well-known Harley rider. The second Panhead also was gifted to a rock star, Elvis Presley, who supposedly was piqued that he didn’t get the first one.

But $1 million? Only one bike is known to have crossed the seven-figure threshold. The “Captain America” Harley-Davidson chopper purportedly used in the movie Easy Rider was sold at auction in October for a remarkable $1.35 million, even though its authenticity was in question.

After that sale, the drop off is pretty steep to the next highest motorcycle on record, a 1910 Winchester racer that sold in 2013 for $580,000, its allure no doubt influenced by being a rare motor product from the firearms company.

Even Steve McQueen motorcycles have failed to come anywhere near that level. Last week’s motorcycle sale by Bonhams in Las Vegas featured a 1912 Harley-Davidson X8E big twin once owned by the King of Cool; it sold for $117,300, including auction fee.

A comparable motorcycle sale to Jerry Lee’s would be that of a 1958 Ariel Cyclone 650 originally purchased by seminal rocker Buddy Holly, then later owned by country-music outlaw Waylon Jennings. The Ariel sold in October for $450,000, its lofty price overshadowed by that of the Easy Rider motorcycle.

The bike has been ridden just over 2,000 miles
The bike has been ridden just over 2,000 miles

But Jerry Lee Lewis’ Harley has some special things going for it. First off is the pristine originality of the highly desirable Panhead, which would put it in the six-figure range even without the rock-star provenance. Then there’s the fact that Lewis was the only owner for 55 years and consigned it himself to the auction.

And the electrifying appearance of the rock legend on the auction block should provoke a “whole lotta shakin’,” and most likely some over-the-top bidding.

“There was a time I wouldn’t take a zillion dollars for it, but now it’s just sitting there,” Lewis is quoted in Mecum’s catalog description of the Harley. “You can crank that motorcycle up and she purrs like a kitten – but you have to kickstart it, you know. I could probably sit on it alright today, but I wouldn’t take a chance. I’m 79 years old.

“This bike is like a child to me, but I’ve decided it’s time to let it go.”


Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.
  1. T.E Laurence’s Brough Superior, on which he died, sold over 20 years ago for more than a million dollars. It now is on loan to the British War Museum in London.

  2. Thom, I find no evidence of that sale. A few years back, the owner marketed that most-famous Brough Superior at more than $2 million but was unsuccessful.

    However, I did find one other million-dollar motorcycle while researching this, and that was the 2011 sale of the Bonneville speed record 1948 Vincent Black Lightning prototype, best-known as the “Bathing Suit Bike.” The classic British motorcycle went 150.313 mph with rider Rollie Free lying flat out with nothing on but swim trunks and canvas shoes to lower wind resistance. The photo of Free at Bonneville has become a classic motorcycle image.

    Here’s a link to a story about that sale: http://www.chubbcollectorcar.com/classic-car-blog/2011/12/08/first-1-million-motorcycle-0

  3. What crappy article. First complete ignorance of the Rollie Free bike sold by Herb Harris in 2011!!! That’s 3 years ago! Then basically repeated the extremely hyped auction catalog description? There’s no way in hell this bike would be 7 figures. Jerry Lee Lewis is more known for marrying his 14 year old cousin than this Harley. I admit it’s a nice bike, it’s nice it’s the first made, first owner, low miles, etc. But it’s no Brough Superior, Crocker, Black Shadow, Ducati 750SS, pre-WWI Harley V-twin, etc.

  4. Johnny, it would be good it if you clicked on the above link and read the earlier story. There, you will also find my comment about the Rollie Free bike. The seven figure pre-sale estimate was Dana Mecum’s, not mine.

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