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Posts Tagged ‘Willie G Davidson’

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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Sturgis Rally 2016 -- 76th

Sturgis Rally 2016 — 76th Year

Life is about choices. What to wear, what to eat, where to ride… And if you pondered each one in advance, trying to get it exactly right, you’d be left far behind and barely make it out of your house.

There’s something unique about touring by motorcycle whether it be spontaneous or calculated.  Some riders want a state-by-state listing of the best motorcycle roads with in-depth descriptions of each highway and ratings for the road’s scenery, surface quality, and a description of the best greasy food stops.  They obtain motorcycle maps, get motorcycle trip tips, reviews, suggestions, and more.  Others are just fine to point the front wheel in a direction with back roads, freeways and cornfields without ever looking at a map.

I’m having some personal restlessness and feeling a bit starved for rides this year. I was aiming for Laughlin, Sharkweek/Sturgis and Reno, but circumstances eliminated the first two.  I don’t need to worry about Reno, yet. Although, when I last looked, I see all the local hotels have already raised their rates for those dates.  Then I remind myself that the best rides I take are never the trips to any of the big rallies anyway.

And speaking of the heightened motorcycle adventure called Sturgis (August 6-13th) — prep is in full swing for the 76th Rally celebration which starts in a couple weeks.

Last year Harley-Davidson announced that the motor company is now the “official motorcycle” of the annual Black Hills Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota (through the year 2090!). And until November 2015, nobody had ever successfully trademarked the name of a city, but Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. is the official sponsor of the Sturgis Rally and it has trademarked “Sturgis,” “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,” “Sturgis Rally & Races,” “Take The Ride To Sturgis” and “Sturgis Bike Week.” The corporation has also trademarked the official Sturgis rally logotype or picture mark. The oldest of these trademarks dates to 1997 and the most recent was registered in 2011, just before their suit was filed.  The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc., won that trademark infringement case against Walmart.

But, I’ve moved off topic where every American should try at least once the Legendary Steak Tip Dinner at the Loud American Roadhouse (no colors policy strictly enforced).

Harley-Davidson dropped a press release to outline all their plans at the 76th Sturgis Rally (HERE).  A quick re-cap is:
  • The Harley-Davidson Rally Point is a their permanent year-round space in Sturgis that will feature events and live music daily from the stage.
  • Kick-off Party for the 76th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Friday, Aug. 5, at 3 p.m.
  • Rides:
    • Mayor’s Ride featuring Grand Marshal Ben Bostrom, Monday, Aug. 8.
    • Harley-Davidson Editor’s Choice Bike Show, Tuesday, Aug. 9- Registration 8 a.m./Awards 4 p.m.
    • First Ever Angel’s Ride, Friday, Aug. 12 – The number of women riders is on the rise.
    • Free Motorcycle Demo Rides on the 2016 line-up.  Staging for demo rides takes place in the parking lot behind the Community Center
  • The Project RUSHMORE Experience is a behind-the-scenes and hands-on look at H-D’s latest touring motorcycle technology
  • H-D Fit Shop and Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories area is new this year will have a “Quick Install” area for 30-minute or less installations of selected accessories for your motorcycle.
  • Better than a selfie stick!  Pro Bike photos taken of you/your bike to post on social media and an option to purchase the photo as a keepsake.
  • Hollywood Harley Bikes from the movies Captain America and Avengers will be on display including Steve Rogers and the hero bike from FX’s Sons of Anarchy TV show will be located on a red carpet area

In addition, there are many, many other “not-to-be-missed” activities around town, in the camp grounds and at various music venues.

Whether you are spontaneously twisting throttles to South Dakota or making a road trip that is highly calculated — Enjoy!

@HarleyDavidson social media is providing wall-to-wall coverage at #LiveYourLegend.  The official H-D Sturgis App, is at:  www.h-d.com/sturgis.

Photo courtesy of H-D.
All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Low Rider

XLCR Café Racer

The Low Rider model was first released back in 1971.

Harley-Davidson introduced the FXS Low Rider® to the public in Daytona Beach.  With drag style handlebars, unique engine and paint treatments, the Low Rider placed the rider in a lowered seating position than was typical.  Then later that year, Willie G. Davidson penned a version of the Sportster, called the XLCR Café Racer.  Pronounced “Excelsior” and wearing a small bikini fairing, relatively low handlebars, and blacked-out paint with whitewall tires, the XLCR was only produced for two years.

