As a member of the Motorcycling Hall of Fame, avid collector, participant in the annual Motorcycle Cannonball and originator of the Kickstart Classic, Buzz Kanter, editor and publisher of American Iron Magazine, is an obvious panelist for any list of all-time Harley-Davidsons.. Buzz offered many suggestions, and we appreciate them all. But it wasn’t until after we compiled the results that we realized one of his choices was ideal for the only obvious number placement on this list. All of the other Harleys listed here show up in no particular order. But the 1915 11F belongs at number one.
“The 1915 11F was the first Harley with 3-speed transmission,” Buzz notes, “which immediately transformed the company from one that made motorbikes into one that built motorcycles.”
The three-speed transmission wasn’t the only cutting-edge innovation the 11F offered. The 1915 model and its 61-cubic-inch F-head V-twin utilized an automatic oiler and larger intake valves, which helped to boost output to 11 horsepower. The bike also rocked a magneto and – get this – an electric lighting system, including a taillight that was designed to be removable for use as a nighttime service light. The bike – no, the motorcycle – was such a trailblazer that the 11-F topped all other Harleys in sales for the year, eventually becoming the best-selling Harley-Davidson to date.