Retrospective

Harley-Davidson: A rolling retrospective on the American need for two-wheeled speed

American stunt rider Evel Knievel (1938 - 2007) pulls a wheelie on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, circa 1975.

Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

Harley-Davidson has been building motorcycles in America for more than 100 years — no small feat. Since the company's start in 1903, more than 150 American motorcycle makers have come and gone, with Harley-Davidson outlasting them all. What began as a drawing of an engine designed to power a bicycle has turned into a megabrand well known and respected for building world-class motorcycles sold around the globe. Here's a look at the journey started by William Harley and Arthur Davidson back in 1901.

American Dream

Harley-Davidson

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In 1901 at the young age of 21, William S. Harley created a blueprint drawing for an engine of his design that would fit into a bicycle frame. Just two years later, Harley and Arthur Davidson had built their first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Production took place in their first "factory" — a 10-by-15-foot wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, identified by a hand-lettered name on the door that read "Harley-Davidson Motor Co."

First H-D Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson

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In 1903 Harley and Davidson built their first motorcycle, which was designed for racing. Three were built that first year. C.H. Lang of Chicago, Illinois — the first Harley-Davidson dealer — sold one of the three.

Rapid Growth

Harley-Davidson

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By 1906 the company had six full-time employees and had clearly outgrown the shed, so Harley-Davidson built a larger factory. By this time Arthur Davidson's brothers — Walter and William — had joined the company. One year later the company had 18 employees and the factory size doubled as well. On September 17, 1907, Harley-Davidson incorporated. The company began recruiting dealers to sell its product.

A Solid Reputation

Harley-Davidson

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In 1908 Walter Davidson scored a perfect 1,000 points at the Seventh-Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Davidson also set a fuel-economy record achieving 188.234 miles per gallon. By this time, the company's motorcycles were entering races and having great success. One year earlier Harley-Davidson motorcycles had won the Speed Test Milwaukee Hillclimb; Motorcycle Flying Start, Milwaukee; Five Mile Handicap, Janesville, Wisconsin; and Special Handicap Derby Day Races, Milwaukee.

Creating an Icon

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson created the first V-twin motorcycle in 1909. The two cylinders placed at a 45-degree angle created a V and quickly became associated with the brand. Also tied to this legendary name is the famous Bar & Shield that was first used in 1910. In 1911 Harley-Davidson trademarked the logo with the U.S. patent office.

Expansion

Harley-Davidson

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In the early years of the 20th century, Harley-Davidson grew at an impressive pace. Nine years after production of that first motorcycle, the company had a network of more than 200 dealers across America. In 1912 Harley-Davidson began sales outside the U.S. — the company began exports to Japan.

Going Racing

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson officially entered motorcycle racing in 1914, and it took only a few years before H-D team riders dominated the sport. In fact, the team became known as the "wrecking crew" because of their impressive success.

War Effort

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson played a big part in World War I — by 1918 the U.S. government purchased nearly half of all motorcycles built by the company. The U.S. Army used an estimated 20,000 motorcycles during WWI, most of which were Harley-Davidsons. Corporal Roy Holtz of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, was the first American to enter Germany after the signing of the armistice — riding a Harley-Davison.

Largest in the World

Harley-Davidson

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By 1920 Harley-Davidson had become the largest motorcycle company in the world, and more than 2,000 dealers in 67 countries sold the company's product. The company continued its success at the track — riders on Harley-Davidson motorcycles swept all eight national championship races in 1921.

The Hog

Harley-Davidson

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According to Harley-Davidson archives, in the early 1920s the racing team's mascot was a pig — which race winners would carry during their victory lap after each race won.

And Then There Were Two

29th October 1927: The first Indian four-cylinder engine motorbike, on view at the motorcycle show at Olympia, London.

Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Although there had been more than 100 different companies building motorcycles in America since the early 1900s, by 1931 Harley-Davidson's only competition in the U.S. was Indian. The U.S. motorcycle landscape would not change again until 1953.

World War II

Harley-Davidson

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As the country went to war once again, Harley-Davidson stepped up to support the U.S. In 1941 almost every motorcycle Harley-Davidson produced went to the military. By the end of WWII in 1945, Harley-Davidson had produced almost 90,000 WLA models. The company also created the unique XA 750 with its horizontally opposed cylinders and driveshaft designed for desert use. Only 1,011 of the rare XA 750s were built.

