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Posts Tagged ‘Harley-Davidson Museum’

Harley-Davidson V-4 NOVA Model

It’s not a discovery that ranks up there with the Egyptian tombs, but there are plenty of ‘skeletons in the closet’ about Harley-Davidson products that never made it to production.

One such item from the motor company was the NOVA Project which dates back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

The company made a decision to start a program for a new family of modular engines built with two, four or six cylinders, and in displacements ranging from 500 to 1500cc.  Design and development of the engine was in collaboration with Porsche in Germany.

Sound familiar?

This was “revolutionary” stuff back in the day when AMF owned Harley-Davidson and AMF Corporate initially supported the Nova Project with $10 million.  Keep in mind that in June of 1981, AMA Hall of Famer Vaughn L. Beals Jr. and other Harley-Davidson executives (including Willie G. Davidson), were in the middle of executing an $81.5 million leveraged buyout of the company so, AMF protested at the additional millions that would have been required to make the motorcycle a reality.  Harley-Davidson was unwilling to explore other alternatives and officially shelved the project in 1983.

Harley-Davidson V-4 NOVA Engine

The only known NOVA Project motorcycle was a “test mule” and it’s unclear how the final version might have looked or been re-styled for a product launch.  However, the prototype reveals a lot.

The engine was an 800cc water-cooled V-Four, with chain-driven dual overhead cams and wet-sump oiling.  Fuel was delivered by Bosch Jetronic fuel injection.  The horizontally split crankcases were made provisionally for a balancer shaft, though one may or may not have been fitted to the prototype.  The deep finned cylinders and heads revealed the fact of liquid cooling, as did the apparent lack of a radiator.  The radiator was, in fact, located above the engine shrouded by a false gas tank that would duct air across it.  The real gas tank was located beneath the seat. The fuel filler cap was mounted on the right side of the rear fender.

As previously mentioned, Vaughn Beals Jr. was chairman and CEO after the buy-back, and one of the company’s exec’s who actually rode an operational prototype of the Nova motorcycle.  Wayne Vaughn was one of the engineers that worked on NOVA under Mike Hillman. The motor company had completed the first phase engine development, and tooled production crankcases.  It’s estimated that Harley-Davidson invested between $10 million and $15 million on the entire project including the expensive tooling necessary to manufacture the NOVA before shelving it in favor of redesigning the company’s traditional V-twin engine.

Harley-Davidson V-4 NOVA Model Instrument Cluster

Though NOVA never went into production, the program clearly “paid it forward” on future motorcycles and designs.  For example, the fairing that was designed and wind tested for the NOVA made it into production the first time and was used on the 1983 FXRT Sport Glide.  The NOVA Project was a precursor for the eventual development of the liquid-cooled VRSCA Revolution V-Rod engine.  And some elements of the NOVA liquid-cooled design and fuel injection were leveraged in the Twin Cam 88 and Twin Cam 96 to help meet ever tightening emission and noise standards.  It’s interesting to speculate about how NOVA may have changed the market dynamics of motorcycle industry at the time and the effects these Harley “projects” may have made on future motorcycles and their engines.

Harley-Davidson likely finds itself in a position today with the Milwaukee Eight in spite of—or perhaps because of—the no-go decisions and the rejections it’s made in it’s NOVA engineering past.

Photos take by author at and courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley's line Lake front road

Harley’s line Veterans Park

Many of you know riding is all about the camaraderie of the group.  For many it’s the main draw of having a motorcycle.  Fortunately we’ve got a great group of riders with years of experience and haven’t had the kind of chaos that can be associated with large group-riding.

That’s important because navigating around Milwaukee is like being a pro-snowboarder on Black Diamond bumps that go up, and those concrete cracks that go down and then being shot out of a half-pipe to change directions in mid-air.  I’ve never, ever seen Interstate, streets or roads so bad.  They are horrible!

The 110th post card photo

The 110th post card photo op

I ask folks about the roads and they would claim “allocations for street repair have gone up every year.”  My question is where did all those funds go?  Harley-Davidson doesn’t need a test track.  They can just drive across town and based on the conditions of the road check to see what fell off, was worn out or destroyed!

But, I’ve digressed…

The only thing that could have drowned out the V-twin roar in Milwaukee was the music.  Wow, five years ago, 45 bands played the Summerfest grounds across two days.

Summerfest

At Summerfest for Kid Rock Concert

This year for the 110th, Harley-Davidson added an additional day plus 21 more bands.  The motor company also expanded the number of headliners. Instead of building a separate venue in Veterans Park, as it did in 2008 for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Foo Fighters, Harley opted for more headliner options, with Toby Keith on Thursday, Aerosmith on Friday and Kid Rock on Saturday.  Then H-D leveraged the Marcus Amphitheater for even more musical acts to play on five stages.

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

And they say classic rock is dead?!  Sure, not only are the children of the baby boomers pushing thirty, but there’s a whole new generation of kids who have never experienced free-form radio or sitting in front of the stereo listening to full length albums, and if you’re even in the slightest into music then Milwaukee was nirvana.

