by Fernando Torre



Harley's.... Bristol Creem.

On a cold Wisconsin In the winter of 1914 , while ice fishing William Harley met up with an upstart engineer from upstate New York by the name of Daniel H. Creem.

Creem and Harley downed three pints of bourbon that day and in the process Creem told Harley that he was on leave from the  Bristol Aircraft Co. in England, where he was part of Frank Barnwell's design  team and that he had in his possession aircraft plans that he had won from Barnwell in a poker game .

He then told Harley that he was back in America because he wanted to produce a light scout aircraft for the U.S. army.

But he needed someone like Harley  to set up production in America  according to Army specifications ...etc.

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In fact Creem had successfully extorted the plans from Barnwell in an uncomfortable situation that involved Barnwell, a camera, and the wife of a member of parliament, after which he hastily departed for the US. 

Harley believed in him and agreed to lend technical Support  to Creem's plans and together they would set up a partnership along with  Bristol aircraft and expand there new motorcycle plant in Milwaukee to accommodate prototype production.

But the Davidson brothers weren't so easily impressed and decided that they would hand him one chance to prove what he could do and one chance only.

They would supply him with anything that they had already in there production line and that they could spare.....namely a 1907 model.11.c motorcycle with a  50 cubic inch  12 horse power V twin  motor.  Creem accepted and the following week they begun production of the first and only prototype ,the HD-BC-1.

Early in April, on a Sunday morning, everyone  gathered on a deserted back road, just south of Milwaukee, where the prototype would take to the air.

At the controls was Creen himself as he insisted that as head engineer he would be the test pilot.  Things went wrong from the start, as the HD-BC or as it would latter be dubbed by the cynical Davidson brothers "Harleys Bristol Creem" could not achieve the required 40mp take of speed, but Dan H. Creem would not stop or turn back.

He gunned the throttle and advanced the spark and barreled down the road and disappeared in a fantastic cloud of dust and smoke .....

He, nor the HD-BC would ever be seen again!

Latter on  his death bed in New Zealand, Daniel H. Creem admitted to his grand children that he had never intended for the "Harley Bristol Creem " to fly at all !.....

He just wanted to get something cool to pick up chicks!


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Photos and text by Fernando Torre