Harley and Davidson work in a 10 x 15-foot shed on Chestnut Street (later renamed Juneau Avenue) which is still the address of Harley-Davidson’s head office.
Perhaps impressed with that reliability, Detroit becomes the first city to buy a H-D motorcycle for police use.
The stock-market crash heralds the Great Depression. In 1929, the company sells 21,000 motorcycles. It’s the strongest of the dozens – if not hundreds – of motorcycle brands that were launched in the first three decades of the century; only a handful will survive into the fourth.
In racing, Joe Petrali begins a string of five consecutive national championships in dirt track, as well as four consecutive hill-climb titles. (In those years, the championship was decided in a single race.)
William A. Davidson dies, two days after signing an agreement that makes the company a union shop.
The Jackpine Gypsies hold the first Black Hills rally in Sturgis.
Walter Davidson dies.
As part of Germany’s war reparations, the Allies loot German patents. The fine, small two-stroke motors built by DKW (seen in that
company’s popular RT125) are copied by BSA (the Bantam) and Harley-Davidson, which produces the model S that will come to be known as the Hummer.
The aging WR and WRTT production racers are no match for the British 500s now invading the dirt tracks (and few road courses) of America. The H-D racing department counters with a new racer, the KR. Like the WR, it is a 750cc flat-head.
Brad Andres wins the last Daytona 200 run on the sand. 2nd through 13th (no, not 3rd, 13th) places all go to riders on KRs.
AMF could have risen to the challenge presented by the sophisticated and comparatively affordable Honda. Instead, AMF’s managers roll a real gutter-ball. Harley-Davidson quality plummets. Before long, dealers are forced to rebuild motors under warranty and magazines are brutally critical of test bikes. Used Harleys are described as “pre-AMF” in classified ads.
The FXS Low Rider is also introduced this year.
Belts come back into fashion: a Kevlar belt replaces the chain as the final drive on some models.
The FXB Sturgis, featuring an 80 cubic-inch engine, and FXWB Wide Glide are introduced.
Beals leads an amazing corporate turnaround. He funds new product development and implements world-class quality control. It’s impossible to know what would have happened to the H-D brand if Beals had not risen up to save it, but it’s certain that no one else could have done a better job at rehabilitating it.
The company adopts a just-in-time inventory system on the manufacturing side, which helps to lower cost and improve quality.
The company petitions the International Trade Commission (a branch of the U.S. federal government) to impose a tariff on Japanese motorcycles of over 700cc. As a result, many Japanese motorcycles that are sold as 750cc models in the rest of the world are sleeved-down to 700cc for the U.S. market.
The Softail, which features concealed rear suspension and evokes the rigid-framed hogs of 30 or 40 years ago, meets with commercial success.
Despite being ably ridden by Miguel Duhamel, Pascal Picotte, Chris Carr and Scott Russell, the VR1000 will never win an AMA race.
The remaining shares of Buell are also acquired.
The company announces a major new museum, scheduled to open in Milwaukee in 2008.
Purchases MV Agusta for $109 million in an attempt to take advantage of MV’s european distribution channels.
Introduces the XR1200, inspired by the XR750 flat track machine used to win countless championships. The XR1200 represents the first time H-D designed and marketed a motorcycle exclusively for the European market. Later, after demand from this side of the pond, the XR1200 is then sold worldwide.
Due to the economic recession, Harley-Davidson discontinues the Buell line and puts up MV Agusta for sale to focus on core business. This after The Motor Company declared profits dropped 84-percent since the previous year.
Announces plan to enter the rapidly expanding Indian market.