Harley-Davidson motorcycles in movies is hardly a new topic, but it sure is fun to track them all down and decide if it’s fake or real and if it’s real, what model Harley is it?
Who remembers 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth and most recent in the Indiana Jones franchise? Well, hey, you either loved or didn’t, but for Harley fans, there was a half-decent chase sequence filmed in the actual grounds of Yale University.
Set in 1957, the ‘greaser’ character ‘Mutt Williams’ takes our hero on a wild escapade as they try to outrun some Russian baddies. Stunt doubles do a pretty fair job of throwing the big HOG around the leafy grounds of the famous university. So … what bike was it?
As it turns out, the bikes (plural, because five were prepared for the movie) are 2007 Softail Springer Classics, supplied by The Motor Company to custom motorcycle magician Justin Kell of Glory Motor Works expressly for the movie. Kell said, "it’s modelled to be a postwar Knucklehead."
Kell built the bike using "one bad pixelated picture on a sheet of A4 paper" as his guide. Ripping off the sheet metal and the chrome and hollowing out the exhaust, he lightened the bike by about 30kgs and added about 30 horsepower. Both improvements were necessary because of the high-speed stunts, including riding a staircase in one scene.
Anyone can see the disc brakes are a modern giveaway, although Kell "tried to work with different ways to cover them," he said, "the stunts put such a strain on the suspension that nothing would work without being dangerous."
We really should do a whole separate blog post on Kell because he makes awesome bikes for Hollywood, so stay tuned.
Of the five machines, two were retained by the production company, one was destroyed during filming and at least two went back to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee where they are on rotating display.