When you collect classic motorcycles, one question defines the terms of the transaction: restored or original? Many riders can attest to the difficulty of keeping a bike in its original condition, especially with today’s expansive aftermarket. After all, many day-to-day users must adapt their vehicles to the task at hand. For that reason, vintage original motorcycles are hard to come by these days.
Wheels Through Time Museum Associate Director Matt Walksler walks this restored/original tightrope on a regular basis. For those unfamiliar with the North Carolina-based museum, Dale Walksler started collecting motorcycles in 1969. By 1977, Walksler moved his treasured collection to a Harley-Davidson dealership in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. It wasn’t until 2002 that Dale’s prized possessions found a permanent home at a 38,000-square-foot facility in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
Within that expansive space, Wheels Through Time showcases more than 300 motorcycles from 30 different brands. Given the museum’s cache, it’s no surprise that its restoration department juggles several builds at a time. With two similar yet very different Harley-Davidson Knuckleheads on the shop’s lifts, Matt Walksler takes to the Wheels Through Time YouTube channel to address when to designate a motorcycle as an original or restoration project.
Of course, to some collectors, the line between the two titles is clear cut. If the bike needs extensive frame adjustments or paintwork, it’s a restoration. Can’t find the original parts? Restoration. While Walksler’s team plans to preserve 1939 Knucklehead’s patina intact by keeping it original, they plan to completely restore the 1941 model.
Even though Walksler finds original parts while picking through his 1941 Knucklehead baskets, the museum plans to return the Hog to all its glory with shiny, period-correct paint. Of course, for builders and collectors at home, Walksler’s rundown not only illustrates the difference between the two classifications but illustrates the amount of work that goes into both.
It’s not easy to keep a motorcycle in its original condition, but the Wheels Through Time video clearly illustrates the benefits of remaining so steadfast.