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EDITIONS
Monday, 15 June, 1998, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
The rocky road to success
A brief history of the Harley Davidson:

  • The Harley-Davidson legend began in 1903 in a garden shed in Milwaukee, Winsconsin.

  • School friends William S Harley, 20, and Arthur Davidson, 19, realised many a young man's dream of building a motorcycle.

  • Two bikes were produced in 1903 and another three the following year.

  • Janet Davidson, Arthur's aunt, painted on the red pinstriping and the red and black badge which remains the company emblem.

  • By 1907 production had reached 150.

  • HD suffered at the hands of the Model T Ford car (1921) but it 'hung on in there'.

  • In the 1980s Harley was in weak state: the end of family ownership, going public and a merger with American Machine and Foundry which was turning out bikes too quickly and of a lower quality.

  • It was no surprise then when Harley began to lose out to the zappy and cheap Japanese competitors.

  • In 1981 AMF put Harley up for sale. No one was interested.

  • At the eleventh hour, 13 Harley-Davidson managers bought the company.

  • In 1983, Harley successfully pushed for a 45% tariff on large imported motorcycles claiming that Japanese manufacturers were dumping them on the US market in large numbers.

  • The same year, Harley signed up 33, 00 Harley loyalists to spread the word that Harley was coming back.

  • Narrowly escaping bankruptcy in 1985, Harley began to recover.

    Since then, it's been a tale of boom and bust. Now it can't keep up with demand, with a two-year waiting list on some models.

  • International 95th Anniversary events include rallies in Austria and Milwaukee.

    Celebrity Harley riders

    Endorsement from the stars has undoubtedly played a big part in Harley's success. They include:

  • Elvis
  • Clark Gable
  • Marlon Brando
  • Peter Fonda
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Cher
  • Mickey Rourke
  • Sylester Stallone
  • Chris Eubanks
  • Elvis Costello
  • Jasper Conran
  • And many more.
  • Top Harley Davidson stories now:

    Links to more Harley Davidson stories are at the foot of the page.


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    Links to more Harley Davidson stories

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