Happy Anniversary

Harley-Davidson

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Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1953, the company created this unique logo showcasing a V — honoring the engine that had been so important to the company's success. Harley-Davidson attached the logo to the fender of every 1954 model.

And Then There Was One

Harley-Davidson

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In 1953 Hendee Manufacturing — the company building the Indian motorcycle — went out of business, leaving Harley-Davidson as the lone American motorcycle company. The company would go it alone in the motorcycle business for more than 30 years.

Superbike

Harley-Davidson

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An all-new motorcycle from Harley-Davidson launched in 1957 — the Sportster. With a 55-cubic-inch overhead-valve engine, the Sportster offered impressive performance, later becoming known as the first of the "superbikes."

Electric Starter

Harley-Davidson

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In the mid-1960s, Harley-Davidson introduced the electric starter — on the three-wheeled Servi-Car. Soon after, the electric starter became available on the new Electra-Glide and Sportster lines.

Speed Records

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson made it into the record books in 1965 when George Roeder broke speed records for Class A and Class C in a custom-built Streamliner, hitting 177 mph. Five years later, Cal Rayborn set the land speed record for a motorcycle, hitting 265 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a 16-foot streamliner powered by a single Sportster engine.

Low Rider

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson unveiled the FXS Low Rider at Daytona Beach in 1977. The custom bike featured drag-style handlebars, a unique engine and paint, and — as the name indicates — a lowered seating position. Later in the same year, Willie G. Davidson's dynamic version of the Sportster, the Cafe Racer, was released.

Sturgis Edition

Harley-Davidson

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The annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, is a big draw for Harley-Davidson owners and has been since the first rally in 1938. To commemorate this historic event, Harley-Davidson released a special-edition FXB Sturgis model in 1980, featuring a belt drive, black chrome appointments and an 80-cubic-inch engine.

H.O.G.

Harley-Davidson

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There's no question that Harley owners are a loyal lot, and in 1983 they had a group to call their own. Recognizing the deep roots of the Harley community, the company created the Harley Owners Group, often referred to as H.O.G. The group quickly became one of the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle clubs in the world — currently there are more than 1 million members in 140 countries.

V2 Evolution

Harley-Davidson

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After seven years of development, Harley-Davidson debuted the all-new 1340 cc V2 Evolution engine in 1984. The new motor produced more power while running cooler and cleaner. Five models would use this new engine, including the all-new Softtail.

Trading Publicly

Harley-Davidson NYSE

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In 1969 Harley-Davidson merged with the American Machine and Foundry Company and remained that way until 1981 — the year Harley-Davidson purchased back the company's shares. In 1986 Harley-Davidson was listed on the American Stock Exchange for the first time since the merger in 1969. The following year Harley-Davidson joined the New York Stock Exchange.

Buell Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson

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In 1992 Harley-Davidson purchased a minority interested in Buell Motorcycles. Ex Harley-Davidson engineer Erik Buell started the eponymously company to build American sport motorcycles powered by Harley-Davidson XL 883 engines. Buell became a wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson in 2003. In 2009 Harley-Davidson discontinued Buell products so the company could focus on the Harley-Davidson brand.

Happy 100th Anniversary

Harley-Davidson

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To celebrate 100 years of motorcycle building, Harley-Davidson put on the Open Road Tour, starting out in Atlanta and ending at the company's hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More than 250,000 people came to Milwaukee for the final tour stop, as well as the 100th anniversary celebration and party. Even larger celebrations occurred for the 105th which coincided with the opening of the all-new Harley-Davidson Museum.

Around the World

Harley-Davidson

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The first authorized Harley-Davidson dealership in mainland China opened in 2006. Three years later, the company expanded operations to India, rolling out the entire lineup by 2010. By 2014, international sales accounted for more than 36 percent of Harley-Davidson's overall sales.

New Motor, New Touring Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson

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In 2016 Harley-Davidson introduced an all-new Milwaukee-Eight engine — the ninth Big Twin engine design in the company's history. "The Milwaukee-Eight engine carries the legacy of Harley-Davidson Big Twins into the future," said chief powertrain engineer Alex Bozmoski. "While respecting the essential Big Twin character, we've created an all-new motor. Every aspect of performance, durability and styling has been improved as a direct response to the voice of Harley-Davidson customers around the world," Bozmoski said. Shortly after the introduction of the new motor, the company debuted its latest Touring motorcycle lineup, powered by the new Milwaukee-Eight motor.

