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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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FL-TesttrackI’m talking about Florida and the Big Cypress Swamp.

To be more specific the address is: Harley-Davidson, 5301 34th Ave. S.E., Naples, FL., a 531-acre private test track north of Interstate 75/Alligator Alley.  The facility has a 2.1-mile straight away and a 1.1-mile ride-and-handling loop.

FL-Track-HeloPrior to 2002, the test track was owned and used by Ford Motor Company.  In October 2009, Harley-Davidson announced plans to consolidate its test operations in Florida and Talladega, AL. sites to the Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ.  There were approximately 8 employees and as many contract employees at the Florida facility at the time.

Earlier this month, the automaker Chrysler Group LLC announced they purchased the property for $7 million with plans to use the more than six miles of tracks to test a wide range of pre-production vehicles.

FL-Track-BldsHarley-Davidson Motor Co., agreed to lease back a portion of the track to test motorcycles and other specialty vehicles along with 10,200 square feet within two buildings on the property. That lease will last through at least June 30, 2019.

Construction of the track and its associated buildings began in 1985 and ended in 1992.  In 1998 the test track was the subject of a lot of scrutiny when nearby property owners and environmentalist became concerned about expansion that would harm the neighborhood.

Photos courtesy of Google and Collier International.

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Harley-Davidson has always held a certain fascination for the monied elite, from Wall Street bankers to Middle Eastern oil sheiks.  They all ride on the essence of the freedom brand.  Since the motor company jettisoned more employees over the holidays it’s now dabbling in a bit of capital resource-allocation and looking for Hollywood’s crucial role in revitalizing the companies pop culture standing. 

We live in a world of brands.  Think Zoo York t-shirts, or Jukijama sneakers.  It’s a thirst for fame. 

Savvy celebs are trying to fuse entertainment and social networking, closing the gap between performer and fan. Even hip-hop “musician’s” using their often limited musical footprint to expand into merch have far exceeded t-shirts and turned to alcohol concoctions to sell “cool”.  So, can we really blame Harley-Davison for flexing their marketing muscle and trying to close the gap with youth in order to survive?

The key is authenticity. 

Harley-Davidson has to choose associations that are credible and organic if they wish to succeed.  Why?  Because the essence of Harley-Davidson is freedom—outfitting confident individuals to assert their true independence.  All their products under the brand reflect this rock-solid individuality.  It’s like an Armani suit.  Sure, you could say it’s part of your wardrobe, but it’s more than just a business suit.  It’s a state of mind. 

In the latest example of cementing their mainstream outreach Harley-Davidson has joined up with Marvel on the official 2012 The Avengers movie promotion.  You can watch the official Avengers movie trailer (HERE).  Little information is available on exactly what the promotion is, but here is a sign-up page (HERE) to enter information and become one of the first fans to know about the promotion.

If you’re thinking this is déjà vu all over again.  You’re right!  Marvel previously partnered with Harley-Davidson on Captain America: The First Avenger movie.  Captain America rode a Harley-Davidson replica of the “Liberator”, a classic H-D motorcycle that was used by U.S. Service Men and Women during World War II.   For the Captain America promotion, Harley-Davidson launched an interactive site and ran a sweepstakes with a customized H-D motorcycle as one of the prizes. They even made Captain America posters available at dealers, and auctioned off a bike signed by the Hollywood elite in the movie to benefit Disabled American Veterans.

For The Avengers, maybe they’ll be riding a new CVO Road Glide?!  The teaser states “You could be immortalized in Harley-Davidson and Marvel’s, The Avengers history.”  Are we talking about funeral’s and a headstone?!

If so, maybe we need to lean into those $10,000 imported padded shoulders of that Armani suit because just like The Avenger it serves as a defensive role and deflects nearly all ill-infused assaults from all manner of scumbags, hangers on, wannabees and true movie biz powerhouses.

Photos courtesy of Marvel and H-D.

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Not the “Captain” you were thinking.

It’s called product placement and I’ve blogged about it previously HERE and HERE.  It’s all about socializing Harley-Davidson on the big screen.

Sure we know that Harley-Davison has used product placement in the past, but these days it’s up to the Davie Brown Entertainment Team to make sure it’s a core part of a marketing push into film/entertainment.  And as we’re told countless times each night on TV commercials… entertainment can sensationalize the excitement and thrill of riding a motorcycle to the point of moving people to the dealers to check it out, right?

