Rikuo Type 97 Motorcycle

Historic military vehicles are hard to come by these days — especially those that retain much of the same qualities and components that were featured on the original. That being said, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the majority of these vehicles are restored to represent their period-correct platform — and this Japanese Rikuo Type 97 motorcycle does it far better than the rest.

Rikuo’s history is certainly striking — as one of Japan’s fledgling motorcycle manufacturers during the 1930s, the company originally presided over an amalgamation of today’s leading Asian motorcycle builders. Interestingly, the Rikuo Type 97 housed an American-made L-head Harley-Davidson motor, which prospered as the centerpiece for the contracted military motorcycle — a product of the licensing agreement between the companies that eventually led to the import of foreign powertrains and parts as a means for the U.S. motorcycle maker to survive the Great Depression. The 1,200cc VL-Series engine, upon which the Type 97 was built, was manufactured and implemented within Japan throughout the war alongside early versions of Harley-Davidson’s 3-step gearbox, parallelogram-linked front forks, and rigid suspension. In 1962, due to dwindling sales and the enhanced cost of production, Rikuo decided to phase the Type 97 “RQ” out of their manufacturing cycle.

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