WHEN YOU’RE the ultimate enthusiast about all things Elvis, these sorts of opportunities come up just once a lifetime. Harley-Davidson created 30 limited edition replicas of the King’s 1957 black FLH model he owned and kept at his Graceland mansion. As one of Australia’s biggest Presley fans, Rick Hills from Perth defied the odds to get his hands on one.
The bikes were made to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Elvis’ early death, and in Harley’s long history, this was the first time a person’s name had been given to a model. As Elvis was a very loyal customer to H-D during his lifetime, the company thought this would be the perfect tribute.
In a world still obsessed with Elvis, demand for these special edition bikes was obviously high. Each of the 30 bikes was designed to replicate the 1957 model Elvis owned, so take on the appearance of a custom vintage bike, but are built on a Softail Deluxe chassis and drivetrain to ensure all the latest engineering and safety features are offered. The result is a classic fat and low machine, just as the King would have wanted.
Only 25 of the bikes were available to the general public through a lottery system; two others were auctioned off for charity, a prototype was bought by Jay Leno, and two as-yet un-revealed American movie stars are also rumoured to have got their hands on one.
More than 5500 USA residents got ‘right to buy’ lottery tickets for the 30 Elvis Harleys, and lucky for us, a few Aussies also entered. Incredibly, it appears two were successful, with one bike going to Melbourne, and number 7 of 30 being bought by Rick, whose middle name, not too coincidentally, is Elvis.
“The draw was made in April last year,” Rick says. “I got a phone call at four in the morning asking if I intended to buy, and I of course said yes. In August, me and my uncle headed over to Memphis for the 30th anniversary of Elvis’s death, enjoyed a big party and were presented with my new bike.”
Rick’s Elvis Presley Anniversary Harley-Davidson Signature Series bike was lined up with all the others outside Graceland, and the lucky new owners got to sit on their new charges. For Rick, there was to be no riding his Elvis machine as it had to be crated up and transported from Memphis to Los Angeles, then put on the boat to Perth.
In the meantime, after a two-week holiday in Memphis, Rick got back to enjoying his fully chromed 1995 Fat Boy (which was featured in Ozbike a few months back) while waiting his new ’57 replica’s arrival.
“It finally showed up in December, just in time for Christmas,” Rick says. “It was great to get on it again; I started her up, but this bike isn’t for riding. I’ve got an Elvis collection, and at the moment the bike is in my lounge room where I can enjoy looking at it. I’ve not ridden it, and don’t plan to—something could happen to it and it’s such a rare bike it’s just not worth the risk.”
We photographed the bike in its immaculate, un-ridden state. The exterior details and accessories are authentic to the 1957 original, and the fuel tank features an Elvis signature above its Harley-Davidson badge. The bike features cowhorn handlebars, a National Cycle beaded heavy duty windshield made from polycarbonate, and Royalite bubble saddlebags.
Rick’s bike has the number 7/30 marked on the fuel tank and rear fender, while all buyers also received an artwork of Elvis on his original bike, plus a bronze sculpture, both numbered to correspond to the motorcycle. It’s a fan’s ultimate toy, and who better for such a prized machine to go to than a true enthusiast in WA?
It’s a shame Rick can’t fully enjoy the big Elvis Harley, but after forking out a total of $92,000 for it, you can understand why. “It cost $57,800 in US dollars just to buy it,” Rick continues, “plus there were the crating and shipping costs, then Australia’s GST helped add even more to the bill.”
It’s pretty cool having such an incredible machine sitting in your front room—it’s certainly a talking point when the boys come round for a few beers! “Something deep down in me really wants to ride it, but the Fat Boy covers this luckily,” Rick says. “Maybe temptation will ultimately prove too much one day.”
Many thanks to TJ the Entertainer who was good enough to pose in a few photos as an Elvis look-alike.
words by Iain Curry; pics by Brian White