Interview with Stuart Garner On the Reincarnation of Norton Motorcycles and ‘NortonGate’

Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles based at the Donington Park race circuit. All rights ©

Hell for Leather is reporting that all is not well at the new Norton Motorcycles despite Stuart Garner’s very public campaign to demonstrate the vitality of his effort to revive the iconic brand.

The HFL story originated with a piece from BikerGlory, and it includes some serious allegations.

We thought it might be a good idea to check out what the majordomo at Norton has to say about the issues raised in the most recent stories about the health his company.

As you might guess, Mr. Garner begs to differ with the conclusions drawn by some critics on the web and in the British motorcycle building fraternity.

Garner took the time to answer some of the bombs thrown his way recently by firing back at the naysayers in this exclusive Q&A with

The critics are saying Norton Motorcycles has consistently failed to fill orders on time and there have been problems with holding deposits. Any truth to those criticisms?

SG: In the last two years we have delivered many hundreds of motorcycles into the UK. Due to great demand and a difficult UK supply chain, it has sometimes taken longer than we would have liked to deliver customers bikes. The supply chain issue is the primary reason. When our very first bike built left the factory, we had 200 suppliers.  Now we have less than 100 suppliers, which is an indicator of the challenges that we’ve had selecting the best suppliers. Suppliers that are able to both make quality parts and deliver on-time.  It is also an indicator of just how much work and investment we have done to bring a huge amount of manufacturing in-house at our factory at the Donington Park race circuit.

Any customer who does not want to wait for their new Norton can ask for a refund at any time.  I can also say that all refund requests have been settled in full. Customers’ deposit money is very safe. We should take a moment to look at the up-market car industry.  Those manufacturers regularly have long waiting times and routinely require a deposit from a potential customer up-front at the time of purchase. The reason they do this is to form a fair and transparent waiting list, which you join at the time of your deposit. This then gives the buyer a proper position for delivery and shows a clear commitment from them thereby ensuring they simply do not walk away leaving the manufacturer during the building process. At Norton, all bikes are hand-built to order in a similar way to a bespoke and up-market car. This is why we use a deposit style system for direct sales to UK customers only. This is the key differentiator between Norton and other motorcycle manufacturers that use traditional assembly line processes and build speculatively. The relatively small amount of deposit money held at any one time makes no difference to the funding of the company. When we do take an order, the price for the motorcycle is fixed at the time of deposit. Some customers have placed orders at the fixed price and due to factory increases after ordering they have benefitted by well over £1,000 at delivery time.  Our website [] carries regular news so you can follow the factory progress


Is it true customers have waited almost two years for a bike?

SG: The Commando 961 was launched at the NEC UK Motorcycle show in 2009, we had a huge amount of interest and established a UK order book. All these bikes have now been built and delivered. We do have a small number of customers who have waited over a year.  We were overwhelmed by demand and we should have been much more cautious on delivery dates. Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, but if we had to do it over again we would have advised much longer delivery times to customers. Generally the longer waiting bikes are dual seat models that have been ordered with specifications chosen by the customer around 18 months ago. The delay here has been for the tooling of the new seat moulding. This particular issue is the fault of Norton as we had tooling problems with the first design and had to redo the drawings which took a long period of drawing time to get right. I apologize to all of our customers who have had to wait beyond the period of time which they were quoted, and I thank them for their patience.


Some are saying Norton can’t provide spare parts and that you’re having problems dealing with suppliers.

SG: Norton maintains a good stock of parts at the factory and this has not been an issue for some time. Iit has taken time to grow our parts stock as we were faced with having to choose between supplying our dealer network with spares or continuing to manufacturer new Norton motorcycles. This issue was again a standard issue facing a start-up manufacturing business.  Again, due to the increased manufacturing capability that we have in-house within the Norton factory, we are able to meet our part needs both for manufacturing and for our dealers. I have transparently tried to set out where Norton is right now. Turning to suppliers, I have a personal belief of keeping the Norton factory as British as possible. We have a mind-blowing choice of Japanese and other brands bikes out there. With Norton we have the chance to bring back a fabulous brand in an authentic way. Norton motorcycles are manufactured using quality British-made parts to assemble a truly hand-built bike. Unfortunately as we all know the halcyon days of the British motorcycle industry passed by many years ago.  This left the UK with only the bare bones of a suitable supply chain. It has taken a huge amount of effort to re-educate and engage the supply chain in the UK back to the requirements of a production motorcycle business. As stated earlier we started with some 200 suppliers and stand here today with less than 100, some suppliers just don’t want the work as the aerospace, oil industry or military markets keep them busy and pay top prices. Making parts to a limited volume and having the discipline of regular timely supply is not the demands some suppliers want or can actually achieve. Having worked hard at this for over two years now we have an amazing nucleus of UK suppliers emerging, this is great news and bodes really well for the years ahead. Not just for Norton but the knock on effect of all the jobs being created at these suppliers with the Norton orders coming through to them.


