From humble beginnings in 1903 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle has become the most iconic and recognised brand with a world-wide, fiercely loyal following.
Having survived numerous starts, experiments with engine displacements, models, and customisations, ownership changes, economic depression, two world wars as well as international competition, Harley-Davidson has emerged as the fifth largest manufacturer in the world.
Being a life-long Harley-Davidson owner, rider and all round freedom-lover of these motorcycles, I have seen them evolve from the ‘bobber’ style which was a minimalist motorcycle having all excess parts removed to lighten the ride, to the ‘chopper’ that is still so popular today. This derived its name from the customisation of putting disparate parts together to give it the well-known stretched appearance. These appeared in the 1960s and led to the ‘easy rider’ designation.
Here are the 7 most iconic Harley Davidsons – in my humble opinion.
7. 1971 – FX Super Glide. This monster bike featured a 1,200cc engine with the All American colours of red, white and blue. It had the chopper-style stretched front with the European-styled fibreglass tail section. It was bold, with a “70s” in-your-face features.
6. 1941 – WLA – The Liberator – custom made for the military in WWII and again for the Korean War. Custom-made, with longer forks, higher handlebars and black-out, louvered lights.
5. 1933 – VLD Special Sport Solo. For the first time, the monotone colours disappeared and were replaced by red and black sporty colours with the Phoenix or Eagle design and gold striping.
4. 1932 DAH Hillclimber. Specially built for off-road, this engine had a very rare 45 cubic inch, overhead valve system.
3. 1928 – JH Two-cam with a top speed of between 85 – 100 miles per hour. Previously only used for racing, it was later adapted for public roads.
2. 1923 – Indirect action, Two Cam, 8V Board Track Racer. The rarest Harley-Davidson competition bike in the world. A classic model raced by the Ogden Team in Australia showing the monotone, olive green colour with Harley-Davidson in red on the gas tank.
1. 1915 – 11 HP V-Twin. The first three-speed transmission with sidecar. It featured electric lights and the only motorcycle with a guaranteed 11 hp.
So there you have a very small sketch of the iconic Harley-Davidson’s of yesteryear. I could have written pages with all the models, styles, engine displacements and the weird and wonderful customisations and you would all know exactly what I was saying. Harley-Davidson has become a status symbol for the wealthy, young-at-heart.
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