The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

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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

The history of Harley Davidson 1930-1939

The history of Harley Davidson 1940-1949

 

Rock and Roll, Cold war and prosperity

The history of  Harley Davidson 1950-1959

 

The two winning superpowers of the Second World War break their alliance and make two major blocks, the Western-capitalist led by the United States and the Oriental-Communist led by the former USSR.

These blocks begin a dispute that originates a new war, the Cold War,
It starts an unprecedented arms race that originates a nuclear arsenal in both superpowers, that could destroy the entire planet with the push of a button.

La historia de Harley Davidson 1950-1959

Elvis Presley | The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

The United States begins to dance to the rhythm of rock and roll and Elvis Presley mobilizes thousands of fans across the country. Meanwhile, Senator McCarthy begins an extended process of statements, accusations, denunciations, interrogations and blacklists against people suspected of being communists, an authentic witch hunt.

The country begins to live a new process of economic growth and prosperity.

The Cadillacs are shining through the new Interstate Highways, a symbol of wealth of the emerging middle class, which consumes at a good pace and uses the new infrastructure that the government places at its disposal.

The bikes become easier to use vehicles, following the European guideline, they have controls on the feet, this allows that it is not necessary to let go of the handlebars to change gears, it is not necessary to regulate the advance and richness of fuel mixture

The bikes become easier to use vehicles, following the European guideline, they have controls on the feet, this allows that it is not necessary to let go of the handlebars to change gears, it is not necessary to regulate the advance and richness of fuel mixture

 

The British threat and the birth of Sportster.

The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

 

It Harley Davidson it seems that everything is going well, the brand new model Hydra Glide fits very well to the police and the Wishbone chassis like dealers.

But this welfare is not entirely real, the English motorcycles begin to invade the US market making 40% of the cake and with the majority of the young public.
The Milwakee brand reacts by launching the K model on the market, with a more modern and compact chassis, but the outdated V-twin engine with side valves can not beat the English vertical twins.

Sales plummet another 20% as the previous year.

La historia de Harley Davidson 1950-1959

Marlon Brando in The Wild One with a Triumph Thunderbird | The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

Harley Davidson reacts by getting a 40% tariff on imported motorcycles from the government, But the English brands avoid this law by buying old American brands or manufacturing in the country.

Even its historical competitor, Indian, already without reaction force, is finally bought by the AMC consortium (Velocette, Norton, Matchless, AJS…….) the iconic logo of the American Indian is put in English fuel tanks to end up disappearing in 1955.

The market is relentless, English fashion floods everything, young people and rockers prefer British motorcycles, authentic motorbikes of rebels, the Harleys in comparison are heavier vehicles and considered by young people like motorbikes of bourgeois and police.

The new wave comes to Hollywood, Marlon Brando, the hero of the movie The Wild one, riding a Triumph Thunderbird, and the bad guy, Lee Marvin, riding an old and dirty Harley, trimmed and modified, really does not look like a Harley. Steve McQueen and James Dean are also fans of the Triumph.

The few remaining faithful of the American bikes are quite radical, modify the vehicles almost completely, cut leaks, remove mudguards, modify the engines, lower the chassis and lengthen the handlebars, it is the start of the choppers of the custom wave.

In 1957, Harley Davidson has the brilliant idea of launching the Sportster on the market, which collects the essentials of the K model, but with a head valve stock that substantially modifies the 750 cm3 and allows competing and even exceeding the Triumph Thunderbird.

That same year the Hydra Glide becomes the Duo Glide, with a new frame with swingarm and rear suspension (with 20 years of delay compared to English motorcycles). It’s a very soft suspension for fans who do not like it too much.

In 1957, Harley Davidson has the brilliant idea of launching the Sportster on the market, which collects the essentials of the K model, but with a head valve stock that substantially modifies the 750 cm3 and allows competing and even exceeding the Triumph Thunderbird.

 

Significates events of the decade:

The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

 

  • 1950: Indian is purchased by Torque Engineering Co. That divides it into two companies. The historic rival of Harley Davidson no longer innovates and falls into decline.
  • 1951: The WL 45, born in 1929, is no longer manufactured. Tariff of 40% on imports, which affects 32 brands, especially English ones.
  • 1952: Model K, Harley’s response to English motorcycles. Fails, modern chassis and controls to the foot but the colors are outdated and the engine obsolete.
  • 1953: The movie ¡THE WILD ONE! That reconstructs the events of Hollister and reveals to the world the biker movement.

 

La historia de Harley Davidson 1950-1959

Harley Davidson Sportster 1957 | The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

  • 1954: The KR model wins everything in which it competes in Dirt Track and its road version wins the 200 miles of Daytona.
  • 1957: The Sportster is launched.
  • 1958: The generalization of the Duo Glide suspension in the Big Twin modifies its style. There is no need for a seat with springs. The passenger that until then was attached to the pilot can move backwards. What will never be adopted is the European flat two seater saddle.

 

Source: “Harleymanía” of Jean Savary

Klauer & Iannuzzi | 2018 | The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959