Japanese Harley – 1959 Rikuo VLE

In Cruiser, Japan by AbhiLeave a Comment

Post Listing Update: After being relisted, this Rikuo VLE did not meet reserve at $9,200.

During the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson was on the verge of bankruptcy – partially due to the 1921 Safeguarding of Industries act which imposed a 33.3% tariff on American products like Harleys that were threatening UK manufacturers. Because this pretty much shut Harley out of the many British Commonwealth countries, Harley looked to make some money in Japan. So in 1929, Harley started licensing their name and designs to Rikuo, one of Japan’s first motorcycle manufacturers.

Rikuo VLE - Right Side

The Rikuo VLE was a post-war model that still used the old 1200cc flathead total-loss design. You could consider it to be a clone of Harley’s 1934 model. In 1950, Rikuo was sold to Showa – a company you should recognize. For more on the Rikuo story, check out this article from Motorcycle Classics.

Rikuo VLE - Cockpit

This specific Rikuo VLE (VIN: 59-V-7305) is a numbers matching example that has a recent top end rebuild which utilized 80 ci Harley pistons. It’s claimed to start and run well. The three-speed transmission includes an additional reverse gear and the clutch is foot operated. The primary sprocket has been changed up to make higher speed running easier – though this does require more skill when taking off from a stop. The speedo doesn’t work but it seems that everything else functions. Amusing things to note – the Japanese characters on the rear fender translate to “Military Bar”, which means that this bike used to shuttle drunk soldiers back to barracks after a night out when it was equipped with a sidecar. Apparently, the Japanese on the pedestrian slicer translates to “Old Farts Club” or something similar.

Rikuo VLE - Left Side

Find this Rikuo VLE for sale in Titusville, Florida with bidding up to $7,400 and the reserve not yet met