This was Harley-Davidson’s response to the growing cafe racer and sport bike trend among European and Japanese brands at the time.  It was largely ignored by buyers at launch, but 1977-1979 XLCR models have become somewhat coveted by Harley-Davidson collectors in recent years.

2014 Low Rider

2014 Low Rider

Harley-Davidson executed a redux and brought back a 2014 version of the Low Rider which the motor company promises contained “old school class and exciting new performance.”  It’s got the Harley Twin Cam 103 engine and features dual front disc brakes, a 2-into-1 exhaust, and traditional Harley styling.  The ergonomics of the new Low Rider have been enhanced to provide the most comfortable ride possible.

The SuperLow® 1200T is, as the T suggests, more of a touring machine. It runs the Evolution V-Twin engine — but weighs an advertised 118 pounds less than the company’s lightest Big Twin touring bike — and comes standard with a detachable windshield, locking saddlebags and Michelin® Scorcher™ 11T touring tires.  The machines got their official public unveiling at this year’s Daytona Bike Week festivities… a bit of déjà vu’ from 1977.

Photos courtesy of H-D.  XLCR Club (HERE).

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H-D FX Super Glide - Sparkling America

In the early 1970s, funding dollars were tight, so Willie G. Davidson and his design team mated the chassis of a larger touring bike with that of the lighter, more manageable front end of the Sportster.

The result was the 1971 introduction of the “Sparkling America”  motorcycle which featured red, white and blue paint and a unique “boat-tail” rear fender — all trademarks that say circa: “1970s”.

It was also around the same timeframe when Elvis and Priscilla Presley split up.  They drew up a property settlement agreement to outline what she would receive from the divorce.  The 12-page document shows that Elvis signed over ownership of three of his prized possessions – a 1971 Mercedes-Benz car, a 1969 Cadillac El Dorado and a 1971 Harley Davidson motorcycle along with $100,000 in cash.   The property settlement agreement, dated August 15, 1972, clearly indicates that Priscilla who had originally agreed to the cash settlement that was 7.5 times less than the amount that she finally received in the end (good lawyer!).

The original divorce papers, were sold last night by an unnamed private owner after having them for 20 years, at an auction in Texas for nearly $9,000.

Elvis Divorce Papers

I can’t help but wonder what happened to ’71 motorcycle?  Was it an original ‘71 FX?  I don’t know and there is very little information about the motorcycle or what happened to it.  I’ve been unable to find any public photo’s of Elvis with that model motorcycle.  If you have any information on its whereabouts I’d like to hear from you.

The original 1971 FXs were hard to find.  Many owners back in the day didn’t like the “boat-tail” and replaced it with a more traditional bobbed rear fender.   According to various reports Elvis owned at least three Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but was photographed on at least 10 different bikes.  His first was purchased in 1956, a week after turning 21 years old and just days after recording “Heartbreak Hotel” which launched him into superstardom.  That motorcycle was a ’56 KH and was sold to Harley-Davidson by Elvis’ friend, Fleming Horne in 1995 for an undisclosed amount, complete with documentation and is now part of the H-D museum collection.

In a bit of trivia…Elvis rode a number of Harley’s in various films.  From my vantage the more notable were “Roustabout” (1964), “Viva Las Vegas” (1964), “Clambake” (1967) and “Stay Away Joe” (1968).

Photo courtesy of H-D, and Dailymail

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Willie G. at Sturgis 2010

On any given Sunday, Willie G. Davidson, Harley-Davidson’s chief styling officer, rides his way out of West Juneau Avenue into the rolling hills near his home in Milwaukee, WI. A roadside coffee shop somewhere at the top serves as Mecca for the motorcycle enthusiast, and fertile ground for his design inspiration.

It’s a popular misconception that having an engineering background would be a big advantage designing motorcycles, but that’s not necessarily the case. In many ways, the requirements are quite different. The ability to get highly creative ideas down on paper fluidly is not something that can be easily taught and the rational approach of engineering may hamper more creative solutions at the early stages. It’s a lot easier to take an original sketch idea and seek to make it more practical than taking a mundane-but-feasible theme and try to inject some flair into it.

Given we’re about 5 months away from the 2012 new model launch, it’s likely that Willie G. and his team have placed the new design’s in the completion vault… where each aspect of the motorcycle has been so inexorably linked; its powertrain, aerodynamics, even its exhaust and sound system will all appear to not only speak the same language, but be having the same conversation… with the rider.