Disregard that only 3% of the U.S. consumers own a motorcycle.  It’s the other 15-20 million individuals in the U.S. being targeted and the hope is to generate a desire to buy one. But, I’ve gotten way ahead of myself…

This bit all started at the outset of WWII, where the U.S. Government gave H-D an assignment.  Design a motorcycle that could withstand desert conditions. You see the Germans were already using a desert-ready BMW motorcycle in the North African campaign and we didn’t really have anything to respond.

Harley-Davidson’s response was the 1942 XA.  It had horizontally-opposed flat twin engine (750), a shaft final drive a hand operated clutch with foot-operated shifter and a “wet-sump” design circulated oil from the pan underneath the engine, protecting the oil from sand.  It also had heavy-cleated tires to provide traction against shifting terrain.  The contract was cancelled early due to war combat moving out of North Africa and only about a thousand XA’s were ever built.

It was also in about the same timeframe, during and around World War II that the Model WLA was produced to U.S. Army specifications.  Called the 45 solo type, due to its 45 cubic inches (740 cc) engine and single-rider design. The same engine, in a slightly lower state of tune, also powered the three-wheeled Servi-Car (the “G” family), leading to the “solo” distinction.  During World War II, Harley-Davidson produced and dispatched approximately 90,000 WLA motorcycles overseas to support the war effort. The motorcycle was affectionately known as the “Liberator” by U.S. Service Men and Women.

Private Robert J. Vance

Quick to recognize a product placement opportunity, H-D (via Davie Brown) worked with Marvel Studios to recreate five replica bikes which is tied in to the July 22nd release of Captain America: The First Avenger.  In addition, Harley Davidson has launched an interactive web site that showcases the hero’s vintage ride and offers fans a chance to win a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle.  Cool.

Lastly, the northwest has something loosely connected with this movie…Private Robert J. Vance, from Portland, Oregon, had his photo taken while riding a motorcycle as a messenger of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division in the fields of Normandy in late July, 1944 on a H-D WLA.

Photos courtesy of Marvel, H-D WLA Service Manual (large .pdf) and U.S. Army Signal Corps

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Mac (L) and Father (R)

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam war.

Occasionally I wander and this post has nothing about motorcycles.  However, it has everything to do with appreciating veterans.

You may recall that the U.S. entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. The southern city of Saigon – later renamed as Ho Chi Minh City – was surrendered on 30 April 1975 to Vietcong troops when several tanks smashed through the gates of what was then known as Independence Palace and the last of the Marines were evacuated from the embassy roof.

But I’ve gotten way ahead of myself.  The year was 1962 in the hot dry desert of White Sands Missile Range and the Hawk Missile Training Program at the Air Defense School in Fort Bliss, Texas…

The 6th Missile Battalion (HAWK), 71st Artillery was activated by General Order 17, dated 19 February 1962, Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Defense Center, Fort Bliss, Texas. The HAWK – from the Latin name Accipter (birds that are known as hawks) – were made by Ratheon, and was an all-weather, surface-to-air, medium-range/medium-altitude missile system.  All HAWK missile artillery battalions served under the 97th Artillery Group (Air Defense Artillery) — “Hoomau i Luna” (Always On Top).

Golden Dragon Voyage - 1965

It would be three years later in July 1965 that the Battalion received Alert Orders for overseas deployment to U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) South Vietnam. The alert order initiated a series of actions to qualify the crews and readied the equipment for deployment.  In less than a month, the Battalion had multiple successful missile exercises and by 15 August 1965 the equipment was ready for shipment.  The PRD (Personnel Readiness Date) was established as 1 September 1965 and all personnel were POR qualified. The Battalion’s personnel were alerted for movement from Fort Bliss, Texas to Oakland Army Terminal, Oakland, California.

The main body (including my father) of the 6th Battalion (HAWK), 71st Artillery departed Oakland Army terminal aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) on 11 September 1965.  My father mailed me the above card which I’ve saved as a reminder of that voyage.  And in a twist of irony the ship turned out to be the very same troop transport ship that he traveled to Asia when deployed to serve in the Korean War some twelve years earlier.  Go figure.  At any rate, on the card above (name intentionally blocked out) you’ll note that at departure my father wore a Specialist E-5 Insignia, indicating the rank of Specialist E-5, or Spec 5 as it was commonly called.  It was phased out after the Vietnam War and today, all E-5’s are Sergeants, but during the Vietnam War, Spec 5’s were sometimes squad leaders or in charge of technical groups.  Most E-5’s in a Hawk Battery were senior radar or missile technicians and they reported to an E-6 or above maintenance Sergeant.   Interestingly an E-5 was the highest rank a draftee could receive without re-enlisting.  The E-5 in charge reported directly to the Maintenance Warrant Officer and functioned as the Sergeant in their chain of command.

