The knucklehead enters and goes to war
1929-1933 After the stock market crash of October 1929, Harley-Davidson sales suffered with everyone else’s in the industry. By 1933, production in Milwaukee had dropped to 3,700 motorcycles. Only two motorcycle manufacturers survived the depression, Harley Davidson and Indian. They survived because of strong dealer networks, police and military use, conservative management, and steady exports. The Harley was becoming truly world class.
1936 Harley-Davidson wasted no time building momentum out of the depression, introducing its EL model, featuring the 61 cu in. overhead valve engine, also known as the “Knucklehead.” 1936 production: 9,812 motorcycles.
1941-1945 Almost immediately after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Harley-Davidson’s entire motorcycle output was produced for Allied use. By the end of World War II, 90,000 WLA army-version motorcycles had been built and shipped. Harley Davidson earned the coveted Navy “E” award for it’s contribution. HD has now served through two world wars as the primary motorcycle supplier for the United States armed forces. The WLA has become a much sought after collectible especially for history enthusiasts.
1948 After the war, motorcyclists were eager to get back to their sport. To feed their desire for more motorcycles, Harley-Davidson introduced a new 74 cu in. engine with hydraulic valve lifters and aluminum heads. The “Panhead” was born. 1948 production: 31,163 motorcycles. Further expansion was in the cards and manufacturing facilities in the suburb of Wauwatosa were acquired in 1947. The push was on to sell to the public and marketing was more pronounced.
FACTOID 1933 – First royalty of $3,000 was paid from Sankyo. HD designated the official motorcycle for California Highway Patrol. CHiPs fleet now equals 437 HD’s
Enjoying Life On A Harley – early promotional image touting the freedom of the road