Wild Rider: The Lure of the Harley Davidson

With a crude scrawl on the door of a wooden shed, a legend was born. The year was 1903 and the amateur graffiti artists were a young William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, the Milwaukee based partners in the production of a motorcycle racer, with a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. They established a small company which grew rapidly with growing demand, producing hardy two cylinder machines for America’s increasingly mobile public.

In 1908, Walter Davidson, Arthur’s cycle racing brother, scored a perfect 1,000 points at the 7th Annual ‘Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest’ on a Harley Davidson creation. Three days after the contest, Walter set the FAM economy record at 188.234 miles per gallon. Word of Harley-Davidson’s extremely tough motorcycles spread rapidly.

By 1912, the Harley Davidson company was exporting motorcycles to Japan, marking the first ever sales outside of the U.S and their network had expanded to over 200 motorcycle dealerships nationwide. A few years later, their motorcycles were adopted for combat service, with about 15,000 machines produced for World War 1 efforts.

After a successful World War 2 Tour, the Harley Davidson brand begun to penetrate popular culture, and in 1956 the new young star Elvis Presley posed for the cover of the May Enthusiast magazine sitting on the latest model KH.

HD’s reputation grew and in 1981, Scott Parker begun racing for team Harley-Davidson on the AMA dirt track circuit. He went on to become the most successful racer in Harley-Davidson history, accumulating 93 career victories and, more incredibly, winning 9 Grand National Champion titles in a 10 year period.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the distinct “Harley Sound” exhaust note and the classic Harley-Davidson two-cylinder, V-twin engine is the foundation of this iconic brand; fiercely protected by both the parent company and HD fans – from leisure users, bikers, one percenters and hog boys; each group passionate about protecting the design, heritage and future of this rip roaring motorcycle saga.

Harley Davidson specializes in heavyweight (over 750 cc) motorcycles distinctively designed for cruising on the highway. Harley’s have also led to the tradition of heavy customization, giving rise to the chopper style of motorcycle, like those created by the Teutul Orange County Choppers (OCC) clan, the custom and production motorcycle house with a hit TV show.

Another famous custom Harley-Davidson® designer is London based Charlie Stockwell of Warr’s Harley-Davidson, Europe’s oldest Harley dealership.

Best known for his award winning and trend setting vintage designs, Stockwell has just introduced his latest creation – ‘Unorthodox’. Daring to break tradition, this chrome and carbon fibre monster was carefully crafted and hand made by the man himself.

The original Harley-Davidson® Fatboy® was stripped down leaving just the engine and chassis. The oil tank was removed from beneath the seat and the chassis re-shaped to drop the solid one-of-a-kind carbon fibre solo saddle to an extreme slammed ride height. A new oil tank was fabricated to fit inside the original, tear-drop shaped, Fatboy fuel tank.

‘Unorthodox’

Stockwell crafted the high-low dual exhaust system which rather cleverly houses the rear lights in the carbon mufflers. It doesn’t stop there. Custom made CNC triple trees mount the forks to the frame. Brembo monobloc calipers are fitted to deal with the brute force of the new tuned 113ci Screamin’Eagle H-D Engine which has been treated with glossy black powder coat and the cooling fins Diamond Cut for a show sparkle. Carbon fibre, race style clip-on handlebars are fitted with Performance Machine controls to match the huge wheels wrapped in Metzeler rubber, 3″ open primary drive and foot controls.

This unconventional sleek machine will be on display in the Warr’s showroom on the King’s Road in London until the summer when its lucky owner will take delivery. To see more of Warr’s H-D and Stockwell’s award winning custom Harleys, visit www.warrs.com.

Except for the modern VRSC model family, current Harley-Davidson motorcycles reflect the styles of classic Harley designs – with models such as the street Sportster, the big twin engine Dyna, the Softail, the Touring model and the Revolution model that utilise the Revolution engine (whose street versions are designated Street Custom – SC). Harley-Davidson’s attempts to establish itself in the light motorcycle market have met with limited success and have largely been abandoned since the 1978 sale of its Italian Aermacchi subsidiary.

Arthur and William would be extremely proud of how their dream has roared through time, surviving the Great Depression, two world wars, corporate takeovers and makeovers and fanatical customization and radical following to remain a hardcore and highly versatile brand that in 2010 sold 210,494 units worldwide.

Here’s hoping Harley Davidson continues to rip to higher heights, as proven in 2010 when daredevil rider Seth Enslow broke the world record for a long distance motorcycle jump on a on a Harley-Davidson XR1200, at 183.7 feet, a record previously held by Bubba Blackwell (1999) and Evel Kneivel (1975).

HOG ON!!

View more Harleys in our slideshow below: