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Harley-Davidson Two-Cycle Engine

When you think about Harley-Davidson motorcycles, it’s most often about the V-Twin engines, the retro-styling and the inescapable sound.

Many forget that the motor company manufactured a lightweight two-stroke engine and runabout motorcycle for 15-years.

In 1947 as a 1948 model, if you purchased an entry level runabout motorcycle it came with a two-stroke 125 cc single piston motor.  There were two motorcycles engines built — the Model 125 or S-125 (eventually called the ST-125).  The Model 165 or ST-165 replaced the ST-125 in 1953 when the engine size was increased to 165 cc. The ST models were the motor companies idea of how America motorcycle riding should be accomplished after WWII.

The Hummer

So how did Harley-Davidson develop or get the 2-stroke design?

The name “DKW” comes from a two-stroke engine built in 1919 by the Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, in Saxony, Germany. It was a small engine, which Rasmussen called Das Kliene Wunder (the little marvel) that gave DWK its start in the motorcycle industry.

As WWII drew to a close in 1945, DKW’s factories had either been damaged or occupied by the Red Army. The Soviets took DKW plans, tools, and personnel back to Moscow where copies of the 125 were soon produced. The Soviet version of the 125 was first released in 1946 as the Moskva M1A and later as the K-125.

AMF Merger – 1969

As part of Germany’s war reparations, Harley-Davidson acquired the rights to the German DKW three-speed, two-stroke 125 cc Single.  Harley product shipments began in 1948 and thousands were manufactured in various incarnation until production ceased in 1966.

An updated model called the Hummer was added to Harley’s lineup in 1955, and subsequently all Harley single-cylinder two-strokes built between 1948 and 1966 incorrectly have come to be known as Hummers. The Hummer was named after Dean Hummer, a Harley-Davidson dealer in Omaha, Nebraska who led national Harley two-stroke sales.  The Hummer was very basic — it had magneto ignition and was sold without battery, electric horn, turn signals, or a brake light.

The Topper Scooter

In 1960, Harley-Davidson consolidated the Model 165 and Hummer lines into the Super-10, introduced the Topper scooter, and bought fifty percent of Aermacchi’s motorcycle division. Importation of Aermacchi’s 250 cc horizontal single began in 1961. The motorcycle had Harley-Davidson badges and was marketed as the Harley-Davidson Sprint. The engine of the Sprint was increased to 350 cc in 1969 and would remain that size until 1974, when the four-stroke Sprint was discontinued.

In 1962, Harley-Davidson built the Ranger, an off-road motorcycle without lights, made only for a year.  It had an extra-low final-drive ratio of 7.0:1 (12-tooth countershaft gear and 84-tooth rear sprocket) had neither a lighting system or front fender. Speculation was this motorcycle was built to consume the motor company supply of 165 cc engines, which would not be needed for any other models.

Aermacchi-built Harley-Davidson — The  Sprint

After the Pacer and Scat models were discontinued at the end of 1965, the Bobcat became the last of Harley-Davidson’s American-made two-stroke motorcycles. The Bobcat was the last of the 125-based Harley’s and manufactured only in the 1966 model year.  It was also the only 125-based Harley with a standard dual seat.

In 1969, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) bought Harley-Davidson, streamlined production, and slashed the workforce. The tactic resulted in a labor strike and lower-quality bikes.  Sales and quality declined, and the company nearly went bankrupt.

Harley-Davidson replaced their American-made lightweight two-stroke motorcycles with the Aermacchi-built two-stroke powered M-65, M-65S, and Rapido. The M-65 had a semi-step-through frame and tank. The M-65S was a M-65 with a larger tank that eliminated the step-through feature. The Rapido was a larger bike with a 125 cc engine. The Aermacchi-built Harley-Davidsons became entirely two-stroke powered when the 250 cc two-stroke SS-250 replaced the four-stroke 350 cc Sprint in 1974.

Harley-Davidson purchased full control of Aermacchi’s motorcycle production in 1974 and continued making two-stroke motorcycles there until 1978, when they sold the facility to Cagiva and ending it’s run of two-stroke engines.

Photos courtesy of and taken at Harley-Davidson Museum

For additional Harley-Davidson V-Twin Engine History see this page.

Sources:
Craig Hammitt LinkedIN Article
Wikipedia
Cycle World Article (1993) Article

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This is interesting timing because April is Alcohol Responsibility Month and the partnership announcement stated nothing about responsible drinking and riding!

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

The multi-year marketing partnership was announced this month and the two companies will honor the father of American old school tattooing, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins and unveil a series of twenty-two customized Harley-Davidson motorcycles designed by high profile artists and visionaries from around the U.S.

If you are unfamiliar with Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins story, after serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII, he dedicated his life honing the art of tattooing out of his shop on Hotel Street in Honolulu. His shop became the must-stop destination for sailors on their shore-leave.

In the 50’s and 60’s, Americans getting tattoos included the most aggressive elements of counterculture.  And it was a time of another level of commitment to inscribe your body with an image that permanently stated your beliefs, affiliation or anti-establishment attitude.  In the 70’s and early 80’s, getting aggressively tattooed and pierced became a mark of punk culture’s disdain for conformity and social mobility.  Today the range of things that people express with tattoos continues to widen.

Oregon Has 2nd Highest Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities From 2014-2015

But, I’m intrigued about this motorcycle and spiced rum marketing partnership which has some historical IRONY.  First, as previously mentioned the two companies chose April to kick-off the marketing partnership which  officially celebrates Alcohol Responsibility Month.  On the surface, that seems a bit tone deaf considering the increasing number of automobile and motorcycle accidents/deaths related to impaired driving.  In addition, is the fact that Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was out riding his Harley-Davidson in 1973 when he had the heart attack that took his life (after collapsing in a cold sweat, he got back on his bike and rode home).  So, when Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson director of marketing stated: “We are struck by the natural ties Sailor Jerry has to the motorcycle culture” it raises some awkwardness in my view and wonder how the two companies ever got mixed up in all this in the first place.

But I’ll stop reflecting and focus on the announcement.

According to the Milwaukee Biz Times — the two companies said the partnership would “come to life in bars, restaurants, Harley-Davidson dealerships and joint celebrations around the country” and consumers should expect a number of shared events leading up to Harley’s 115th anniversary in 2018.  “Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Harley-Davidson are all about freedom of expression and customization, whether that is expressed by a Norman Collins tattoo or a bike,” said Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson director of marketing.

The first event will be the unveiling of 22 customized motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson Museum on May 2. Harley’s Forty-Eight, Iron 833 and Roadster models were used for the project.

The artists will incorporate the flash art style of “Sailor Jerry” into their motorcycle design.  And members of the Harley-Davison styling team will also work on the motorcycles to inspire their designs.  The custom motorcycles will be on display at events at liquor retailers, Sailor Jerry’s Fleet Week New York celebrations, the Harley-Davidson Museum and more. The motorcycles will also be available to win in a sweepstakes that starts May 15.

Clearly the reckless spirit of motorcycle riding and alcohol don’t mix.  However, the collaboration with Harley-Davidson and Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum does have a natural feel about it and I’ll be curious to see some of the artwork and craftsmanship that comes from the partnership.

Photos courtesy of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Responsibility Org.

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2017 Indian Chieftain Elite

The marketing guru’s claim that Indian is authentic, was born with a dedication for pure performance and now are adding even more capability.

First a bit of history — the first Indian Motorcycle was sold to a retail customer back in 1902, but I’ll spare you a 100+ year recap of the motorcycle.  In modern day history, the Indian Motorcycle brand has been part of Polaris Industries since 2011, and began selling new motorcycles in 2014. The motorcycles are American made and built in Spirit Lake, Iowa.  The are distributed via 200 dealers across North America and nearly 450 dealers globally.  You might recall that the Victory Motorcycle brand, was recently shuttered by Polaris and ceased production.  To the dismay of many, many satisfied customers, it is now winding down operations after 15 years on the market leaving Indian as the only mass-produced American motorcycle brand other than Harley-Davidson.

