From Los Angeles to Russia, 1938 UH has quite a backstory.
How a former police bike went from patrolling the streets of Los Angeles to making the rounds at a motorcycle museum in Russia is quite the story. Located on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Samara, Motorworld by V. Sheyanov houses a fascinating, yet somewhat specific collection. Among them is this beautifully-preserved 1938 Harley-Davidson Police Special UH.
Photos courtesy of Motorworld.
Founded by Vyacheslav Sheyanov in 2015, Motorworld is run by “a small, but single-minded team” who keeps all the bikes operational. The museum’s mandate is “to collect heavy motorcycles that were produced in series by all manufacturers…from 1930 until 1945.” Sheyanov passionately states, “Each of my motorcycles is a time machine, a vehicle that takes you back into the depths of history.”
Motorworld does not list the total number of bikes in their collection but does include makes from fourteen different countries. Given their specific mandate, many of the motorcycles are military-issue, while the others represent the “elite of civil engineering from the golden age of motorcycling.” During this era, it is estimated that 267 individual manufacturers produced over 1800 different models worldwide.
The 1938 UH on display here once served with the LAPD, but it was initially destined for Hollywood. As the story goes, the motorcycle was ordered by a movie studio. Prior to delivery, the intended stunt rider was injured, which led the studio put the bike up for sale when it arrived. Why someone else could not ride it was not made clear.
Los Angeles Police Officer James Maloney then purchased the 1938 UH from the movie studio. He then rode the bike for eight years, eventually using it to train future motor officers. In 1946, Maloney sold the bike to R.R. Stevens, who rode it regularly until 1950. After three ‘close calls in one day, Stevens put the machine in storage.
The motorcycle was not ridden until 1991 when it was once again put up for sale. There are no details if the new owner was Sheyanov from Motorworld, or if it changed hands again. What confirms the curious backstory is that the engine number, UH3765, is consistent in all the documentation. Of note, the sidecar is a later addition.
If the 1938 UH had been equipped with a sidecar from the factory, it would have a UHS designation. The Big Twin U-series Flathead was the workhorse of its generation. Introduced in 1937, it replaced the V-series. The U-series was offered with either a 74 or 80 cubic-inch engine, available in three slightly different configurations, designated as the UH, UL, or ULH.
Motorworld seems to have a sense of humor, and it would appear that the 1938 UH’s theatrical days are not quite over. The museum also offers rides on their vintage machines—for a price. Fortunately, Motorworld is active on social media under the handle Motos of War. For virtual viewing check out their Facebook page, Instagram, or their fine collection of videos on YouTube.
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