It’s the most famous motorcycle in the world – everyone knows the bike, even if they know nothing about motorcycles or ’60s counterculture. Many times more people recognize the ‘Captain America’ chopper than ever saw ‘Easy Rider’, and movie posters of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding their choppers across America still adorn the walls of college dorms around the world. It’s an enduring image, a romantic touchstone from an era when Freedom seemed possible via a cool motorcycle and a groovy outfit.

The iconic image of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in ‘Easy Rider’. [Vintagent Archive]
The ‘Captain America’ and ‘Billy’ bikes were the brainchild of ‘Easy Rider’ Associate Producer Cliff Vaughs, and the first pair (the ‘hero’ or ‘A’ bikes) were built by Ben Hardy in LA, while a second pair (the substitute or ‘B’ bikes) were built by mechanic Larry Marcus at his and Cliff Vaugh’s house in Santa Monica. The full story of the origin of these remarkable motorcycle will appear in October in my book ‘The Chopper: the Real Story’ (published by Gestalten, who also published ‘The Ride’), and it’s a long, complicated, and controversial saga.

The ‘Captain America’ chopper as photographed on Mulholland drive in March 2014 by Troy Critchlow. [Vintagent Archive]
That story isn’t quite over, as what’s claimed as an authentic survivor ‘Captain America’ is coming up for auction October 18th at the Profiles in History auction house. Owner Michael Eisenberg purchased the chopper from the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa earlier this year, and has decided to sell the machine, “It was with much deliberation and trepidation that I decided to sell it…When I came to the realization of what I actually had just sitting in my warehouse I felt it would be better served if it could once again be on public display. I also decided that a portion of the proceeds should benefit some charities, the American Humane Association and the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa Iowa so that they can continue to educate the public on the history of the motorcycle.”

This is the MotoTintype ‘wet plate’ photograph of the very machine at auction, from an hour spent at a roadside parking lot on Mulholland Drive in LA taking photos of the machine in company with its creator, Cliff Vaughs. Visit for more images. [Susan McLaughlin and Paul d’Orleans]
The machine at auction was apparently built from the remains of the ‘B’ Captain America bike by Dan Haggerty, who was the ‘chopper handler’ for ‘Easy Rider’ after Associate Producer Cliff Vaughs, along with most of the initial crew on the film (including this bike’s builder, Larry Marcus), was fired as Columbia Pictures took control of the film’s budget and production. The ‘B’ bike was partially destroyed at the end of the film, and Haggerty apparently kept the parts. The remaining 3 film bikes were stolen before the end of production, and never recovered, although pieces of these bikes have circulated through the bike collector crowd (and the rumor mill) in the 46 years since the film was made.

Press releases about the ‘Captain America’ sale are quoting estimates of $1Million, which seems cheap when one considers the astronomical price of far less famous Ferraris, and the rumored $1.1M sale price of the Rollie Free/’bathing suit’ Vincent 3 years ago, which is also among the most famous machines in history, along with TE Lawrence’s ‘fatal’ Brough Superior SS100 – which was offered for £2M several years ago.