Harley Davidson History

Even Harley-Davidson can’t fit 100-plus years of history into a single museum.

SERIAL NUMBER ONE

1901
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1901- William S. Harley, age 21, completes a blueprint drawing of an engine designed to fit into a bicycle.


MAIN FACTORY BUILDING AT JUNEAU AVENUE, MILWAUKEE, UNDER CONSTRUCTION

1912
WI
United States
West Juneau Avenue

1912- Construction begins on what will become the six story headquarters and main factory building at Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee. A separate Parts and Accessories Department is formed.


H-D exports motorcycles to Japan, marking the first ever sales outside of the U.S. Dealer network grows to over 200 nationwide

BEN CAMPANALE

1938
1101 Main Street
57785
SD
United States
Black Hills Rally & Gold Inc

1938- The Jack Pine Gypsies Motorcycle Club holds the first Black Hills Rally in Sturgis, SD.


On the 3.2 mile beach course at Daytona, FL, Ben Campanale wins the first of two consecutive victories at the Daytona 200 on a Harley-Davidson WLDR

1957 XL SPORTSTER

1957
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1957- The motorcycling public met a new motorcycle called the Sportster®. It premiers as a 55 cubic inch overhead valve engine, and within one year of its debut, becomes known as the first of the "Superbikes." Another Harley-Davidson tradition and legend is born.


MERT LAWILL WINS IN DIRT TRACK RACING

1969
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1969- Harley-Davidson merges with the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF), a longtime producer of leisure products


Mert Lawill wins the AMA Grand National Championship for team Harley-Davidson in dirt track racing.

FXEF FAT BOB

1979
WI
United States
Milwaukee


1979-Introduction of the FXEF Fat Bob, "Fat" because of the dual gas tanks, "Bob" for the bobbed fenders.


95th ANNIVERSARY

1998
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1998- Harley-Davidson celebrates its 95th Anniversary. 140,000 plus riders are warmly received by Milwaukee to help with the celebration.


A new assembly facility opens in Manaus, Brazil, the first operations outside of the U.S.


Harley-Davidson buys a remaining 49% interest in Buell Motorcycle Company. Erik Buell is named Chairman of Buell operations.


EXPANSION INTO INDIA

2009
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2009- Harley-Davidson announces expansion into India.

The 2009 model year brings the first three-wheeler for public purchase in the new FLHTCUTG Tri Glide Ultra Classic. Also new is the history-inspired Cross Bones, a bobbed factory custom.


The AMA Flat Track team wins yet another Grand National Championship, this time with Jared Mees at the top.


The 2009 model year brings the first three-wheeler for public purchase in the new FLHTCUTG Tri Glide Ultra Classic. Also new is the history-inspired Cross Bones, a bobbed factory custom.

SEVENTY TWO

2012
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2012 - Added to the 2012 model year are the new Softail Slim™ and Seventy-Two™

CHARLES H. LANG - THE FIRST DEALER

1904
IL
United States
Chicago

1904- The first Harley-Davidson Dealer, C.H. Lang of Chicago, IL, opens for business and sells one of the first three production Harley-Davidson motorcycles ever made.

FIRST FACTORY

1903
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1903- William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson make available to the public the first production Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. The bike was built to be a racer, with a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. The factory in which they worked was a 10 x 15-foot wooden shed with the words "Harley-Davidson Motor Company" crudely scrawled on the door. Arthur's brother Walter later joins their efforts.



Henry Meyer of Milwaukee, a schoolyard pal of William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, buys one of the 1903 models directly from the founders.



JUNEAU AVENUE FACTORY, MILWAUKEE

1906
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1906- A new factory, measuring 28 * 80 feet, s built on the chestnut street site, later renamed Juneau Avenue.




WILLIAM .A. DAVIDSON

1907
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N/A

1907- William A. Davidson, brother to Arthur and Walter Davidson, quits his job as tool foreman for the Milwaukee Road railroad and joins the Motor Company.


Harley-Davidson Motor Company is incorporated on September 17th. The stock is split four ways among the four founders, and staff size has more than doubled from the previous year to eighteen employees. Factory size is doubled as well. Dealer recruitment begins, targeting the New England region.


