A 1934 Harley-Davidson VL, Built for the Japanese Imperial Navy

At the end of the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson sold exclusive rights to the Sankyo Corporation to manufacture both Harley-Davidson motorcycles and spare parts in Japan.  As part of that agreement, Sankyo would continue to purchase motorcycles directly from Harley-Davidson until their factory was completed and ready for production.  It took Sankyo almost five years to complete their factory during which time Harley-Davidson sold them the VL pictured here for use by the Japanese Imperial Navy.

The powerplant for this motorcycle is a 74 cubic inch side valve v-twin engine paired to a three speed transmission, most likely with reverse since it is equipped with a sidecar.  Basically your standard VL with the addition of a gun mount on the rear luggage rack.  The sidecar is fitted to the left side, per the Navy's requirements and fitted with a gun mount as well.  Placement of both of these gun mounts seems a little strange since they would always require the driver to dismount. Even if the passenger was firing the weapon, the driver would obviously have to move as he would be in the line of fire.

These photos were taken by Harley-Davidson and I have to applaud them for their attention to detail.  The placard on the front fender with the anchor is a nice touch, but I was more impressed with the use of an actual Asian model/actor to pose with the motorcycle.  I wonder if this was an attempt to impress the Japanese military, in hopes that they would continue to purchase Harley-Davidson motorcycles directly from Milwaukee, instead of from the Sankyo.

If your interested in how Harleys came to be made in Japan, check out these articles:

Harley Goes to the Far East:  Part 1
Harley Goes to the Far East:  Part 2
Harley Goes to the Far East:  Part 3
Harley Goes to the Far East:  Part 4