2017 Indian Chieftain Limited

Jump ahead to April 2017 and we learn that Indian has announced expansion of its Chieftain model lineup with the addition of the Chieftain Limited and Chieftain Elite.  If you’re keeping track this brings the total number of 2017 Indian models to twelve.

It should be noted that the Chieftain was one of the first three bikes that Indian released in 2014, along with the Chief Classic and Chief Vintage.  Although model details differ, the bikes share a common platform — engine, transmission and chassis.

All three motorcycles come with Indian’s proprietary Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin engine, cast aluminum frame with integrated airbox, air-adjustable single rear shock and many other shared mechanical features.  As it turns out, the Chieftain was the modern-looking of the three, showcasing a unique fork-mounted hard fairing which housed its gauges and electronics, while the Chief motorcycles came with accessory windscreens.

2017 Indian Chieftain Dash

The newly announced Chieftain Limited imitates some details from the custom bagger scene.  It has a skinny 19-inch front wheel replacing the 16-inch front. The “old-school” valanced front fender has been chopped to follow the design line of the wheel and exposes the mag wheel and oversized dual front brake rotors. There is a sleeker seat design, and the headlight bezel is painted, not chromed, to match the Thunder Black paint scheme.  The remaining elements of the Chieftain Limited match the Chieftain feature-for-feature, including the 7-inch touchscreen-operated Ride Command Infotainment/Navigation system and hard saddlebags.

For the well-heeled enthusiasts familiar with and looking at a Harley-Davidson CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) motorcycle, you’ll appreciate the new Chieftain Elite. Let’s start with the 12-layer paint treatment which is built on a foundation of gold paint. Black accents are added with marble textures, and the bodywork is coated with layers of Fireglow Red Candy clear.  Yeah, it’s a looker with a stunning paintjob, thanks in part to that brilliant red candy color.  Some of you would drop a lot of money with a custom painter to achieve this look, but this one comes direct from the factory.  In addition, the Chieftain Elite gets billet floorboards, a flip windscreen, Pathfinder LED headlights and a 100-watt saddlebag audio system.

At first blush the Chieftain Elite is a factory custom that will hold its own against Harley-Davidson CVO’s.  As to price?  The new Chieftain Elite (starting at $31,499) and Chieftain Limited (starting at $24,499).  Both motorcycles are feature rich, available now and aggressively priced compared to Harley-Davidson.

With warmer weather and longer days on the way, the new Indian Chieftain’s might be the spark of inspiration you’ll need to explore a wide-open two-lane world.

Photos courtesy of Polaris/Indian Motorcycles.

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A Marketing Staff Meeting at H-D?

Reflection of a Marketing staff meeting at H-D?

I don’t know who the people in “People” are and candidly I don’t care.  I use to have some casual interest, but as I’ve aged, I realized that promoting faux stars is how an industry makes itself feel good about itself.

 
I grew up in a different time.  Yes, I’m getting older, put me down for it, as some readers do, but unlike some of you I’m wise and experienced. And when I grew up, hard work, a bit of skill and insight would not only get you a house in a reasonable neighborhood, but the ability to support your family and go on vacation. Now, most people can’t even pay their bills.

When you think of “aging boomers,” what comes to mind?  Accelerating retirements, workforce skill shortages, stagnant incomes, or runaway health care spending?  It’s unlikely you think about aging as an economic drag on Harley-Davidson, right?
H-D History

H-D History

Down the road from my place, in the rolling farmlands north of Sunset Highway (U.S. 26), is a greasy burger joint called Helvetia Tavern … a place I’ve been known to frequent a little more often than my doctor might recommend, but the burgers are oh so good!  If you stop there on any given summer weekend, you might see a dozen or more bikers parked in the lot, who are talking bikes and showing off their blacked-out or chrome-laden Harleys.  And nearly all of them are over the age of 45. Many are over 50.

