When Jan Jordaan saw his stolen 1945 Harley-Davidson standing under the roof of a Pretoria car dealer’s workshop, he could not stop the tears.
After all, he had given up all hope that he would ever see his beloved ride – laden with history and sentimental value – again.
But thanks to the preparedness of Ockert Engelbrecht, businessman and owner of Victory 7 Cars and Finance in Waterkloof Glen, as well as the determination of Jordaan’s daughter, Vynette Lourens, his antique green motorcycle is back in its rightful possession after months.
Lourens told RNews this week that her father’s bike was stolen from the garage of his late father’s house in Hercules in Pretoria in May this year. The motorcycle, which has not been driven for some time, has been in this garage for about three years.
Jordaan, from Pretoria Gardens, received a message out of the blue from a friend who informed him that someone was trying to peddle an antique Harley-Davidson similar to his on social media.
That’s when Jordaan discovered his motorcycle had been stolen.
“My father’s heart was broken. The Harley-Davidson – at the time a panhead mentioned – was one of four Harley-Davidson motorcycles that (in 1953) were ridden at (the late) Queen Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony.
“The motorcycle was imported to South Africa in 1970 and my father and grandfather (my mother’s father) bought it then. They built motorcycles and cars together. My grandfather passed away soon after – which is another reason why my father is so attached to the bike. It was one of the last things they did together. My grandfather was like a real father to him.
“In 1981, my father took part in a competition in Pongola and won second place for the most beautiful Harley-Davidson in South Africa. At that time, there weren’t exactly Harley-Davidsons in the country.”
Lourens says they knew from the outset who stole the motorcycle and also reported it to the police. The problem, however, was that by this time the motorcycle was already in someone else’s possession.
Thus began the months-long search. Lourens pleaded far and wide on social media that people should be on the lookout for an antique 1945 Harley-Davidson. It would obviously not be a motorcycle that you would see on the road, but rather something that someone would buy or sell as a collector’s item.
Lourens says so many people have come forward with clues about where the bike is or could possibly be. Each of these leads was followed up and she and her father even went to knock on a few people’s doors together with the police.
“Each time, however, we went home with empty hands and aching hearts.”
When Engelbrecht finally got to know the family, they didn’t have much hope that the bike would really be at his company.
Mysterious client arouses suspicion
Engelbrecht explained to RNews this week that someone approached him to restore an antique bicycle and get it running again. Engelbrecht buys and sells cars and motorcycles, and builds them as a hobby.
However, he became suspicious when the client – whose identity is also known to Lourens and her family – was very secretive and presented “too many dos and don’ts” to Engelbrecht.
“I then decided to check the engine number and saw that the bike had been reported stolen. My lawyer friend, Kersey Blofield, helped me track down the rightful owners. We contacted them and asked them to come and see us.
“When the uncle walked in here, he cried. He was so happy. I, who ride motorcycles myself and love motorcycles, know how sentimental something like this can be. It warmed my heart to be able to return the motorcycle to him.”
Lourens says she is grateful for Engelbrecht’s good deed. There are currently no criminal proceedings or charges against anyone. The police have also apparently closed the case.
“We are saddened that no one will be held accountable, but just as grateful that the motorcycle is back. We have also already received a new engine number.”