William S. Harley, William A. Davidson, Walter Davidson, Sr., Arthur Davidson

1907 model.

Harley-Davidson 1000 cc HT 1916

Ralph Hepburn on his Harley racing bike in this 1919 photo.

Harley-Davidson 1000 cc HT 1923

Harley-Davidson 1200 cc SV 1931

Harley-Davidson WL

Harley copied the BMW R71 to produce its XA model.

Harley produced the WLC for the Canadian military.

Harley-Davidson Hummer

1971 Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Turismo Veloce

AMF H-D Electra Glide

Replica of the "Captain America" bike from the film Easy Rider

Electra Glide "Ultra Classic" in Bristol

Evolution Sportster cruising around downtown Buenos Aires

V-Rod on the show room floor

2001 883 Sportster Hugger

Hamburg Police Electra Glide.

2002 Softail Heritage Classic.

2005 Dyna Super Glide Custom.

2002 Sportster 883 Custom

2003 Harley Davidson XL1200 Custom Anniversary Edition

 

 

Beginning

In 1901, William S. Harley, age 21, drew up plans for a small engine with a displacement of 7.07 cubic inches (116 cc) and four-inch (102 mm) flywheels. The engine was designed for use in a regular pedal-bicycle frame. Over the next two years Harley and his childhood friend Arthur Davidson labored on their motor-bicycle using the northside Milwaukee machine shop at the home of their friend, Henry Melk. It was finished in 1903 with the help of Arthur's brother, Walter Davidson. Upon completion the boys found their power-cycle unable to conquer Milwaukee's modest hills without pedal assistance. Will Harley and the Davidsons quickly wrote off their first motor-bicycle as a valuable learning experiment.

In 1907, William S. Harley graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with a degree in mechanical engineering. That year additional factory expansion came with a second floor and later with facings and additions of Milwaukee pale yellow ("cream") brick. With the new facilities production increased to 150 motorcycles in 1907. The company was officially incorporated that September. They also began selling their motorcycles to police departments around this time, a market that has been important to them ever since.

Production in 1905 and 1906 were all single-cylinder models with 26.84 cubic inches engines. In February 1907 a prototype model with a 45-degree V-Twin engine was displayed at the Chicago Automobile Show. Although shown and advertised, very few V-Twin models were built between 1907 and 1910. These first V-Twins displaced 53.68 cubic inches and produced about 7 horsepower. This gave about double the power of the first singles. Top speed was about 60 mph. Production jumped from 450 motorcycles in 1908 to 1,149 machines in 1909.

By 1911, some 150 makes of motorcycles had already been built in the United States – although just a handful would survive the 1910s.

In 1911, an improved V-Twin model was introduced. The new engine had mechanically operated intake valves, as opposed to the "automatic" intake valves used on earlier V-Twins that opened by engine vacuum. With a displacement of 49.48 cubic inches, the 1911 V-Twin was smaller than earlier twins, but gave better performance. After 1913 the majority of bikes produced by Harley-Davidson would be V-Twin models.

By 1913, the yellow brick factory had been demolished and on the site a new 5-story structure of reinforced concrete and red brick had been built. Begun in 1910, the red brick factory with its many additions would take up two blocks along Juneau Avenue and around the corner on 38th Street. Despite the competition, Harley-Davidson was already pulling ahead of Indian and would dominate motorcycle racing after 1914. Production that year swelled to 16,284 machines.

World War I

In 1917, the United States entered World War I and the military demanded motorcycles for the war effort. Harleys had already been used by the military in the Pancho Villa Expedition but World War I was the first time the motorcycle had been adopted for combat service. Harley-Davidson provided about 15,000 machines to the military forces during World War I.

1920s

By 1920, Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Their motorcycles were sold by dealers in 67 countries. Production was 28,189 machines.

In 1921, a Harley-Davidson, ridden by Otto Walker, was the first motorcycle ever to win a race at an average speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h).

During the 1920s, several improvements were put in place, such as a new 74 cubic inch (1200 cc) V-Twin, introduced in 1922, and the "Teardrop" gas tank in 1925. A front brake was added in 1928.

