More Fascinating Harley Davidson History

Travels with Harley

If you have been following our Travels with Harley blog over the past few weeks, you will be well versed on Harley Davidson history. This week we take you to the 80’s and 90’s to find out more about Harley Davidson history, and how it has changed motorcycles over the years.

Travels with Harley

When AMF saw a decline in sales in the early 1980’s, the company decided to sell Harley Davidson to a group of investors that included members of the original Harley Davidson founding families thus solidifying Harley Davidson history once again. Today, the Davidson family is still involved with the running of Harley Davidson with one of Harley Davidson’s direct descendents, Willie G. Davidson serving as the President of Styling.

Travels with Harley

During the 1980’s and the early 1990’s Harley Davidson history strikes again with the new owners introducing the model Harley Davidson families that are still being manufactured today. The Softail, FLT, and the Road King joined the ranks of the classics such as the Electra Glide.

In 1990, Harley Davidson introduced the FLSTF Fat Boy, which immediately became a legend as far as motorcycle design was concerned.

Travels with Harley

Harley Davidson introduced the Dyna Line of Harley Davidson motorcycles debuting with the FXDB Dyna Glide Sturgis in 1991. That same year, Harley Davidson began the installation of a new art paint facility. The $31 million dollar factory in York, PA became operational by 1992.

Buell Motorcycle company

In the middle of the 1990’s, Harley Davidson took a controlling stake of the American sportbike and street bike Buell Motorcycle company and began manufacturing and selling Buell bikes to Harley Davidson dealers across the country.

In 1993, Harley Davidson celebrated in Milwaukee with a family reunion for its 90th anniversary with more than 100,000 people riding in the Harley Davidson motorcycle parade.

Travels with Harley

By 1997, all inventory was moved from the warehouse on Juneau Avenue to a brand new parts and accessories distribution center in Franklin, WI. The 250,000 square foot facility is just another spoke in the wheel of Harley Davidson history.

Next week Travels with Harley will share the last chapter in Harley Davidson History from the late 1990’s to 2007.

The History of Harley Davidson Continues

Travels with Harley

If you have been following the Travels with Harley Blog, you will be just as fascinated as we are with the history of Harley Davidson. This week we are travelling back to the 1960’s and beyond to give you more on the history of Harley Davidson.

Travels with Harley

The history of Harley Davidson started the decade off with a consolidation of the Hummer and Model 165 lines into its Super-10 unveiling the Topper Scooter. That same year Harley Davidson bought 50 percent of the Aermacchi motorcycle division and imported the Aermacchi 250 cc horizontal in 1961. The motorcycle sported Harley Davidson badges and became known as the Harley Davidson Sprint. The Sprints engine was boosted to a 350 cc in 1969 and remained that same size until Harley Davidson discontinued the four-stroke Harley Davidson Sprint in 1974.

Harley Davidson Bobcat

When the Scat and Pacer were discontinued by Harley Davidson towards the end of 1965, the last of the two stroke motorcycles, the Harley Davidson Bobcat, was manufactured for just one year in 1966.

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When AMF, the American Machine and Foundry, purchased Harley Davidson in 1969, the workforce was slashed and production streamlined. However, this resulted in lower quality made motorcycles and a labor strike. The new motorcycles were inferior in handling and performance and very expensive compared to the relatively cheap and affordable Japanese motorcycles. Thanks to AMF, quality and sales declined almost bankrupting the company. The history of Harley Davidson and its name began to tarnish with some calling it Harley Ableson, Hogly Ferguson, and Hardly Drivable with the nickname, “Hog,” now truly tarnished.

Travels with Harley

In 1976, the Harley Davidson Liberty Edition was manufactured to commemorate the bicentennial in America in 1976. It was at that time that Harley Davidson history would be forever controversial thanks to the Harley Davidson Confederate Edition. Released after the Liberty Edition, it was basically a stock Harley Davidson with confederate specific details and paint.

Travels with Harley

The history of Harley Davidson continues with thirteen investors purchasing the troubled company back in 1981 from AMF for $80 million.

During the early 1980’s Harley Davidson informed the US International Trade Commission that the Japanese were importing motorcycles into the United States at such a high volume that it could threaten domestic motorcycle producers. After an investigation, then President Ronald Reagan imposed a 45 percent tariff on imported motorcycles whose engine capacities were greater than 700 cc. Harley Davidson quickly rejected the offers of assistance from the motorcycle makers in Japan, but did offer to drop their request for the overseas motorcycle tariff for Japanese loan guarantees.

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Next week Travels with Harley will take you into 80’s and beyond in its very own history of Harley Davidson.

Harley Davidson motorcycles during the 1950s

Travels with Harley

After the last of the Harley Davidson founding fathers, Arthur Davidson, passed away in 1950, the company was in for a restructure of sorts with the second generation of management taking over.

The second generation of Harley Davidson motorcycles management took the company to newfound heights over the next 44 years, replacing the original founders of Harley Davidson. Although there were plenty of ups and downs, thanks to mechanical problems, image and the rise of the Japanese manufactured motorcycles, Harley Davidson motorcycles remained true to the tradition that was originally established by the founding fathers.

