The veteran actor became close friends with "Easy Rider" director and costar Dennis Hopper while the two were working on the 2008 biker movie "Hell Ride" and Hopper, Madsen said, told him the whole story of making "Easy Rider" and what happened to the motorcycles used in filming it.
"That thing they sold?" the gravel-voiced veteran actor said. "Dennis Hopper, from his grave, is telling you, through Michael Madsen, 'That ain't the Captain America' bike.'"
But Hopper told him the four bikes used in the making of "Easy Rider" had all been stolen or destroyed. Madsen said Hopper disputed the lurid story of how armed gunmen stole three of the motorcycles from "Easy Rider" stuntman Tex Hall, who, the story goes, later went hunting for the thieves with a machine gun.
"They were in a storage unit," Madsen said. "They got stolen, and sold for parts. They were never seen again. They don't exist."
Given all the questions about the "Captain America" motorcycle's provenance, why would anyone pay $1.62 million for it?
"Everyone wants to believe that’s the bike," Madsen growled. "They're willing to pay $1 million to imagine that’s the bike. That’s kind of nostalgic and nice, but the truth is -- it isn’t."
Madsen, a married father of five who lives in Malibu and rides Harleys when he's not making movies, said he heard the voice of Hopper telling him to set the record straight for anyone who thought the real Captain America bike had been sold -- or was out there waiting to be sold.
"Dennis was my dear friend and I loved him very, very much," Madsen said by telephone. "As I sit here in Romania, I heard his voice in the sky. He said, 'Michael, please, tell them.'"
Madsen waxed a little nostalgic himself about the making of the exploitation-style "Hell Ride," saying the filmmakers and some of the cast and crew were worried that Hopper, who was then in his early 70s, would be too old to safely operate the vintage Indian motorcycle his character rode in the story.
"The first day on the set, in Barstow ... they said, 'Do you think he can really ride?'" Madsen recalled. "He came onto the set, and walked over to the bike, and everyone got all quiet. Then he got on it, and kicked it over, and started riding around in a circle. He was the real deal."
As a personal note it was always my understanding that the Easy Rider bikes were built by an African American man by the name of Ben Hardy so I can't see how Haggerty could have had any part of their creation ??
When The Easy Rider concept was quickly made into form, Peter Fonda set out to get him a couple of bikes for the movie. There’s lots of controversy about who built these bikes. Some say Dan Haggerty, who was in the movie. The guy who painted the bikes, his son says it was him (his dad, that is). Some say it was Peter Fonda.
But the guy who built them was a guy named Ben Hardy. Ben was an African american man who knew Harleys, and knew what he was doing. When Cliff Vaughs was asked by Fonda to oversee the building of the bikes, Vaugh’s turned to Hardy who was well known (if you were black) in Los Angeles as the go to guy to build a killer bike, and do it right.