In the late summer of 1929, Harley-Davidson introduced its 45 cubic inches (737 cc) flathead V-Twin to compete with the Indian 101 Scout and the Excelsior Super X.[18] This was the "D" model, produced from 1929 to 1931.[19] Riders of Indian motorcycles derisively referred to this model as the "three cylinder Harley" because the generator was upright and parallel to the front cylinder.[20] The 2.745 in (69.7 mm) bore and 3.8125 in (96.8 mm) stroke would continue in most versions of the 750 engine; exceptions include the XA and the XR750

The Great Depression

The Great Depression began a few months after the introduction of their 45 cubic inch model. Harley-Davidson's sales plummeted from 21,000 in 1929 to 3,703 in 1933. Despite those dismal numbers, Harley-Davidson proudly unveiled its lineup for 1934, which included a Flathead with Art Deco styling.

In order to survive the remainder of the Depression, the company manufactured industrial powerplants based on their motorcycle engines. They also designed and built a three-wheeled delivery vehicle called the Servi-Car, which remained in production until 1973.

In the mid 1930s, Alfred Rich Child opened a production line in Japan with the 74 cubic inches VL. The Japanese license-holder severed its business relations with Harley-Davidson in 1936 and continued manufacturing the VL under the Rikuo name.

An 80 cubic inches flathead engine was added to the line in 1935, by which time the single-cylinder motorcycles had been discontinued.In 1936, the 61E and 61EL models with the "Knucklehead" OHV engines was introduced. Valvetrain problems in early Knucklehead engines required a redesign halfway through its first year of production and retrofitting of the new valvetrain on earlier engines.

By 1937, all Harley-Davidson's flathead engines were equipped with dry-sump oil recirculation systems similar to the one introduced in the "Knucklehead" OHV engine. The revised 74 cubic inches V and VL models were renamed U and UL, the 80 cubic inches VH and VLH to be renamed UH and ULH, and the 45 cubic inches R to be renamed W.

In 1941, the 74 cubic inches "Knucklehead" was introduced as the F and the FL. The 80 cubic inches flathead UH and ULH models were discontinued after 1941, while the 74" U & UL flathead models were produced up to 1948.

World War II

One of only two American cycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson again produced large numbers of motorcycles for the US Army in World War II and resumed civilian production afterwards, producing a range of large V-twin motorcycles that were successful both on racetracks and for private buyers.

Harley-Davidson, on the eve of World War II, was already supplying the Army with a military-specific version of its 45 cubic inches (740 cc) WL line, called the WLA. (The A in this case stood for "Army".) Upon the outbreak of war, the company, along with most other manufacturing enterprises, shifted to war work. Over 90,000 military motorcycles, mostly WLAs and WLCs (the Canadian version) would be produced, many to be provided to allies. Harley-Davidson received two Army-Navy ‘E’ Awards, one in 1943 and the other in 1945, which were awarded for Excellence in Production.

Shipments to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program numbered at least 30,000. The WLAs produced during all four years of war production generally have 1942 serial numbers. Production of the WLA stopped at the end of World War II, but was resumed from 1950 to 1952 for use in the Korean War.

The U.S. Army also asked Harley-Davidson to produce a new motorcycle with many of the features of BMW's side-valve and shaft-driven R71. Harley largely copied the BMW engine and drive train and produced the shaft-driven 750 cc 1942 Harley-Davidson XA. This shared no dimensions, no parts and no design concepts (except side valves) with any prior Harley-Davidson engine. Due to the superior cooling of the flat-twin engine with the cylinders across the frame, Harley's XA cylinder heads ran 100 °F (56 °C) cooler than its V-twins. The XA never entered full production: the motorcycle by that time had been eclipsed by the Jeep as the Army's general purpose vehicle, and the WLA—already in production—was sufficient for its limited police, escort, and courier roles. Only 1,000 were made and the XA never went into full production. It remains the only shaft-driven Harley-Davidson ever made.