Paradise Pier at Disneyland

So, what does the unmistakable beanie-topped head of Willie G. do now?  I’m not talking Disneyland!

He prepped for the grueling days and workload as a judge at the EyesOn Design Awards.  A couple weeks ago Willie G. participated in a judging panel which included Chief Judges Jack Telnak, former Vice-President of Design for Ford and Tom Matano, Director of the Industrial Design program at Academy of Art University and former General Manager of Mazda Design.  It’s interesting that a hundred plus years after its birth, Harley-Davidson continues to hold the affection of academic leaders, motorcycle designers and renowned transportation design programs the world over.  Why?

But I’ve digressed.  The judges walked through the hall, considering their choices and then the EyesOn Design Award for Best Concept Vehicle, was awarded to the Porsche 918 RSR .

I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, but coincidently Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, son of Ferdinand ‘Ferry’ Anton Ernst Porsche, celebrated his 75th birthday during the EyesOn event AND it’s uncanny that Ferdinand who also founded the Porsche Design Studio in Stuttgart which collaborated with Harley-Davidson on the successful V-Rod watched Willie G. present to his company the award.

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time_andy_wong_apThis news was unexpected.

Harley-Davidson today announced a major change in the company’s leadership. James Ziemer who previously announced his retirement called a hasty press conference and stated that ex-CEO of General Motors, Rick Wagoner was tapped to run the company and would start later today.

Wagoner, an economics major by training, is best known for his finesse at communicating technology’s benefits and hip-ness — without ever in his career resorting to blue jeans and a black t-shirt.

“It’s just time, to bring my Hybrid Corvette skills and work to Harley” said Wagoner, speaking with Scooter News via satellite phone from the H-D executive jet late last night.  He was en-route from meetings at Harley-Davidson’s double top-secret Bahamas field sales office. He went on to say, “It’s a multi-thousand mile commute on the H-D shuttle, and generally it leaves me only a few minutes for meetings-before a cocktail and the return journey.”

Also disclosed was a 72-member group of senior Harley leaders, chartered back in 2001, and met weekly on corporate environmental responsibility has finally determined their newest Marketing facility will be on Uranus.   Executives evangilized how they would now leverage that planet’s natural atmosphere of hydrogen, helium, and methane. Releasing the build-up of H-D Marketing gases from the new facility–which would be environmentally challenging on Earth–is in fact enriching Uranus’ delicate ecosystem. Ziemer said he and Wagoner recently visited the U2 facility, and said:

“it was a sheer delight to observe that planet’s pale blue liquid methane sunset, richer and more subtly hued, thanks to marketings output.”

In other news, Chief Talent Officer, Willie G. described a new range of products designed specifically for the needs of the aging Boomer population, all to be sold under the ReVive” Dark Custom brand.  Spurred on by the wild success of their new splash resistant underpant clothing product line, Harley will launch a range of goods and services aimed at the estimated one billion global retirees approaching the age of 80.  Details of Harley’s plans were sketchy and much of the “ReVive” Dark Custom program is shrouded in secrecy. The high-security “ReVive” facility stands behind 20 foot walls and a metal gate near the Rio Grande river in El Paso, TX. Observers have noted that Harley recently applied for patents on the brand “Irontanium 883”, and products are apparently being tested on retired employees living at the Individual Center for Retired Aging People (iCRAP). Harley feels the “Irontanium 883” will restore youthful looks and improve body functionality for those too old to chew their own food!

Lastly, Susan Henderson, VP of Communications updated the corporate blog with:

“I’m angry, disenchanted, exasperated and…buoyant”…  She went on to say:  “I know it’s been a few years since I’ve updated the blog, but I’m still sifting through the millions of responses I received the last time I posted. And I’m still “cheddared off” by the whole discussion. By the way, cheddar cheese was invented by the British in the village of Cheddar in the 1100’s. Just another one of the many reasons the Brits are the greatest motorcycle designers and should still be ruling the world. But I digress.  I think there are many good reasons we didn’t make it into the Fortune “Three Best Companies to Work For” list for 2009, after being there the last 10 years running.  I know, I know there are only five motorcycle companies remaining in the world, but the competition has become increasingly tough and there are some questionable tactics being employed by our competitors.”

While the origin of April Fools’ celebrations is disputed; it is believed that the April fools were people who continued to celebrate the new year on April 1, the ancient start to the new year and the beginning of spring.  

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Photo courtesy of Time/Andy Wong (AP).

All Rights Reserved (c) Northwest Harley Blog

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