Frederick Howard Warr (Fred) was born in Fulham, London on the 3rd of January 1929. The youngest of three children born to army Captain Frederick James and his wife Margaret. Husband and wife ran a motorcycle dealership and general vehicle repair shop on London’s Kings Road.

Fred left school aged 14. His first job was as a messenger boy in Harrod’s. In 1947 he joined the Royal Air Force. By then he was also an avid motorcyclist and had already developed what would become a lifelong passion for Harley-Davidson. His father had been an official Harley dealer since the 1920’s and Fred had clearly inherited his enthusiasm for the American built V-Twins.
By the late 1940’s Fred was working with his father at Kings Road repairing and selling ex-military WL750 Harleys which at the time were being sold off at Government auctions. Fred would buy in bulk and then ‘civilianise’ the bikes with colourful paint jobs to attract the buying public who were looking for anything other than wartime khaki. Due to post war trade restrictions new Harley-Davidsons were not available.

In 1949 Fred became a founding member of the Harley-Davidson Riders Club of Great Britain. As well as cultivating an active riding and social scene for members the club also ran many Rallies and Gymkhanas. Several overseas trips took place too and a popular excursion was to travel to the continent by air with your motorcycle from Lydd to Le Touquet on an ex-wartime transporter, roll on roll off.

By the early 1950’s Fred had decided to specialise exclusively in the Harley brand. He knew that if the family business was to flourish, he would need to be able to sell both new and used Harleys. In rationed post war Britain government restrictions meant new motorcycle imports were not allowed. Nevertheless, Fred saved the boat fare and travelled to Milwaukee USA where he met with founder’s son William H. Davidson. The relationship between manufacturer and dealer was reaffirmed and after much lobbying of HM government and the US senate Fred was finally granted a restricted import license. In 1956 the first new civilian Harley-Davidsons into the UK since before the war arrived at the Warr’s Kings Road dealership.

Fred married Margaret Ann Humphries ‘Rita’ in 1955 at the Church of our Lady, Lisson Grove, Marylebone and their first child Patricia was born in 1957.

By 1960, Fred had become the official UK Concessionaire for all things Harley-Davidson. 1960’s London was in full swing and his Harley dealership on the now fashionable Kings Road was the place to be. The American brand has always attracted a diverse clientele and any Saturday afternoon at Warr’s would often see wannabees, rockers and rock stars alike chilling and talking bikes. Film makers too, keen for some Americana in their productions, would often hire Fred to populate their latest movie with Harleys. Fred stood in for many film riding roles and in the cult classic ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ numerous riding shots showing Jagger’s then girlfriend Marianne Faithfull racing along on her Harley are actually Fred in tight white leathers and a long blonde wig!

Fred was also a very accomplished rider and racer. He trialled and raced various Harleys throughout the 50s and 60s. In 1974 he won the prestigious RAC National Rally and later that decade twice took part in the infamous Circuit des Pyrenees in France. His chosen mount one year being a very non-race bike Police issue Harley Electra Glide, nicknamed by the astonished local French press ‘Le Dinosaur’. Fred rode the wheels off the bike, running out of brakes on the mad mountainous descents as the early disc brakes would overheat and fail to stop the beast.  Nevertheless, using engine braking and his considerable riding skill he bought the bike into a very credible top ten finish.
As well as being a promotor of all things Harley-Davidson Fred was known for his mechanical expertise and astonishing knowledge of the inner workings of the cult V-Twin motors used by the brand. In the early 1970’s Fred worked alongside the Harley-Davidson factory race team on preparation of the winning Trans-Atlantic match race bikes for H-D factory rider Cal Rayborn, often referred to at the time as the world’s greatest road racer. In 1976 Fred was also involved in machine preparation for the famous stunt jump by Harley riding Evel Knievel over 13 London buses at Wembley Stadium.
In 1986, not long after his wife Rita passed away, Fred semi-retired from the bike business. Fred’s love of biking continued its hold however and he later went on to ride the length of Britain for charity on a vintage 1916 Harley and later also took part in the Mille Miglia endurance rally through Italy on a wartime WL750, painted khaki. 

By his mid 70’s Fred had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) but his determined attitude saw him travel to China for radical treatments which he insisted had curtailed the spread of the disease and allowed him many more years than the usual cruelly short prognosis. 

Though his leathers had long been hung up he spent the latter years of his life re-kindling his earlier passion for building, restoring and supplying parts and much knowledge for vintage Harleys and their owners.

Fred is survived by daughters Patricia and Theresa and two sons John and Robert. Fred’s youngest son William was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 2003.

Fred passed away peacefully at home on the 11th of August and will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony. No flowers please, instead please consider a donation to MND.

Fred Warr 1929-2022
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