A couple of your most vocal critics, Fritz Egli and Nigel Gibson, are pretty adamant in their criticisms of you and Norton, how did those relationships sour?

SG: I do not think it is polite or appropriate for me to comment to much on individuals who have or had vested commercial interests in Norton. However, I will say Norton respects Fritz and his business, you simply have to listen and respect someone who has been around forever and achieved as much as he has. We continue to work closely with his company and have been shipping bikes and parts recently.

I make no excuse or apology whatsoever for moving supply to more professional suppliers and am not surprised to learn that previous suppliers speak negatively of the company. Norton has a duty to its customers to supply a best quality hand built motorcycle on time; suppliers that do not help us achieve this let everyone down and must be replaced. There are over 1,000 components to our bike, and if just one supplier lets us down we cannot complete a bike. This in turn means we let the customer down by failing to  deliver their bike on time and we let the rest of the supply chain down as our volume drops and we buy less parts from them – a vicious cycle. Ex-suppliers should look at themselves and ask why they failed, an element of honesty to themselves would help rather than blaming everyone else…


Is Norton in financial trouble?

SG: Norton is today in better financial health than it ever has been. It is a hugely expensive undertaking to simultaneously bring back an iconic brand and a manufacturing business.. For sure we have had highs and lows in cash-flow, this is quite common in start-up manufacturing businesses. We have managed these highs and lows whilst continually investing for the long-term in the items that the company needs to make a quality motorcycle. Today the company is well-financed to take on both today’s challenges and those further ahead in the coming years.


The signing of Pierre Terblanche to design the new Norton models drew quite a lot of positive press at the time it was announced. What led Terblanche to resign his post with Norton?

SG: Looking back I’m not sure Norton were experienced enough or ready for Pierre; equally I think Pierre found it difficult coming from an industry giant to Norton.


What led you to pursue competition in the Isle of Man races and why are the critics on your case about how your participation there was handled?

SG: Norton has a huge history with the TT races.  We won the first race in 1907 and have won many since. Everyone at the factory wants to race, and it’s a great way to test new ideas and components while giving the brand a level of global awareness in a way that is unique. We know that some people questioned why we put an Aprilia V4 engine into the bike. This was done for both cost and reliability reasons. It takes a several years and a few million pounds to develop an engine that is capable of winning at the TT. As CEO I would be irresponsible to commit such funds to a racing effort when we are still investing and building up our road bike business. We felt we should go to the TT to begin the learning process of what is required both from a chassis perspective and of course to learn what is required from an engine. We need this knowledge in order to slowly develop our race platform at a rate that is viable. Racing also allows us to bring this knowledge in-house where we can develop new capability, wisely using the data we have captured. Currently our total race budget is made up from sponsorship, road bike suppliers and team clothing sales. No funding at all comes from the factory and, I am not prepared to gamble the future of Norton on racing. Only when it is financially viable will we spend funds on racing. We understand some of the different views of what constitutes a Norton, but we must balance them against some of the personally vested interests and passionate support for other brands. In other words, fans of competing brands will always have negative things to say about Norton. I would ask our Norton loyalists for the patience to let us develop at a pace that is suitable to the business we have today and the business we want to have in the future. I passionately want what we all want: a 100% built Norton on the Senior podium. We’ve started the journey…


You’ve taken on a major task in reviving a brand beloved by motorcyclists around the world. What do you see as the challenges and responsibilities of your company going forward?

SG: The challenge is to get a quality motorcycle to market that is fit for the brand and something that all stakeholders can be proud of. The responsibility is not to mess that up!


Have you read the articles on Hell for Leather and other sites? And if so, can you take the time to respond to the claims made by the various sources mentioned in those posts?