So, why were HAWK missiles in Vietnam? It turns out that in 1965 the U.S. significantly increased the scale of its air strike operations against North Vietnam, and in response the North Vietnamese were using Mig-17’s with a top speed of over 1300 MPH and could suddenly pop up on radar screens without much notice.  In addition they deployed Russian Il-28 bomber aircraft which had the potential for first strike.  The heightened air threat from North Vietnam and the lack of allied low altitude radar coverage in the region meant that if the enemy wanted to exploit this weakness it was estimated that the bases in South Vietnam and north-east Thailand would be open to decimating attacks in minutes.  As a result, the 6th Missile Battalion men were deployed in various locations across Vietnam to defend their assigned air bases, fuel and ammo dumps, cities, major troop concentrations areas and free world ports in the Republic of South Vietnam.

My father along with rest of the 71st Artillery debarked at Qui Nhon after 17 days aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) on 28 September 1965.  In November 1965, Battery C, 71st Artillery became the first fully operational HAWK unit in Vietnam.  In 1966 the battalion relocated to Cam Ranh Bay where it remained until departure.  During the first six-months my father served as an Engineer Equipment Technician and Supervisor, however, in the final six-months he was assigned to the 41st Signal Battalion as a M60 “Door Gunner” on a UH-1 “Slick” Huey.  The “Slick” version was the configuration used for carrying maximum troops and other than the M60’s was not fitted with external weapons to save on weight.  The unit received numerous Vietnam citations ranging from Defense; Counteroffensive; Tet Counteroffensive and Consolidation.  My father returned to Fort Bliss, Texas in September 1966 and retired some ten years later.

Many of you know that the polished black granite of the Vietnam War Memorial is engraved with 58,256 names of fallen soldiers.  It unfortunately includes my cousin “Mike” who was KIA on Saturday, 08 April 1967 along with seven other men in his squad from Co. F, 2nd Bn., 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.  The following excerpt is from PFC James Popp’s Navy Cross which explained the situation:

“Private First Class Popp’s squad was conducting a squad-size patrol against the Viet Cong forces in Quang Nam Province. While moving along a trail in search of the enemy, the squad was suddenly taken under a murderous volume of small-arms, hand grenade and 40 millimeter grenade fire. The heavy volume of fire rained in from three sides,…continuation HERE…or HERE”.

But, what about that ship you ask?

It turns out the Admiral W.S. Benson-class troop transport – USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) – was built at Bethlehem Steel in Alameda, California and its history dates back to WWII where Admiral W. L. Capps made several trans-Pacific voyages to the Far East with troops between November 23, 1944 and August 4, 1945.  Then from September 1945 to December 15, 1945, it made three trans-Atlantic voyages returning troops to and from Europe.  In the 1950 – 60’s, the ship had a diverse service record where it spent almost two decades carrying men and material to American installations throughout the Far East and the Pacific Ocean during the Korean and Vietnam War support.

The ship was placed out of service and struck from the Naval Register, 9 October 1969 and then transferred to the Maritime Administration for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet.  The ship was then reacquired and reinstated in the Naval Register on 1 November 1978 and was placed in service as a barracks hulk in Bremerton, WA., to serve as a barracks ship for the crews of ships undergoing major overhaul.  Later the ship was laid up in the NISMF Pearl Harbor, HI., and struck from the Naval Register on 25 October 1993.  In the ultimate irony, her final duty was a missile target North of the Hawaiian Islands during the RIMPAC 2000 EXERCISE where she sank on 16 June 2000, at location, in a depth of 2,730 fathoms.

Sure I’m proud of our family’s military service, but this post is more than that.  It’s about remembering the fallen of the Vietnam War.  Many came back to a non-welcome committee and deserve a major shout out.  There are Veteran Motorcycle Clubs and many independent riders across the U.S. who are dedicated to helping and honoring veterans.  If you are one thank you.  If not, then when you see a Vietnam Vet or any Vet for that matter, try and make a point to thank them for their service to our country.  Believe me they’ll appreciate hearing it!

Research for this post courtesy of: Army; BBC; 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery; GruntsMilitary.com; Global Security Org; General Orders and Code of Conduct; Military Personnel Records; Wikipedia; Navy; and family history.

Note: Photo of me above taken in El Paso, TX., circa; 1969 or ’70 and I’m in a ROTC uniform.