Small Harleys - Hummers and Aermacchis

As part of war reparations, Harley-Davidson acquired the design of a small German motorcycle, the DKW RT125 which they adapted, manufactured, and sold from 1947 to 1966. Various models were made, including the Hummer from 1955 to 1959, but they are all colloquially referred to as "Hummers" at present. BSA in the United Kingdom took the same design as the foundation of their BSA Bantam.

In 1960, Harley-Davidson consolidated the Model 165 and Hummer lines into the Super-10, introduced the Topper scooter, and bought fifty percent of Aeronautica Macchi's motorcycle division.Importation of Aermacchi's 250 cc horizontal single began the following year. The bike bore Harley-Davidson badges and was marketed as the Harley-Davidson Sprint. The engine of the Sprint was increased to 350 cc in 1969 and would remain that size until 1974, when the four-stroke Sprint was discontinued.

After the Pacer and Scat models were discontinued at the end of 1965, the Bobcat became the last of Harley-Davidson's American-made two-stroke motorcycles. The Bobcat was manufactured only in the 1966 model year.

Harley-Davidson replaced their American-made lightweight two-stroke motorcycles with the Aermacchi-built two-stroke powered M-65, M-65S, and Rapido. The M-65 had a semi-step-through frame and tank. The M-65S was a M-65 with a larger tank that eliminated the step-through feature. The Rapido was a larger bike with a 125 cc engine. The Aermacchi-built Harley-Davidsons became entirely two-stroke powered when the 250 cc two-stroke SS-250 replaced the four-stroke 350 cc Sprint in 1974.

Harley-Davidson purchased full control of Aermacchi's motorcycle production in 1974 and continued making two-stroke motorcycles there until 1978, when they sold the facility to Cagiva.

Tarnished reputation

In 1952, following their application to the US Tariff Commission for a 40% tax on imported motorcycles, Harley-Davidson was charged with restrictive practices.Hollywood also damaged Harley's image with many outlaw biker gang films produced from the 1950s through the 1970s, following the Hollister riot on July 4, 1947. "Harley-Davidson" for a long time was synonymous with the Hells Angels and other outlaw motorcyclists.

In 1969, American Machinery and Foundry (AMF) bought the company, streamlined production, and slashed the workforce. This tactic resulted in a labor strike and a lower quality of bikes. The bikes were expensive and inferior in performance, handling, and quality to Japanese motorcycles. Sales declined, quality plummeted, and the company almost went bankrupt.The "Harley-Davidson" name was mocked as "Hardly Ableson", "Hardly Driveable," and "Hogly Ferguson",and the nickname "Hog" became pejorative.

In 1977, Harley-Davidson produced what has become one of its most controversial models, the Confederate Edition. The bike was essentially a stock Harley with Confederate-specific paint and details.

Restructuring and revival

In 1981, AMF sold the company to a group of thirteen investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson for $80 million.[44] Inventory was strictly controlled using the just-in-time system.

In the early eighties, Harley-Davidson claimed that Japanese manufacturers were importing motorcycles into the US in such volume as to harm or threaten to harm domestic producers. After an investigation by the US International Trade Commission, President Reagan imposed in 1983 a 45% tariff on imported bikes and bikes over 700 cc engine capacity. Harley Davidson subsequently rejected offers of assistance from Japanese motorcycle makers.

Current model designations

With the exception of the street-going XR1000 of the 1980s and the XR1200 most Sportsters made for street use have the prefix XL in their model designation. For the Sportster Evolution engines used since the mid 1980s, there have been two engine sizes. Motorcycles with the smaller engine are designated XL883, while those with the larger engine were initially designated XL1100. When the size of the larger engine was increased from 1,100 cc to 1,200 cc, the designation was changed accordingly from XL1100 to XL1200. Subsequent letters in the designation refer to model variations within the Sportster range, e.g. the XL883C refers to an 883 cc Sportster Custom, while the XL1200S designates the now-discontinued 1200 Sportster Sport.These big-twin motorcycles capitalize on Harley's strong value on tradition. With the rear-wheel suspension hidden under the transmission, they are visually similar to the "hardtail" choppers popular in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as from their own earlier history. In keeping with that tradition, Harley offers Softail models with "Springer" front ends and "Heritage" styling that incorporate design cues from throughout their history.