SG: I’m generally in the factory seven days a week and do not read forums or other types of posts. I do listen to credible advice and opinion of course, but I also take care not to get too distracted. As mentioned, reviving a brand of such iconic stature is a daunting challenge, one at which I am determined to succeed.  Understandably there will always be many opinions on the best way to accomplish this. However there are reasons why former employees and former suppliers are no longer with Norton.  Their opinions remain their own and will not influence the forward direction of the brand or its strategy. We do listen carefully to experienced engineers within our supply chain as well as our knowledgeable and experienced staff. There are good reasons Britain lost its entire famous bike manufacturer, it is no easy task keeping British supplied and hand built, simple as that. However both I and the Norton team are committed to working hard to put Norton back on the map.


In a perfect world, what characteristics should define a Norton Motorcycle and why should a rider want a new one?

SG: We believe our British heritage is key. We now have the opportunity to bring back an authentically hand-built British bike. We will never make tens of thousands of bikes or have hundreds of dealers globally. These factors will continue to make the bike an exclusive and sought-after machine, which in turn gives great pride of ownership. All these factors together then help the residual price stay very high, meaning that the bike will hold its value over the long-term. Here in the UK used bikes still command a premium over new.


You’re obviously a man of means. Why did you take on the challenge of reviving one of the iconic brands in the history of motorcycle building?

SG: Ever since I was at Donington watching the JPS Norton’s winning the Super Cup, I’ve loved the brand. I had an opportunity to bring the brand back. Who on earth would turn that down!?


What kind of rider needs a Norton?

SG: Norton has a huge pedigree and over the years has built up an iconic status. For riders wanting huge speed and cheap performance, Norton motorcycles are not for you. If you want to enjoy real-world fun motorcycling and value the pride of ownership, we are the logical choice. We are looking to build exclusive beautiful bikes for the rider that enjoys all the things that motorcycling can bring. Our owners range from 24 to 82 years of age and from all walks of life. Motorcycling has a habit of leveling all the classes and when riding it brings us all together.


Given the difficulties inherent in manufacturing a product, are you sorry you made the effort to revive the brand?

SG: Not one day have I ever regretted doing this. The Norton factory has a very special buzz about it. The staff here is amazing and are dedicated and committed to building quality bikes. It has been a complete privilege to be involved. Very many of our customers have become personal friends as have suppliers and dealers, in all an incredible experience.


Looking back, what critical decisions would you change in your efforts to re-define and revitalize Norton Motorcycles?

SG: My one and only regret is the time we have taken to deliver early customer bikes. I truly wish we could turn the clock back and do a better job setting expectations, communicating and meeting our delivery schedules. We are working hard and have now got on top of this, but we have let some people down and for that I’m sorry. The whole team is committed to building Norton back into a world-class manufacturing business.


What bikes are you riding now?

SG: Norton 961 Cafe Racer


In your opinion, what’s the greatest motorcycle ever made?

SG: Norton 30M


If you had one thing to say to anyone who’s considering buying a new Norton Motorcycle, what would that be?

SG: You can trust both the factory and our dealers to support and look after you as one of the Norton family. This is not just for a new sale, but for many years after as you enjoy the pleasure of ownership that your Norton brings.


It’s a tough market at the moment for motorcycle manufacturers. Who do you see as the top players in your market segment?

SG: Norton are quite different in our market position and don’t really have direct competitors for the Commando 961. Generally I think the quality US and European brands will do well going forwards, while the Japanese segment is crowded both in brands and models. This segment is going to come under increasing attack from other Far East manufacturers. These bikes are sold on numbers, price, horsepower, and speed. It’s an ever decreasing circle and looks really difficult for the companies to make money in this economic environment.


Used Motorcycle Sales Scams And How To Avoid Falling For Them

This week a man in Nashville, Tenn. was taken to the hoosegow after authorities caught him – and an accomplice – stealing several motorcycles from sellers who had advertised on Craigslist.  To further complicate matters, some of the buyers who bought the bikes from the thieves then resold the bikes.

One Jerry Pinkerton finds himself in hot water for a series of Craigslist-centered felony thefts. The 30-year-old Pinkerton answered ads for motorcycles for sale, told the owners he wanted to “test drive” the bikes,  and then just kept on riding and left the sellers waiting for his return.

Pinkerton and his alleged accomplice, Richard Roberts, resold the bikes, and authorities now say the pair were responsible for stealing half dozen motorcycles.

After unraveling the whole sorry scam, Nashville Police officials say those who unknowingly purchased the stolen bikes are out their cash as well.

“We recovered four cycles last night from one guy who bought them,” said a Nashville cop.

Pinkerton said he recently sold a stolen motorcycle to a man in Wilson County.

