First Harley-Davidson bikes were brought to Japan as far back as during the World War I. After WWI ended, delivery continued. Moreover, popularity of American vehicles had been growing. Since 1920s, Harley-Davidson was established as an official supplier of bikes for Japan police, army and even the guard of the Emperor of Japan. Demand of the Japan market had been so high that Harley-Davidson established a dealer network, including an agency network for sales & spare parts under the “Harley-Davidson Sales Company of Japan” sign.
However, in the late 1920s, the global financial crisis struck. Yen devalued in so much that you could buy a country estate for the price of a Harley bike. In 1929, Alfred Childs (who was the head of the Harley-Davidson Japan at the time) brought up a proposal to give Japan exclusive rights for manufacturing of Harley bikes in Japan.
Negotiations took a lot of time – the founders of Harley-Davidson wasn’t much enthusiastic over this idea. It took several years to build factory facilities, move American engineers with their families to Japan, ship all necessary drawings, diagrams etc… The manufacturing of Japanese Harleys started in 1935 at the Shinagawa works. The first bikes that left the conveyor were replicas of JD74 equipped with 1200 cc flathead engines. A lot of subcontractors throughout Japan had been producing spare parts. Afterwards, these bikes became official machines of the Japan Army.
Harley-Davidson EL from «Motorworld by V.Sheynov» collection
Meanwhile, warism and expansionism had been growing in Japan. In the late 1930s it resulted in dissatisfaction of the military leaders with regard to the fact that Japan produces foreign motorcycles. By this time, Harley-Davidson released the E model equipped with a 1000 cc overhead valve engine. Harley-Davidson proposed the Shinagawa works to move into the manufacturing of new models. The works management didn’t feel sure of success of it because the 1200 cc model was approved by the military and has been sold in great numbers.
As a compromise measure, control over the Sankyo works was delegated to Sankyo that proposed to manufacture motorcycles under its own “Rikuo Type 97” marque. And Alfred Childs was engaged in import & sales of original Harley-Davidson bikes.
In 1937, Japan entered the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Shinagawa works couldn’t satisfy the heightened needs of the military. In order to meet the demand, the Japan Army signed a contract with Nihon Nai-Enki (aka Nihon Nainenki) for manufacturing of 1200 cc flathead motorcycles under “Kurogane” name (aka Kuro Hagane, Kurogano or Kurogano-Go), which means “Black iron”.
The numerical designation of the Japanese military equipment was based on the year when the model was adopted for armament, according to the date “from the foundation of the Empire” (660 BC). Before 1940 (3000 according to the Japanese calendar), the full designation (four digits) or the last two were used, so the models of 1937 were named “type 2597”, “2597” or “97”. Models of 1940 – “type 100″. Since 1941, only the last digit was used in the designation, for example, 1942 models were named “type 2”, 1943 – “type-3”, etc.
Kurogane equipped with a 1260 cc engine has been dubbed the “two-storey bike” due to its size and a clearance of 20 cm, which was quite a challenge for the short-statured Japanese. Indeed, Kurogane was one and a half as big as Rikuo. Motorcycle was stabilized by a sidecar. Kurogane Type 95 were supposedly used for conveyance of officers owing to the motorcycles’ sophisticated & executive look.
Speedometers had been produced by Osaka Meter Company, magneto and all wiring by Mitsubishi, one-key ignition system and the front electric lighting system by Koito Seisakusho Tokyo.
Thereby, regardless of the fact, the motorcycle was based on the Harley-Davidson design, it was anyway different. Kurogane Type 95 is a perfect example what engineering ideas may turn into when they’re not limited by copyrights. We can univocally assert this unique motorcycle is one of the rarest machines in the world.
|Manufacturer||Nihon Nai-Nenki, Japan|
|Years of manufacture||1935 – 1945|
|Quantity produced, units||N/A|
|Price||2 680 ¥|
|ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION|
|Engine capacity, cc||1 260|
|Bore and stroke, mm||N/A|
|Engine rating||24 hp|
|FRAME AND WHEELBASE|
|Wheel size||4,75/5,25 х 18|
1 700 (с коляской)
|Ground clearance, mm||
|Seat height, mm||
500 (with a sidecar)
|Gas tank size, l/td>|
|Maximum speed, km/h||
Condition of the motorcycle before restoration.