MODEL 5-D (V TWIN)

1909
1301 3rd Avenue
48226
MI
United States
Detroit Police Department

1909- The six-year-old Harley-Davidson Motor Company introduces its first V-twin powered motorcycle. With a displacement of 49.5 cubic inches, the bike produces seven horsepower. The image of two cylinders in a 45-degree configuration would fast become one of the most enduring icons of Harley-Davidson history. Also available for the first time from the Motor Company are spare parts for motorcycles.

WALTER DAVIDSON WITH ENDURANCE RACE WINNER

1908
1301 3rd Avenue
48226
MI
United States
Detroit Police Department

1908- Walter Davidson scores a perfect 1,000 points at the 7th Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Three days after the contest, Walter sets the FAM economy record at 188.234 miles per gallon. Word of Harley-Davidson's extremely tough motorcycle spreads rapidly.


The first motorcycle sold for police duty is delivered to the Detroit, MI Police Department.



SIDECAR

1914
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1914-Sidecars are made available to Harley-Davidson buyers. Clutch and brake pedals now available on F-head singles and twins.


The Motor Company formally enters motorcycle racing this year. The first Racing Engineer is William S. Harley. Within a few short years, team Harley-Davidson is referred to informally as the "Wrecking Crew" because of their incredible dominance of the sport.


The Two-Speed rear hub transmission is introduced for two years only in the Model 10F. Patented by William S. Harley, it was effective but discontinued in order to further improve drivetrain function in 1915 with a three-speed design.




FIRST ISSUE OF "THE ENTHUSIAST"

1916
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1916- The Enthusiast begins its reign as the longest continuously published motorcycle magazine in the world.

ARMY PERSONNEL WITH BIKE

1917
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1917 - During this year, roughly one-third of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles produced are sold to the U.S. military. The Quartermasters School, a department of Harley-Davidson devoted to training military mechanics on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, opens for business in July. It will later become the Service School.


The sale of Harley-Davidson bicycles begins. Individual components are made by the Davis Sewing Machine Co. of Dayton, Ohio. The bicycles are sold through the H-D dealer network.

SPORT MODEL

1919
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1919-The 37 cubic inch opposed twin cylinder Sport model is introduced and gains great popularity overseas. Unique not only for the cylinder configuration, which was directly opposed and flat, the Sport quickly earns a reputation for being uncommonly quie



F-HEAD ENGINE

1911
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1911- The "F-head" engine becomes a workhorse of the Harley Davidson motorcycles until 1929.


ROY HOLTZ RIDING INTO GERMANY

1918
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1918- Almost half of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles produced are sold for use by the U.S. military in World War I.


At War's end, it is estimated that the Army used some 20,000 motorcycles in their efforts, most of which were Harley-Davidsons. One day after the signing of the Armistice, Corporal Roy Holtz of Chippewa Falls, Wis., is the first American to enter Germany. He is riding a Harley-Davidson.

FLATHEAD ENGINE

1929
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1929- The 45 cubic inch V-twin engine (later to be known as the "flathead") is introduced on the D model. The engine proves to be so reliable that variations of it are available on Harley-Davidson motorcycles as late as 1973.

JDH 2 CAM MOTORCYCLE

1928
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1928- The first Harley-Davidson two cam engine is made available to the public on the JD series motorcycles. The bike is capable of top speeds between 85 - 100 mph.

Front wheel brakes are now available on all Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

1925 BIKE

1925
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1925 - Gas tanks on all models now have a distinct teardrop shape. This basic appearance is set for all subsequent Harley-Davidson motorcycles.



1922 J-MODEL

1922
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1922 - The first 74 cubic inch V-twin engine is introduced on the JD and FD models. Harley-Davidson dealerships are now found in 67 countries



RACER RAY WEISHAAR WITH PIG MASCOT

1920
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By 1920, Harley-Davidson is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. New Harley-Davidson® motorcycles can be purchased from over 2,000 dealers in 67 countries worldwide


Leslie "Red" Parkhurst breaks 23 speed records on a Harley-Davidson 61 cubic inch racing motorcycle. Also, the "hog" association starts when the racing team's mascot, a pig, is carried on a victory lap after each race won by the team.