The whole affair brings up a couple of important points you need to consider if you’re selling a bike.

One, don’t let anyone “test drive” your vehicle before they hand you their driver’s license and two, don’t buy or sell a motorcycle without a title changing hands or at the very least, a notarized bill of sale.

Ebay and Craigslist transactions can also be fraught with peril, and here’s an example:

A guy says he wants to buy the bike, but it has to be PayPal, and he’ll give you a certain sum for your motorcycle and says he’ll add a sum to the transaction for you to handle the shipping for the bike. The shippers show up, you hand them the “buyer’s” money to cover the shipping, and they leave.

You’re happy. End of story.

Except, it actually ends up this way:

Your bike reaches the shipping destination, the “buyer’s” pals load it off the dock and drive off. Within a few hours, the “buyer” contacts PayPal and reports the entire transaction as a fraudulent one. PayPal gets back to the “buyer” and finds the bike was delivered to a state other than the “buyer’s” address. The “buyer” tells them, “Why would I have a bike delivered to Connecticut? I live in New Jersey.”

PayPal says, “Yeah, why would you have a bike delivered to Connecticut?” They check out the signature on the shipping bill, which of course you signed when the shippers showed up, and they tell the “buyer” they’ll remove the transaction – and then come after you for the whole amount.

It will all work out in the end when the authorities find out the PayPal transaction was charged to a stolen credit card, but in the interim, you will be seriously annoyed – and out one motorcycle.

It might also go something like this, and we’ll call it The Nigerian Gambit:

  • You’re trying to sell a used motorcycle on the Internet.
  •  You’re contacted via e-mail by a “prospective buyer” who agrees to the asked-for price and offers to have someone pick up and ship the bike and pay all the shipping charges.
  •  The “buyer” tells you he’ll send a cashier’s check for more than the agreed-upon price for the vehicle, but you have to send the  “extra cash” to a third party to handle the shipping and costs.
  • The cashier’s check arrives, you deposit it, and a few days later, the check appears to have cleared.
  • Since it’s all gone as advertised, you send the “extra money” to the guy who is scheduled to get your bike and start waiting for someone to show up and take it away.
  • No one ever comes to pick up the vehicle.
  • A couple of weeks go by, and you’re suddenly informed that the cashier’s check you deposited, and that “cleared the bank,” was a forgery.
  • Goodbye money you sent to the “pal” of the buyer who was handling the “shipping.”

How do you avoid falling for this or some variant scam?

  1. Just don’t get involved in any sale where the buyer wants you to accept a check and “refund” any other amount.
  2. If you accept a cashier’s check as payment for something, make sure it clears the issuing bank – not your bank – before you hand over your property. That could take up to two or three weeks, so hold on to whatever you sold for those three weeks – or until you know the funds were good from the issuing bank.

The moral of the story is this: you never sell a motorcycle, or for that matter anything of value, without seeing some identification and transferring title before the item leaves your possession. Never.

Feel free to use PayPal, it’s a great way to handle transactions, but make sure you have some ID from the buyer should anything turn south later. Even a “cashiers check transaction” can bite you in the ass, so do things right and make sure you know who you’re dealing with before you close the deal…

If you do get scammed? Call the U.S. Secret Service at (202) 406-5572 and the consumer protection division of your state attorney general’s office and save someone else the same headache.


Testing Your F***ing Ignition And Other Useful Motorcycle Repair Tips You Cheap Ass JackLeg

One of the things I love most about the whole world of motorcycles is the completely over the top array of characters you meet on the road, around town, or hanging out working on or watching someone work on bikes.

Working on motorcycles is an acquired skill which, given enough years standing over various basket case jobs, can rise to the level of an art form. The old school motorcycle mechanic has seen it all and possesses all the shortcuts, tricks and knowledge to get damn near any bike back on the road. Part engineer, part electronics expert, and all grease monkey, the old school guys also tend to get touchy – a little like lawyers – at always being asked for free advice.

They can, at their best, also be a little like doctors as they diagnose and recommend treatment for their seriously ill “patients,” and this guy, though his bedside manner could use a touch of polish, might some day be the only thing between your bike and a trip to the boneyard.

This guy might be a little grouchy, but like nearly everyone in the motorcycle fraternity, he’s also willing to lend a hand even if you are a “cheap bastard” looking for a free ride.

