Harley hog heaven

FAIRPORT, Ohio — Doug Leikala’s garage is a monument to Harley Davidson, and his home isn’t left standing in the dust, either.

From one wall to the other, of his extra-wide and double-long garage, Liekala has more than two dozen models parked strategically on the concrete with just enough space to walk between them.

The shop, clean and well-organized, is a showplace for the cycles Liekala has collected and patiently reconstructed over the decades. Many wear their well-earned dents, scrapes and patches of surface with pride — retouching the paint job could ruin their value.

But they are not junk. Each one is a collector’s item that could tint other Harley aficionados green with envy.

Story Continues Below Photos

The rows of bikes lead to Leikala’s centerpiece — one of the first Harley Davidson motorcycles built when the company began production in 1905. “There were only five to nine bikes made in the first year of production,” Leikala said.

Although the company celebrated its first century in business in 2003, Leikala said the first motorcycles weren’t sold until 1905.

History

The shiny white bike with sparkling chrome and simple leather seat is clearly not wearing its original paint. It is made up of parts from ’05 Harleys Leikala reconditioned.

Items that were unavailable were custom made for the project. “Over the years I gathered pieces and parts up. I made it original as much as possible,” he said.

“This is a 10-year restoration project.”

The ’05 Harley 35 hp engine has bicycle pedals and a chain for starting up. The brown leather seat with little spring and no padding doesn’t look welcoming, but Leikala said it’s not too uncomfortable.

He moves through the display from bike to bike, pointing out a 1936 Harley with overhead valves, a 1926 single-cylinder Harley, a 1910 with the original paint and a pan under it to catch the occasional drop of oil.

Ranged around the edges of the cycle collection are, naturally, more collections. Motorcycle license plates dating back before 1914 decorate one wall.

Before 1914, cyclists living in large cities had to buy city tags, Leikala explained. Motorcycle owners in smaller towns got away without licenses.

Signs

Garage and dealership signs and advertising spanning a century takes up more wall space.

Leikala has made it a habit to buy out cycle garages and dealerships when they go out of business, adding to his collection of signs and parts.

The Indian Motors sign from the Willings’ Ashtabula dealership is propped up beside his 1905 Harley. A corner of the garage is occupied by a 1920 Indian engine attached to a wooden airplane propeller.

“Indian, Harley, Henderson — they all sold adapter kits,” Leikala said.

A Heath conversion kit included a fuselage. If wings could be rigged the handy owner had a nifty little one-seater plane for sunny afternoon flights, he said.

Paraphernalia

Leikala has become a source for parts and paraphernalia in the Harley world. The second floor of the garage, which is not open for a tour, is stacked with all kinds of old Harley fenders, engine pieces and what-not that may be needed by other Harley devotees who recondition collectible motorcycles, he said.

“The majority of my sales are probably overseas,” Leikala said. “Guys call up looking for ’20s, ’30s and ’40s parts” to bring antique Harelys back to life.

His obsession with Harleys makes it difficult for him to turn down a request for help in doing some of the reconditioning.

A corner of his shop by the door houses his own 1999 Ultra Classic Harley complete with well-padded seats and all the modern bells and whistles.

Leikala grumbles about the newer Harleys and said he turns away people who want his help on them. “I try not to work on (modern) bikes,” he said. “I send those folks to the dealer. I only work on old bikes.”

Simpler time

New bikes, like other vehicles, are all computerized and require technicians rather than mechanics to cure their ills. Leikala harks back to a simpler time — precomputerized Harley components.

“Back then, all you had to look at were points, battery, gas (supply) to get the thing running,” Leikala said.

If his Ultra Classic acts up, he hauls it to the dealer, he said.

He’s no stranger to wrenches and screwdrivers. In 1976 Leikala hired on with CEI as a plant helper and went through the company’s preventive maintenance program, working his way into supervision at the Perry nuclear plant.

After 20 years, he took a buyout and went to work for Morton Salt in their underground maintenance department.

Leikala and Debbie, married 38 years, live in a house on Orchard Street that was built in 1926 by his grandfather, Ernie Leikala.

The house is also dedicated to Harley collectibles. Except for the kitchen and the front room, Leikala has built in showcases and shelves all through the downstairs and in the two spare rooms upstairs.

Half a dozen glass showcases hold groupings of watch fobs, pens and other Harley “trinkets” he has amassed from his shopping trips through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and up and down the East Coast. While he uses e-mail to stay in touch with his contacts and up-to-date with various Harley collection clubs Leikala is not a big fan of bidding for items on eBay or other Web sites.

“I do very little online,” he said. “But I have joined a lot of clubs.”

Items are out there for the finding. In an attic in Oil City, Pa., he discovered a Harley parts manual from the 1950s. Manuals, catalogs and photos add another dimension to his avocation.

In a display case that used to be a picture window, he has a model of the first Harely. The model, a scaled replica of the one in Leikala’s garage, was created and marketed by a company out of New York, he said.

His has one of the first 10 serial numbers from the first production run. It is detailed with gold, silver and precious stones and was sold to commemorate the original Harley motorcycle. The pieces all work.

“It does everything but start and run,” Liekala said. However, the company was not a successful venture and closed shortly after Leikala bought his model.

Most of the household collections consist of motorcycle toys. Leikala figures he has just under 500 at this point and he is always on the lookout for more.

Many items have been acquired through memberships with organizations like the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, the Indian Four Club, and clubs specializing in collectors of Harley Davidson stamp collectors, postcard, shaving mug, etc.

He also works with a lot of dealers to keep his collections growing.
“Networking is everything,” Leikala said.

He has known many dealers for decades. Some are in rest homes and he tries to stay in contact.

He and Debbie take collecting trips in their four-passenger Cessna Cardinal High Wing airplane, finding the experience quicker, safer and more comfortable than a road trip on the Ultra Classic.

The relationships he builds are as important to the dealers as to Leikala. He’d been visiting one dealer for years and made offers to buy him out. Finally Leikala asked him why he didn’t just sell everything.

“He told me ‘If I sell you everything I’ll never see you again,’” he mused.

Even when a dealer gives up his stock, he doesn’t necessarily lose interest. When one does sell lock, stock and barrel to Leikala, the collector often doesn’t ride off into the sunset.

Culture

“These are lifelong relationships. It is a culture he was born into in 1952. His father, Ernie Leikala, had a motorcycle in the 1940s. He has uncles who rode and even his father’s father had motorcycles. In a corner by the door of one of the bedrooms is a large colorized photo of his grandfather and an uncle on cycles.

“It’s in the blood a little bit,” Leikala admits, adding “I don’t think anybody’s taken it to the extremes I have.”

About the Author

Farm and Dairy contributing writer Ann Wishart lives in Newbury, Ohio. A graduate of Youngstown State University with a long career in the newspaper industry, she is also an accomplished equestrienne. More Stories by Ann Wishart

2 Comments

  1. brendan says:

    great article doug looking for your email or number to talk about some parts I need,saw you at waseon been along time

  2. Jerry Justin Gedvillas says:

    Hope you made it back safely

    God’s Peace in Christ

    Jerry

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Recent News