Harley-Davidson's Pilgrim Road Plant | Get Your Motor Runnin'
Harley's Powerplant History
By Mark Masker, Photography by Courtesy Of Harley-Davidson
A HARLEY MOTO TIMELINE
1903 : William S. Harley’s and Arthur Davidson’s first public offering is a bike with a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. The factory in which they worked was a 10 x 15-foot wooden shed with the words “Harley-Davidson Motor Company” crudely scrawled on the door.
1906: A new factory, measuring 28 x 80 feet, is built on the Chestnut St. site, later renamed Juneau Avenue. Staff size is increased to six full-time employees.
1909: Harley-Davidson Motor Company introduces its first V-twin powered motorcycle. With a displacement of 49.5 cubic inches, the bike produces seven horsepower. The image of two cylinders in a 45-degree configuration would fast become one of the most enduring icons of Harley-Davidson history. Also available for the first time from the Motor Company are spare parts for motorcycles.
1911: The “F-head” engine becomes a workhorse of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle until 1929.
1912: Construction begins on what will become the six story headquarters and main factory building at Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee. A separate Parts and Accessories Department is formed.
1919 : The 37 cubic inch opposed twin cylinder Sport model is introduced and gains great popularity overseas. Unique not only for the cylinder configuration, which was directly opposed and flat, the Sport quickly earns a reputation for being uncommonly quiet.
1921: The first 74 cubic inch V-twin engine is introduced on the JD and FD models.
1928: The first Harley-Davidson two cam engine is made available to the public on the JD series motorcycles. The bike is capable of top speeds between 85 - 100 mph.
1929: The 45 cubic inch V-twin engine (later to be known as the “flathead”) is introduced on the D model. The engine proves to be so reliable that variations of it are available on Harley-Davidson motorcycles as late as 1972.
1936: Harley-Davidson introduces the EL, an overhead valve, 61 cubic inch powered bike. With increased horsepower and bold styling changes, the motorcycle quickly earns the nickname of “Knucklehead,” due to the shape of its rocker boxes. The same year, the Motor Company introduces a 80 cubic inch side valve engine.
1946: Harley-Davidson introduces the 45 cubic inch flathead WR racing motorcycle. It proves to be one of the best racing motorcycles ever built.
1947: Attendees at the year’s Dealers Convention in Milwaukee are given a train ride to a “secret destination,” which turns out to be the newly purchased plant on Capitol Drive. The plant was formerly the A.O. Smith Propeller Plant, created during the war. Harley-Davidson uses the plant as a large machine shop, shipping the new parts to Juneau Ave. for final assembly.
1948: New features are added to the 61 and 74 overhead valve engines, including aluminum heads and hydraulic valve lifters. Also new are the one piece, chrome plated rocker covers shaped like cake pans. The nickname “Panhead” only seemed logical.
1952: The side-valve K model is introduced with an integrated engine and transmission to compete with smaller, sportier motorcycles coming mainly from Great Britain. The K will eventually evolve into the Sportster.
1957: The motorcycling public met a new motorcycle called the Sportster. It premiers as a 55 cubic inch overhead valve engine, and within one year of its debut, becomes known as the first of the “Superbikes.” Another Harley-Davidson tradition and legend is born.
1960: Harley-Davidson purchases a half interest in Aeronatica-Macchi, forming Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, a European division that will produce small, single cylinder motorcycles.
1966: The first of the Shovelhead engines is introduced on the Electra-Glide models, replacing the Panhead.
1973: Motorcycle production is upgraded when all assembly operations are moved to a modern 400,000 square foot plant in York, Penn. All other production operations remain in Milwaukee and Tomahawk. The Capitol Drive plant in Milwaukee begins production of engines.
1982: The Materials As Needed (MAN) application is introduced to production. Generally, this means that parts and raw materials are purchased and built only as they are required. This dramatically lowers production costs and improves quality.
1984: Harley-Davidson unveils the 1340cc Evolution engine on five models including the all-new Softail. The result of seven years of development, the Evolution engine produces more power at every speed, runs cooler, cleaner and is oil-tight.
1997: A new 217,000-sq.-ft. Product Development Center opens next to the Capitol Drive plant in Milwaukee. The building is dedicated to Willie G. Davidson. Powertrain Operations at Capitol Drive expanded its capacity by moving FL engine and transmission production to a newly purchased plant located in Menomonee Falls. XL engines and transmissions, as well as Genuine Parts Manufacturing, remain at Capitol Drive. A new 330,000-sq.-ft. plant in Kansas City produces its first Sportster.
1998: A new assembly facility opens in Manaus, Brazil, the first operations outside of the U.S.
1999: All 1999 model year big twins receive the new Twin Cam 88 engine.
2000: The 2000 model year Softail models are outfitted with the Twin Cam 88B engine, a counter-balanced version of the Twin Cam 88.
2001: The VRSCA V-Rod is introduced for the 2002 model year. Inspired by the VR-1000 racing motorcycle, the V-Rod is Harley-Davidson’s first motorcycle to combine fuel injection, overhead cams and liquid cooling, and delivers 115 horsepower.
2011: Harley introduced the Screamin’ Eagle 120R engine. A 135 horsepower 120-inch racing motor was a big-bore factory-built monster motor for consumer consumption.
By Mark Masker
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