The Harley-Davidson Sidecar Used To Chase Revolutionary Leader Pancho Villa

All Americans know about John Pershing (1860-1948), the only person in the history of the United States who was authorized during his lifetime to wear six stars with the rank of General Of The Armies. From  his role in suppressing the last uprisings of the Lakota Sioux Indians in 1890 to his military accomplishments during WWI to being the mentor of US Generals during WWII, his military successes and his memoirs (“My Experience in the World War”, 1932 Pulitzer Prize for History) made him an American legend. In January 1914, Pershing was assigned to command the Army 8th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Bliss, Texas to enforce security along the U.S.-Mexico border. He led his Regiment on the failed 1916–17 Punitive Expedition into Mexico in search of its revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. And the interesting part for us is that during this long expedition, John Pershing was riding a Harley sidecar.

Mike Hanlon of Timeless Motor Company (and co-founder with brother Tim of MeanStreet Products, a leader in after-market front ends) was in charge of restoring this early 1915-1916 Harley-Davidson military issue motorcycle now owned by the New Mexico Military Institute in Rosswell New Mexico. A great honor for Mike who always had a fascination for vintage motorcycles (particularly the 1910’s Harley-Davidson models), avidly collecting and restorig them since many years, and also build more affordable replicas at his Timeless Motor Co.

This sidecar was the first time a Harley was used in a military application. Library of Congress photos from that era show such Army motorbikes with machine-gunners riding in the sidecars. Pershing reportedly liked the motorcycle’s agility, ease of use and durability.

When the New Mexico Military Institute Museum was renovated, the bike ended up in pieces in a vault in storage. “It was nothing but a pile of rusty metal when it was brought to me. Luckily, the bike had been stored indoors. It was rusted but not ruined,” says Mike Hanlon. “It was surface rust, and everything was cracked, so it needed a lot of mending. There were a lot of pieces missing off the motor, and the gas tank disappeared, so we had to piece the whole bike together.” It has taken close to a year for Mike and crew to restore the bike, and all work was done in-house. Everything you see in the pictures is original except for the gas tank, the seat that has to be replaced because the original was destroyed, the exhaust pipe and the tires. I know many in the industry who are going to be envious of Mike having been selected to restore such a piece of history used in the country side in defense of the United States Of America. At least we can all admire it in a few weeks at The New Mexico Military Institute of Rosswell NM.

And for those who love vintage motorcycles but cannot afford one, I remind you that Timeless Motor Company is building functional original Harley-Davidson replicas for an average price running from $9,000 to $11,000 for each model. For reason of liability they cannot legally be ridden in the streets although they can run up to 45 miles per hour. Maybe some fast runs in a parade or riding it to a bike show …(refer to legislation about one in a lifetime custom motorcycle.) Photography Timeless And Rudy Gutierrez

17 Responses to “The Harley-Davidson Sidecar Used To Chase Revolutionary Leader Pancho Villa”

  1. 1 Joseph May 5th, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Another great article, Cyril. Thanks.

  2. 2 Brett May 5th, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Cyril, if you know. What was Pancho Villa riding? A horse?

  3. 3 Ralph Brenner May 5th, 2010 at 6:55 am

    1915. Punitive Expedition into Mexico on a sidecar. 2010. All border patrol agents should be provided with a sidecar. New biz for the MoCo.

  4. 4 A 1 cycles inc. May 5th, 2010 at 7:34 am

    and also was using a very early edition of a jeep..thats where the “la cucaracha” comes from..its was about black jacks jeep…cool sidecar rig though

  5. 5 Buck Private May 5th, 2010 at 7:40 am

    The story I read a couple of years back had Villa and his gang riding Indian bikes.

  6. 6 Jed May 5th, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Pancho Villa is photographed and documented riding an Indian twin that he bought in El Paso, Texas. So it’s great – the battle of Indian vs Harley even crossed into international warfare!

  7. 7 The Producer May 5th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks for the interesting article. Great work and I think I will pick up a copy of his book. Great looking machine it really gives a taste of what life was like back “in the day”. Good for the guys at Timeless what a thrill getting this job. Indian vs H-D could make for a great movie!

  8. 8 Irish Rose May 5th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    That is an amazing piece of history beyond just being an old motorcycle.

  9. 9 maroco May 5th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Amazing part of America history and Mexico, motorcycles always have been important in dramatic wars.

  10. 10 Rick May May 5th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Awesome. Restore and protect our vintage motorcycles.

  11. 11 golfish May 5th, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    great stuff Cyril….the Indian and HD things makes it 10x better. Got to look in to that a little more.

  12. 12 Rubin Alexander May 5th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Love this kind of stories. More like that, Cyril.

  13. 13 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycles May 6th, 2010 at 8:26 am

    The reason why Pancho Villa rode an Indian is because it would out run Harleys. In the early days the Indian was the superior machine of the day.
    Congrats to the Hanlon team. It takes a huge amount of talent to restore and recreate a mc of this era

  14. 14 live2rideaglide May 6th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Way cool Cyril, what a cool article. Where do you find this stuff.
    We need a movie about this with a Steve MQueenesque type riding and
    shooting ol Pancho nannys off. 150mphglide

  15. 15 mike@timeless May 6th, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    thanks cyril for telling the story. We are from the southwest and pancho villa is a popular subject , there is a famous street in our city called pershing drive.
    We are also ft. bliss where general pershing once commanded, there is a literal new city being built on the outskirts of elpaso for the military. it has everything a city has and all to support the troops and technology and the returninig wounded and mentally hurt by war. Elpaso is a military city and we
    are very involved with what is going on with the military and its challenges. You would have to be in a city like this to see the amazing fire power of america, its incredible. lots of brave people here and across america who cover our backsides.

  16. 16 Lloyd May 8th, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I was in the 8th Cavalry in Germany 1966 – 1967. The unit battle standard had all of the campaign ribbons from each of the engagements including Pershing’s days out of Fort Bliss. There were photos of Pershing at the Fort Bliss museum. Having served there for a time and having done frequent reserve duty in El Paso I visited the museum frequently. Being a sidecarista, I have always wondered what had become of the military motorcycles. Now I know about one.

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