This is the official Channel of  HHH Cycles  Motorcycle repair, restoration and customization
Located at:
257 Seaboard Ave
Venice, Florida 34293
Phone 941-451-4318

The doctor is in…

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Photos Gallery, Review, Specification

The 30-year-old SUZUKI GSX-R, which produces more than one million units worldwide, is finally showing the new sixth-generation GSX-R1000 at 2015 EICMA. 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the current Japanese public upgrade, be regarded as a late start, until 2000 SUZUKI are to GSX-R750 on his factory-liter sports car, but the 2001 GSX-R1000 debut, violent torque immediately attracted many Blood molecules, and now after five years without major changes in the cycle, the new 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 will import the latest technology MotoGP, once again come to the emperor’s posture.
Specification of 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000
Four-stroke, water-cooled, DOHC, inline four-cylinder engine
Electron injection fueling
Displacement: 999 cc
Compression ratio: NA
Highest horsepower: NA
Maximum torque: NA
Frame type: aluminum surround frame
Vehicle weight: NA
Domestic Price: NA
SUZUKI think, a Super Bike, and should have Run, Turn, Stop three elements, so the new GSX-R1000 must be running fast, cornering stability can easily slow down, and SUZUKI engineers is this concept Into an important promoter of reality. In order to achieve the goal, the sixth-generation GSX-R1000 from inside to outside a comprehensive upgrade.

 New Suzuki Gsx-R1000 2017 Suzuki Gsx-R1000 New Suzuki Gsxr1000  2017 Suzuki Gsxr1000 2017 Suzuki Gsx-R1000 Specs 2017 Suzuki Gsxr1000 Specs New Suzuki Gsxr1000 Specs Suzuki GSX-R1000 Suzuki motorcycles 10 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000


2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Photos Gallery, Review, Specification

The 30-year-old SUZUKI GSX-R, which produces more than one million units worldwide, is finally showing the new sixth-generation GSX-R1000 at 2015 EICMA. 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the current Japanese public upgrade, be regarded as a late start, until 2000 SUZUKI are to GSX-R750 on his factory-liter sports car, but the 2001 GSX-R1000 debut, violent torque immediately attracted many Blood molecules, and now after five years without major changes in the cycle, the new 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 will import the latest technology MotoGP, once again come to the emperor’s posture.
Specification of 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000
Four-stroke, water-cooled, DOHC, inline four-cylinder engine
Electron injection fueling
Displacement: 999 cc
Compression ratio: NA
Highest horsepower: NA
Maximum torque: NA
Frame type: aluminum surround frame
Vehicle weight: NA
Domestic Price: NA
SUZUKI think, a Super Bike, and should have Run, Turn, Stop three elements, so the new GSX-R1000 must be running fast, cornering stability can easily slow down, and SUZUKI engineers is this concept Into an important promoter of reality. In order to achieve the goal, the sixth-generation GSX-R1000 from inside to outside a comprehensive upgrade.

 New Suzuki Gsx-R1000 2017 Suzuki Gsx-R1000 New Suzuki Gsxr1000  2017 Suzuki Gsxr1000 2017 Suzuki Gsx-R1000 Specs 2017 Suzuki Gsxr1000 Specs New Suzuki Gsxr1000 Specs Suzuki GSX-R1000 Suzuki motorcycles 10 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000