This isn’t a coincidence.  Harley-Davidson is a brand whose sales depend disproportionately — almost exclusively, in fact — on middle-aged males. There have been business case studies written and stock investment analysis looking at the H-D demographics while espousing doom and gloom for the company.  The fact is that motor company has been working hard to try and capture a younger, more diverse set of riders, including women and are trying to appeal to the less experienced and younger riders who want cheaper alternatives.

Blackline Appeal

Blackline Appeal

I would submit that riders younger than 30 generally lack the time, interest or the bankroll to buy a Harley for touring. And by the time they get into their 50s or older, riding with the wind in the face loses it’s allure.  It’s the noise, it’s the traffic, it’s the increased dangers, it’s the joint pain of long rides, it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s raining, it’s… always something.

I know that many of you are riding into your late 60s, but my observation is you’re doing it less frequently and you’re not buying a new bike as often as you might have in your 40’s.  That means Harley has a growth problem with the boomer demographic that will not go away.  Even with a robust economy which we are not experiencing.

But, this is all well documented and debatably old news (“Living High on the Hog” (WSJ: February 5, 2007).

Looking at the challenges...

Looking at the H-D boomer challenges…

The challenge for Harley-Davidson, in my view, is how they will continue to tap into the enormous resource that older Americans can provide?  Boomers are generally healthier and more educated than prior generations.  They are the largest group starting new businesses both in Oregon and nationally.  And many economic projections about aging are misguided because they are based on outdated notions about retirement and what it means to grow older.

I can speak with some authority on this aging topic and it’s debatable whether Harley-Davidson can grow if boomers decide to quit riding in mass.  I wanted to offer up some observations:

  • Boomers are bombarded by media.  In an attention overload society it’s very hard for the message to get noticed because it’s noisy out there and hype is more prevalent than ever.
  • Boomers believe everything they’re into should last forever, but it doesn’t, just like them.
  • Have all the latest gadgets but barely know how to use them.
  • Boomers know the lyrics of “Hotel California.”
  • The boomers can’t square looking good with feeling bad. All the hogwash about 50 being the new 30 and 60 being the new 40 has convinced them that they’re breaking the laws of science, but the truth is people break down, everybody does.
  • Want to be anti TV, but talk about doing Netflix marathons.
  • Were into the Great Society, but now don’t want to pay taxes, especially if the benefits don’t flow to them.
  • Believed boil-able vegetable bags by the Green Giant were the future only to find out fresh and local was truly “in.”
  • Thought college was where you grew up and learned something as opposed to overpaying for an entry ticket to a job.
  • Still believe in government, and that their voice and vote counts.
  • Know that you work ever harder for less money.
  • Remember when companies were loyal.
  • Remember when you fixed stuff, now you just throw it out and buy a new one.
  • Want manufacturing to come back to the U.S., but still want very cheap electronics.
  • Boomers talk about their health. The pills they take, the conditions they have, it comes up in conversation, and it doesn’t bug them, it’s akin to discussing bands when they were younger.
  • Realize opportunity has slipped through their fingers. But are still dreamers nonetheless.
  • Baseball, motorcycles and big block automobiles are so twentieth century.  Baby boomers don’t stop talking about them, but their kids shrug their shoulders and lust for the latest mobile device.

Sure some of these observations are broad generalities and I’m painting a large group with a wide brush here, but I’m sure something resonated, right?   Once upon a time the baby boomers were the younger generation, champing at the bit to replace our parents. But now we’re fading off into the sunset, just like Letterman.  So long the era of the baby boomers. They were the largest segment of the population, who pushed and pulled and help change the world.

