Think you know everything there is to know about Harley-Davidson? So do a lot of diehard riders, but there are more ins and outs to this highly coveted manufacturer than most people realize. See if you know these cool facts about Harley.
Harley-Davidson Survived the Great Depression
In 1929, businesses and individuals alike were rocked by an incredibly challenging depression. Most people found themselves out of work as companies closed their doors permanently. That includes motorcycle companies, whose buyers considered bikes a luxury item.
Despite a dismal economic world, Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle Company alone managed to survive. Harley was able to do so by continuing to create industrial engines, no matter how little revenue they provided, just to keep themselves from going under.
The First Harley Was Built in a Shed
Most enormous companies started out with the humblest of beginnings, and the same is true for Harley. The first motorcycle they every created was crafted in a ten by fifteen-foot shed with “Harley-Davidson” etched into the door.
The original model features an incredibly small motor, and its body was little more than a bicycle. It was never released to the public, but their first fully functioning prototype would be released in 1903. By 1905, a few alterations would help get the business off the ground with sales. Imagine the legal complications of explaining the safety specs of this bike to a motorcycle accident attorney in Orange County.
Harley is Global
While Harley-Davidson is an all-American brand, they do sell their motorcycles around the world. They have four locations in the U.S. and manufacturing plants in Brazil, Thailand, and India. There’s also a metallurgy plant in Australia. Of course, anyone in any country can buy their bikes.
100 Years of Police Bikes
Harley-Davidson knows all about managing customer value. Shortly after Harley-Davidson took off, police departments took notice and started making requests. By 1907, Harley was officially pumping out motorcycles for law enforcement agencies. Since bikes were more reliable, maneuverable, and faster than cars of the time, it only made sense.
A sole survivor of this time period once belonged to the Los Angeles Police Department, recently popping in at an auction fully restores in its original glory. Harley-Davidson still creates police choppers to this day.
Service in World War I
Motorcycles in the battlefield were quickly becoming the norm as World War I raged on. The British implemented the Triumph Model H, which was quickly overshadowed when America unveiled the Harley-Davidson in 1917.
Thousands of these bikes were sent to allied troops, while the U.S. implemented 15,000 for their soldiers. Going from an inventory of five to 15,000 in just under two decades solidified Harley’s place in the American and global market. Heading into World War II, the company would receive two Army-Navy E awards for their aid.
The Term HOG
Harleys are affectionately called hogs today for their beastly appearance and sound, despite once marketing their motorcycles as the quietest. The term comes from a group of farmers in the 1920s who raced Harleys. After a victory, they would parade their mascot pig around on the bikes.
Harley caught wind of this and embraced the term immediately. They even created the acronym H.O.G. for Harley Owners Group. While they couldn’t trademark the term, they did manage to change their NYSE title from HDI to HOG in 2016.