‘Happy Days’: The Story Behind Fonzie’s Motorcycles That Were a Character Staple

by Emily Morgan
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The Fonz was a legend in his own right. Even if you haven’t seen an episode of “Happy Days,” you instantly recognize Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler. As iconic as the character was, so was his motorcycle. During the ’70s and ’80s, the sitcom “Happy Days” was all the rage on TV. Arthur Fonzarelli oozed coolness thanks to his grease monkey good looks and his trusty steed.

Initially, the writers didn’t intend for Fonzie to have a motorcycle, but of course, that changed. As Fonzie’s popularity increased, his motorcycle became the symbol of Fonzie’s rebellious nature in 1950s suburbia.

However, the bike fans see on screen wasn’t always the same one. The Fonz often filmed with different bikes, such as the blue Harley Davidson Knucklehead he received as a birthday present in one episode. Often, Fonzie filmed with the classic TR-5 Trophy. In the show, fans can see a leather-jacket-wearing Fonzie constantly with his bike— he even took it into the ’50s diner that served as the show’s backdrop.

The Backstory Behind the ‘Happy Days’ Bike

However, later on, Fonzie started appearing less and less with his bike. But it had already gone on to become a symbol of his character. Even though Winkler played his Fonzie with ease and coolness, he had to learn how to handle a motorcycle. In preparation, Winkler would straddle the 1949 Triumph TR5 Trophy. Luckily, he never had to learn how to drive it — as many of the motorcycle scenes just depicted him sitting on it.

The Trophy was produced between 1949 and 1958. A 498cc engine powered the high-performance machine, and the designers wanted it to be an off-road racer. Winkler wasn’t the only actor to ride a TR5. The iconic James Dean had one as well.

According to Bud Elkins, a former Hollywood stuntman, production used three bikes for “Happy Days.” All were half-liter Trophy models from different years. Elkins, who passed away in 2007, had provided the Triumphs himself.

However, Winkler didn’t choose the bike for a specific feature; he wanted it because it wasn’t as heavy to cart around. After “Happy Days” ended its run in the mid-’80s, Elkins sold the bike to Marshall Ehlers of Mean Marshall’s Motorcycles. For 20 years, it remained there until Ehler’s sold it at an auction in 2011.

According to Motorbike Writer, the Trophy, unchanged since its use on the show, sold for $87,500. Later, it went up for sale for $100,000 on eBay but never managed to sell. In 2018, at the Julien’s Auctions Hollywood Legends, the bike finally sold for a staggering $179,200.

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