Buying accessories to make your motorcycle more functional or stylish has been around since the earliest days of riding. Lights, horns, crash bars and racks are useful, but also add uniqueness. But at some point beginning in the 1930’s outright (non-functional) decoration became popular.

In these five Harley-Davidson ELs graciously on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by musician and producer Dan Auerbach, we see some great accessories and decoration. As far as we can tell they have been part of each bike for decades, were not added in the past few years.

Interestingly, there was a time when collectors stripped these pieces off and scrapped them working to get their bikes back to factory stock for AMCA judging; a bit of a purest movement. Yet some bikes, through neglect or a passion for “the way it’s always been” have been left intact.  For about the past ten years an old Harley or Indian with all its “period accessories” still in place is highly desirable. We are back to appreciating a bike’s personal history, the character a previous owner gave it.

Taking this group from left to right we have a 1940 EL, a 1939 EL, a 1937 EL, a 1940 EL and a 1941 EL, all pre-World War II 61 cubic inch Harley-Davidsons as the EL designation relates. Though the paint is straight forward, and original or very old on these bikes, we see great fender guards, crash bars, styled exhausts, colored grips, shift knobs and kicker pedals, an amber light on an air cleaner cover, spotlights, license plate trims, bike club badges, chevrons, great saddlebags with conchos and contrasting piping, even wheel covers, fur seat covers and little chrome space ships!

Dan Auerbach is a singer, songwriter and musician originally from Akron, Ohio. He’s best known for recording as The Black Keys with high school friend and drummer Patrick Carney. Together they have produced over ten albums, and many singles.  And as you can see with the bikes from Dan’s collection, original and a little scruffy is how he likes his motorcycles; period accessories, very untouched and original.

The Dan Auerbach Motorcycle Collection currently at the National Motorcycle Museum includes:

1937 Harley-Davidson EL – Black with Black Saddlebags
1938 Harley-Davidson UL – Blue Bobber, Buddy Seat
1939 Harley-Davidson EL – Blue with ”Sheepskin” Seat
1940 Harley-Davidson EL – Red with Black Saddlebags
1941 Harley-Davidson EL – Green with Red Saddlebags
1946 Harley-Davidson FL – Red with Black Saddlebags
1946 Harley-Davidson FL – Dark Red Bobber
1947 Harley-Davidson EL – Black with Harley-Davidson Sidecar
1948 Harley-Davidson FL – Candy Red Bobber
1964 Harley-Davidson EL – Purple Chopper

When you visit the National Motorcycle Museum you can see stock, competition and customized Harley-Davidsons and hundreds of other motorcycles. You’ll also find motorcycle accessories like these on display, some in their original boxes.

3 replies
  1. Helmuth Serjogins
    Helmuth Serjogins says:

    I’m 62 years along and I have two older Harley’s (Choppers). One a 1978 Shovelhead in a ‘57 rigid frame with an old aftermarket girder front end. I’ve taken care of that bike for 21 years. My other is a 1948 Panhead in a 1958 swing arm frame with an aftermarket springer front end. I’ve had that bike for 32 years. Both were modified before I got them. And I have modified them some more. To find an old original period correct complete machine has always been a dream. But in my mind “ wanna be riders called collectors “ have caused the values to explode! If I had the means to have one I would ride it as it was intended to be! Not to be a wild stallion in someone’s corral to watched! Sincerely, Helmuth Serjogins

  2. Kent Holton
    Kent Holton says:

    I’m 61 and have a 47 FL that i bought in high school it was chopped 18″over with a 6″ stretched neck king and queen seat, the whole bit. I tracked down old owners and found it had been a hillclimber a one point, it now is in an almost stock frame with 30’s tanks and badging and I’m finding old goodies and old reproductions to make it look old “new”

  3. Jaime Laager
    Jaime Laager says:

    What a collection! My GOD!
    Helmuth; I agree with you 100%! Although, I am a person who restores things to OEM many times. I’ve done quite a few concours restorations on cars, trucks, motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATV’s, old short wave radios, etc…just about anything that could, would or should be restored, I have. But…I also believe that there is nothing wrong with “restoring customs” to period correctness. And I USE, DRIVE or RIDE EVERYTHING I WORK ON AS WELL! These beasts weren’t meant to be locked away, dusted off daily, polished, waxed monthly & guarded 24/7. They’re meant to be RODE! And RIDE them I would! This particular grouping; I think I would leave them in the state they are cosmetically but bring them up to 100% mechanicals. Ride them the way they are & maybe, start refurbishing piece by piece, all the while keeping their roadworthy integrity.
    Kent; I have a similar story about my first “Adult” Harley: I bought a basket case(literally in milk crates) 1967 XLCH from a friend. I don’t know why, but he decided to split the cases & take the flywheels apart, then couldn’t get them back together. He sold it all to me. The frame was “chopperized” long ago & powder coated black. I hate powder coating! With a PASSION! I blasted it all down, got the standings off the frame & it turned out to be a 1963 XLH frame. A VERY limited bike!! 1963 was Harley’s lowest production year & the XLH was barely ordered since the XLCH could be had with full road gear after 1961. I don’t know what possessed me to, but once I was on the road with it all($6,000) later, I then located a 1963 XLH motor & proceeded to spend the next 5 years(and $10,000+) bringing that bike BACK to as near OEM as possible. I could’ve bought an original in better shape for 1/3 what I put into it! But…I didn’t do it for a profit, or even just to ride. I did it because that is what I love to do the most. The killer…the bike got stolen from me 3 years ago! Rumor has it that it wound up in South America, being parted out…ah well. Waddya gonna do ya kno…


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