The history of this motorcycle is pretty scarce, and references are far and few in-between, so I’ll try to give a short run down that I’ve gotten off of various internet sites.
Sagging sales at Harley-Davidson, during the “great depression” were greatly affecting the company. Alfred Child made arrangements to ship tooling and personnel to Japan in the mid ’30 to build the HD VL (Flathead side valve) motorcycles. The Sankyo Company had been importing H-Ds’ to Japan since 1923, In 1933 it changed its name to Sankyo Nainenki Co, and started producing the H-D VL under the brand name of RIKUO. The Type 97 was completely made from Japanese details and components.
When H-D was prepared to start producing the new EL-OHV Knucklehead, they insisted that the Japanese factory buy the license to make the EL as well. But Sankyo, RIKUO’s parent company refused to do this. Japan’s government was becoming militaristic, at this time, and raised the tariffs on imported Harleys 8 times higher than it was, and eventually “suggested” that Harley-Davidson employees, including Mr. Child leave the country, which they willingly did. Production on the Type 97 continued. The sidecar combos evolved into a powered sidecar axle for military work, and were used in the Philippines and Manchuria and homelands, but were found to be unsuited for other Pacific use, Japanese Police forces used the solo model, and the Emperor, had a detachment with side cars half on the right, half on the left, so they looks symmetrical when in a motorcade. After Japan capitulated in 1945, almost all captured Type 97 motorcycles were destroyed and melted down, making them an extremely rare find. Armament was a Nambu Type 11 light machinegun.
The kit comes molded in a sandy colored plastic, wrapped in the three bags, one bag protects the clear sprue, and decals. My tires were loose and the spokes a little on the heavy side, but still presentable, with no flash, they had no knockouts or sprue attachment points or mold seams, and nice fine tread detail.
Sprue A and B
These two sprues contain the motorcycle and sidecar parts. For some strange reason, my kit has these broken down into more sprues, that at first I thought they were just cut to make packing easier, but looking closer, I do not see any cut marks and they appear they have revised the molds, after the instructions were drawn. But all the parts are there, just a little harder to find.
Sprue C contains the parts for the two figures, one rider, and one passenger. They are molded to reflect the smaller stature of the Japanese.
Sprue D contains the clear parts, including the windscreen for the sidecar, and a nifty pair of goggles for the passenger. I guess the driver not only gets to eat bugs, but also enjoys the old dry eye feeling. (I’ll probably slap the goggles on the driver.)
The decal sheet is small, containing small stars and small anchors, so you can mark your either IJN or IJA.
Two small Raising Sun Flags are also on the decal sheet.
Although the kit doesn’t have the photo etched spokes of Lion Roar’s latest motorcycle kits, the rest of the kit is extremely detailed, and nicely molded. With some basic modeling skills, and TLC a fine replica can be built, and for anyone wanting a prewar Harley, you can now build one with just a smidgen of conversion-scratch building work.
I purchased this kit from Hobby Search.
From Japan to my house shipping took 4 days. Postage came to $17.00 for the two kits I pre-ordered.