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Fonzie bike finally sells at auction

Fonzie's Triumph TR5 fails to sell

One of three motorcycles used by actor Henry Winkler playing Fonzie in Happy Days has sold for $USUS179,200 (about $A240,000) in a Julien’s Auctions Hollywood Legends in Las Vegas.

The 1949 Triumph Trophy TR500 was provided for the popular TV series by stuntman Bud Ekins, who also built bikes for Hollywood legend and racer Steve McQueen.

Ekins changed the the handlebars, removed the fender, and painted the tank silver.

The same bike failed to sell in an eBay sale a few years ago at the asking price of US$100,000 (about A$140,000). It had previously been sold at a Bonhams auction in 2011 for US$87,500 (about A$173,000).

Winkler played Arthur Fonzarelli (Fonzie or the Fonze) in the Happy Days TV series from 1974-84.

Fonzie's Triumph Trophy TR5
Fonzie’s Triumph Trophy TR5

Fonzie can’t ride

The 1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler Custom is one of several bikes the Fonze used in the hit 1970s series set in the 1950s.

The early Fonzie bikes were actually Harleys. There was a Knucklehead, Panhead and possibly a Sportster. However, Winkler could not ride and found the Harleys too heavy to handle. He blamed his inability to co-ordinate clutch, brake and throttle on his dyslexia, but that hasn’t hindered the dyslexic Charley Boorman!

Fonzie's Triumph Trophy TR5
Fonzie’s Triumph Trophy TR5

To accommodate his non-riding talents the Happy Days production crew switched to the much lighter Triumph. It started out fairly standard, even down to the “castrator” tank rack. However it was gradually customised by removing the rack – just as well as the Fonze crashed several times during shooting – adding ape-hanger bars as many Americans did back then, a bobbed front fender and switching from a bullet-holed muffler to pea-shooters. At one stage the bike was owned by Hollywood stuntman Bud Ekins who did the famed Great Escape jump for Steve McQueen. It has since been through several hands.

There may have been several other Fonzie bikes, including rumours of a BSA, but it is difficult to prove as often only a small portion of the bike was in shot. Because of his inability to ride, most scenes with Fonzie on a bike were stationary scenes with him sitting on it, so you rarely see a full shot of the bike in motion.

Henry Winkler as the Fonze or Fonzie in Happy Days on the Triumph TR5 up for sale on eBay

In one of the late seasons there is another Fonzie bike, but the model is unclear. His friends buy him the bike after he crashes his, but it is only on screen for a few seconds and it is difficult to identify. It looks like a customised Triumph with slightly extended forks. Some say it is a Trophy 650.

  1. When did the mudguard become a “fender” in English-speaking countries such as Australia (i.e. non-American speaking)?

      1. rode bikes for the last 30 years never heard of it being called anything but a fender and ive also lived in the USA my whole life..
        dont know what to tell you..

        only thing called “mudguards” where im from are the extra bits you attach at the back of the fenders to cut down on splash. pretty much the same as mudflaps are on a truck

  2. I read in an article about movie bikes few years ago that the Triumph was a non runner during the series and then sat in the back of the studio for years until Bud pulled it out and restored it. Not sure how much truth to that story. The same article mentioned the Great Escape Triumph is out there somewhere and is probably the most expensive bike on the planet.

  3. I remember my parents letting me stay up for the pilot episode. Can’t remember the story of that 1st one but it must have influenced me. I always thought that one scene where he chucks his wrench in his shop was pretty cool, so I started doing it with Dad’s tools. No bueno. Not being smart I kept doing it up till my 20’s. Fixed alot of holes in the walls, replaced alot of windows.

  4. This is just nothing more than typical Hollywood “BS” ! Bud was a good friend of mine. I worked for him for many years. I Raced out of his Sherman Oaks Triumph Dearlership. Before becoming a stuntman myself. Bud owned the “Fonz” TR5. There was only one. And when it originally went to the studio it was a “runner” ! And the studio rented it from Bud for “the run of the show”. And that’s because the prod. company NEVER KNEW when they might want to stick it IN a scene. When the show “rapped” they didn’t return the bike to Bud for years.But Bud knew where it was. So when the producers FINALLY returned the bike Bud handed the “transpo coordinator” a bill for the ENTIRE TIME they had kept the bike. Which was YEARS AFTER the show rapped ! And they paid it. Bud , knowing the “biz” they way he did knew it wasn’t up to him to chase HIS bike down , it was “they’re” responsibility to return it. ! And that IS “the Paul Harvey” about this bike !

  5. Crazy that the most beloved character from Happy Days which takes place in Milwaukee, WI—the home of Harley-Davidson rode a Triumph—go figure…

  6. Ive heard and read the british call fenders a mudguard ever since I’ve read motorcycle publications (I learned to read about age 5-6 ?, (70 Years ago) it seems a fine explanation of the purpose of the part. If you ever rode a bike thru mud or water without a fender, ( I don’t know where that term originated unless it was bicycles )? you know the messy result and your passenger would have many other words for you !

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