June 18, 2009
Harley-Davidson on Exhibit at Studebaker National Museum
By: Nathan Durkes
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company was founded over 100 years ago and did what no other American motorcycle manufacturer was able to do–survive two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the rise of the Japanese imports. In fact, during these trying times, Harley-Davidson was able to flourish and grow into a trusted and beloved brand that has become synonymous with being innovative and “American Made.”
To celebrate this long history, the Studebaker National Museum has recently opened a new exhibit, Harley Davidson: Building a Legend. Though the Studebaker Corporation was never affiliated with Harley-Davidson, both companies are American icons and share similarly humble roots. According to the Museum’s archivist, Andy Beckman, “Both companies began in sheds and were operated as family businesses during their early days.” Beckman also notes that both companies would have financial difficulties in their early years but, managed to pull through and to emerge stronger and with a more secure following.
Harley-Davidson: Building a Legend features 29 motorcycles dating as far back as a 1912, a single cylinder X8A that is a mere 10 years younger than William Harley’s first “motorized bicycle.” The remainder of the collection consists of motorcycles ranging from early Peashooters, police cycles, Servi-Cars, and classic Hogs. The collection includes examples of a wide range of Knucklehead, Flathead, Shovelhead, and Panhead engines used throughout the many eras of Harley-Davidson.
One notable motorcycle in the exhibit is a 1984 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra-Glide. While many consider this model the “definitive Harley,” this particular motorcycle is unique in that it has been owned by McDaniel’s Harley-Davidson since it was new but, it only shows 3.5 miles on the odometer!
Another interesting bike is the 1977 XLCR “Café Racer” which was personally designed by the Willie G. Davidson and loosely based on Sportster models from the 1970s. This purebred racing bike is street legal but, its unique alloy wheels, seating position, and duel front brakes still make it a terror when raced during historic events.
This expansive exhibit was made possible in part by the contributions of McDaniel’s Harley-Davidson and JC Taylor Antique Auto Insurance.
Studebaker National Museum is located at 201 S Chapin Street in downtown South Bend. It is open seven days per week. For more information call the museum at (574) 235-9714 or toll free at 1-888-391-5600 or visit our website at www.studebakermuseum.org.
Nathan Durkes is a summer intern from Holy Cross College at the Studebaker National Museum