The ex-Clark Gable
1934 Harley-Davidson 45ci RL
Engine no. 34RL2748
The machine offered here is an example of the Harley-Davidson RL, a derivative of the Model D, and first belonged to motion picture superstar, Clark Gable, whose name (as previous owner) appears on the accompanying State of Ohio Certificate of Title.
Better known as the 45 (its capacity in cubic inches) the Model D flat head had been introduced in 1929 as a competitor to Indians successful 750cc sidevalve v-twin and a cheaper alternative to Milwaukees larger-capacity twins. The latter continued with the old pocket valve engine for a further season, but the 45 had demonstrated the way forward and soon all Harleys mainstream roadsters, regardless of capacity, would have flat head engines. The 45 got a new frame and front fork for 1930, and a few years later received the engine improvements also featured on the new V series roadsters, becoming known as the R series. The R (and high-compression RL) also benefited from a strengthened frame, improved valve springs, larger flywheels and a new 4-plate clutch, while demonstrating the powerful influence of Art Deco in their flamboyant fenders and striking paint schemes.
The R and RL were brand-new introductions when Clark Gable purchased this example of the latter in 1934, the same year that he starred in no fewer than four newly-released movies: Chained; Manhattan Melodrama; Men in White; and It Happened One Night. Born William Clark Gable in Cadiz, Ohio on February 1st 1901, Clark Gable made his first movie (White Man) in 1924, his first year in Hollywood, having been inspired to take up acting after seeing the play, The Bird of Paradise. His career in movies got off to a slow start, but after several failed screen tests Gable was signed by MGM in 1930, and following a succession of leading roles had become the Studios most important star by 1932. Ironically, it was while on loan to (then) second-division Columbia Pictures that he won an Oscar for his performance in Frank Capras romantic comedy, It Happened One Night. Resuming his career back at MGM, Gable starred as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny On The Bounty (1935) and Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind (1939), two of his most memorable roles. Following third wife Carole Lombards death in a plane crash while returning from a War Bond drive, a grief-stricken Gable joined the US Army Air Force, flying combat missions over Europe. He returned to Hollywood after the war but never scaled the same heights of success as he had in the 1930s. During filming of The Misfits (released 1961) Gable announced that he was to become a father for the first time. Two months later, on November 16th 1960, he died of a heart attack. Clark Gable was laid to rest beside ex-wife Carole Lombard in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Following Gables ownership, this Harley-Davidson RL was next owned by David Fusiak, of Garrison, NY and then by Damon Pfeifer, of Winchester, Ohio from whom it was purchased by the current (fourth) owner. Presented in restored condition and offered with the aforementioned Certificate of Title, it represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire an important motorcycle once belonging to The King of Hollywood.