115th Anniversary

Harley-Davidson

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To help celebrate 115 years since the company's founding, Harley-Davidson introduced a wide range of new motorcycles for the 2018 model year, including eight new Softail models built on a new, more rigid chassis that provides better handling and quicker acceleration. At the same time five new Touring bikes joined the lineup, including custom versions of the Street Glide and Road Glide.

Going Electric

Harley-Davidson

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In 2014 Harley-Davidson unveiled its latest creation — an electric motorcycle. Called Project Livewire, this extremely quick bike has what Harley-Davidson calls "an unmistakable new sound." "Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar — not an electric car," said Mark-Hans Richer, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

This year the Livewire has reached production as the brand's first electric motorcycle. Livewire's electric motor produces 105 horsepower and 86 pound-feet of torque, powered by a 15.5 kWh high-voltage battery that provides a city range of 146 miles. Acceleration is quick — zero to-60 mph takes 3 seconds. Base price for the Livewire: slightly under $30,000.

Harley-Davidson Edition Pickups

Harley-Davidson Edition GMC Sierra

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For many years Ford and Harley-Davidson worked together to create special Harley-Davidson Editions of the F-150. For 2020 the company switched things up, creating the first-ever Harley-Davidson Edition GMC Sierra. With more than 65 components specific to this model, the special-edition GMC Sierra gets styling inspired by the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Only 250 copies of the Harley-Davidson Edition GMC Sierra will be made. But HD has not left Ford altogether — the company also announced plans for a Harley-Davidson-branded Ford F-250 Super Duty. Both trucks are produced in partnership with specialty truck provider Tuscany Motor Company.

What's Next?

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson has announced plans for two new bikes coming in the next few years. The Pan America will be the company's first Adventure Touring motorcycle, replete with all the functionality and capability required of such a bike. At the other end of the scale will be another exciting new model — the Harley-Davidson Bronx. The Bronx is an all-new "streetfighter" motorcycle built for speed and performance. Both Pan America and Bronx are expected to arrive in 2021.

Today

Harley-Davidson

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The little company that William Harley and Arthur Davidson started in a small shed in Wisconsin has come a long way. In 2019 Harley-Davidson sold almost 220,000 motorcycles worldwide with a lineup of eight different models and a total of 37 unique variants available. The company also sells a complete range of motorcycle parts, accessories, riding gear and apparel.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2021 MINI Cooper 1499 GT Special Edition is a throwback to a 1969 MINI.

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The MINI 1499 GT Special Edition pays tribute to the iconic 1275 GT from 1969 while the MINI Countryman Oxford edition offers unique value proposition. The two models are new for the 2021 model year.

2021 MINI Cooper 1499 GT Special Edition

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MINI has given the 1499 GT a Midnight Black Metallic exterior complete with gold 1499 GT side stripes. There's a Piano Black grille frame, door handles, and headlight rings, which surround LED headlights. There are Piano Black taillight rinks and Union Jack taillights.

The addition of the MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) styling package adds JCW front and rear bumpers, side skirts, split level spoiler, and door entry plates. The MINI 1499 GT rids on 17-innch Track Spoke Black wheels wrapped in all-season tires.

Under the hood, the model has a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The car can get from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. A six-speed manual transmission is standard while a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available.

MINI refines the interior with more JCW accents including Sports seats in Carbon Black Dinamica/Cloth, a JCW steering wheel in perforated leather with Chili Red stitching and multi-function controls, along with Piano Black finishing throughout the interior with an Anthracite Headliner. The list of standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen with navigation, MINI Assist eCall, remote services, Apple CarPlay, and a digital instrument cluster.

The MINI 1499 GT will be offered with a starting MSRP of $27,040 plus an additional $850 destination and handling fee.

MINI Countryman Oxford Edition

MINI's small SUV, the Countryman, is getting a budget-friendly version that available with front- and all-wheel drive. It comes with the standard equipment list of the Classic Trim, which includes leatherette upholstery, an 8.8-inch display with Bluetooth, rear camera, rear park distance control, seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a panoramic sunroof. The Countryman Oxford Edition also has LED headlights and fog lights and Union Jack LED taillights.

MINI has given the model standard 18-inch wheels (Silver of Black) that are wrapped with run-flat tires, an anthracite headliner, heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a choice of six exterior colors, including metallic paint options. Those options include British Racing Green IV metallic, Midnight Black metallic, White Silver metallic, Moonwalk Grey metallic, Chili Red, or Island Blue metallic. Exterior options also include body color roof and mirrors, or choice of a contrast white or black roof and mirror combination.