EL "KNUCKLEHEAD" BIKE

1936
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1936- Harley-Davidson introduces the EL, an overhead valve, 61 cubic inch powered bike. With increased horsepower and bold styling changes, the motorcycle quickly earns the nickname of "Knucklehead," due to the shape of its rocker boxes.


JOE PETRALI

1935
1101 Main Street
57785
SD
United States
Black Hills Rally & Gold Inc

1935- The Japanese motorcycle industry is founded as a result of Harley-Davidson licensing blueprints, tools, dies and machinery to the Sankyo Company of Japan. The result is the Rikuo motorcycle


Joe Petrali and his Harley-Davidson peashooter win all thirteen of the American Motorcycle Association National Championship dirt track races. Petrali breaks four records in the process



BROCHURE COVER

1931
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An art-deco"Eagle" design is painted on all gas tanks. This styling decision was made in part to stimulate low sales numbers caused by the great depression.


1931- All of Harley - Davidson's remaining American competition is now gone except Indian (Hendee Manufacturing). Indian and Harley-Davidson are the only two American motorcycle manufacturers until 1953.


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CAPITOL DRIVE

1947
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1947- Attendees at the year's Dealers Convention in Milwaukee are given a train ride to a "secret destination," which turns out to be the newly purchased plant on Capitol Drive. The plant was formerly the A.O. Smith Propeller Plant, created during the war. Harley-Davidson uses the plant as a large machine shop, shipping the new parts to Juneau Ave. for final assembly.


Harley-Davidson begins selling what will become the classic black leather motorcycle jacket.


Harley-Davidson dirt track racer Jimmy Chann wins the first of three consecutive AMA Grand National Championships.


DIRT TRACK RACE

1955
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1955- This year begins a seven-year consecutive run of victories at the Daytona 200. The victories will be shared by racers Brad Andres, Johnny Gibson, Joe Leonard and Roger Reiman. All ride Harley-Davidson KR models. Reiman's victory in 1961 is on the new speedway course.


POST WAR PARADE

1945
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1945 - Harley-Davidson produces almost 60,000 WLA models during the war for military use. World War II ends. Wasting no time, production of civilian motorcycles resumes in November.

50th ANNIVERSARY LOGO

1953
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1953 - Harley-Davidson celebrates its 50th Anniversary in style. An attractive logo is created, depicting a "V" in honor of the engine which had brought the Company so far, with a bar overlaid reading "Harley-Davidson" and the words, above and below, "50 years--American made." A medallion version of this logo is placed on the front fenders of the 1954 models.


Hendee Manufacturing, the creator of the Indian motorcycle, goes out of business. Harley-Davidson would be the sole U.S. motorcycle manufacturer for the next 46 years.



ARMY NAVY E- AWARD CEREMONY

1943
WI
United States
Milwaukee

America is plunged into World War II. Production of civilian motorcycle is almost entirely suspended in favor of military production.


1943- Harley-Davidson receives the first of its four Army-Navy "E" Awards for excellence in wartime production. Overseas, many American servicemen get their first exposure to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, something they would not forget when they would return stateside.




LARRY HEADRICK

1950
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1950 - Larry Headrick wins the AMA Grand National Championship for Harley-Davidson in dirt track racing.

Harley-Davidson riders win 18 of 24 National Championships and set six new racing records




PANHEAD ENGINE

1948
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1948- New features are added to the 61 and 74 overhead valve engines, including aluminum heads and hydraulic valve lifters. Also new are the one piece, chrome plated rocker covers shaped like cake pans. The nickname "Panhead" only seemed logical.


ELVIS PRESLY ON THE COVER OF THE ENTHUSIAST

1956
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1956- The new young star Elvis Presley poses for the cover of the May Enthusiast sitting on a 1956 model KH



SHOVELHEAD ENGINE

1966
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1966- The first of the "Shovelhead" engines is introduced on the Electra-Glide models, replacing the Panhead.


FL ELECTRA GLIDE

1965
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1965- The Electra-Glide® replaces the Duo-Glide and is updated with electric starter. The Electra-Glide is the first FL available with electric start, and the Sportster® line would receive electric starters soon after.


