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H-D Motorcycle History and a Quiz Too

Learn about Harley-Davidson Motorcycle History and Take a Harley-Davidson Quiz Too

The Beginnings of Harley-Davidson

Whole libraries could be built to house all the information that has been gathered regarding the history of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. For those wanting just a little bit of that history, read on and then take our Harley-Davidson quiz. This article is part of a series of motorcycle history lessons and quizzes.

Some may think they already know a lot about the Motor Company, its history and its machines. Perhaps you would like to take a history quiz on Harley-Davidson and skip the rest of this article. That's OK. You may want to come back later for more information.

Here's your chance to take the Harley-Davidson History Quiz now. (Currently, the quiz does not work on mobile devices.) However, I hope you will first want to read more about Harley-Davidson motorcycle history before you take the Harley-Davidson quiz.

The following is a short potpourri of the history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Use it to satisfy yourself that you know Harley-Davidson history now or as a stepping stone to learning more Harley-Davidson motorcycle history later on. There will be a quiz at the end.

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Harley-Davidson is a survivor. The Motor Company, as it is affectionately known, was founded in Milwaukee in 1903 by William Harley and the Davidson brothers, Arthur and Walter. Shortly thereafter, William Davidson joined the group. The first motorcycle that Harley sold was the so-called Silent Gray Fellow that had a single cylinder DeDion-Bouton engine. The Harley and Davidson families continued to be a part of the growing success of the company. Even today, the grandson of William Davidson, "Willie G." Davidson, is Vice President of Styling.

There have been numerous engines used by Harley-Davidson and each seems to have received a popular name to distinguish it from all the others. The first popular engine was the Flathead introduced in 1936 that was a side-valve engine. At the same time Harley introduced the Knucklehead, an overhead-valve design. The popular engine names are derived from the look of the top of the engine. The Panhead, introduced in 1948, was actually a new top end to the Knucklehead engine. The Shovelhead engine, introduced in 1966, was again a new top end to the previous Panhead design. Most recently, the Motor Company has produced the Evolution engine (Blockhead), the Twin Cam 88 and the Twin Cam 88B that is counterbalanced. The Twin Cam engines are being called the Fat Head engines.

Many Harley riders cringe when they talk about the AMF years. Harley was forced to merge with American Machine and Foundry (AMF) in 1969. AMF was best known as a manufacturer of bowling balls and sports equipment. These were the years that reliability of the H-D machine suffered most and Harleys "marked their territory" with oil spots. There were bright spots from the alliance though in that at least Harley-Davidson was able to stay afloat financially and grow. In 1981 the company was bought back by a group of H-D executives including Willie G. Davidson.

The Harley models have gone through a dizzying array of letter and number designations over the years. One almost needs a scorecard to figure out what someone means by FXRS, FLHTCUI, or FXSTSB. The ever popular Sportster model always begins with an X such as XLH. Sportsters were first built in 1957 making them the longest production run for a model currently being sold by H-D.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles are part and parcel of the American fabric. They have appeared in numerous movies. Who can forget the thrilling ride of Arnold Schwarzenegger on a Fat Boy in Terminator 2? What a ride! However, Marlon Brando in The Wild One did not ride a Harley. He was on a Triumph.

Now read page 2 that discusses how Harley began a campaign to take the shake out of its engines. Then take the Harley-Davidson Quiz.

=> Page 2: Taking the Shake Out and the H-D Quiz

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