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Home The Market Captain America custom Harley from ‘Easy Rider’ set for auction

Captain America custom Harley from ‘Easy Rider’ set for auction

Clouded in controversy, the motorcycle is one of two claiming to be the same movie bike

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One of the world’s most iconic movie vehicles, the Captain America custom chopper purportedly ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 cult-classic film Easy Rider, will be auctioned at no reserve by Dan Kruse Classics on June 5 in Midland, Texas.

The estimated $300,000 to $500,000 pre-auction value is a far cry from the $1.35 million that a different red, white and blue Captain America bike hammered sold in 2014 at a Los Angeles movie-memorabilia auction called Profiles in History. The final payout was more than $1.6 million once auction fees were added, the total declared the highest price ever paid for a motorcycle.

The Captain America chopper ridden by Fonda is instantly recognizable, a Harley-Davidson Panhead with an American flag paint motif, lots of chrome and long extended front end. 

easy rider
The Captain America motorcycle stands ready for the auction stage | Dan Kruse Classics

At the time of its 2014 sale, the Profiles in History chopper was embroiled in controversy as to its authenticity as the genuine Captain America.  As the story goes, four bikes were created for Easy Rider, two identical Captain Americas and two “Billy” Harleys to be ridden by actor and director Dennis Hopper.

Of the four, only one survives, the other three reportedly stolen after filming and broken up for their valuable parts.  The remaining motorcycle was the one that crashed and burned in the final scene of Easy Rider; it was later reconstructed by actor and motorcycle enthusiast Dan Haggerty, who played a small role in the movie and is best known for his TV series, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.

Haggerty authenticated the Captain America sold in 2014, but questions arose when the owner of an identical motorcycle declared that his was the actual sole-surviving Easy Rider bike. 

That owner also had an authentication signed by Haggerty. 

The chopper sold in 2014 as the authentic ‘Easy Rider’ motorcycle

At that point, Haggerty claimed that it was all a big misunderstanding but did little to clear up the murky lineage of either, although at some point he reportedly disavowed the Profiles in History motorcycle.

Despite any questions about its Easy Rider provenance, the 2014 auction bike achieved the towering 7-figure bid.  

The other Captain America, the existence of which sparked the 2014 controversy, was owned then and now by Gordon Grainger, a Texas fan of Easy Rider, and this is the one that is being auctioned by Dan Kruse Classics.

Peter Fonda reportedly declared the Grainger chopper as the actual survivor.  Although he originally authenticated the Profiles in History bike in 2014, even autographing the gas tank, he later told the Los Angeles Times that he was misled by Haggerty and recanted his authentication.

Fonda died in 2019. Haggerty is also deceased.

According to Kruse, Grainger bought Captain America from well-known celebrity-vehicle collector Gary Graham in 1996 at a Dan Kruse Classic Car Productions auction.

“Dan Haggerty was on site with Graham, his partner in the rebuild and restoration of the motorcycle, to authenticate,” Kruse said in a news release.  “Since then, the motorcycle has resided in Austin, Texas, where it survived a fire in December 2010.”

While this might sound like its own plot for a Hollywood film, the questions of provenance have real repercussions for the value of the collector’s item, which is said to be one-of-a-kind even though there are two of them.

In 2014, Grainger told the Los Angeles newspaper that the uncertainty about his Easy Rider motorcycle is vexing, although the evidence points to his being the real one.  In which case, the unidentified buyer in the 2014 sale might have spent an exorbitant amount to purchase a counterfeit Captain America.

“There are only three possibilities,” Granger said at the time. “Either my bike is the real one, or the other one is the real one, or neither one is the real one.”

For more information about the Dan Kruse Classic sale, visit the auction website.

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.

28 COMMENTS

  1. a 4th possibility: I was the one who stole the 3 remaining bikes, the other Capt America and 2 Billys. They weren’t parted out. I still have them sittin’ roun’.

  2. Neither are the real Captian America bike.

    It’s gone to history.

    The early reports were made and the later are rounders.

    Save your money and build your own.

  3. At Barber’s Motorcycle Museum there was a Captain America chopper on display October of 2020. Your article did no refer to the one near Birmingham at Barbers. How many are there?

  4. Also the bike coming up for auction doesn’t have the front side hack mounts, the one Fonda is pictured riding still has the mounts.

  5. People don’t have anything else going on in their life than to create more contraversy about who what when or whatever happened to the scooter!!!

    What’s next “ELVIS HAS IT” Grow up.

  6. Another possibility is they are both original because Dan Haggerty stole the the other 3 bikes! He was on the set, would have known where they were kept, was an unknown actor with a small part in the movie and obviously loved Harleys because he took time to restore a burnt one. Kept them hid for years and needed money because he hadn’t acted in years. He probably isn’t lying about either motorcycle but didn’t want anyone to figure out he was the guy who stole them. I always liked him and his acting but it looks that way to me. It would have been the easy rider mentality of the time.

  7. I am not a motorcycle guy and am very much appreciate and pay for originality and wear expressing its life and experience more than perfection to some standard. (Especially standards that were not (for use/safety) and as originally made). This whole interesting story does not say much good about this collection specialization and perhaps the people involved in it – although it isn’t clear if that collection is of bikes or culture.

    I absolutely buy into this (and perhaps McQueens Escape bike) as the most significant of motorcycles as cultural collecting…..but that makes the murky waters surrounding it that much more costly – to both it and the previous 2014 one. The only real value to an Icon is unquestioned originality.

  8. If I remember correctly Fonda said 2 were made , one burned up for the crash scene and the other stripped and gone to the wind buy different people from the crew.
    But I guess he could be wrong since they had them made, 2 of both bikes because the old panhead was always breaking down

    • It’d probably have more authentic parts on it than either one of the “real” one’s do.
      Haggardy was a con man at the end of his life trying to cash in on the fact that he had a cameo in the movie after the biker fad got rolling in the 90’s.
      Both of the supposedly “authentic” bikes are fakes, that’s why there’s two of them, he was scorching people left and right over “authentic” parts, contrary to what he claimed he had nothing to do with building the original bikes.

  9. They wernt chopped or raked right anyway, hollywood people so fake, look how high front of frame is off highway, lol real chopper people still laughing

  10. Dan Haggerty I met at a party in Orange county Ca. I was invited there because I sold the home owner 21 small vintage motorcycles. And the man has the bike with Peter Fonda’s name on the tank. I actually have a picture of it I took. This person also owns hundreds and hundreds of motorcyces. A musium etc.

  11. This mystery about these bikes has been going on since 1970. As the motor cycle guys gave said here, looking at the equipment on the bikes, they are reproductions. A number of collectors believe the originals are long gone.

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