in

Harley-Davidson boat tail. A bridge too far

Harley Davidson boat tail side

The Harley-Davidson boat tail design appeared as an option on 1970 and 1971 Harley-Davidson XLCH and XLH Sportsters. Harley land was needed. Because the Japanese had come on the market that year with the Honda CB 750 F. And that machine fitted very well into American thinking. The boat tails did not sell well. But they did move the tongues.

Harley-Davidson was a brand that was fancifully named after its founders. Now it is a company that is steadily sliding down under standard management and outdated marketing.


But once was Harley-Davidson a top brand

A brand that also had a few times very difficult. The rescue came in the late XNUMXs from AMF, American Machine Foundries, a conglomerate that had nothing to do with motorcycles. The quality of the Harleys then became dismal. The legacy is still there. But with the disappearance of the rightly legendary 'Willy G', the man who made the brand great again after the management buy-out at AMF, Het Merk changed into De Marketing. And that marketing wasn't good at best. The ghost was out. And the store was run by number fetishists such as shareholders and managers. That is usually the beginning of the end.

Willie G Davidson was the son of former Harley-Davidson President William H Davidson and the grandson of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A Davidson. Willie G. grew up among Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Before joining Harley-Davidson, Davidson worked for the Ford Motor Company design department. In California he was confronted with customizing motorcycles. Choppers weren't his thing. But customized bikes? he saw something in that.

A new wind

After more than five years in the Harley-Davidson design department, Willie G (with Godfrey G) Davidson was promoted to vice-president of the Styling department. That was in 1969. Without using external design consultants or engineers who did not have a sublime feeling for the true American Bikers feeling, Davidson could take advantage of the freedom he was given in the small design department. A design department that was certainly not richly provided with dollars under the flag of American Machine Foundries. His designs during the 1970s include the 1971 FX Super Glide, the 1977 FXS Low Rider and the 1977 XLCR Sportster-based cafe racer.

On March 16, 2012, it was announced that Willie G. would retire on April 30, 2012 at Harley-Davidson. He remains involved as a brand ambassador and at Special Design Projects as an Emeritus Chief Styling Officer.

The boat tails

Willie G's "boat tail" gave the then 12-year-old Sportster an optical boost, but not everyone liked it. As a $ 60 option, with order number 52097-71, dealers did try to sell the idea so they could catch an extra few dollars. But most riders preferred the look of the tried-and-true seating configuration that Sportsters were known for. You saw sportsters with a boat tail at dealers and in tests. Hardly 'in the wild'. The Harley-Davidson boat tail was a daring experiment and was more startling than beautiful. It was a best lump of polyester that came to rest on the frame. In short: this Sportster had a big butt, especially compared to the slim tank that only held about 12 liters. The buddy was certainly not bad by the way.

Better on the bigtwin

In 1971, the mildly redesigned ass appeared on another Willie G design that was more successful, the FX Super Glide, a combination of FL Electra-Glide and XL Sportster components that brought a new face to the Harley series. To the eye, that idea fitted a lot better. But before 1972, the Harley-Davidson Super Glide also returned to the more traditional layout. The polyester Harley-Davidson boat tails were placed in dusty lofts and only recently received the attention they deserve. And because they are scarce, prices are rising. Replica boat tails are already for sale.

And because the boat tail was an option at Harley-Davidson, it is quite harmless to pimp a Sportster with it afterwards. It is harder to find an original exhaust system and alloy wheels.

We found our fashion model during a job for Dutch Lion Motorcycles in Grubbenvorst.
And they got greedy.

Pretty nice a Harley-Davidson boat tail.

The Big Twin with boattail sold better, slightly better

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Give an answer

The email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 8 MB. you can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

Now in store

View the 40-page preview via or a click on the cover.

The October issue, containing:

  • Citroën CX 25 Prestige Turbo 2
  • Frame construction in the Netherlands
  • Frisian Firebird lovers
  • Lancia Fulvia
  • Toyota Corona RT40
  • BMW R90S
  • Classic Days Duesseldorf
  • Duplicate type designations - Part XVIII
cover 10 2022 300

The perfect reading material for an evening or more of undisturbed dreaming. It is now in stores. A subscription is of course better, because then you will no longer miss a number and you are also € 27 cheaper. Not bad in these expensive times.

Jaguar Coupe 5.3l V12 front Catawiki

Jaguar Coupe 5.3l V12 and other Jaguars at vintage car auction Catawiki

Toyota Corolla KE20 front

Toyota Corolla KE20 from Wim Janssens. Just like before