Few companies and brands are as revered and idolized as Harley-Davidson ( HOG -0.21% ) . The iconic motorcycle company has over 100 years of history with its rearview mirror and has seen many trends come and go. It’s the dominant major bike maker these days and we’re all familiar with it – but how well do you know its story?
Here are 7 facts about Harley-Davidson that you probably didn’t know. Some are important to its history and some are just plain fun. However, they all reflect an essential part of the mystery behind the bar and fender brand.
7 things you may not have known about Harley-Davidson
1. Harley V-twin engine was born in 1909.
Last year, Harley-Davidson introduced the Milwaukee Eight, the ninth Big Twin engine in its history and the first new engine in 15 years. But its first V-twin engine was mounted to the frame in 1909, and they have been closely associated with Harleys ever since, even if that first version had poor performance and only lasted a year. during production.
However, Harley-Davidson did not invent the V-twin, nor was it the first to use it on a motorcycle. That distinction belongs to its rival, Indian Motorcycle, which today is owned by Polaris Industries (PII 0.88%). Indian introduced the V-twin in 1904 and started putting it on racing bikes two years later. India also released a new muscular big V-twin in 2013, Thunder Stroke 111.
2. In less than 20 years, Harley has become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
Although founded 5 years after Indian Motorcycle, which used its racing bikes to create a huge fan base, by 1920, Harley-Davidson had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, with more than 2,000 agents in 67 countries. It was Harley’s “Wrecking Crew” racing team – a name it owes to the sport’s dominance in the mid-1910s, and a team to which India’s top racing team would later adopt – that help put Harley to the top.
Today, Honda Motors is considered the most productive bicycle manufacturer, but it has built everything from mini scooters to Gold Wings, from 50 cc to 1,800 cc large displacement engines. In the world of large displacement bikes with engines of 601 cc or more, Harley-Davidson is still king, and in the US still holds 50% of the market share.
3. First Harley-Davidson carburetor made from tomato cans (probably).
According to multiple sources, the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle used a single-cylinder engine, a top speed of 25 mph – and used a tomato box as the carburetor. Unfortunately, this may be more fiction than fact. While the online reference Encyclopedia.com cites it as part of the company’s history and the book Everything You Need to Know: Harley-Davidson Motorcycles refer to it as part of the legend of Harley, the people Others are more skeptical.
In another book, At the Creation: Myth, Reality, and Origin of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, 1901-1909, author Herbert Wagner introduced the story. The company founder’s grandson, Willie G. Davidson, is also skeptical, noting, “I can’t see them settling for something so primitive.”
Regardless, great story, man, and it’s one of those stories that we want to believe is true.
4. Clothing makes up 5% of all Harley sales.
Sure, Harley-Davidson sells a lot of motorcycles — more than 262,000 bikes in 2016 alone — and they make up the bulk of its $6 billion in annual sales. But the Harley-branded gear also makes for a huge amount of change.
While general merchandise only accounted for 5.4% of sales last year, that still equates to $285 million worth of leather jackets, boots, t-shirts, jeans, and more. It’s an outfit that helps even non-owners define the Harley-Davidson lifestyle and gives its riders an edge as one of its loyal brand representatives. , the most enthusiastic and hardworking anywhere.
5. Harley used to manufacture motorcycles in Japan.
Although considered an icon of American manufacturing, Harley-Davidson also has facilities in India (opened in 2011) and an assembly plant in Brazil. It was recently criticized for its plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Thailand.
However, these are not its first forays into the foreign manufacturing sector. It licensed the Japanese company Sankyo to make replicas of its bicycles for the Japanese market during the Depression, with production starting in 1935. It is said that the bicycles themselves Japan helped make Harley afloat. However, after World War II, production was never quite the same, and the bicycle business was sold to Showa in 1950. Although the division ceased production of bicycles in 1959, Showa continues to supply parts for Harley-Davidson today, especially its front forks. .
6. There’s a reason why Harleys are called “pigs.”
The name “hog” is synonymous with Harley-Davidson bikes, and while you might expect it to have something to do with the size (or sound) of their pedestals, in reality the moniker has come to be. Used by Harley member Ray Weishaar. a piglet, became the team’s mascot. After winning the contests, the team members will win with their pig mascot.
Coca-Cola attributed the moniker to the 200-mile race in Marion, Illinois, in 1920, where Weishaar was photographed feeding Coke to piglets after the Harley team took all three places.
7. The Wild One may be the first movie to feature Harley.
While 1969’s Easy Rider is considered the quintessential Harley-Davidson motorcycle movie and possibly the first movie where the company’s bikes take center stage, it was 1953’s classic The Wild One with Marlon Brando gave Harley his first signature performance on the big screen.
Of course, Brando doesn’t ride a Harley but a Triumph Thunderbird 6T. However, Brando’s arch nemesis, Chino, of the Beetles’ rival motorcycle gang (played by Lee Marvin), was riding in a 1950’s Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide. Additional fun fact : The Beetles motorcycle gang is said to have helped inspire a rock band that would later name themselves something very similar. While the band’s name is also a play on Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets, and reflects the type of music they play, The Wild One is a favorite of an early member of The Beatles.
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