Easy Rider is considered by many as the defining film of the 1960’s counterculture. It made household names of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, and it also made a star of the Harley Davidson which Fonda rides in the film – a chopper called Captain America.
Easy Rider was a movie that was something of a touchstone for a generation of thrill-seeking baby boomers. The Captain America Harley soared into the collective consciousness of these starry-eyed wonder kids and came to symbolize the freedom of the open road, the thrill of the trip and the endless possibilities of youth.
As it tends to do, the hands of time ravaged the romantic aspirations and youthful appearance of these wistful boomers, who are now more concerned with expanding their bank balances than their minds.
Yet, even though they may be more sparse of hair, rusty of limb and portly of belly than the pretty young things of yesteryear, these tenacious boomers still have a soft spot for the landmark film of their youth. In particular, they long to sit astride that Captain America Harley, roar like a young lion and live the dream once more.
So, it’s no surprise that the customized chopper featured in Easy Rider is expected to fetch more than $1 million when it goes up for auction next month on October 18 at California auction house Profiles in History.
The Associated Press reports that the legendary Harley is being sold by California businessman, Michael Eisenberg, who previously co-owned a Los Angeles motorcycle-themed restaurant with Fonda and Easy Rider co-star Dennis Hopper.
It was Dan Haggerty, famed for his roles in the Grizzly Adams TV shows and movies and in charge of keeping the classic bike humming during the 1969 movie, who sold the bike to Eisenberg last year.
Haggerty was initially given the chopper by Hopper after filming was finished and riding it was an experience he likened to “going out with Marilyn Monroe.” Parting with it was like having a “child finally getting married and moving away and starting a new life on their own.”
The Harley features a forward-angled front wheel and handlebars, fishtail exhaust pipes and a teardrop-shaped gas tank where Hopper and Fonda stashed their cash.
It was Fonda who insisted upon the gleaming stars and stripes which decorate the panhead chopper, and the bike comes with three letters of authenticity. One from the National Motorcycle Museum, one from Fonda and another from Haggerty.
Which is just as well, because although four bikes were used in Easy Rider, Haggerty explains that this is the only one that’s survived.
“Three of the motorcycles were stolen, even before the movie was released, which was a sign of the overwhelming power that these motorcycles had. They were never recovered.”
Captain America’s new owner, Eisenberg, is an avid Easy Rider fan and has enquired about purchasing the bike for years, but now he finally owns it, he believes the right thing to do is sell it.
“I always wanted to own it, but once it sunk in that I actually had it, then I realized how important it was.”
“The public needs to see it. It’s that iconic. It needs to be on a podium.”
Following the sale of the Easy Rider Harley, Eisenberg plans to donate “a significant amount” of the proceeds to the American Humane Association.