It was 1913 and it was Harley-Davidson’s 10th anniversary when this bike originally rolled onto the showroom floor. From their humble beginning and that first bike built in their shed, they had overcome the competition to produce almost 13,000 bikes that year. If you were lucky enough to have an extra $300 back then, you could be rolling down the road with your face in the wind.
The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum - Harley-Davidson
Once in a while you come across a beautifully restored bike that is as old as the term “Hog” itself. It was in 1914 that Harley-Davidson established an official racing department. The race team became known as “The Wrecking Crew” and they had a team mascot which was a small pig. Team members used to take the pig for rides on victory laps which helped popularize the reference to Harley-Davidsons as “Hogs”. On April 4, 1915, team member Otto Walker gave Harley-Davidson its first national victory by winning the 300-mile road race national held in California.
The Enthusiast, published by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company since 1916, is the oldest continually published motorcycle magazine in the world and in 1929 it featured the first H-D cover girl. Dubbed “The Enthusiast Girl” by Harley-Davidson, Vivian Bales was not just some woman sitting on a Harley for cover of the magazine – she was one of the first great woman riders.
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.
In 1941, Harley-Davidson’s first overhead valve machine, nicknamed the “Knucklehead” had been on the market only six years and was by far America’s most popular motorcycle. New features for 1941 included a centrifugally controlled oil pump, new clutch design, positive grip hand brake lever, oxide coated piston rings, larger diameter air filter, redesigned muffler, and airplane style silver on black speedometer. Finally, stainless steel trim strips graced the fuel tanks both in front of and behind the teardrop emblem.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous December, in 1942 we were at war. U.S. troops and their allies would be fighting battles in Europe, in the Pacific, and in Africa during the year. Rationing of food, gas, and other items began to support the war effort. Sacrifices were being made on the home front to support our troops but many brave men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice before the war was over.
In 1946, President Truman declared the official end of WWII, the first computer was designed, the first bikini was modeled in Paris, Joe Louis was heavyweight champ, and professional baseball had their first night games. It was also the year that this Harley Davidson FL rolled out the factory door and seeing this bike on display at the 18th Annual Super Show and Swap in Colorado Springs grabbed my attention and required a closer inspection.
It was in back in 1947 that Harley-Davidson first introduced the classic black motorcycle jacket. It was also the year that approximately 4000 bikers attended a rally in Hollister, California and proceeded to have a good time. Events escalated to the point that it was more than the local law could handle alone so they called in the state patrol for reinforcements and by the time the event was over there were around 60 people injured and numerous arrests made. The media had a heyday and completely blew things out of perspective (imagine that!).
Elvis Presley had his first hit in 1956 with “Heartbreak Hotel”, made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and was featured on the cover of the May issue of Harley-Davidson’s “The Enthusiast” motorcycle magazine.
Harley-Davidson produced the “Panhead” from 1948 till 1965 with the nickname coming from the distinct shape of the motor’s valve covers which resembled an upside down pan. They were originally built with either a 61 cubic inch motor or a 74 cubic inch motor but the production of the 61 cubic inch version was ended in 1952.
In 1964, Grace Haines and her husband owned Northumberland Harley-Davidson in Northumberland, PA which has some of the most picturesque riding country in the U.S. It was the last year of the 6 volt Duo-Glide kick start Panhead and it was also the year that Grace ordered her dream bike from the company that she represented.
This Harley-Davidson motorcycle was sold new at Vern McMullen’s Harley-Davidson Sales in Colorado Springs. The bike was purchased and ridden for a time by local barbershop owner, Tom Madrid.