In a Streamliner powered by a 250cc Sprint CR racing engine, George Roeder shatters the speed records for Class A and Class C runs, averaging 177 miles per hour.

Harley-Davidson dirt track racer Bart Markel wins the AMA Grand National Championship in 1965 and 1966.

KR 750 MODEL

1968
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1968- Cal Rayborn wins the first of back-to-back victories at the Daytona 200 on a 750 KR model.


ROGER REIMAN

1964
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1964- The three-wheeled Servi-Car becomes the very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle to receive an electric starter.


Roger Reiman wins the AMA Grand National Championship for Harley-Davidson. Reiman also scores the first of back-to-back Daytona 200 victories on a 750 KR.a


AERMACCHI HARLEY- DAVIDSON LOGO

1960
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1960- The Harley-Davidson Topper motor scooter is introduced and is the only scooter platform the Motor Company ever produced

Harley-Davidson purchases a half interest in Aeronatica-Macchi, forming Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, a European division that will produce small, single cylinder motorcycles.




FXS LOW RIDER

1977
WI
United States
Milwaukee


1977- Harley-Davidson introduces the FXS Low Rider® to the public in Daytona Beach. With drag style handlebars, unique engine and paint treatments, the Low Rider lives up to its name by placing the rider in a lowered seating position than was typical. Later in the same year, Willie G. Davidson's dynamic version of the Sportster, the Cafe Racer, is released

YORK PA

1973
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1973- Motorcycle production is upgraded when all assembly operations are moved to a modern 400,000 square foot plant in York, PA. All other production operations remain in Milwaukee and Tomahawk. The Capitol Drive plant in Milwaukee begins production of engines



FX SUPER GLIDE

1971
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1971- In response to the customizing craze, Harley-Davidson introduces the FX 1200 Super Glide®, which combined a sporty front end (similar to that of the XL series) with the frame and powertrain of the FL series. A new class of motorcycle, the cruiser, is born.


XR- 750

1970
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1970- Harley-Davidson merges with the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF), a longtime producer of leisure products


In consideration of new AMA rules for Class C racing, a new Sportster®-based motorcycle, the XR-750 racer is introduced.


On the Bonneville salt flats near Wendover, Utah, racer Cal Rayborn breaks the world record for land speed set by a motorcycle. The vehicle is a sixteen foot streamliner powered by a single Sportster engine, and averages just over 265 mph.



HERITAGE SOFTAIL

1986
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1986- In another bold styling and engineering move, Harley-Davidson releases the Heritage Softail®.

The Motor Company is listed on the American Stock Exchange, the first time Harley-Davidson is publicly traded since 1969, the year of the AMF merger.


The Sportster® motorcycle line receives the Evolution V-twin engine.


To diversify its holdings, Harley-Davidson purchases Holiday Rambler Corporation, producer of quality motor homes.

HARLEY OWNERS GROUP

1983
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1983- Harley-Davidson successfully petitions the International Trade Commission (ITC) for tariff relief, which is granted April 1, 1983


One of Harley-Davidson's most unique endeavors begins: Harley Owners Group®. Fondly referred to as H.O.G.®, the Group immediately becomes the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club in the world. Within six years, H.O.G. membership soars to more than 90,000. By the year 2000, it exceeds 500,000 members.


THE HARLEY- DAVIDSON BUYBACK

1981
86 Trinity Place
10006
NY
United States
NYSE Amex

1981- On February 26, thirteen Harley-Davidson senior executives sign a letter of intent to purchase Harley-Davidson Motor Company from AMF. By mid-June, the buyback is official, and the phrase "The Eagle Soars Alone" becomes a rallying cry.


Scott Parker begins racing for team Harley-Davidson on the AMA dirt track circuit. He will 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


FLT TOUR GLIDE

1980
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1980- Harley-Davidson debuts the FLT with its vibration dampening, rubber-isolated drive train and unique trailing front fork. The FLT also debuts an engine and five-speed transmission that are hard bolted together.

