MORE THAN A NAME
Its just one year till Harley-Davidsons 100th Birthday! But what is Harley-Davidson, you may ask? Well Im here to tell you .Get comfortable weve got a lot of ground to cover.
Although the Indian motocyle was the first motorcycle to be built in the U.S. in 1901 by the Hendee Manufacturing Company of Springfield MA, and the founder George Hendee called it a motocyle instead of motorcycle. After a 50 year battle of engineering and marketing Harley-Davidson was the only survivor. The company remains a constant, surviving the Stock Market Crash, World War II, the purchase by AMF, the Recession, and finally the buy back led by William (WILLIE G) Davidson in 1981.
Here starts the tale of how a (LEGEND) came to be. In 1903 William Harley along with Arthur and Walter Davidson of Milwaukee,WI began experimenting with an internal combustion engine in a small wooden shed, amazingly the shed doesnt burn down and the motorcycle that was built in it goes over 100,000 miles under 5 owners. And that was just the beginning, soon after that first bike being built; it began to happen. A cheap reliable form of transportation was needed in the country. Henry Fords automobiles were a little expensive for the average family. So a niche opens up for the motorcycle. Though there was no cutting- edge technology in their design, it worked. The trio had just brought a single cylinder engine (based on a DeDion design) and tube type bicycle frame together. Painted in gloss black, that first machine was admired by friends and family – now it gets interesting.
Several parties expressed an interest in buying one after they had seen the machine in action. At that point there had been no plan by the young boys to sell their creation commercially, but the next year, two motorcycles left their small factory. On the fuel tanks read Harley-Davidson Motor Company. In 1905 eight cycles were produced and sold, in 1906 the number jumped to fifty. The bikes, as the cars, were all hand made which kept production down. Seeing this new rage as more than just a passing fad, William A Davidson joins the company in 1907. With his help and that of 20 employees, production grew to 150 cycles that year, and so the business was incorporated.
In a late 1907 motorcycle show, the first edition of the engine that made Milwaukee famous was not all that successful. It had inefficient valves in the vacuum intake, and belt slippage problems. In 1911 the model returned with mechanically actuated intake over exhaust (IOE) valves and a belt tensioning system. Thus the legend was born.
With that one step, Harleys technology advanced at a rapid pace. In 1912 Harley introduced one of the industrys first clutches, chain drive also became available by 1913, and a two-speed rear hub introduced in 1914. Following this was a proper three-speed sliding-gear transmission the next year. Singles and V-twins were still offered, but the singles, which were more popular at first, would eventually be phased out. TheMilwaukee company grew, so did the interest in motorcycles. At one point there were over 300 different makes being produced in the U.S., not many lasted, but the few that did, struggled for supremacy. While Harley-Davidson had made a name for itself by making strong, reliable motorcycles, Henry Fords 1917 implementation of the assembly line, for production, dropped the cost of a Model T. In most cases lower than that of a Harley. This one jump in technology almost wiped out Harley-Davidson completely.
The one outstanding point that sold Harleys was their reputation. In 1919 an odd fore-and-aft flat twin was introduced, but would only last 4 years. Meanwhile, the V-twin, which had grown from 50 cubic inches to 61 cubic inches for 1912, was joined bythe 74- cubic- inch version in 1921- the first of the famed Seventy-fours. A small-displacement single (21 cid) was introduced in 1926 offered in both, side-valve (Flathead) and overhead valve configurations.
Strange as it may seem, flathead engines- the crudest of all four-stroke designs- were usually thought of being superior to IOE or even overhead- valve configurations during this period, much of the flatheads popularity was due to its easy serviceability, (far more important back then than today), Harley decided to adapt this valve layout to its V-twins, and the famous flatheads -due to survive more than four decades- would replace the IOE engine as the Roaring Twenties drew to a close.
Untimely as it was, the start of the stock market crash in 1929 known as Black Tuesday was the start of the Great Depression. In 1932 and 1933 stocks hit rock bottom, banks failed by the hundreds and checks were no longer used. There was no way to tell a good check from a bad one. New investment couldnt be financed through the sale of stock, because no one would buy the new stock. All Businesses suffered, some never to be seen again. Harley-Davidson held fast and rode out those rough times, down but not out.
The Knucklehead, a more advanced V-twin design for the mid thirties, which was state-of-the art at that time dictated overhead valves (something Harley already had experience with from its 21 cid Peashooters). So the new engine made use of this feature. Since the displacement worked out to be 61 cubic inches, the official name given the new V-twin was the 61 OHV. The bike it powered was called an EL.
Another large step forward for Harley was the use of a recirculating lube system, a real improvement over previous models, which operated on a total loss system. Total loss systems had a separate tank to store fresh oil, which was gravity fed or pumped through the motor. Whatever oil that didnt get burned of, just leaked to the ground, (much like the Harleys built under AMF from 1969 to 1981, leaky bowling bowls). At any rate todays EPA would really bust balls on that one. Recirculating systems are the type still commonly in use today: Oil is stored in either the bottom of the engine( wet sump ) or a separate tank ( dry sump ), pumped through a filter, circulated around the engine, and returned to the sump to be run through the cycle again, a way cleaner and environmentally safe setup.
To riders and collectors alike, these original overhead-valve V-twins have become known as Knuckleheads. The nickname refers to the two large bolts that hold each end of the rocker covers in place; the bolts look like knuckles on the rocker coverfists. Joining the 61 OHV was a larger74 cubic inch version, the motorcycle powered by it called the FL. The arrival of the 74 led to the end of the 80 inch u flathead series, but the 74 u series continued to be offered through 1948.