But, let’s face it, aging isn’t so much about the fact that we are getting older.  It’s about how the motor company is always going after the young buyer and often denigrates or discounts the older demographic.  They make an assumption that today’s Americans will behave in much the same way as prior cohorts did.  I don’t know about you, but boomers in general have reshaped every element of society as they’ve aged.  And, I would submit that Harley-Davidson is placing a disproportionate amount of focus and customer feedback on the youth lifestyle.  Sean Cummings, H-D senior vice president of global demand reinforced this by stating:  “We’re targeting the 55 million Generation X’ers to get them back out and riding.”  In doing so, it makes it harder for Harley to keep a finger on the pulse of the aging motorcyclist.

It might be someone else’s time (looking at you Millennials and GenX), but what is not fixed is how affluent boomers respond to Harley-Davidson motorcycle changes.  You have to give boomers motorcycles/features they can get excited about and you can’t be too catering to old age.  No one likes to admit they’re getting older and at the other end of the spectrum you’ll alienate the entire boomer group if you cater to youth.

Power, sex and youth have long been used to sell motorcycles, so anything that suggests older buyers might not be as virile and agile as they were could backfire and only serve to fulfill the “Silver Tsunami.”

Photos courtesy of marketoonist.com and H-D.
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Harley-Davidson Out-Performers

The 1970 Harley-Davidson Out-Performers

In the last few years Harley-Davidson has been known to confront stereotypes in their advertising.

Think “E Pluribus Unum” campaign which means “Out of many, one”, and it is promoting the uniqueness of the Harley-Davidson riders.  Or how about the “No Cages” campaign which puts “real” Harley riders in the spotlight, to reinforce the image of what you think about motorcycle riders.

If nothing else the motor company should get credit, it does have a highly developed capacity to adapt their business to change.  In the mid-70’s, A.M.F. went too far when it replaced the Harley name with its own.  Apparently unaware of the magnitude of that marketing decision.

What kept Harley going in those dark days, and what is driving it now, is the fact that the motorcycle it makes is not just a product, but rather the centerpiece of a lifestyle, “Hook”.

So on #TBT (Throwback Thursday) here is a 1970 advert about how Harley-Davidson was Out-performing!

Photo courtesy of H-D and Adbranch.com

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Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman

“I’ve got to run to keep from hidin’
And I’m bound to keep on ridin'”

The 1973 reference is when the Allman Brothers were the biggest band in the country.  Duane had died two years before, but the band carried on, ate a peach, and emerged with the “Brothers and Sisters” album that was so prevalent we were all ramblin’ men and women.

Remember 1973…  scratch that, you probably weren’t even alive back then. The preoccupation of young males was the stereo shop on Saturday afternoon followed by some tuning of your ride.  Back in the day music used to be a commitment.  You actually had to step out of the house and go to your local store to buy the vinyl album.  After paying with hard earned cash you returned home to the Marantz amplifier and Advent speakers, dropped the Dual turntable needle and digested it.

America has a bit of an outlaw culture.   Boomers understand this as the great American pastime was to get in a vehicle or put some wind in the face and set off across this great country of ours, where no one knew where you were going, or where you were, which is exactly how you liked it, because we don’t really want to be boxed in, we want to be free.

So, today I’m driving north on the spot where all commuters know traffic grinds to a halt, pushing the buttons on the satellite radio and I hear “Midnight Rider.”   It’s the track that got all the airplay from the “Laid Back” album.  And I’m instantly transported back to that high-school swagger in art class with this playing in the background.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ve become a member of the over-the-hill gang.

Probably, but I’m past the point of caring.

Do we really have any choice but to keep on keepin’ on?  We keep on ridin’ because the road really does go on forever.  Around every bend are not only unforeseen potholes, but a lot of pleasures.  And just like the hopeful grooves in those old vinyl favorites they are as powerful today as it was back in 1973.

Older?  Yes.  Over the hill?  Hardly.

We’re still ridin’ and groovin’.  We’ve got the wind in our face, the power of music in us and no one is going to catch us midnight riders!

Original version of “Midnight Rider
Alternative version of “MidnightRider” with Vince Gill, Gregg Allman and Zac Brown

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

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