A Historical Timeline of the Harley Davidson Motor Company


  1. 1901 William S. Harley, at age 21, finishes a blueprint for an engine designed to fit a bicycle.
  2. 1903 Harley and Arthur Davidson build the first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle in 1903. It features a a 116cc engine working from a 10 x 15-foot shed on Chestnut Street in Milwaukee. That’s still the address of Harley-Davidson’s corporate office.
  3. 1904 C.H. Lang of Chicago, the very first Harley-Davidson dealer, opens for business.
  4. 1906 The Motor Company builds a new 28 by 80-foot factory at the Chestnut Street location and the company grows to six employees. The nickname “Silent Gray Fellow” is applied to an early machine as a reference to the fact that the bikes were painted dove gray, and that they were quietly reliable.
  5. 1907 William A. Davidson joins and Harley-Davidson Motor Company is incorporated. The first stock offering is shared by the Harley and Davidson brothers.
  6. 1908 Walter Davidson scores a perfect 1,000 points at the 7th Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Wowed by that demonstration, the City of Detroit becomes the first to buy a H-D motorcycle for its police force.
  7. 1909 Harley makes its first V-Twin. which features a displacement of almost 50 cubic inches and produces a total of seven horsepower.
  8. 1910 The now-famous ‘Bar & Shield’ logo is created in 1910 and trademarked a year later.
  9. 1911 The F-head single-cylinder engine is made and remains in service until 1929. The inlet-over-exhaust design with overhead intake valve and a “side” exhaust valve proves reliable and popular.
  10. 1912 Harley-Davidson exports its first motorcycles to Japan. Construction begins on a six-story headquarters in Milwaukee, a Parts and Accessories Department is opened and the company boasts more than 200 dealers across the United States.
  11. 1913 Bill Harley creates a race department to handle the needs of competitors and builders.
  12. 1914 The first sidecars designed specifically for H-Ds are manufactured and Harley-Davidson becomes one of the last motorcycle manufacturers to switch from leather drive belts to chain drives.
  13. 1915 H-D motorcycles upgrade their transmission systems and now feature three-speed, sliding-gear transmissions with a final and primary drive on the same side of the bike.
  14. 1917 Fully one-third of the company’s production is purchased by the Army, and to train Army mechanics the company starts the Quartermasters School. It would later become the Service School and used to provide factory-trained mechanics to dealerships.
  15. 1918 Nearly half of all H-D motorcycles manufactured are sold to the U.S. military in World War I. Corporal Roy Holtz becomes the first American soldier to enter Germany and he does it riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
  16. 1919 The 37-ci Sport model is created with its horizontally-opposed, fore-and-aft V-Twin.
  17. 1920 H-D boasts reaches the 2,000 dealer mark in 67 countries and is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The factory racing team, “The Wrecking Crew,” takes a small pig as a mascot and the Harley is nicknamed a “hog” as a result.
  18. 1925 The teardrop gas tank replaces previous flat-topped versions and Joe Petrali becomes one of the first salaried “factory racers” in the world.
  19. 1928 The first twin-cam engine is created for the JD series motorcycles which makes the bikes capable of a top speed between 85 and 100 mph. A front brake is offered for the first time.
  20. 1929 The D model, with its rugged 45-cubic-inch flathead V-Twin engine, is introduced and will be sold in various configurations for the next 40 years. As the Great Depression looms, the company sells 21,000 motorcycles in 1929.
  21. 1932 The three-wheeled Servi-car starts a run of more than 4o years as the most popular utility motorcycle in history. Joe Petrali strings together five straight national championships on the dirt track and four straight hill-climb titles to dominate motorcycle racing like no one since.
  22. 1933 The Motor Company sells only 4,000 motorcycles as the Depression grinds on.
  23. 1935 The company begins to license production of its motorcycles in Japan, and the Sankyo Seiyakyo Corporation purchases tooling and starts producing Harleys. These bikes are sold as Rikuo, which translates to “King of the Road.”
  24. 1936 Harley introduces the EL, an overhead valve, 61-cubic-inch bike which earns the nickname of ‘Knucklehead’ due to the shape of its distinctive rocker-boxes. H-D also introduces an 80-cubic-inch side-valve engine.
  25. 1937 Joe Petrali sets a land-speed record of just over 136 mph on a machine powered by a streamlined Knucklehead. The first WL models are manufactured. William A. Davidson dies two days after signing an agreement which makes the company a union shop.
  26. 1938 Ben Campanale wins the Daytona 200 on a 45 cubic-inch WLDR in a race run on a 3.2-mile beach course. The Jackpine Gypsies hold the first Black Hills rally in Sturgis and that event goes on to become the most well-known annual gathering of motorcyclists in the world.
  27. 1941 United States enters World War II and the production of civilian motorcycles comes nearly to a halt.
  28. 1942 When U.S. soldiers who capture Wehrmacht motorcycles in North Africa find that the BMWs and Zundapps with their “boxer” engines are better suited to tough military duty. Harley-Davidson and Indian introduce machines with shaft drives and flat-twin motors styled after the German bikes. Walter Davidson dies.
  29. 1943 William S. Harley dies.
  30. 1945 By the end of WWII (1941-45) the company had produced almost 90,000 WLA models for military use.
  31. 1948 The company’s 61 and 74 c.i. OHV engines are updated to use aluminum heads and hydraulic valve lifters, one-piece rocker covers which resemble cake pans, and that look earns the new motor the nickname ‘Panhead.’ The Allies grab up German patents as war reparations and the small two-stroke motors built by DKW are copied by Harley-Davidson and used in the bike which will come to be known as the ‘Hummer.’
  32. 1949 Hydraulic front forks are introduced on the new Hydra-Glides.
  33. 1950 Arthur Davidson dies.
  34. 1952 Harley-Davidson creates the 45 c.i. side-valve K model to compete with the increasingly popular – and much faster – British-made twins of the time.
  35. 1953 Indian Motorcycles spirals into oblivion and leaves the field open to H-D as the only serious motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S. for the rest of the century. To compete on the race track with the British 500 cc machines dominating dirt track and road course races, the H-D racing department creates the KR from the 750cc, flat-head WR.
  36. 1955 The KR takes seven consecutive Daytona 200 wins.
  37. 1957 The Motor Company introduces the Sportster, a larger-displacement version of the K motor fitted with an OHV head. The 55 c.i. machine rivals all of the English bikes for performance and only falls shorts of the British Vincents for pure performance.