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Pearl Harbor

It was 68 years ago today – December 7, 1941 – that bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.  It was a stealthy attack that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, threaten internment of 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii and was a tipping point for the nation which jumped headlong into its 2nd major war of the century.  It was a day filled with sacrifices and heroism – one that should not be forgotten.

Just six years earlier Harley-Davidson founded the Japanese motorcycle industry.  In fact, from the H-D history page it states:

“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.”

Rikuo Motorcycle

Very little is known about the specifics and mindful of the results Harley-Davidson isn’t doing much talking.  It bears a similarity to the clandestine support the U.S. provided Muslim fighters during the 10-years the U.S.S.R. fought in Afghanistan.  Maybe that’s an overreach?   At any rate, the highly ironic consequence of Milwaukee’s quest for export markets in the 1920s resulted in helping Japan ready for World War II.   It was during the “economic slump” of the 1930s that the creation of a Japanese big twin occurred. It’s known that during the 1920s, Arthur Davidson had aggressively pursued new sales openings, including the establishment of the Harley-Davidson Sales Company of Japan.  It had a comprehensive network of dealers, agencies and spares. In fact, the Milwaukee motorcycle stood so high that Harley’s soon became Japan’s official police motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson exports to Japan all but ceased in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash and Great Depression as the global economic crisis crippled the yen. The story might have stopped there but for Alfred Childs, head of Harley’s Japanese operation, who asked: “Why not build Harleys there?”

The motor company was skeptical, but Childs’ persistence finally convince management and the first overseas factory began production at Shinagawa, near Tokyo.  Motorcycles built with tooling, plans, blueprints and expertise directly from Milwaukee — Harley-Davidson built a factory that was considered the most modern in the world. By 1935 Shinagawa was manufacturing complete motorcycles, mainly 74-inch V-series flathead twins.  In 1930, these had become the official motorcycle of the Japanese Imperial Army. Later, when the army became the effective civil power, it declined the chance to convert production to the new OHV Knucklehead, preferring the proven durability of the H-D side-valve twin. It was at this point that the Sankyo corporation forcibly took over control of the “H-D” factory and began selling Japanese Harleys under the Rikuo name. The “74” twin became the Rikuo Model 97.

As it became clear that Japan readied for World War II, Harley cut its losses and got out.  As military demand increased (especially after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937), Rikuo sub-licensed the product to Nihon Jidosha (“Japan Combustion Equipment Co.”). Its “Harleys” were variants of the model 97s, entitled Kuro Hagane (“Black Iron”).

Eerily, the factory had only a few more years to run. Nihon Jidosha was located in Hiroshima.

Research Sources:
Yokohama Kanagawa Prefecture photos of Japanese Harley History HERE.
Classic Bike article (1998) by Hugo Vanneck HERE.
Rikuo (Riku’O) Motor Web Site HERE.
H-D Museum Photos HERE.
FBI History 1930 – 1945 HERE.

Photo courtesy of Nippon News and National Archives.

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Yucca Desert Proving Grounds

Yucca Desert Proving Grounds

During WWII the U.S. Army established numerous airfields in Arizona for training pilots and aircrews of the USAAF fighters and bombers.  Just east of I-40 and about 25 miles south of Kingman, AZ is the Yucca Army Airfield.  In 1946 the property was declared surplus and in 1954 the Ford Motor Company acquired the facility and began using the runways for automobile testing.  Ford eventually built an extensive automotive proving ground and used the airfield known as the Arizona Proving Ground Airport.

In November 2007, Chrysler bought the facility (3,840-acre test site, which has 50 miles of test roads) for $34.9M from Ford Motor Company. Chrysler also made another $10M in upgrades, including a new 70-foot-high test grade along with other new test surfaces. The facility is open 24/7 and the Yucca site is the primary hot weather testing grounds. Chrysler tests about 2,000 vehicles a year at the site.  As a side bar, Toyota’s desert proving grounds is 128 miles away in Wickenburg, AZ and runway information is HERE.

Harley-Davidson recently closed an agreement with Chrysler to use the facility effective July 2009 as their desert proving grounds.  Harley will occupy several buildings and use the banked, high speed, five-mile, three-lane oval track as well as many of the twisted asphalt and checkerboard tile concrete roads.

I don’t know about you, but I can see a day in the future where the Laughlin River Run in coordination with the Route 66 Motor Sports and “Mother Road” Harley dealer in Kingman might include facility tours and/or sport track demo rides.  Let’s hope so!

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