The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

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The history of Harley Davidson 1900-1909

The history of Harley Davidson 1910-1919

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The history of Harley Davidson 1950-1959

 

 

The hippie movement and the motorcycle.

The history of  Harley Davidson 1960-1969

 

The 60s begin in the US and the beginning of the decade brings some fresh air, the candidate Kennedy is elected president and becomes the youngest president in the history of the country. Considered an icon of the aspirations and hopes of Americans, he is assassinated in November 1963 in Texas.

Still today is a subject much debated and there are many theories about murder, but of course, it is an indelible memory for society and its history. In some surveys in the country, he is still one of the presidents best valued.

Movimiento Hippie | La historia de Harley Davidson 1960-1969

The Hippie movement | The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

The Vietnam War breaks out and society begins to get upset when US ARMY summons young recruits. Rock and roll continues to inspire youth and the immense generation of the Baby Boom is uncomfortable with “the American way of life”. Something begins to move.

As with motorcycles, the British continue exporting to the US to The Beatles and later to The Rolling Stones, which fill stadiums and wave crowds.

The British invasion brings with it a new way of looking at life, with a more skeptical and progressive conception, it quickly fuses with the cynicism and existentialism of the American Beatniks. Generating the birth of the Hippie movement.

The hippie movement, countercultural, libertarian and pacifist, wants to change society and this revolution has its own vehicle: THE MOTORCYCLE. Sales are skyrocketing throughout the West and in Japan.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the Norton, BSA and Triumph are thinned to get better performance in the new wave “Café racer”, the new American bikers take the opposite way adding giant handlebars, advanced footrests, low saddles, elongated forks to old Knucklehead or 45. Definitely the Custom movement was born.

The hippie movement, countercultural, libertarian and pacifist, wants to change society and this revolution has its own vehicle: THE MOTORCYCLE. Sales are skyrocketing throughout the West and in Japan.

 

The revolution of small motorcycles.

The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

 

Harley Davidson does not understand well, nor sees very clearly this opportunity that was being born and follows the market guidelines, turning in the segment of the small motorcycle, which at that time was in full expansion.

There is no better example of this than the assortment and variety of displacement with which the brand wants to compete in the segment, the sprint with the displacements 250 and 350 cubic cm, or the 175 cubic cm two-stroke Pacer, Ranger and Seat, without forgetting the Fiberglass toper, which starts with a rope like a lawn mower and fails miserably.

Small-displacement bikes help sustain the billing, but do not cover the drop in sales of the large twin-cylinder.

Scooters años 60 | La historia de Harley Davidson 1960-1969

Scooters of the 60s | The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

The reason is that Italians and Japanese quickly surpass Harley in this specialty, making good reputation in the market with small, reliable and economic models. Finally, in 1965, the Milwaukee company has to seek funds to sustain its damaged finances.

There is another problem more serious, the image of the brand is aging rapidly, Harley users are on the one hand, rebellious hippies, revolutionaries and long-haired pacifists that modify exaggeratedly old motorcycles and on the other, burghers of the elderly and chubby immaculate police riding Electra Glide with 35 kg more for removing the kickstarter. Meanwhile, its competitors Ducati, Honda and Triumph perfect their engines quickly.

Luckily for Harley, all is not lost and the new Sportster XLH becomes the defender of the brand and sustains the sales of the company to stay afloat. It is a motorbike that gets a lot of prestige in a short time and is highly valued among fans of motorcycles.

However, this is not enough and in 1969 the Harley and Davidson families ceded the majority shareholding to the US group Foundry and Machines. That same year, Honda presents its legendary 750 Four.

Luckily for Harley, all is not lost and the new Sportster XLH becomes the defender of the brand and sustains the sales of the company to stay afloat. It is a motorbike that gets a lot of prestige in a short time and is highly valued among fans of motorcycles.

 

Significates events of the decade:

The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

 

  • 1960: The Vespa becomes fashionable, Harley Davidson presents the Topper its first and last scooter in its history.
  • 1961: Aermacchi manufactures for Harley the Sprint, single-cylinder 4-stroke 250 and 350 cubics cm in highway and scrambler version.
  • 1962: Acquisition of a plastic parts factory that already makes the panniers of the tourers.
  • 1963: He joined the design department Willie G. Davidson, grandson of one of the founders, after going through the Ford.

 

Harley Davidson Electra Glide | La historia de Harley Davidson 1960-1969

Harley Davidson Electra Glide | The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969

 

  • 1965: The Glide Duo becomes Electra Glide to be equipped with electric start.
  • 1966: The new Shovelhead, whose rocker covers resemble shovels, is only a correction of Panhead’s defects. Improves the lubrication of the upper part of the engine, the low remains unchanged. It will be baptized Pan-shovel when the true Shovelhead in 1970 appears.
  • 1967: “I do not need anyone in Harley-Davidson” sings Brigitte Bardot.
  • 1968: Honda presents its CB 750 Four. The foundations of the western motorcycle tremble. The Sportster adopts the electric starter and a mini-peanut tank.
  • 1969: Calvin Rayborn wins 200 miles from Daytona. It is the last time, since from then on it will be the private preserve of the Japanese.

 

Source: “Harleymanía” of Jean Savary

Klauer & Iannuzzi | 2018 | The history of Harley Davidson 1960-1969