  38. 1958 The Duo-Glide comes out with hydraulic rear suspension.
  39. 1960 Harley-Davidson buys a half-interest in the Italian company Aermacchi.
  40. 1961 The Harley-Davidson Sprint becomes the first Aermacchi-created design to reach American showrooms . Short-track racers snap them up for their low center of gravity and light weight.
  41. 1964 The Servi-Car becomes the first Harley to come with an electric starter.
  42. 1965 The Duo-Glide also gets an electric starter and becomes, by virtue of that addition, the Electra-Glide.
  43. 1966 Harley updates the old Panhead motor in the quest for more power and the new engine’s rocker boxes, which some think resemble coal shovels, earn the new design the nickname “Shovelhead.” The Shovelhead motor stays in production relatively unchanged for 20 years.
  44. 1969 The introduction of the Honda CB750 Four – and the brutal competition it offers to American buyers – leads to the sale of the company to the American Machine and Foundry Company. AMF, a maker of bowling balls and bowling equipment, is crushed by the fast, sophisticated and affordable Honda. AMF management presides over a nosedive in the quality of Harleys and the “pre-AMF” tag becomes the standard by which buyers select their used H-Ds .
  45. 1970 The XR-750 is introduced to take on the Japanese competition at the track and features a motor based on a destroked Sportster powerplant. None of the H-D factory entries finish higher than fifth in that year’s Daytona 200.
  46. 1971 the FX 1200 Super Glide (using the front end of the XL series and frames and motors from the FL series) becomes the first “cruiser” motorcycle.
  47. 1973 Harley opens a new assembly plant in York, PA.
  48. 1977 One AMF-era bike, the 1977 XLCR, stands the test of time. That bike was the second major project for Willie G. Davidson,  grandson of one of the founders, but it was roundly panned by Harley customers back in 1977. A miniscule 3,100 were sold and the model was dropped from the line after a year, but you could still buy a new one off the showroom floor well into the 1980s. The FXS Low Rider is introduced.
  49. 1979 The FXEF “Fat Bob” is called “fat” because of its dual gas tanks, and “bob” for its bobbed fenders.
  50. 1980 The FLT is introduced with rubber-isolated drivetrain and an engine and five-speed transmission which are hard bolted together to reduce vibration. A Kevlar belt replaces the chain as the final drive on some H-D models. The FXWB Wide Glide is also introduced.
  51. 1981 AMF mismanagement leads Harley-Davidson to the brink of extinction as customer abandon the sinking ship and profits tumble. A group of H-D executives offers to buy the company for $75 million and AMF, knowing they were in over their heads, signs off on the deal. What follows is nothing less than a startling corporate turnaround as the new owners focus on product development modern quality control standards.
  52. 1982 The FXR/FXRS Super Glide II are released , and those models feature a rubber-isolated, five-speed powertrain which is a huge improvement over previous setups. H-D adopts just-in-time inventory systems which ultimately lowers costs and improves quality.
  53. 1983 Harley battles with the International Trade Commission and manages to get a tariff applied to the purchase of Japanese motorcycles of  more than 700 cc in displacement. The Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are forced reconfigure their motors to under 700cc for the U.S. market to avoid the tax.
  54. 1984 The 1340cc V2 Evolution engine is installed in five models, and though development of that powerplant began in the AMF era, build quality is far superior to the AMF versions  – and oil-tight. The Softail comes along and features a concealed rear suspension while managing to look like the rigid-chassis hogs of the glory days, and buyers love the change.
  55. 1987 H-D institutes an Initial Public Offering and the company’s stock is traded on the NYSE for the first time. Ticker symbol? HOG. H-D, confident that they can now compete,  petitions the ITC to kill the tariff on imported motorcycles and  that move is a sign to Japanese companies that make V-Twin cruisers that the game was on.
  56. 1988 The classic Springer front end returns on the FXSTS Springer Softail.
  57. 1990 The Motor Company introduces the FLSTF Fat Boy.
  58. 1991 The first model in the Dyna line, the FXDB Dyna Glide Sturgis, hits the market.
  59. 1992 Harley-Davidson replaces chains with drive belts on all their major model lines as drive belts provide a smoother ride than chains, last longer, and eliminate chain lubrication and adjustment hassles.
  60. 1993 H-D purchases a minority interest in Erik Buell’s Buell Motorcycle Company.
  61. 1995 Harley-Davidson models are equipped with fuel injection systems for the first time.
  62. 1997 The company opens a new 217,000 sq. ft. design center in Milwaukee and FL engine production moves to a newly purchased plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. A new plant in Kansas City, a big one at 330,000 sq. ft., takes over the production of the Sportster line.
  63. 1998 H-D opens its first factory overseas in Manaus, Brazil, and acquires all remaining shares of Buell.
  64. 1999 The Touring and Dyna lines are rolled out and they feature the new Twin Cam 88 motor.
  65. 2000 The characteristic sound of a Harley motor becomes the subject of a long and costly legal fight, but H-D ultimately drops its U.S. Patent Office application. A public relations nightmare, the suits are quietly settled and the company moves on to more pressing business.
  66. 2001 The VRSCA V-Rod, featuring a motor designed with input from Porsche, features fuel injection, overhead cams, and liquid cooling.
  67. 2003 Some 250,000 people descend on Milwaukee to celebrate The Motor Company’s 100th anniversary.
  68. 2006 The 2006 Dyna motorcycles are offered with a six-speed transmission and the company announces the opening of its new museum in Milwaukee to be completed in 2008.
  69. 2007 Harley upgrades the Big Twin motor  to 96 cubic inches and adds the six-speed transmission from the Dyna line to all models.
  70. 2008 The Motor Company opens the new museum in time for Harley’s 105th anniversary. It also buys MV Agusta for $109 million in the hope of putting MV’s European distribution channels to use.
  71. 2009 Keith Wandell becomes the first person in nearly 30 years to become CEO of Harley-Davidson without previous connections to The Motor Company. The US economic recession forces Harley-Davidson to discontinue the Buell line and put MV Agusta up for sale. Profits dropped 84 percent over the previous year.
  72. 2011 Harley regains the confidence of investors after painful labor and manufacturing changes are made to the company’s processes and sales make a comeback
  73. 2012 New models aimed at recapturing younger buyers like the “48” and “72” attract the attention of buyers looking for old school styling and modern engineering.