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Harley Davidson motorcycles the 50’s

In 1950, Harley Davidson motorcycle racers won 18 out of 24 National motorcycle championships while setting six motorcycle records.

Always the innovator, Harley Davidson motorcycles introduced the K model, which featured a side-valve with an integrated transmission and engine that would compete with Great Britain’s sportier style motorcycles. The K would eventually become the Harley Davidson Sportster.

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Celebrating 50 years in style in 1953, Harley Davidson motorcycles created a new logo that depicted a, “V.” The, “V,” was in honor of the V Engine that had brought Harley Davidson so far in such a short time. The V had a bar overlaid that read Harley Davidson with the words below and above, “50 years-American Made.” Harley Davidson made a medallion version of the new logo that was placed on the front of the 1954 model fenders.

In that same year, Hendee Manufacturers, the name behind the Indian motorcycle, leaves the scene going out of business. For the next 46 years, Harley Davidson would be the only United States motorcycle maker. In fact, because the founding fathers kept faithful to development, quality, and most importantly, tradition, Harley Davidson is the only survivor of what used to be 300 motorcycle manufacturers in the United States.

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Over the next couple of years, Harley Davidson motorcycles continued to rule the Daytona 200 track with a seven-year run of victories. During that same time, and over the next eight years, Harley Davidson racers rode to victory in the Grand National Championships.

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When young new star Elvis Presley posed sitting on a 1956 Harley Davidson KH 957 XL Sportster for the cover of the popular magazine the Enthusiast, Harley Davidson remained at the top of the heap.

In 1957, the public was introduced to the Harley Davidson Sportser. Premiering as a smaller version of the hog it featured a 55 cubic inch overhead valve engine. Within 12 months, the Harley Davidson Sportster was being hailed as the very first super bike creating yet another Harley Davidson motorcycles legend.

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Never one to rest on its laurels, the decade finished out with the company unveiling a new rear suspension and the hydraulic rear brake on the new Duo-Glide Big Twin Harley Davidson motorcycles Models in 1958.

Next week we’ll take you to the 60’s and beyond to share another piece of Harley Davidson motorcycles history on Travels with Harley.

Harley Davidson Motorcycles Survival Mode

Travels with Harley

Last week Travels with Harley shared the history of Harley ending with Harley Davidson Motorcycles having some difficulties thanks to the Model T and the slight depression that hit American in the 1920’s, and as you will see in this week’s blog, the troubles with Harley Davidson were only going to get worse, for the time being anyway…

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Always thinking ahead, part of the Harley Davidson Motorcycles survival plan was to convince American Police Departments that Harley Davidson Motorcycles were ideal for law enforcement and by the middle of the 1920’s Harley Davidson Motorcycles were being used by over 2,900 state patrols and sheriffs.

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Harley Davidson Motorcycles soon began to captivate the public with law enforcement cops taking on a Wild West image complete with saddlebags, boots, and britches. Always looking to branch out and expand the Harley Davidson Motorcycles brand, Walter soon recognized the motorcycle look launching a successful campaign to sell clothing and accessories. It was this inventive marketing ploy that helped Harley Davidson Motorcycles survive the 1920s creating a booming market that remains successful today.

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Thanks to Harley Davidson Motorcycles marketing and additional improvements, which included front brakes and a larger engine, Harley Davidson saw its sales increase with over 22,000 motorcycles produced in 1928. The optimistic attitude of Harley Davidson Motorcycles returned with a vengeance, but proved premature with the Great Depression.

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When the stock market crashed in 1929, Harley Davidson Motorcycles sales began to plummet with only 4,000 Harley Davidson Motorcycles produced by the year 1933. To help with declining sales, Harley replaced the old block letter logo with a new and improved tank design that featured a stylized and graceful eagle. Harley Davidson Motorcycles also started making bikes in a variety of color schemes.

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With Harley Davidson Motorcycles development continuing, the EL model was released in 1936. The EL boasted a new engine that could provide riders with double the power, a new suspension, new tank design, and a new frame. When the new EL Harley Davidson Motorcycles hit the pavement, sales started to increase with production climbing to nearly 10,000 annually. That figure would remain until the end of the 1930’s.

Travels with Harley

World War II would also see an increase in Harley Davidson Motorcycles sales and production with Harley Davidson building and shipping over 90,000 Harley Davidson military versions overseas for American allies.

Travels with Harley

After the war, Americans began to return to Harley Davidson riding exploding the demand for Harley Davidson Motorcycles. To meet the huge demand, Harley Davidson purchased more manufacturing facilities in Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb, in 1947. When the last of the Harley Davidson Motorcycles original founders, Arthur Davidson passed away in 1950, Harley Davidson Motorcycles were indeed the King of the Road.

Next week Travels with Harley will share what happened to the company when the second generation of Harley Davidson management took over from the founding fathers.