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

I captured a video of ‘Wille’ G., Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson, thanking all 110th Anniversary attendees for coming and they provided an introduction to the exceptional Kid Rock concert which also featured John Fogerty, but there was so much more.

There was the Doobie BrothersZZ TopDierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert.  There was Chance the Rapper and Springsteen-inspired punk group The Gaslight Anthem.  The “Sons of Anarchy” star Katey Sagal, performed with her band The Forest Rangers.

Group at the H-D Museum

The group at the H-D Museum

And many local area acts ranging from Celtic punk group Whiskey of the Damned to Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience. There was even a Mexican pop rock band Moderatto, which played at the Miller Lite stage.  There were acts including Shooter Jennings and North Mississippi Allstars who were booked for performances at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the bands such as Sick Puppies and Puddle of Mudd who played at the free street parties.

Bridge near H-D Museum

Bridge near H-D Museum

I’ve listed just a few and if that wasn’t enough competing with itself, the local Harley-Davidson dealers had bands playing all 3-days, including Aaron Lewis of Staind at the House of Harley-Davidson and Grand Funk Railroad at Hal’s Harley-Davidson.

Our group went on the factory tours and talked with H-D reps about Project Rushmore, the 2014 model year touring bikes that received significant refinements to shortcomings that us owners have lamented for years. H-D has encapsulating over 2,400 new part numbers, and customers were sourced for input on updates that included liquid-cooling, touchscreen GPS, infotainment, improved venting, aerodynamics and ergonomics.  The new touring motorcycles have a lot to offer and props to H-D for rolling out enhancements beyond the typical new paint schemes!

Pano of the H-D Museum

Pano of the H-D Museum

We also pre-purchased tickets to experience the museum which featured the first known Harley model in existence from 1903.  The museum has a truly fascinating collection of bikes, displays and some curious homage to Harley’s influence on pop culture and racing.

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

The history tour doesn’t gloss over the AMC troubled times as they were as much a part of the motor company’s legacy as were the high points.

Prior to departing the city we stopped at the Miller Brewery and enjoyed the tour, refreshments and talking to one of the workers who was working the weekend doing a network upgrade.  We got the inside scoop on the number of cases each employee has for a monthly allocation as well as where the employee pub is located for afterwork libations.  Sounded like a fun job!

The brewery tour.

The brewery tour

If you were unable to make the ride home to Milwaukee it’s difficult to realize the full scope of the celebration from a couple of blog posts or photos.  Our group was fortunate to have participated in the event and being there provides a unique perspective on how welcome and appreciative the residents of Milwaukee made us feel.  Sure I ranted a bit about the roads, but the highways were absolutely jam packed with Harley’s of all shapes and sizes pointed towards “home” in honor of a company for the most part that has excelled for 110 years.  Not many can say that about their history!  Regardless of where we live or where we ride, there were a few days in 2013 that bonded us all together with the heritage of a HOG.

Since 1988, Harley-Davidson started throwing these hometown birthday celebrations every 5-years.  The 110th has to be one for the record books in terms of attendees,  fewest accidents, number of musical acts and from my vantage the number of smiles on attendee faces.

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you Harley-Davidson for a great celebration and here’s to another 100+ years!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 1 (HERE) and Part 2 (HERE).

110th Anniversary Accident Stats:  The final numbers are not published yet, but I found these initial statistics encouraging.  Approximately 100,000 riders arrived in the Milwaukee metro area over a 6-day (Aug 29 – Sept 1) celebration timeframe.  There was an average of 4.9 motorcycle accidents per day.  There were 28 motorcyclists transported to the trauma center during that timeframe.  There were no reported deaths.  Wisconsin is a helmet-optional state.

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson XR-750

Harley-Davidson XR-750

During my visit to the Harley-Davidson Museum earlier this summer I spied a XR-750 hanging from the ceiling.  Turns out it’s a replica of the one that motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel (Robert Craig Knievel Jr.) used at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1973 when he attempted to jump a 50-car tower. 

Evel having a colorful life is a huge understatement.  Born in Butte, Montana he battled the IRS and Montana over allegedly unpaid taxes; survived abandonment by his parents, who left him with grandparents at 6 months old; endured jail, bankruptcy and divorce – he even ran over a Hells Angel – and survived to tell the story!  The official Knievel web site is HERE.

Evel Knievel Records

Evel Knievel Records

Evel passed away last year, but as a small tike, I can remember to this day the excitement of watching that X-2 Skycycle launch over the Snake River Canyon to be followed with disappointment of the parachute accidentally deploying and to land only a few feet from the water on the side of the canyon.

In an effort to break Evel’s record, last weekend Bubba Blackwell (the professional daredevil) set the record and jumped 52-cars in front of a crowd of more than 6,000 at the Deep South Speedway on his modified Harley-Davidson XR-750.  It was also his birthday.  Next up for Bubba has to be getting his life interpreted via rock opera format?  Then you’re golden.

Congrats Bubba in setting a new record and happy (belated) birthday!

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