In honor of the historic Sturgis motorcycle rally, Harley-Davidson releases the FXB Sturgis model, employing belt drive, black chrome appointments and 80 cubic inch engine.



PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT CENTRE

1997
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1997- A new 217,000 sq. ft. Product Development Center opens next to the Capitol Drive plant in Milwaukee. The building is dedicated to Willie G. Davidson.


Powertrain Operations at Capitol Drive expanded its capacity by moving FL engine and transmission production to a newly purchased plant located in Menomonee Falls. XL engines and transmissions, as well as Genuine Parts Manufacturing, remain at Capitol Drive.


Harley-Davidson begins the "Buy Back Program," for the XLH 883 Sportster, which offers full trade-in value within two years on either a model FL or FX.


A new 330,000 sq. ft. plant in Kansas City produces its first Sportster.



VR1000

1994
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1994- Harley-Davidson enters Superbike racing with the introduction of the VR1000, a dual overhead cam, liquid-cooled motorcycle.


90th ANNIVERSARY

1993
WI
United States
Milwaukee

1993- Harley-Davidson celebrates its 90th Anniversary in Milwaukee with a Family Reunion. An estimated 100,000 people ride in a parade of motorcycles.



85th ANNIVERSARY

1988
WI
United States
Milwaukee


1988- The springer front end returns in the FXSTS Springer® Softail®. Also introduced is the Sportster 1200. Harley-Davidson celebrates its 85th Anniversary with a Homecoming in Milwaukee, attended by over 60,000 enthusiasts


The Harley-Davidson Traveling Museum hits the road, displaying memorabilia, classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the rich history of the Harley-Davidson rider.


Scott Parker wins the first of his nine AMA Grand National Championships. His total domination is unprecedented in the history of the sport of dirt track motorcycle racing.

FLSTF FAT BOY

1990
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1990- Upon its introduction, the FLSTF Fat Boy® almost instantaneously becomes a modern legend of motorcycle desig



FXDB/I STREET BOB

2006
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2006- The first of the 6-speed transmissions are made available on 2006 model year Dyna™ motorcycles. Also joining the Dyna™ family is the FXDB/I Street Bob™.


The 2006 model year includes the all-new FLHX/I Street Glide™, a lower profile touring motorcycle.


Harley-Davidson unveils plans for an all-new museum in Milwaukee, scheduled for opening in 2008.


Harley-Davidson appoints Beijing Feng Huo Lun (FHL) as the first authorized Harley-Davidson dealer on mainland China.


BUELL FIREBOLT

2002
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2002- The all-new Buell® Firebolt® storms onto the scene


The Open Road Tour debuts in Atlanta, GA, in July to celebrate the upcoming Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary.

XL883L SPORTSTER 883 LOW

2005
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2005- The XL 883L Sportster® 883 Low brings a lowered seating position to the Sportster® line.


The FLSTNI Softail® Deluxe adds a sleek look to the Softail® line and a paint scheme reminiscent of 1939 Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Also, the FLSTSC/I Softail® Springer® Classic revives looks from the late 1940s.


Andrew Hines wins his second straight NHRA Powerade Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship. G.T. Tonglet, also of the Screamin' Eagle®/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team, places second.


Harley-Davidson and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) mark the 25th anniversary of their partnership.


FUEL INJECTED TWIN CAM 88

2000
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2000- The FXSTD Softail® Deuce™ is introduced to the immediate delight of riders and the motorcycle media.


The 2000 model year softail models are outfitted with the "Twin cam 88B" engine, a counter balanced version of the Twin cam 88.


Fuel injection is unveiled as a feature new to the Softail line of motorcycles for the 2001 model year.


Buell introduces the Blast®, a single-cylinder motorcycle, for the 2000 model year. The Blast receives excellent reviews. It's introduced in tandem with the Rider's Edge® Academy of Motorcycling, a beginner's rider course available through Harley-Davidson and Buell dealerships.


THE SPORTSTER FORTY-EIGHT

2011
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The XL Forty-Eight is introduced, recalling the raw, custom Sportsters of earlier days.


2011- Harley-Davidson streamlines personal customization with H-D1™, allowing riders to receive a factory-built custom motorcycle.