World War II prompted both a military version of the 45 and a special horizontal opposed flathead twin with shaft drive designed for desert use. The former was called the WLA, and over 80,000 were built and then used by US troops. The latter XA model didnt do well; it saw no action overseas and only 1,000 were built.
Despite widespread acclaim the Knuckleheads life span was short- at least by Harley standards. It only lasted 12 years on the market, and since Word War II occurred during most of its reign, production wasnt all that high. The Knucklehead did form the basis of all big twins produced since, and today its one of the most valuable of all the classics.
The Panhead was the result of a revised Knucklehead; while many felt that the life of the Knucklehead was cut short, the Panhead that replaced it for 1948 offered valuable improvements. Most changes involved the cylinder heads, which were capped with a redesigned rocker cover resembling an upside-down roasting pan, hence the name Panhead. The most noticeable of these were the switch to hydraulic lifters which automatically took up any slack in the valvetrain and didnt need constant adjustment. They also ran cooler, because the heads were made of aluminum, they were quieter and needed less maintenance. But from my own experience to just tighten the primary and rear drive chains are a chore. The transmission lock bolts need to be loosened then the whole transmission is slid back till the tension on the primary is correct, then lock down the adjuster arm, then lock down the transmission after making sure both sides of tranny are equal distances from the motor. Now you can put the bike on a crate and loosen the rear wheel so the adjusting bolts can be tightened, this too must be measured to insure the rear wheel is not cocked to on side. Then the axle nut can be tightened. In another three to four hundred miles the steps will need to be repeated. Not a good system on the EL model, on the FL model a primary chain tensioner was used which made life much easier. The Panhead was available in a 61 cubic inch until 1952 called an EL, and a 74 cubic inch known as an FL, which in 1965 was equipped with electric start.
The Panhead had just reached its pinnacle in 1965 when Harley replaced it with a revised engine boasting (you guessed it) new heads.
The Shovelhead digs in now, called so because of the inverted scoop-shaped valve covers, the engine could now breathe deeper, resulting in a 10 percent increase in horsepower. The Shovelheads valve covers do resemble that of a Sportster, the quickest way for a non-rider to tell them apart is the lifter covers on a Sportster are parallel, but on a Shovel theyre crossed. Also the motor and tranny is a unit in a Sportster.On aShovel the motor and tranny are separate, connected only by a primary drive chain and inner and outer primary covers.
One of the worst changes to occur during the Shovel head years was when Harley-Davidson was forced to merge with American Machine and Foundry for financial reasons. AMF was best known as a bowling ball and sports equipment maker. They should have stuck to it! Prior to the merger the Shovelhead was an awesome machine. Once the corporate giant got control of Research, Development and Production, Harley-Davidson and the Shovelhead were doomed, as well as all the other bikes being produced. Harleys reputation suffered greatly under AMF leadership, American made parts were replaced with cheaper Japanese parts, the oil stains returned under AMF Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The one bright spot was the FX Super Glide which was born under AMF. I cant bear to remember any more; suffice to say it was an ugly time to be a biker! But hark, there is hope! Willie G Davidson leads a revolt in the company and along with 13 other executives worried about the company, a buy out ensues. Happy days again, Harley is once again owned by business men not only out to make a profit, but also show pride and quality in the longest continuously operating American motorcycle company to date. William Willie G.Davidson is vice president of styling for Harley-Davidson, Inc., Motorcycle division. He is responsible for the successful, traditional designs of Harley motorcycles. Willie G is the son of William H Davidson former president and grandson of one of the original founders William A Davidson. Willie G. is credited for keeping Harleys selling through his unique designs, while manufacturing and technological improvements were completed. Based on tradition Willie oversees the look of all of Harleys products as well as being responsible for the classic FX SuperGlide, FX Lowrider, Caf Racer, Heritage Softail Classic, Springer and Fat Boy motorcycle designs.
THE EVOLUTION REVOLUTION
Ask ten Shovelhead owners if they like there bikes and all will say they do. But ask ten former Shovelhead owners if they liked their bikes and youll hear a variety of answers. Myself I believe if it dont vibrate it aint workn right! Most old time riders feel the same way. When Harley introduced the Evolution V2 on some 1984 models, skeptics questioned not so much whether it was an improvement, but if it would rival the Japanese V-twins. The Japanese had copied the Famous V-twin design unique to Harleys. The cylinders now aluminum, had the same 80 cubic inches as before, but new heads provided a higher compression ratio while using regular unleaded gas. Per Harley practice, the valve covers were changed once again, this time with smooth, billet-like contours that soon had bikers calling it the Blockhead. Computers were used in its design process, resulting in an engine that was smoother, quieter, more powerful, and more reliable as time has told. Trying to keep the new models straight is almost impossible even for me 20 year veteran of Harley motorcycles, the only consistent label is that Sportsters have always had an X as in FX, FXR, XLCH, or the XLH in their model identification. Sportsters were built first in 1957 making them the longest production run for a model still currently sold by Harley. In 2000 Fuel injection was unveiled as a new feature in the Softail line for 2001s Twin Cam 88b; carburetion was used on the previous Twin Cam 88 models.
Buell Motorcycle is a production racing version of Harley Davidson, unique styling, and state of the art engine design offer riders both street and track an aggressive and powerful machine.
FORBES MAGAZINE names Harley-Davidson Company of the Year (December 20, 2001) Harley-Davidson, Inc. has been named Company of the Year by FORBES Magazine, one of the worlds leading business publications. Key factors for the FORBES Company of the year award included Harley-Davidsons record sales growth and earnings, along with strong overall financial performance. This is due to the great strides in engineering and development, along with the respect of the American people for an outstanding American company.
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