Harley-Davidson is probably the most famous motorcycle manufacturer in the world and is based in the United States, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Even tough they consider 1903 as their starting year, they could just as well consider 1901, because it was then when Bill Harley completed the first blueprint of a Harley engine.
In 1903, the same Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson revealed their first motorized effort, calling it the first Harley motorcycle. It was a racing bike, built in a wood shed that had Harley-Davidson Motor Company scrawled on it. That same year, Arthur's brother - Walter Davidson - joined the company. In a very short time, the first Harley-Davidson dealer opens shop (1904) and manages to sell three Harley bikes.
In true American style, a Harley model wins a 15 mile race in Chicago in 1905 and the same year Harley Motor Company hires its first employee. A year later, they open up a bigger factory and hire five more people. The same year (1906), they produce the first motorcycle catalog in the world.
In 1909, Harley-Davidson introduces its first V-twin bike with an 1000cc engine which developed 7 horsepower and three years later the Bar & Shield logo is used for the first time and patented as a trademark. The construction of the main factory building and what was to become the six stories headquarters of Harley-Davidson starts in 1912, facility located on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. The same year, the company starts exports to Japan and the US dealer network extends to 200 branches. 1913 sees the founding of the Harley-Davidson racing department and one year later the company releases sidecars.
Harley was becoming very successful, its contract with the US military being one of the reasons. By the time 1917 came, one third of all Harley Davidson production went to the US army and the same year the sale of Harley-Davidson bicycles. After almost 20 years of existence, Harley Davidson becomes the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world as their models can be purchased in 67 countries worldwide by 1920. Eight later, in 1928, the public sees for the first time two cam engines on the JD series models, which can reach speeds up to 100 mph at the same time providing front wheel brakes for all their bikes.
An important moment in Harley history comes in 1929 when the 45 cubic inch V-twin engine (also known as flathead) is made available on the D model. In 1936, Harley-Davidson introduces the EL model which had a 61cc engine and was later nicknamed Knucklehead and used a year later (1937) by Joe Petrali to set a new land speed record of 136.183 mph. He did not use the stock version, he altered it a little bit in order to set the new speed record. The same year, the production of the first WL models begins.
In 1941 America joins World War II and Harley stops making civilian bikes and focuses all its efforts on vehicles for the military. During the second World War which ends in 1945 Harley made a lot of new models for the army, but the most successful army model was the WLA, Harley producing almost 90,000 units. In 1946 the 45ci flathead WR racing motorcycle is introduced and one year Jimmy Chann wins the first of three consecutive AMA Grand National Championships.
1953 means that Harley-Davidson celebrates its 50th anniversary and in 1957 they introduce the Sportster, one of the Harley legends. A little known fact, Harley-Davidson also produced scooter called Topper in 1960, but that was their first attempt in this regard. The same year, the company buys half on Aeronatica-Macchi, which will later produce single cylinder bikes. In 1961 the Sprint model is introduced and in 1962 Harley buys 60% of Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Company and starts making fiberglass components there.
The first FL available with electric start is Electra-Glide in 1965 and the Sportster model also receives an electric starter. In 1969 Harley-Davidson and American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF) merge and a few years later (1971) the FX 1200 Super Glide is introduced, a combination between the XL and the FL series. In the same year, the first Harley-Davidson snowmobile is produced and a year later the aluminium allow XR-750 is made available.
In 1977, Harley presents to the public the FXS Low Rider, an unique vehicle which had drag style handlebars and a very low position of the seat. FXEF Fat Bob is introduced in 1979, a bike nicknamed Fat because of its dual gas tanks and in 1980 another model called FXWG Wide Glide is released.
In 1982 it is the perfect time for a new model, the FXR/FXRS Super Glide II and in 1983 the Harley Owners Group is founded. This club is for all Harley-Davidson bikes owners around the world and grows extremely quick, reaching more than 90,000 members in just six years.
1984 is an important year in Harley history as they unveil a new engine, the 1340cc V Evolution present at that time on five of their models. This is the result of seven years of development, but one model equipped with this engine stands out, the Softail. Two years later, Softail is updated and dubbed Heritage Softail at the same time the company is listed on the American Stock Exchange. In 1987, Harley Davidson starts the Buy Back Program for the XLH 883 Sportster model. Through this program, those who owned such a model could trade it for two years for its full value, or they could choose a FL or FX model.
The FLSTF Fat Boy is introduced in 1990 and in 1991 the Dyna line of motorcycles makes it debut with the FXDB Dyna Glide Sturgis. In 1993, 90 years of Harley-Davidson history are celebrated by 100,000 people riding in a parade in Milwaukee. This thing is called the Family Reunion.
One year after their 90 years anniversary, in 1994, Harley enters Superbike racing as they introduce the VR100, but two years later (1996) a new Parts and Accessories Distribution Center is opened in Franklin, a place which will be used later on to store all inventory. The new facility has over 250,000 square feet. At Harley's 95 years anniversary (1998) even more bikers show up, some 140,000 and they ride the streets of Milwaukee as a tribute to the manufacturer. The same year, Harley-Davidson opens its first operations outside the US, in Manaus, Brazil.
The first bike presented in the new century (2000) is the FXSTD Softail Deuce and fuel injection is unveiled on the 2001 Softail line. In 2001 the VRSCA V-Rod is presented, a bike inspired by the VR-1000 motorcycle and one year later (2002) the Buell Firebolt makes its way onto the stage. In 2003, Harley celebrates 100 years of existence and the city of Milwaukee welcomes more than 250,000 people as the final stop of the Open Road Tour.
The latest model from Harley-Davidson is the FLHZ/I Street Glide, a lower profile touring motorcycle in 2006. In the same year Beijing Feng Huo Lun becomes the first authorized Harley dealer in China.