Rider’s Library | The Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Archive Collection

Rider’s Library | The Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Archive CollectionMotorcycle Library Retro Review

If you fear you may never get a chance to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., let alone plumb the depths of Harley’s long history in its 100,000+ document archives, then The Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Archive Collection is the book to have.

Photographer Randy Leffingwell and editor Darwin Holmstrom teamed up with the support of Harley-Davidson to create one of the most comprehensive volumes on Harley-Davidson in print.

With more than 600 contemporary color and period black and white images of the motorcycles, advertising art and other documents laid out over 407 pages, the soft-cover book includes some of the rarest examples Harley-Davidson motorcycles built since 1903.

The company began its archival preservation efforts in 1915, so the collection itself is amazingly complete – something the book reflects very well. The collection shown in the book includes a hybridized replica of the very first single-cylinder H-D model, of which only three were constructed in 1903. In all, by the time the book was published, there were about 460 vehicles in the collection.

Given their historical due are the F-heads, flat heads, knuckleheads, panheads, shovelheads, Evolution and Revolution series bikes, as well as the short-lived Harley-Davidson bicycles built from 1917 to 1923, the strikingly designed H-D snowmobiles of the 1970s, the enigmatic XLCR, experimental overhead cam 1100 V-twin of 1975 and the liquid-cooled 1981 Nova V-4 powered touring bike mock-up.

Competition bikes are not forgotten, either. For example, the 200 hp FL-powered drag bike built by H-D engineer Paul Wiers is featured, as is the factory drag bike, the V-Rod Destroyer, the 1995 XR-750 based hill-climber of Lou Gerencer, Jr., the VR-1000 road racer of 1994, the XR-750 flat track racer and more.

Some customs are included, as well, including replicas of the “Captain America” chopper Peter Fonda rode and the “Billy Bike,” chopper Dennis Hopper rode into history in the movie “Easy Rider,” among others.

Book Data:

  • Title: The Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archive Collection
  • Author: Randy Leffingwell, photography and content, Darwin Holmstrom, editing and content
  • Published: 2008
  • Publisher: Motorbooks, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, 400 1st Ave. N., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN, 55401
  • ISBN: 978-0-7603-4017-2

Note to readers: many of the books that we’ll feature here may be out of print and some may be difficult to find. That could be half the fun. The Internet should make the search relatively easy but ironically, none of the books currently scheduled for eventual retro-review for the Rider’s Library section were found with the help of the Internet. They all were found at book stores, used book stores, antique shops, motorcycle shops, yard sales and so on.