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When Did Harley Davidson Start Making Motorcycles?

When did Harley Davidson* start making motorcycles? At the Davidson family house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903, William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson started building their first motorcycle. Later, Arthur’s brothers Walter and William A. joined them, bringing with them a fresh perspective that would help define the company’s future. The Harley Davidson* name origin was a combination of William S Harley & the Davidson brothers.

The Harley-Davidson* Motor Company was founded in 1907, and it grew quickly after that. Only three of the prototype 1903 405CC (24.74cu in) single-cylinder motorcycles were built. The firm moved to other facilities in 1910, where more than 3,000 motorcycles were manufactured.

The spring fork and chain drive were early breakthroughs, but it was the V-twin powerplant that would shape the company’s future.

“AMSOIL provides high-performance lubricants that work in all Harleys, including AMSOIL SAE 60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil and AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Transmission Fluid for historic Harley motorcycles.”

SAE 60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil
AMSOIL SAE 60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil

All of Harley-Davidson* models since 1911 have used this cylinder arrangement. In 1917, the United States joined World War I, and Harley-Davidson* was commissioned to supply more than 20,000 motorcycles to the military. The military chose them due to the bike being tough & reliable.

The official Harley-Davidson* works racing squad, which competed on dirt and board tracks around the United States, had also achieved success in competition.

The firm began selling equipment to Japan & Europe in the early 1920s, and it aimed to develop these markets in the following decades.

To overtake Indian* as the most popular motorcycle brand in the United States, Harley-Davidson* had to build a large infrastructure of dealerships throughout North America.

On the D Series, a side-valve V-twin motor was introduced to the brand’s existing inlet-over-exhaust and single-cylinder motor’s side valve was utilized on certain motorcycles because it was so dependable.

The 61 EL “Knucklehead” was debuted by Harley-Davidson* in 1936, and its rocker covers resembled the shape of a fist.

AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil fights viscosity degradation even in the midst of summer riding’s intense heat and strain. Seamless, reliable shifts are made possible by preserving viscosity, and compensator noise is reduced as a result. When it comes to viscosity breakdown, it has a six-fold advantage over Harley-Davidson* SYN3.”

For Harley-Davidson*, World War II brought new possibilities, as the company supplied the Allies with over 70,000 WLA motorcycles. Motorcycles built by the brand were allowed to use the German DKW-designed 125cc two-stroke engines when civilian motorcycle manufacturing began in 1945. The “Knucklehead” engine was superseded in 1948 by the Panhead engine, with extra rocker covers.

The Hydra-Glide type was introduced in 1949 with the advent of hydraulically damped telescopic forks. To compete with the lighter and quicker British motorbikes from Triumph and BSA, Harley-Davidson* introduced a line of smaller-capacity V-twins to augment its large-capacity models in the 1950s. The XL Sportster from 1957 stands out as one of Harley Davidson’s* longest-running models, still in production today.

Motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson* purchased an equity position in the Aermacchi firm in 1960. To meet the growing need for low-cost transportation, the company rebranded these single-cylinder motorcycles as Harley-Davidsons*. In 1965, Harley introduced the electronic starter and created the legendary Electra Glide. This was their competitive response to Japanese motorcycle manufacturers when they began producing cheaper, more modern models.

AMSOIL SAE 60 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil protects engines in hot weather. It has excellent high-temperature film strength and is heavily treated with anti-wear agents to prevent wear.”

However, international imports started to have an impact on the company’s bottom line. Even after being listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1965, Harley-Davidson* struggled, and in 1969, AMF (American Metal Foundries) purchased the company’s controlling stake. Harley’s reputation continued to deteriorate under AMF’s control until 1981 when the company changed hands again.

The XR750 dirt-track racer was introduced in the 1970s and quickly became the most popular racing bike in the United States.

Harley Davidson* also recognized the postwar penchant for modifying their motorcycles, symbolized by the Harley choppers portrayed in the 1969 film Easy Rider, during this decade.

The FX Super Glide from 1971 was the first of Harley’s factory-built custom motorcycles to include a big-twin engine with a Sportster design.

AMSOIL 20W-50 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil delivers exceptional performance and protection for the most modern Harley-Davidson* models.”

AMSOIL 20W-50 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil
AMSOIL 20W-50 Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil

During the early 1980s, the corporation was in the midst of a financial crisis. A 1981 management buyout of AMF led to more productive manufacturing processes and improved quality assurance. Also, there was a desire to portray Harley-Davidson* as an American firm that was worthy of its history, which was greatly needed.

When Harley-Davidson* introduced the Evolution big-twin in 1984, it represented the company’s return to the racing circuit.

For bikes like the Super Glide, a tourer that sealed Harley Davidson as a builder of America’s greatest tourers, the big twin-engine proved ideal.

The 1990 Fat Boy, with its unique disc wheels, and the Twin Cam 88 V-twin engine in 1999 were further advancements.

Harley-Davidson* also developed a line of motorcycles that drew inspiration from the company’s history while also incorporating the newest technological advancements.

A new kind of motorcycle consumer who was looking for a fashionable American motorbike but lacked the conventional “biker” image was drawn to this model by the manufacturer.

New Harley-Davidson* models, such as the V-Rod in 2001 and Buell’s powerful sports motorcycles, were introduced into the new century.

AMSOIL Synthetic V-Twin Motorcycle Oil is stable at high temperatures. It is designed to avoid harmful sludge and carbon deposits.”

When the brand turned 100 in 2003, it held a series of celebrations in Milwaukee that culminated in a rally that drew over 100,000 enthusiast owners. Through careful management and strong confidence in the power of innovation, Harley-Davidson* has become an ultra-profitable worldwide brand for the 21st century.

What began as a simple inquiry When did Harley Davidson start making motorcycles? took us on a fascinating trip into the history of a great American icon. There has been a lot of progress made by Harley-Davidson as a motorcycle company. For 118 years, this American-made motorcycle has been a legend in its own right.

*All trademarked names and images are the property of their respective owners and may be registered marks in some countries. No affiliation or endorsement claim, express or implied, is made by their use. All products advertised here are developed by AMSOIL for use in the applications shown.

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