While Indian had employed chain final drive from the start around 1901, Harley-Davidson first adopted chain final drive in 1912 on their V-Twin, later on their singles. In 1912 a “ free-wheel” clutch mounted on the crankshaft was offered. Eventually a new clutch design was integrated in the rear hub. Battery and coil or magneto models were still available, buyer’s choice. The top tube was now designed to slope downward affording a lower seat height, important for riders of shorter stature. The spring seat post design was incorporated and factory literature proclaimed the Ful Floeting seat. 1912 was the last year for the atmospheric intake valve and the open ended Bosch magneto on the Single. Singles in this era were offered through 1917.

Keep in mind that in 1912 the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was barely ten years old. They only made a little over 500 of this model single and had just restarted manufacturing their first twin halted in 1909 due to technical problems.

If you have been to Milwaukee and viewed the headquarters on Juneau Avenue, consider it was under construction when this 1912 Single was being built. Amazing that both still exist today, the building and this bike, testament to the genius and fortitude of the Motor Company’s founders.

When you visit the National Motorcycle Museum you’ll note that there are more Harley-Davidsons than any other make. From a 1908 Strap Tank to a 2006 V-Rod Destroyer drag bike, it’s all here, plus hundreds of pieces of advertising art, apparel, memorabilia and product in original packaging. Many Harleys on display are on loan from collectors throughout America, but this machine is graciously on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum from the John & Jill Parham Collection. It’s part of the Early American Transportation INNOVATION exhibition which you can see in the background of the ’12 Harley photos.


    • Engine: Air-Cooled Single
    • Type: Inlet Over Exhaust
    • Bore & Stroke: 3.5 x 3.312
    • Displacement: 30 Cubic Inches / 494 cc’s
    • Carburetion: Schebler
    • Ignition: Battery & Coil
    • Horsepower: 4.3HP
    • Drive: Direct, Belt
    • Frame: Steel, Single Loop
    • Suspension: Sprung Fork, Rigid Rear
    • Wheels / Tires: 2.50 x 28 / 2.50 x 28 Inches
    • Brakes: Coaster, Rear Only
    • Wheelbase: 56.5 Inches
    • Weight: 235 Pounds
2 replies
  1. David Van Grinsven
    David Van Grinsven says:

    What a stunning restoration. I literally looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. In fact I’m sure that it never looked this good when it was new.

  2. Dave
    Dave says:

    I couldnt agree with you more. Seeing bikes like this make me appreciate the history of harley that much more. Lets face it in these times theres no younger generation wanting to ride nor build there own bike they’d rather just order it like they do there McDonald’s or Starbucks. It kills me to watch pure American history just fade away. I wish there was some way to intrigue them so that this amazing history can live beyond what HARLEY DAVIDSON ever thought it woul.


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