Harley-Davidson: the survivors
Harley's history also has a whole row of 'hairy moments'. But the Americans always managed to turn the tide. That was also true after the Second World War. Everyone wanted a car. And the people who did not want a car, they wanted such a much better performing and steering British motorcycle.
Harley fought hard against that reprehensible import of foreign brood. First the Sportsters were put on the market as a counterpart to the Bonnevilles.
The Americans succeeded in changing the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) rules. As a result, the 750 cc side valves were allowed to battle with 500 cc head valves. Machines with overhead camshafts were no longer allowed to participate. Incidentally, the British did a similar trick in the 1960s when they banned the Honda CB450 DOHC for the then-popular clubman racers.
Because an engine with two overhead camshafts? That was a professional racing machine! And an 450 cc (correct 444 cc) engine that drove the 650 cc pushrod twins to the fore? That was no less than the devil! Thanks to Harley's artificial grips, the side flaps were able to trot along for a few more years and - increasingly less often - win.
1965 was the year that the family business was converted into an NV.
In the 1970s, HD did effective self-protection again, but now against the Japanese. Harley put a lot of effort into lobbying to ensure that in the States an extra heavy import tax on foreign motorcycles exceeded the 700 cc. The purchase of Aermacchi was an attempt to easily find a line of lighter engines and to get a grip on the European market. A market that, just like the rest of the world, saw less and less in the technically dated, expensive American machines that at that time also remained below the standard in terms of quality. Harley drivers did not see the Italians with the American name on the tank as 'the real thing'. The Aermacchis modeled on American style were not appreciated on the European market. In the meantime, they are becoming increasingly popular.
So you see: time heals all wounds.
At that time, Harley only survived on purchases from the police. There were a number of things that prevented Harley from having to go all the way and the rise of motorcycling as a pleasant activity was certainly one of them. It was up to Willy G. Davidson's genius that the brand not only survived, but that it went very well again. The very new generation of Harleys that Willy G came up with were trendsetters in the time that motorcycling became a lifestyle thing for the well-to-do bourgeoisie.
The Low Rider, the Super Glide, the Fat Boy and the Sturgis (with its toothed belt drive) were additions to the traditional Harley line up and they were extremely successful. In the meantime, the early models from that series are already very sought after items. The 'boat tail' that was totally reserved in their time and the über Sportster, the XLCR 1000 are now worth a lot of money. The once almost deadly link with AMF (American Machine Foundries) was dissolved by a management buyout, which put Harley back on its own feet. Led by the famed 'Willie G', the brand once again reached great heights until the standard management culture struck again.
In the meantime, the American Legend threatens to collapse again, now due to the aging of its buyers. The management hopes that the new, small, Harleys made in India will make the brand youth compatible again.
And in the meantime, Harley has again gained a classic: the production of the Porsche-developed V Rod, supported by Porsche - has never been developed.
Harley is ready for yet another leap forward into the past. And there are currently rumors that Harley wants to take over Ducati from Audi. While their experience in buying Italian brands ...
But if the Ducati deal goes ahead, HD can contact Chris Barber. He made the most beautiful cross between a Harley and a Ducati block: The Desmo Harley.