Harley Davidson X8E Big Twin owned by Steve McQueen

1912 was an important year for Harley-Davidson, as they first introduced an all-chain drive model, a clutch, skirted fenders, and a 1000cc motor (60.34cu”) with mechanical valves. For rider comfort, the ‘full floteing’ seat incorporated a spring in the saddle downtube. Harley was slowly moving into the modern era, although another three years would pass before a proper 3-speed sliding-gear transmission was added. For 1912, a rider had his choice of single or twin-cylinder Harleys, with belt or chain drive, and magneto ignition. The X8E was Harley’s top of the range model, with all the options, and cost $10 more than the standard 6.5 HP twin.

This matching-numbers 1912 Harley-Davidson twin is the first Big Twin in Harley’s lineup, as mid-year the capacity of all twins was increased from 49cu” (810cc) to a full 60cu” (989cc); thus late-year 1912 8 HP twins are rather rare. This machine retains its original cylinders (with perfect fins) and matching engine barrel stampings. The primary chain uses a one-year-only crankcase breather/chain lubricator. It was purchased from the 1984 Steve McQueen estate auction at the Imperial Palace hotel in Las Vegas, and comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Terry and Chad McQueen. It is believed that the winning bidder rode this machine in at least one Pre-1916 event, and the curious paint scheme, with one tank bearing its original paint, is the subject of some speculation – some claim McQueen and his buddy Von Dutch removed the paint from one of the tanks after a late-night drinking session and discovered the original paint underneath.

This ex-Steve McQueen 1912 Harley-Davidson X8E is in running order, and the original paint lurks under the red paint job. Since McQueen’s ownership, the wheel rims were changed (for riding) and a period-correct headlamp added to make the bike roadworthy for vintage rallies.

Source: Mecum Auctions

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