Victory Motorcycles 1998-2017: The Complete History of an American Original (Rider’s Library Review)
It is an unusual story well-told. It is, after all, something of a rarity to have a motorcycle brand emerge, rise to significance in the market and then be shut down all in the space of less than two decades.
Victory Motorcycles 1998-2017: The Complete History of an American Original tells the stunning story in great detail, which includes insights that are rarely known outside a company’s inner circles of top management.
For example, the details of how the engineering team developed the Victory V-twin engine design and worked out the decision on whether to build the engine in-house or have it built by a vendor are revealed.
Authors Michael Dapper and Lee Klancher follow the entire process from the original concept based on Victory’s design criteria set by Engineering Manager, Geoff Burgess in 1994, through the concept views of the engine by iconic Wisconsin industrial designer Brooks Stevens (see more about Stevens’ work here: https://ultimatemotorcycling.com/2017/06/01/what-do-hot-dogs-hydra-glides-and-willie-g-have-in-common/ ) to the globe-trotting search for a vendor by Burgess and Victory General Manager, Matt Parks.
The strength of the bike’s design from the outset was all but assured when Polaris was able to hire Burgess to lead the engineering team. He had motorcycle experience dating back to the 1970s having worked for Triumph, Norton and Bombardier’s Can-Am.
Once the V92C engine design criteria were worked out, the ultimate decision on build-vs-buy had to be made. Burgess and Parks researched a range of candidate companies; Lotus, Cosworth, Triumph, Ducati, Aprilia, and BMW. In the end, Polaris decided to build its own engine, giving it greater flexibility in design, technology and revision.
Dapper and Klancher reveal how the engine design evolved from the original concept of an air-cooled, 55 degree OHV, pushrod V-twin with a carburetor and without a counterbalancer to an air-oil cooled, fuel-injected, SOHC 50 degree twin with a counterbalancer.
The book takes the reader inside the development of the entire motorcycle from crankshaft inertia to fuel injection system tuning, chassis geometry, aesthetics and marketing. It carries the story forward from the earliest days to expansion of the product line through the 2000s and on to the completion of the final bike, a Vegas on January 10, 2017.
Despite having a superb team of professionals in virtually every aspect of Victory’s design, manufacturing, marketing and an extensive existing network for distribution and sales, Victory never made the inroads in the marketplace necessary to float the boat financially. In a for-profit manufacturing business, that, in the end, is all that counts.
Perhaps the most fascinating section of the book is the post-mortem that considers what was done right in creating the brand and its machines as well as what went wrong. Those analytics together with the fact that the Polaris-revived Indian brand also needed to survive while feeding from what was essentially the same trough of buyers were factors driving what had to be a very difficult decision.
Victory Motorcycles 1998-2017 The Complete History of an American Original is not only the essential book for a fan of the brand, or any motorcyclist with an appreciation of motorcycle history in general, it is exceptionally valuable reading for students of mechanical design, engineering, business administration and marketing.
- Title: Victory Motorcycles 1998-2017 The Complete History of an American Original
- Author: Michael Dapper and Lee Klancher
- Published: 2018 hard cover, 193 pages, black & white and color images.
- Publisher: Octane Press, www.octanepress.com
- ISBN 13: 978-1-937747-93-0 MSRP: U.S. & CAN $60.00 U.K. £48.00
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