1956 Harley-Davidson KH
Before he was The King, Elvis was a jobbing musician trying to make it big while driving a truck for an electrical contracting company called Crown Electric. By 1955 he was making good money as a musician, and what does a young man do with money from his first big break? He buys a bike, of course.
Elvis' first Harley was a '55 ST165, but he outgrew it pretty quick and traded it in on a white-on-red '56 KH. Powered by an 883cc flathead mill, the snazzy little KH was the predecessor of Harley's long-lived Sportster. Elvis kitted his KH out with a windscreen and an optional pillion saddle for carrying his rotating cast of ladyfriends around.
The KH might be Elvis' most recognizable bike. He was featured on the cover of Harley's Enthusiast magazine riding it, and some of the most iconic photos taken of him during his early career feature the bike. In fact, the picture of Elvis looking pensively down while sitting on a motorcycle that everyone has seen was shot on that KH. Fun fact, you know what Elvis was thinking about in that picture? Probably the distance to the nearest service station since he was looking in the tank because he'd just run the bike out of gas.
1957 Harley-Davidson FLH
By late 1956, Elvis was riding high and had outgrown the sporty little KH. So, in search of something more suitable, he went on down to the Memphis Harley-Davidson Co. that November to check out the new bikes. He rode out of the shop on a brand new 1957 FLH Hydra-Glide.
Elvis' new panhead FLH was solid black with the round red, yellow, and chrome Harley-Davidson badges on the tank. Since he had the cash and was now a young gentleman of leisure, Elvis shelled out for the "King of the Highway" option package for his new FLH. Essentially an early touring package, it included a set of Harley's famous "bubble bag" panniers, windshield, crash bar, luggage rack, 50s-tastic chrome "cheese grater" bumpers fore and aft, and a bunch of little chrome odds and ends. It even had a high-tech, foot-shifted transmission instead of the old, busted jockey shifter.
This was the first in a long line of Elvis-owned FLH bikes. The King preferred the big FLH over the smaller Sportster, and owned a ton of them over the years. In fact, his last FLH is up for auction soon and expected to bring in a pretty penny.
1965-ish Honda CA77 Dream
In the films Viva Las Vegas and Roustabout, Elvis met the nicest people on some Hondas. His experience with Soichiro's bikes—a CA110 Sport 50 and a 305 Super Hawk respectively—led Elvis to pick up a couple Hondas of his own.
Sometime in the mid-60s, Elvis picked up a pair of Honda Dreams—one for himself and one for his fiancee Priscilla. Like the big FLH, Elvis' Dream was black and Pricilla's was white. While he was primarily a Harley man, the Dream must have made some kind of impression on Elvis. There's an apocryphal story that Elvis bought a whole truckload of Dreams when they were first imported so he, Priscilla, and their friends could all ride around together. I don't know about you, but I'd totally ride a Dream around Memphis with Elvis.
1966 Harley-Davidson FLH Chopper
Elvis was living in Southern California in the late-60s/early-70s, and like the rest of the country got swept up in the chopper scene. At some point, while living in Beverly Hills, The King got himself an extremely sweet chopper that he used to scoot around the greater Los Angeles area with Priscilla and fellow motorcycle nerd (and old girlfriend) Ann Margaret.
Elvis' chopper was the platonic ideal of the late-60s, SoCal chopper. It was a '66 shovelhead FLH with a peanut tank, a narrowed and extended front fork, Sportster fender, a super tall high-rise seat with sissy bar, and about an acre of chrome. The paint job was a bright red flame job over a black base coat, and it was pretty much the chopperiest chopper that ever choppered.
1975 Super Cycle Stallion Trike
As the 70s wore on and Elvis got weirder, so did his taste in bikes. Nowhere is that weirdness more on display than in The King's collection of 70s trikes.
His first trike was a Rupp Centaur, a supremely weird...thing out of Mansfield, OH, powered by a two-stroke Kohler mill that you can bet I'll be covering in an upcoming Cycleweird. The Centaur was plagued with issues, so Elvis parked it and grabbed a pair of VW-powered trikes like the one shown here.
Called the Super Stallion, this vision in fiberglass and metalflake was built from a kit designed by a company out of Garden Grove, CA, called Trikes By Stires. It seated two, had a crazy raked-out springer front end, and an air-cooled, Beetle-derived VW 1600 mill and transaxle out back.