Here’s a teaser for you: Which company, incorporated September 17th, 1907, changed its NYSE ticker code in 2006 from HDI to HOG? Okay, so there’s a clue in the title of this blog, but if you guessed Harley-Davidson, then treat yourself to a decent brandy. In fact make it a double. Anyone who said the Oklahoma Pig Farmers Consortium should soak their head in a bucket of dishwater!
The iconic Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company was born at the dawn of the 20th century in a tiny wooden shack with their name daubed crudely on the door. Today, they manufacture motorcycles from Pennsylvania, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Missouri to Brazil and India.
From these humble beginnings, the company just kept growing, until by 2017, William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson’s enterprise employed 6,400 workers and had amassed total assets of over USD9 billion. This is a worldwide iconic brand that survived the Great Depression and the 2008 meltdown of the world economy, and they’re still going strong after a century of trading. By today’s standards — actually, by any standards —that’s pretty awesome.
Their reputation for style was epitomized by the ‘Captain America’ chopper in the 1969 film Easy Rider. Harley Davidson motorcycles had, as early as 1926, gained notoriety, at a time when American teenagers and kids in their twenties would go board track racing. This involved traveling at high speed around a banked, wooden track. In the end, it was banned for a fairly sensible reason — the soaring death rate amongst racers and spectators. Although all that carnage went down well with James Dean types and delinquents in general, it was never going to tick all the boxes for a family day out.
Rockingham, New Hampshire, had a 1.25 mile board track, on which M.L. Fredericks, also known as ‘Curly’ Fredericks, set the record for the fastest lap ever achieved on a board track, topping 120.3 mph in the process. I don’t know why Mr F wasn’t called ‘Death Wish’ Fredericks. Harley-Davidson’s Eight-Valve Racer was so successful in this sport — if it could be called a sport — that it was ruled unlawful by the racing federation at the time.
In 1909, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company produced its first V-twin powered motorcycle — a seven horsepower engine with a displacement of 49.5 cubic inches. The engine’s configuration of two cylinders at a 45-degree angle added greatly to the Harley-Davidson iconography and acted as a babe-magnet across 43 States.
That was then, of course, and this is now.
What is the 21st century Harley-Davidson up to?
Well, as their advertising copy currently informs us, they have started a ‘cruiser revolution’ with a slew of new models.
The idea is to transform some of their best-selling Dyna bikes into new Softail versions, providing consumers with an even greater choice than they currently enjoy. From next year, Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, Breakout, Fat Bob and Street Bob will all become part of their Softail family (There was a rumor of another model called ‘Beer Belly’ but the PR department trash canned the idea and it never saw the light of day.)
The new models feature stiffer and lighter frames and an upgraded engine — either the Milwaukee-Eight 107 or 114 engines available on specific models. This new generation of Harley-Davidson machines are the product of a massive research and development program — the biggest and longest in the company’s history.
Paul James, manager of product portfolio at Harley-Davidson, said:
“The new Softails are the result of the most extensive research and development program in the company’s history. Thousands of hours of research and testing were put into the complete ground-up design of these new cruisers. We focused on taking the total rider experience to a higher level, where authenticity, heritage and soul meet the modern edge of technology for a ride that must be felt to be believed.”
If you want to buy one of the new range of Softail bikes, be prepared to dig deep; prices start at THB 1 million for the Street Bob, rising to THB 1.037+ million for the Heritage classic, a model inspired by Harley-Davidson models of the 1950s.
If your heart says to get one of these modern marvels, like yesterday, but your head says that kind of money could fix the drains, we recommend you follow Harley-Davidson’s advice: Stop dreaming and start riding!
If you enjoyed reading this blog about Harley Davidson, please visit our website regularly as we will be featuring blogs and articles on more collections of Heritage bikes.