The Harley-Davidson Story
- Length: 1530 words (4.4 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
In the world of motorcycling there is a manufacturer and their bikes that stand out over all the rest. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are the best motorcycles in the world because of heritage and tradition, the come back after a difficult era, and the support from the bike owners that is a carefully maintained cult.
Arthur Davidson and William S. Harley were schoolmate friends that shared a mechanical passion and strong desire to join the other motorcycle pioneers. They rekindled their relationship while working at the same factory in Milwaukee. Together they began to study mechanics focusing on motorcycle engines. In 1901 they had four engines designed and ready to be fitted to bicycle frames. In 1903 the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles were built. The brand appeared in ads and articles describing the motorcycle that would become a legend. Three motorcycles were produced between 1903 and 1904 and were sold before they were even built. During this time Walter C. Davidson Sr. and William A. Davidson joined Arthur Davidson and William S.
Harley and on September 17, 1907 the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was officially registered with the U.S. Trade and Company Register Office. The management rolls were assigned at the registration with Walter C. Davidson as President, William A. Davidson as Vice-President and Works Manager, Arthur Davidson as Secretary and General Sales Manager, and William S. Harley to serve as Chief Engineer and Treasurer. Even though the titles were assigned, each person could intervene in all sectors.
Harley-Davidson began participated in motorcycle racing in 1904 and benefited from commercial implications of the numerous victories won by their bikes. It was not until 1913 that the company decided to establish an official racing team. Early racers such as Ralph Hepburn and Eddie Brink put Harley on the track and won races with these machines, later Joe Petreli and Red Parkhurst. Joe Petreli first raced on an Indian motorcycle, and then made a name for himself by racing Harley-Davidson's. Harley interrupted their racing from 1926 to 1931 and Petreli raced for the Excelsior Company, which shut down in 1931. Petreli again race for Harley when the company started their race teams back in 1931. Red Parkhurst became a big winner for Harley and had a long career of motorcycle racing for Harley. Participating in motorcycle racing gave Harley an edge on research and development of their motorcycles.
In 1914, war broke out in Europe and in 1917 the United States declared on Germany. During this difficult period of time Harley-Davidson equipped many of their machines with military equipment. Harley studied the needs of the military and adopted their motorcycles to meet the needs of the soldiers in the field. During this time period Harley established a service school to train mechanics to repair the machines that had breakdowns from a hard and demanding use. Twenty thousand motorcycles were used in this conflict.
In this time period, which was the beginning of motorcycling in America, there was the big three in motorcycling, Indian, Excelsior and Harley-Davidson. Excelsior disappeared in 1931 and Indian in 1953 leaving only Harley-Davidson. Almost one hundred years later the legend continues.
This year Harley-Davidson introduced a new motorcycle, which they have named the V-Rod. Harley has always enforced a considerable amount of research and development when introducing a new model and the V-Rod was put through the works. The V-Rod has a new engine, which is built around the engine that the Harley-Davidson race team has been using. V-Rod had to have a special frame to accommodate the new engine and so began the design. After the machine was built it was driven several hundred thousand miles and then ran through testing which included water testing. After being sprayed with high-pressure water nosals for over twenty-four hours, the V-Rod started immediately. The V-Rod was in development for six years. No other motorcycle company spends the kind of time and money in development that Harley-Davidson does.
In 1960 Harley-Davidson negotiated with an Italian company to build and distribute lightweight motorcycles. The American company was only making the big V-Twins and there was thought that to be more competitive they needed to be producing a mid-size line. People begin to see Harley's that they did not recognize, bringing to question where the company was going. There were younger people who were interested in more of a leisure machine and these lightweights met their needs.
In 1967 the Harley-Davidson Company after several lean years was threatened by bankruptcy and accepted an offer to buy out the company by AMF (American Metal Foundries). This buyout ended sixty-two years of the private family owned company. AMF realized some of the problems the company had and decided that the way bring it back to the top was to produce large numbers of motorcycles quickly and cost-effectively. For the first time three letters appeared beside the Harley-Davidson name on the gasoline tanks, AMF. Harley was now trying to compete with the Japanese, which they could not do on their own ground, which was mass production. With the speeding up of the assembly line, it became apparent that the quality control which Harley had always been so concerned with was not deteriorating. As production increased there was a significant drop in quality. Since there was not enough space for working on this amount of machines, they were pushed through without adequate time or careful assembly. From this analysis, the only solution was to keep developing motorcycles that had built the company's success and legend, solidity, quality and reliability.
In 1981 the Harley -Davidson executives who were disappointed with AMF decided they would try to buy the company. Because the company was considered to be beyond recovery, they were able to purchase it at a good price. After the buy, some critised AMF for not taking better care of the classic company. Harley-Davidson began its new beginning and reclaimed its good name.
The people that ride Harley's have always supported the motorcycle and the company, even through the lean years when they did not agree with management of the company. There are Harley riders that believe that riding this brand of motorcycle is a way of life, which is the American way. There are several big events that take place every year that celebrate the glory of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A lot of these events began as gatherings for all kinds of motorcycles but now have mostly Harley owners attending. There is the Daytona Bike Week and the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota, which regularly attracts over one hundred thousand participants.
In 1983 Harley-Davidson started the official club, which is know by the acronym H.O.G. that stands for Harley Owners Group. Ten years after the club was established the club had more than one hundred fifty thousand members and almost 700 chapters. These chapters have organized rallies and drives with the profits going to several charities all in the name of the famous motorcycle company. The evidence shows Harley riders clearly love their bikes and the company that for almost one hundred years has been producing the motorcycle that has been called Milwaukee Iron.
Hog Tales is a bi-monthly magazine, which is strictly for Harley-Davidson owners. In the magazine you will find articles that relate to Harley owners and the motorcycles they love so much. So many of these owners have brought their families in to circle of motorcycling and you can find stories that relate to wives or even daughters who have started riding with their husband or father. The magazine keeps Harley owners in touch with what is happening such as the rides and rallies, which are taking place across the country and where they will take place. It also describes rallies that have past and all the happenings that went on for those who were unable to attend. There are articles that feature riders, introducing them to the rest of the Harley family describing something special they participated in. Harley riders love nothing better then to get on their machines and with a group or even solo ride to some special place to see another part of this beautiful country. The magazine describes special programs such as the fly and ride program which allows people to fly to a shop to buy the Harley of their dreams and ride it home.
The Enthusiast is a magazine that Harley has been publishing since 1916, which offers articles like Hog Tails but also highlights different machines.
The 1960's brought a lot changes to the American civilization such as the wider spread of Rock and Roll, the thought that if it feels good do it and Harley owners begin to change the way their motorcycles looked. Harley's became the chose of motorcycle in which to modify, thus appeared what was known as the chopper. The chopper was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which had the frame, cut and re-welded to extend the front forks. These motorcycles were covered with as much chrome as the owner could afford and was always a works in the making. Few other motorcycles offered as much custom attraction and only Harley's were know as true choppers.
These are some of the reasons that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are the best in the world. There are no other motorcycles being built that can compare with a Harley.