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.

Travels with Harley

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.

Travels with Harley

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.

Travels with Harley

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.

Travels with Harley

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.

Travels with Harley

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.