In 1933, the full force of the Great Depression had reached Milwaukee, and production had dropped to the lowest figure in 20 years. There was not much sign of recovery in the foreseeable future. In fact, some said things were only going to get worse.
At Harley-Davidson, management and labor were working for reduced pay, while many were being laid off due to a substantial drop in demand for the product. As technological advancement was not on the agenda, attention turned toward color and graphics.
Following the lead of the automobile industry in Detroit, Milwaukee introduced art deco styling to their motorcycles. Fuel tanks featured stylized decals accented by gold stripes and contrasting colors.
In 1935, the “R Series” 45 cubic inch V-Twins were fitted with skirted fenders, the decorative trend also included a $15 chrome package which included handle bars, exhaust pipes, chain guard and generator cover. Color combinations included olive green and black, Egyptian ivory and regent brown, verdant green and black, teak red and black, and Venetian blue and silver as presented on this machine. The 45 cubic inch motorcycle was produced by Harley-Davidson as a lighter weight and cheaper alternative to the 74 cubic inch VL. Base price for this RL was $295, a savings of $25 over the 74 cubic inch model at $320, and the outrageously priced 80 cubic inch VLDD Twin at $347.
This perfectly restored 1945 RL was returned to original specifications by Mr. Ross Van Etten of Colorado Springs.
Special thanks to Ross and his wife Margareta Van Etten for preserving this piece of motorcycling history and giving us a glimpse of the past and what was like to ride a motorcycle – back in the day!