Bike Of The Week

1954 Rikuo

Written by Motorcyclepedia

This Weeks bike of the week is a Rikuo RT2

PART OF THE BOB STARK COLLECTION. A Harley Davidson built in Japan. A deep dark secret seldom mentioned by Harley. This cycle is not restored and all original (except possibly color). One of the worlds rarest cycles. Matching numbers.
Harley-Davidsons built in Japan? Unthinkable?

Actually, it happened for almost three decades.

It all started in the early 1930s, when the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, like everyone else, was mired in the Great Depression. By 1932, in fact, the Milwaukee factory was running at about 10 percent capacity, and sales were below 4,000 units a year.

One bright spot had been exports, but in Japan, Harley sales were also plummeting, because of an unfavorable exchange rate.

Enter Alfred Rich Child, an independent business agent authorized to represent Harley-Davidson in Japan, China, Korea and Manchuria.

Child figured he could reduce the retail price of a Harley to a Japanese customer if the machines were built in-country. He convinced the home office to sell Harley machine tools and licensing rights to the Japanese Sankyo Seiyako Corporation, which would build Harleys in Japan.

In dire straits, Harley agreed to the deal, and a new, Japanese-built model appeared under the “Rikuo” name. Roughly translated, Rikuo means “Land King,” or “King of Road.”

The deal continued for several years, until Harley-Davidson produced the EL 61 OHV Knucklehead in 1936. Child couldn’t convince Sankyo to buy the licensing rights for the new machine. That disagreement, coupled with the rise of a militaristic government in Japan, put an end to Child’s, and Harley’s, relationship with the Japanese Rikuo company.

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