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ADV NewsRare Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up For Auction

Rare Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up For Auction

With less than 500 units sold to the military, this bike is one of the rarest H-D models.

Published on 10.28.2022
Rare Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up For Auction

A bike you never knew you wanted is going up for auction in Las Vegas on January 27th. And yes, it’s a Harley-Davidson, though one of an unexpected variety. An olive drab dual sport built for the US Army in 1998. This MT500 (MT for Military Transport) is one of an estimated 500 produced and — get this — it has only 186 miles on its ticker.

Didn’t know Harley had its hand in off road motorcycles before the Pan America made the scene?  The fact is the Milwaukee manufacturer has a long history of making bikes built for unpaved roads (heck, everything was a dual sport in the early 1900s), and has been supplying the US military with mounts as far back as the Mexican Border War in 1916. 

Rare Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up For Auction

Back in the day of Pancho Villa’s conflict, the bikes had sidecars with hard-mounted machine guns. In WWI about half the models Harley built, an estimated 20,000 were ordered by America’s war office. Then came the 740cc WRA model, nicknamed the Liberator, built during WWII. An estimated 90,000 of these machines were built and shipped to US troops and their allies during the last world war.


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Harley even went through a phase of building and racing MX bikes in the 1970s when it owned the lion’s share of Aermacchi the Italian company that would eventually become Cagiva. In fact one of those bikes from that era, a tiny 1972 H-D Baja100 Custom, is on the same auction block in Las Vegas a day earlier than the MT500. And more recently, we all probably remember the questionable decision H-D would make short timing sub-brand Buell, maker of the Ulysses, a dual sport travel bike that came out just as the “adventure bike” market was gaining momentum. 

Rare Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up For sale
Rare 1998 Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up available
This 1998 Harley-Davidson MT500 is a rare electric start model showing only 186 miles on the odometer. 

So where does this up-for-auction 1998 MT500 fit in? Evidently Harley licensed the military-intended design in the late 1980s from British Manufacturer, Armstrong-CCM, which had originally licensed the same design, called an XN Tornado, from Italy’s Sironi Vergani Vimercate Milano (SWM). Harley sold the rebadged machine from 1993 to 2000.  

Through all its variations the rugged, reliable MT500 has used the same air-cooled, 4-valve, single-cylinder 504cc Rotax engine, but while most of the MT500s produced were kick start, this low- mileage unit features an electric start. According to a deep dive into the bike published by silodrome, the engine puts out a very modest 32 bhp at 6,200 rpm with 28 lb- ft of torque at 5,500 rpm. Weight is said to be 355 pounds.

Rare 1998 Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up available

The bike features a 5- speed gearbox, chain drive and covered 4-piston front and rear disc brakes. Its cross laced wheels ride on knobbies, while suspension is listed as simply a telescopic fork and dual-shock rear. There’s an olive green rack on the back and what looks like a small tool box on the bike’s right side, across from a flat black muffler. 

Originally, the bike would have been offered with twin plastic cases on either side of the fuel tank to carry documents. There would have also been an optional waterproof rifle case on the right, rear side, as seen on a 1999 unit that sold in a Bonhams auction back in 2017 for $18,400. 

Rare 1998 Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up available
Fewer than 500 units were sold to the U.S. military before production was ceased, making it one of the rarest H-D production motorcycles ever made.

With such low mileage the bike going up for auction in January was sure to have been in the hands of a collector all these years, and of course, its rarity and extreme state of preservation means it’s likely to remain a static showpiece. But still, very interesting to see and remember that the world’s most famous heavy cruiser manufacturer has quietly had its hand in building off-road machines and supplying our county’s veterans with war equipment throughout its long existence. 

Photos courtesy of Mecum Auctions

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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5 thoughts on “Rare Harley-Davidson MT500 Military Dual Sport Up For Auction

  1. A very neat and obscure bike to be sure .

    I remember these and was asking some guys last week where they all went, now we know : ‘serious collectors’ who’d never want to run nor ride it .

    Sad but I guess that’s what is is .

    I remember when WWII WLD’s (the Army’s Harley) were dirt cheap and beaten into the ground .

    Don’t forget Harley’s copy of the flat twin BMW, the XA . more of those engines powered gen sets than bikes .

    -Nate

  2. Okay you guys…. I can’t stand it.
    The military 45″ model in WWII was the WLA not the WRA or the WLD.
    It’s just an old Harley dude thing.
    Great article Jamie. Miss you,
    Johnny.

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