Dear Erik Buell and Jon Flickinger,
Right now it is difficult to find the words to speak that will accurately sum up my shock, anger and disgust at Harley-Davidson’s announcement this morning.
I had always hoped that Harley management would one day learn what I saw first hand – that while Harley may have a larger market share and a longer heritage, the future of building quality motorcycles efficiently and productively belonged to Buell.
In 1978, in Harley-Davidson’s Juneau Avenue motorcycle factory, roaring flames were licking at a staggering 40,000 arcane parchments, curling them into ash and cinders, the Motor Company’s motorcycling legacy literally going up in smoke. And all in the name of “modernization and streamlining.”
Transcribing the spare lines of classic hardtails into the modern era is a feat of engineering prestidigitation. Harley-Davidson began concealing rear suspension with its Softail design in 1984. Now, Motor Company designers have masterfully crafted—without the ruinous chiropractic implications a hardtail custom chopper hallucination in the new slammed and stretched Rocker.
Nothing recharges the rebel mojo like a chopper. Well, nothing that’s legal anyway. Straddling a snarling V-Twin with fists forward in the universal posture of insubordination is a bestial remedy for dispiriting times. Since the dawn of the custom era, maverick souls have forged chopped, slammed and raked sculptures around Harley-Davidson’s iconic engines. The equally iconic Willie G. melded radical custom styling with the kind of exhaustive R&D and factory warranty only possible from a large manufacturer such as the Motor Company by authoring the factory-custom genre.
Buell and Harley-Davidson will be celebrating anniversaries in 2008—105th for the Motor Company and Buell’s silver. Buell takes the stage first, with events from July 2-6, at the company’s main facility in East Troy, Wis., as well as Milwaukee’s Summerfest Grounds.
Non-conformity ain’t what it used to be. Harley-Davidson motorcycles spent decades holding the torch for rebel outlaws and angry young men, but the world—and the motorcycle universe—is a different place in 2007. Now favored by weekend warriors with disposable income, Harley’s evolving demographic has cast the Motor Company in a more mainstream light. At the same time, there is a migration of riders from pure cruisers to touring cruisers.
FXD135 35th Anniversary
As a well-scrubbed youth in the 1950s, Willie G. Davidson, grandson of Motor Company co-founder William A. Davidson, headed west from Wisconsin to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Out on the west coast, the sun was rising on the world of motorcycle customizing, with men like Ed Roth and Von Dutch on the crest of the new wave. The impact of the emergent custom scene would linger in Davidson’s sketchbook as he joined Harley-Davidson’s design department in 1963.