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Motorworld’s newspaper № 17
Test-drive video

First Harley-Davidson bikes were brought to Japan as far back as during World War I. After WWI ended, delivery continued. Moreover, the popularity of American vehicles had been growing. Since the 1920s, Harley-Davidson became an official supplier of bikes for Japan police, the army, and even the guard of the Emperor of Japan. The demand of the Japanese market had been so high that Harley-Davidson established a dealer network, including an agency network for sales of motorcycles and spare parts, named the “Harley-Davidson Sales Company of Japan”.

However, in the late 1920s, after the start of the global financial crisis Japanese Yen devalued in so much that you could buy a country estate for the price of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In 1929, the head of the Harley-Davidson Japan Alfred Childs brought up a proposal to give Japan exclusive rights for the manufacturing of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Japan.

Negotiations took a lot of time – the founders of Harley-Davidson weren’t much enthusiastic over this idea. It took several years to build factory facilities, move American engineers with their families to Japan and deliver 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 a 1200 cc flathead engines. A lot of subcontractors throughout Japan had been producing spare parts. After

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 the fact that Japan produced foreign motorcycles. By this time, Harley-Davidson released the E model equipped with a 1000 cc OHV engine and proposed the Shinagawa works to start the manufacturing of new models. The works management didn’t feel sure of accepting the offer due to the 1200 cc model was approved by the military and has been sold in great numbers.

As a result, the Sankyo works started the production of motorcycles under its own Rikuo Type 97 marque. Alfred Childs was still engaged in the import and sales of original Harley-Davidson bikes.

In 1937, Japan entered the Second Sino-Japanese War and 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 the manufacturing of 1200 cc flathead motorcycles under the “Kurogane” name (aka Kuro Hagane, Kurogano or Kurogano-Go), which means “Black iron”.

We must mention, that 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 Type 95

Kurogane Type 95 equipped with a 1260 cc engine has been dubbed the “two-storey bike” due to its size and a huge clearance of 20 cm. Kurogane was one and a half as big as Rikuo and required a sidecar to stabilize the motorcycle. Kurogane Type 95 was supposedly used for the conveyance of officers owing to the motorcycles’ sophisticated and executive exterior.

Kurogane Type 95

Speedometers have 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.

Kurogane Type 95

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 of 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 ¥
Today’s value
Type V-twin
Engine capacity, cc 1 260
Bore and stroke, mm N/A
Engine rating 24 hp
Sparking Magneto Mitsubishi
Carburetor N/A
Battery 6 V
Clutch Dry
Transmission 3-speed
Frame type Tubular
Front suspension Springer
Rear suspension Rigid
Brakes Drum type
Wheel size 4,75/5,25 х 18
Length, mm
2 700
Width, mm
1 700 (с коляской)
Height, mm
1 168
Wheelbase, mm
1 650
Ground clearance, mm
Seat height, mm
Mass, kg
   500 (with a sidecar)
Gas tank size, l/td>
Maximum speed, km/h
Range, km

* – Data from the results of the measurement of the “Motorworld by V.Sheyanov” exhibit.

Condition of the motorcycle before restoration.

Photos of the civil Kurogane Type 95, which is also disaplayed at the motorcycle museum “Motorworld by V.Sheyanov”.