Harley-Davidson is a
notable motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1903. It was one of the two
motorcycle manufacturers who actually survived the Great Depression. In fact,
this is one of those few remarkable companies who’ve survived every economic
condition and global competition. Known for its style of customization, the
bike is iconic in many ways.The company has a global market along with video
games and merchandize under its banner.
However, like any other
company, H-D came from a humble beginning – but the idea was genius, which is
why it has managed to survive for over 117 years! So, let’s take a look at its
12-decade long journey, and see how it transformed from a small-scale dream to a
renowned global enterprise.
It was Williams S.
Harley who finished a blueprint drawing of an engine that managed to fit into a
bicycle model, and that too, at the age of 21. He then made a pact with Arthur
Davidson and started making this bike available to the public. It was built to
be a racer-bike, as it had 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke Soon, Arthur’s
brother also joined the company.
In 1904, the first H-D
Dealer, C.H. Lang of Chicago, IL, launched with three different motorcycle
models. Next year, it ended up winning a 15 mile race in Chicago, after which
the company hired its first-ever full-time employee. Soon, the company opened
another branch and catalogues started pouring in.
By 1907, the stock was
split into four equal shares in the name of its four original founders. The
company started soaring and business flourished, and with that, the factory’s
size doubled as well as the employee number.
The next year, the H-D
won 1000 points at the 7th Annual Federation of American
Motorcyclist Endurance and Reliability Contest. Triumphs kept increasing,
because in the next couple of days, the company made a major economic record!
transformed their business in this decade. First of all, the Bar & Shield
logo was used for the first time and only a year after that, it got trademarked
at the US. Soon, they started exporting the bikes to Japan, and with that,
clutch and brake pedals became available for purchase. Soon, motorbikes became
available in three speed sliding-gear transmission.
In a few years, The
Enthusiast came into being and it has now become the oldest motorcycle magazine
in the world. In 1918, almost half of the H-D motorcycles were sold in World
In 1920, the company
established itself as the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, as it
became available in 70 countries. The 45 Cubic inch V-twin engine was now
introduced as the D model.
The decade began with
Bill Davidson winning the Jack Pine endurance contest with a whopping 997/1000
score! Also, by now, this company had defeated every company in the business
except Indian (Hendee Manufacturing).
Do you know that these
two companies were the only motorcycling manufactures in the business till
1953? Soon after, an eagle art design was printed on all gas tanks. The styling
was basically applied to increase the dying sales, as consumers reduced
significantly during The Great Depression. The company launched EL, a 61-inch
powered bike. In addition, the WL models
In this decade USA
became an official part of WWII, and because of that, production suspended
indefinitely to favor the military production only. The Service School also
transformed into The Quartermaster School to train for military mechanics. A
high-end contract also ended with North Africa due to combat war. The company
received an award for excellence for its wartime production.
Source: Motorcycle logos and brands
As soon as the war
ended, the production went back on for civilians. Soon, 45 Cubic Inch flathead WR
racing motorcycle was introduced and it turned out to be the best racing
motorbike ever! New features kept on adding to the existing bikes.
This decade started
with the launch of Side-Valve K model – this K eventually became Sportster.
This year, the company also celebrated its 50th anniversary, and to
honor this achievement, a new logo was designed as a remembrance! H-D also won
the Grand National Championship for the eight years consecutively! This year,
Elvis Presley also posed for the cover of The Enthusiast.
The decade began with
the introduction of the Sprint Model and the company bought 60 percent of the
Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Company. This decade, the shovelhead engine became
popular and Cal Rayborn claimed back to back victories!
In acknowledgment of
the AMA rules, a new sportster motorcycle was launched. Harley-Davidson also
launched the FX 1200Super Glide with frame and powertrain. The new launches
were more powerful and had more alloy in the manufacturing. The company started
a 400,000 plant in Milwaukee. The company also introduced the FXS Low Rider.
Next up, there were Dual Gas Tanks in the works.
This decade started
rather interestingly. Like, 13H-D employees requested to purchase the
Harley-Davidson Motor Company from AMF. More promising manufacturing was promised,
so the new launches had bold styling. Finally, Harley-Davidson was also listed
in the New York Stock Exchange.
The 90s began with the
installation of a 31 million state of the art facility. There was also a family
reunion along the 90th anniversary celebration.
The models that were
released this decade were FXSTD Softail Deuce, VRSCA V-Rod, Buell Firebolt, XL
883 Low (lower backseat), and Dyna motorcycles, etc. The new bikes had lower
seating positions and longer wheelbase for family seating. H-D also expanded to
This is the current
decade, and the company keeps rolling! Now bikers are allowed personal customization
to suit their liking. And now, the company is all set to release e-bikes that
will be a new chapter altogether!
All in all, you can say
that Harley-Davidson has outperformed all the another motorcycling
manufacturers in the last century.
And the legacy