1990 FLSTF – The Mystery Continues
Did Harley-Davidson Flip Japan The Bird?
Not very many people know the history of a first edition 1990 FLSTF Silver Fatboy. The name is reminiscent of the atomic bombs named “Fatman” and “LittleBoy” that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The naming of the bike was not meant to offend, rather, it was done as a tribute to a certain period in time. If you notice the Fatboy’s gas-tank emblem it somewhat resembles a U.S.A.F. wing emblem. The bombs had distinctive yellow rings painted on them. The motorcycle has seven yellow rings painted throughout the bike – one on the ignition ring, one on the primary inspection cover, two on the tank, one on the cam cover and two on the head covers. You definitely do not want to change the gun metal gray on the tank and fenders or frame on this first edition collector. With little advertising of the purpose behind this color scheme, the bike is now a very collectible item, not so much dollar wise, but more for what it represents.
[update 2013] the value of the 1990 FLSTF Fatboy “Gray Ghost” has jumped immensely proving it to be very collectible investment . Since I originally posted this article in 1999 many websites and motorcycle forums have bantered and disputed the story. So called myth busting sites like Snopes.com http://www.snopes.com/business/market/fatboy.asp have even tried to say it was pure urban myth. But they also didn’t prove anything or give evidence to the contrary. Some have said on different forums that Willie G himself said it was exactly what the myth represents, but you’d be hard pressed to get an official version from the Motor Co., after all…myths and legends are good business. For those that say the company would never do anything to offend the Japanese market, we need to go back to history and remember that at the outbreak of WWII Japan reneged on all patent and licensing agreements and marketed Harley-Davidson under their own brand Rikuo and did for many years afterwards. In the 60’s and 70’s the Japanese motorcycle industry set out to dominate the north american market and was instrumental in the downward trend of heavyweight motorcycles such as Harley-Davidson. With the eventual buyout and rebirth of Harley-Davidson the company set out to do things their way and part of that was a different styling concept. At the time large disk wheels made famous by Centerline had already become a trademark of drag racing and street rodding. The concept then was big fat tires, Centerlines, and a solid single color usually dark or flat gave the impression of a bad ass machine. Harley-Davidson conveyed that image to the motorcycle. A styling coup if you will. At the same time, the company was also telling the government it no longer needed protection from the japanese manufactures by way of steep import tarifs that really did little to hold the tide back. So yes, the company has been thumbing their noses at the Japanese manufacturers for a while, and for good reason. Is this proof the 1990 FLSTF Grey Ghost was a marketing virtual middle finger? Certainly not, it’s only conjecture, at this point, the story is still a myth, and Harley-Davidson is still silent….all the way to the bank.
FACTOID: On the morning of August 6, 1945, Col Paul W. Tibbets flew the Enola Gay into the future by dropping the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bomb he dropped was “LittleBoy”.