From the early years the Harley-Davidson motorcycle began to
set records. In 1908 the Harley achieved a record 188.234 miles
per gallon. Then it gained seven first place finishes in 1910
motorcycle racing, and, by 1912 claimed 200 U.S. distributors.
A robust Harley-Davidson Sidecar won the first annual Pike's
Peak race in 1916, and another bike claimed first in the 1922
Adelaide to Melbourne South Australia race.
In the early 1960s "the hog," as it came to be called, scored
seven consecutive victories at the Daytona 200. During the
next 10 years the Harley took four consecutive wins at the
AMA Grand National Championships and broke the world motorcycle
record for land speed.
The Harley-Davidson came to be America's most recognized
motorcycle, but it was not the first. From the beginning
a unique and characteristic sound endeared the Harley-Davidson
to its owners. The Harley's pistons connected to its crankshaft
in a way that caused the motor to give two "pops" then a
quiet pause as it hummed along the road. Yet around that
constant sound, other things evolved and changed: a 45 degree
V-twin motor was introduced in 1909, the "Bar and Shield"
logo in 1910, and the teardrop-shaped gas tank in the 1920s.
In the 1930's an "eagle" design was placed on those tanks
and the famous "Knucklehead" engine was introduced. At a
time the Harley became widely used as both a police and
a commercial vehicle, the company even manufactured sidecars
and sported motorbikes built for two.
Harleys War Effort
Throughout World War I Harley-Davidson manufactured nearly
20,000 motorcycles for the United States. During World War II
virtually all of the Harleys produced went towards the war effort.
As England were forced to give up motorcycle production to favor
production of tanks and planes, Harley's motorcycles were also
shipped overseas to U.S. allies. Following WWII the Harley's
market share continued to grow. Its main competitor to harley
was the Indian Motorcycle who ceased production in the 1950s.
Veteran owners, new bikers, and even movies such as Easy Rider
raised the Harley Davidson to the status of American icon. Famous
stars pictured with Harleys, from the early Mack Sennett Studio,
to Jayne Mansfield, Elvis Presley, and Peter Fonda, certainly
enhanced the company's image.
Bar and Shield
In 1910 the legendary "Bar and Shield" logo that was placed
on their motorcycle. This would become the design and symbol
of Harley-Davidson to this day. Numerous first place winnings
in races, endurance contests and hill climbs give Harley-Davidson
In the 1970's saw a revolution of the Harley-Davidson. In 1971
the cruiser was designed. This machine united a sporty front
end with the frame and power train of the FL series. 1973 saw
the move of assembly operations to a new 400,000 square foot
plant in York, Pennsylvania. The year 1975 was the first of
four consecutive years that the Harley-Davidson won the AMA
Grand National Championships in dirt track racing. In 1977,
the FXS Low Rider and the FLHS Electra Glide Sport were introduced
to the public. The FXS featured a special lower seat position
(hence the distinguishing term Low Rider...). The FLHS was a
low cost base line FLH Electra Glide with modifications intended
to make the model sportier.