Introduced in 1957, the Sportster is the longest-running model family in the Harley-Davidson lineup. They were conceived as racing motorcycles, and were popular on dirt and flat-track race courses through the 1960s and 1970s. Smaller and lighter than the other Harley models, contemporary Sportsters make use of 883 cc or Evolution engines and, though often modified, remain similar in appearance to their racing ancestors.

Up until the 2003 model year, the engine on the Sportster was rigidly mounted to the frame. The 2004 Sportster received a new frame accommodating a rubber-mounted engine. Although this made the bike heavier and reduced the available lean angle, it reduced the amount of vibration transmitted to the frame and the rider. The rubber mounted engine provides a significantly smoother ride for rider and passenger, allowing longer trips.

In the 2007 model year, Harley-Davidson celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Sportster and produced a limited edition called the XL50, of which only 2000 were made for sale worldwide. Each motorcycle was individually numbered and came in one of two colors, Mirage Pearl Orange or Vivid Black. Also in 2007, electronic fuel injection was introduced to the Sportster family, and the Nightster model was introduced in mid-year. In 2009, Harley-Davidson added the Iron 883 to the Sportster line, the newest in the Dark Custom series.

In the 2008 model year, Harley-Davidson released the XR1200 Sportster in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The XR1200 had an Evolution engine tuned to produce 91 bhp, four-piston dual front disc brakes, and an aluminum swing arm. Motorcyclist featured the XR1200 on the cover of its July 2008 issue and was generally positive about it in their "First Ride" story, in which Harley-Davidson was repeatedly asked to sell it in the United States. One possible reason for the delayed availability in the United States was the fact that Harley-Davidson had to obtain the "XR1200" naming rights from Storz Performance, a Harley customizing shop in Ventura, Calif. The XR1200 was released in the United States in 2009 in a special color scheme including Mirage Orange highlighting its dirt-tracker heritage. The first 750 XR1200 models in 2009 were pre-ordered and came with a number 1 tag for the front of the bike, autographed by Kenny Coolbeth and Scott Parker and a thank you/welcome letter from the company, signed by Bill Davidson.

Introduced in 2001, the VRSC family bears little resemblance to Harley's more traditional lineup. Competing against Japanese and American muscle bikes and seeking to expand its market appeal, the "V-Rod" makes use of an engine developed jointly with Porsche that, for the first time in Harley history, incorporates overhead cams, and liquid cooling. The V-Rod is visually distinctive, easily identified by the 60-degree V-Twin engine, the radiator and the hydroformed frame members that support the round-topped air cleaner cover. Based on the VR-1000 racing motorcycle, it continues to be a platform around which Harley-Davidson builds drag-racing competition machines. The V-Rod has gathered an enthusiastic following in the U.S., Europe and Australia, and an annual Rally at the Kansas City production facility has been organized by Max Millender and the members of a 21,000+ member strong internet discussion forum www.1130cc.com. Bill Davidson has presented Mr Millender with a signed airbox cover to recognize the contribution the forum has made to the VRSC platform which continues to evolve with models like the Night Rod Special (VRSCDX).

In 2008, Harley added anti-lock braking systems as a factory installed option on all VRSC models. Harley also increased the displacement of the stock engine from 69 to 76 cu in, which had only been previously available from Screamin' Eagle, and added a slipper clutch as standard equipment.

The VRXSE V-Rod Destroyer is Harley-Davidson's production drag racing motorcycle, constructed to run the quarter mile in under ten seconds. It is based on the same revolution engine that powers the VRSC line, but the VRXSE uses the Sceamin' Eagle 1,300 cc "stroked" incarnation, featuring a 75 mm crankshaft, 105 mm Pistons, and 58 mm throttle bodies.

The V-Rod Destroyer is not a street legal motorcycle.

More information about Harley Davidson Motorcycle can be found at wikipedia.org.

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