The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

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The history of Harley Davidson 1900-1909

The history of Harley Davidson 1910-1919

The history of Harley Davidson 1920-1929

 

A difficult context

The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

 

In 1929 there is a crack in the New York Stock Exchange, banks go bankrupt, companies and businesses are paralyzed, production and sales stop. Like a lethal virus, the paralysis spreads to all sectors of the US economy, agriculture, industry, construction, all primary sectors. Personal income, taxes, prices and business profits fall.

Unemployment skyrockets to 24%, all economic strata suffer, some more than others of course, the most affected as always were the most unprotected sectors, salaried and mainly small agricultural producers who saw their income fall by up to 70%. Indebted, without buyers for their production, they lost their properties.

La historia de Harley Davidson 1930-1939

Queu of unemployed in the United States | The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

The crisis is aggravated by repeated sandstorms that strike the western part of the country for ten years, forcing more than 3 million peasants to emigrate.

The giant and undisputed leader of the world economy weakens. This causes that the world-wide commerce collapses 60%, the European countries, still fragile, in the heat of process of recovery of the destruction of the war and dependents of the United States, fall one by one in effect domino, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, nobody evades the crisis and the misery that it brings.

Unemployment skyrockets to 24%, all economic strata suffer, some more than others of course, the most affected as always were the most unprotected sectors, salaried and mainly small agricultural producers who saw their income fall by up to 70%. Indebted, without buyers for their production, they lost their properties.

 

The birth of the mythical Knucklehead

The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

 

With this reality, the expenses that families first cut are those related to leisure. Sales of motorcycles plummet. Bill Harley and the Davidson brothers seriously consider closing the company, the numbers are not encouraging and the future looks even blacker.

Indian continues to produce but at 5% of its capacity, meanwhile, they continue investing in research and development and they do not stop launching new models to the market. Throughout these ten years, they change shareholders three times.

Excelsior abandons the production of motorcycles and focuses on its bicycle division, this makes Joe Petrali, champion between 1932 and 1935 of Fat track and Mountain Climb, move to MoCo.

Finally, Harley Davidson decides to continue his career in the motor world and presents the Knucklehead. Named for the motor rocker cover that resembled the knuckles of a closed fist. An engine that continues to produce until 1947, which was later replaced by the Panhead and that has become a myth of the brand and is today the most sought by fans of Harley Davidson.

Meanwhile, a drastic cut in costs is being made in order to successfully face this crisis period.

Since 1932, it was decided to use art deco motifs to paint the motorcycles and leave out the classic olive green, it is necessary since its main Indian competitor, begins to coat their bikes of bright colors that call more attention and gives them a touch of modernity.

Since 1933 and the launch of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, the economy is beginning to recover and thanks to the distribution network generated abroad, Harley Davidson remains afloat, in addition, sells the Japanese license Sankyo F-head that allows them to get a good amount of money to oxygenate their weakened finances.

La historia de Harley Davidson 1930-1939

EL Knucklehead | The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

The knucklehead is a huge success, comes at the right time, the country returns to consume, everything on the bike is new, comes to the market available in two displacements 988 cc and 1200 cc, it is also several compression ratios, seat and middle seat , new meter in the tank, OHV distribution (Over head Valves), double cradle chassis, closed circuit lubrication, rod-driven thrusters, four-speed gearbox and a long etc.

Customers and dealers are eager to enjoy it, Harley Davidson already has a very competitive product to respond to the Indian Big Chief of its main competitor.

The knucklehead is a huge success, comes at the right time, the country returns to consume, everything on the bike is new, comes to the market available in two displacements 988 cc and 1200 cc, it is also several compression ratios, seat and middle seat , new meter in the tank, OHV distribution (Over head Valves), double cradle chassis, closed circuit lubrication, rod-driven thrusters, four-speed gearbox and a long etc.

 

Significates events of the decade:

The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

 

  • 1930: Modernization of the Springer fork, which will be dispensed with in 1948 and will return in 1988.
  • 1932: The Servicar tricycle, a crisis vehicle that replaces the utilitarian sidecars, goes on sale until 1972. The 45 D and DL are improved and renamed R and RL.
  • 1933: The deposits are painted with the image of the white-headed eagle, symbol of the USA.
  • 1934: Some models forgo chromium for the sake of black paint.
  • 1936: The Knucklehead goes on sale.
     
    La historia de Harley Davidson 1930-1939

    EL Knucklehead | The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

  • 1937: The 45 is modernized and becomes WL. A group of California pilots and Hollywood specialists founded the 13 Rebels Moto Club. First Bike Week of Daytona.
  • 1938: First local race in Sturgis.
  • 1939: With the invasion of Poland in doors, the US Army tests the WLA, military version of the WL.

 

Source: “Harleymanía” de Jean Savary

Klauer & Iannuzzi | 2018 | The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939