The staring MSRP for the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman Oxford Edition is $26,500 and the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman ALL4 Oxford Edition is $28,500, plus an additional $850 destination and handling charge. This means the MINI Countryman Oxford Edition is specially configured with $5,600 worth of optional equipment as standard at no additional cost.

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The GMC Hummer Edition 1 is the first Hummer EV that will be avaalibe.

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The Hummer name has officially returned to the automotive world. General Motors has brought back the moniker for the 2022 GMC Hummer EV, a fully electric truck that will arrive on dealership lots in 2021.

The numbers are the sexiest bits of the reveal. The Hummer EV Edition 1 delivers 1,000 horsepower, has a 350-mile all-electric range, and goes for $112,959. Yes, one hundred twelve thousand, nine hundred fifty-nine American dollars.

Built on GM's new flexible architecture, the Hummer EV fits between the traditional and extended wheelbase sizes of the 2021 GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. It's over a foot longer than the Hummer H2 and a few inches taller than the Ford F-150 Raptor.

2022 GMC Hummer EV Where a traditional hood and engine would be is instead a front trunk.Photo courtesy of GMC

At its front is an illuminated six-slot grille with the unmistakable "Hummer" lettering emblazoned across the front. Slim headlights flank the grille above a rough-and-ready bumper and skid plate. The Hummer's windshield is upright, which is reminiscent of the model's heritage.

GMC will only sell the 2022 Hummer EV in one cab style - a four-door that is paired with a short bed. Think of this as similar to the Jeep Gladiator.

Every Hummer EV will come with the company's Infinity Roof as standard equipment. That means that the Hummer EV is a t-top style convertible that blends truck and sky by removing four Sky Panels that can be stowed in the Hummer's front trunk.

Like the GMC Sierra, the Hummer EV will come with the versatile MultiPro tailgate. Rear drop glass and a power tonneau cover are available.

It's long wheelbase allows for the truck's Ultium battery pack to sit under the floor in the middle. The truck will be first to market as an Edition 1 grade with a 200-kilowatt-hour battery back. That battery is attached to two motors at the front and one at the rear producing 1,000 horsepower and 11,500 pound-feet of torque. Other forthcoming Hummer variants are set to have unique powertrain setups.

2022 GMC Hummer EV The Hummer EV comes standard with a short bed.Photo courtesy of GMC

GMC has given each Hummer EV four-wheel drive allowing it to have CrabWalk mode, which utilizes torque vectoring technology. When activating that mode, the Hummer EV to move diagonally.

It also allows the truck to have a launch mode called “Watts to Freedom". Yes, you read that correctly. WTF mode. It allows the Hummer EV Edition 1 to travel from zero to 60 mph in three seconds.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 will have 350 miles of range and be capable of charging via an 800-volt DC fast-charger and a 350-kilowatt charger. The Hummer is the first EV to have this capability, which allows it to gain 100 miles of range in 10 minutes.

The Hummer EV also offers adjustable ride height functionality, shock damping that can respond to input at the rate of 500 times per second, and stability control, all of which are controlled to varying degrees using the truck's drive modes. It has two differential lockers.

GMC has given the truck an Extract Mode, which raises the Hummer EV's ride height by six inches and gives the truck a 50-degree approach angle. In total, there's eight inches of height adjustability and the truck is capable of 13 inches of front-to-rear travel.

Also, it can scale 18-inch vertical walls and has 2-feet of water fording capability. GMC says that the truck has an 11.3-meter turning radius, which is tighter than what the Chevrolet Sonic is capable of.

2022 GMC Hummer EV

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The Hummer EV runs on standard 18-inch wheels that are wrapped in 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler All Territory MT tires. Up to 37-inch tires will fit on the truck without modification.

GMC has covered the entire underbody of the truck with steel plates and affixed two cameras and their washers that allow drivers to see obstacles ahead.

Inside, the Hummer EV is minimalistic but effectively designed. In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster while a 13.4-inch infotainment screen sits in the center of the dashboard. The two screens are powered by Epic Games' Unreal Engine, the same architecture that Fortnite runs on.

GMC hasn't divulged much about the specific interior appointments but does say that they're "premium".

The automaker is putting its Super Cruise hands-free driver assist technology on every Hummer.

The Edition 1 model will be first out of the gate with deliveries slated to begin in fall 2021. Pricing for the Edition 1 starts at $112,595. That will be followed by lower-priced, less-powerful models in a cadence that won't fully roll out until spring 2024.

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