If you are heading to Davenport, Iowa for the huge Blackhawk Antique Motorcycle Club’s Swap Meet, you may be passing close to the National Motorcycle Museum. With over 500 bikes and tons of memorabilia on display, there’s an even better reason to take a short detour and visit: the Dragon Bike from Fonda’s film is on display for another month or so. Peter Fonda died August 16, so we thought this a good time to remind you the Dragon Bike is on display and honor Fonda’s great work acting and in motorcycle film making.
Sitting as a basket case, the Dragon Bike has not been seen for decades, but was recently pulled out of hiding. It’s a great 1960’s chopper, a movie bike and even has paint work by Von Dutch. Here’s some info on the bike, and Roger Corman and Peter Fonda’s film which came out a few years before the cult classic Easy Rider.
Many say The Wild Angels was the film that inspired the outlaw biker genre of film-making that continued into the early 1970’s. It seemed to typecast actors like Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Nancy Sinatra and Michael Pollard as motorcycle film actors. Though not typecast by it, many feel Jack Nicholson got his acting breakout with Easy Rider.
The Wild Angels plot is rich. Loser, a Hell’s Angels member, has his bike stolen by some Mexicans. He and club members go looking for the thieves. When they find Loser’s bike, a huge fight breaks out, the thieves are beaten up. The police come, the gang runs. Loser steals a cop’s bike, is chased down and shot. Loser is hospitalized, then the gang breaks him out. If you rent the film, you can find out what happens next and how the film earned $5.5 million dollars.
Loser’s bike become known as the Dragon Bike. Built specially for the film, as were Fonda and Hopper’s bikes in Easy Rider, its whereabouts were unknown for many years. It surfaced as a basket case about ten years ago, was carefully authenticated and was recently painstakingly reassembled. Period photos and film footage were reviewed. Care was given not to over-restore the machine, and what you see are mostly original finishes, chrome and paint.
In the 1960’s, motorcycle films, often based on Hell’s Angel’s activity, became popular with film makers like Peter Fonda and Roger Corman. Some American audiences certainly enjoyed “biker flicks” and 50 years later they are an interesting study. This genre probably fit the mood in America at the time; baby boomers coming of age, motorcycle sales booming as well as dissent with the conflict in Southeast Asia splitting generations.
- Engine: V-Twin, 45 Degree, OHV
- Bore & Stroke: 3.44 x 4.00 Inches
- Displacement: 74 Cubic Inches
- Carburetor: Schebler
- Electrics: 6 Volt Battery/ Generator
- Ignition: Coil & Points
- Primary: Chain Driven
- Transmission: Hand Clutch / 4-Speed / Footshift
- Brakes: Drum, Front & Rear
- Frame: Double Down Tube Rigid, Brazed Lugs
- Suspension: Extended Springer Fork
- Wheels/Tires: 3.00 x 21 / 5.00 x 16
- Wheelbase: 62 Inches
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the motor in the movie was a1963 or a 1964 with outside oiler heads your display bike does not
I have looked the movie poster over and can not find any signs of the motor having outside oilers.
there was a church on top of overland hill I went to boy scout meetings at.troop 65.
I have collected old biker films for years. I have admired the “Dragon Bike” since I first saw the movie years ago.Not long after it’s release. I am currently building a bike similar to it. I think it is an example of the choppers of the Era. I would like to know the year of the bike (engine numbers) I have been trying to figure this out for years!!! I believe it is a 59 to 62? Please let me know!!! P. S. I am going to try to visit your Museum this summer! I hope this bike and the Easyriders bike are still there!!!
Was the dragon bike also from Ben Hardy’s shop
The bike was originally owned by the president of an L.A. club called the Road Regents, and was one of several bikes rented to Roger Corman for the making of the movie. I have color photos of the bike from before the movie.
Are you willing to share the pictures you have of the “Dragon Bike” you have before the release of the movie.
I copies of original Polaroid pictures my sister has of the bike before the movie. My mom was dating the man that owned the bike. He became my step dad. Right after it disappeared off the movie set at the end of filming. I was two years old around that time. My mom remembers the night he got the call that some parts of the bike were found. The main parts that were returned to him were the tanks and springer front end. I saw those tanks numerous times as a kid. He built a new updated dragon bike after that, took him a few years and finished in early 1970.
Thank you for responding, and I appreciate your comments and the history.
I’m currently building a very close replica of your step dad’s bike and my old Lady and I should be riding it next summer.
I’ve wondered why the speedometer in the movie is different than the bikes current configuration in the museum. Also, the frame appears to be a slightly different color, of coarse I appreciate that may be the movie and or museum lighting.
I would sure like to talk with you privately, please feel free to contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the Road Regents members were in the movie too.
I believe some Satan’s Slaves members also and members from some other clubs which i don’t remember at the moment
I have a poster of this bike with Fonda riding it. It was my mom’s and I believe it’s from around 1967. It’s framed and hangs in our 1/2 bath now……..What’s weird is that the exhaust pipes are on the opposite side in the poster?????
If the poster shows exhaust pipes on roadside of bike, the poster may have been made from a photo “negative” and they got the negative reversed to make the poster.
Very cool bike I was there when Dave and Frank revealed the bike.
Vanished, and only 2 major pieces found. Was it in the same trailer that Easy Rider’s “Cap’n America” was in, when last seen? Pete himself said that a number of bikes were unloaded from a trailer at a dealer, left locked overnight, for a bike show the next day, and in the morning were gone. the story was that who took them dident know they werent ordinary bikes, and some may have been parted out and the rest probably destroyed once it came known what hot stuff they had. Pete said people were always calling, hey i found your bike! But he had the numbers memorised, and they are never it. IIRC, this was a Cycle World story from early/mid ’80’s, he also tells of building-up and riding Cap’n America and the billy bike
peter fonda’s character was named ‘blue’ if my memory serves me well. ‘loser’ was bruce dern’s character. why is the dragon bike called ‘loser’s bike’? not that it matters much. somewhere else, i heard that von dutch did the tank. but who knows?
The dragon bike wasn’t Loser’s (Dern’s). It was Blues’ (Fonda’s).
That is accurate.