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The Indiana Jones motorcycle -- what IS it?

May 23, 2008 |  9:37 am

IndianajonesWhen Shia LaBeouf speeds through a college campus with Harrison Ford riding shotgun, it will be aboard a Harley-Davidson. The motorcycle star of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a 2007 Softail Springer Classic that was modified to look as if it was built at least 50 years earlier using mostly H-D service and accessory parts. So if you see the movie and have to have one, you might be able to build it yourself, though some of the parts were specially fabricated, including the fuel pump, kick start and saddlebags.

Harley-Davidson supplied Lucasfilm with the bike and asked that it be recognizable as a Harley. But the bike also needed to look era-appropriate because the movie is set in the '50s. According to the bike's L.A.-based builder, Justin Kell, it's "modeled to be a postwar Knucklehead."


Kell, 38, had to build the bike using "one bad pixelated picture on an 8-1/2-by-11 sheet of paper" as his guide. Ripping off the sheet metal and the chrome and hollowing out the exhaust, he lightened the bike by about 70 pounds; it also gained about 30 horsepower. Both improvements were necessary because the bike was used to do high-speed stunts and to ride a staircase in the film.

The disc brakes are a giveaway that the bike is modern. Although Kell "tried to work with different ways to cover them," he said, "the stunts put such a strain on the suspension that nothing would work without being dangerous."

Five bikes were built for the film, one of which was an effects bike that was destroyed in the course of filming, Kell said. Two of the remaining bikes will be returned to Harley-Davidson, which will display them in its new motorcycle museum, opening July 12 in Milwaukee. The two others were purchased by the production company.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: David James, top; Harley-Davidson