My Namesake Was One Slick Riding Lady – Sally Halterman

Sally Halterman, the first American woman issued a motorcycle license.


Sally Halterman motorcycle license

Photo by Harris Ewing, 1937

The Handbuilt Revolution – Hugh Owings

Hugh Owings had no idea the motorcycle he was building to finish out his college degree would launch a business.

But as people saw what Owings crafted for his senior thesis at Appalachian State University, they reacted immediately. Owings documented his project online, and as he transformed the plain old Yamaha into a sleek new bike, he started hearing from folks who wanted more information.

After graduating and spending a few months in a soul-crushing job doing machining work, Owings decided to use his last paycheck to have a box of custom parts made. He’d designed the parts for his college thesis bike, and he was still getting requests. He figured if they could sell, he’d be onto something. “I sold out of parts in a month,” Owings said. “It just blew up from there.”

That was about two years ago. Today, Owings, 32, and two employees — Tevan Morgan and Bryan Pulliam — are making parts and rebuilding engines out of a cluttered, dusty shop called Hugh’s HandBuilt at the back of Asheville’s Riverview Station. His sales have more than doubled since he started, and Owings is content to make his own way guided by a few simple principles.

Owings wants to teach people to do their own work, create new products and have fun along the way.

“I get much more pleasure seeing people make something themselves, rather than doing it for them,” said Owings, who always thought he would be teaching a high school shop class, not running a custom motorcycle shop.
The Yamaha XS 650

How’s this for a niche business: Owings doesn’t work on motorcycles in general. He works on just one type of bike, the Yamaha XS 650. It was a popular model manufactured from the late 1970s to mid-’80s. It wasn’t a great looking bike, and it’s engine wasn’t the smoothest. But it got the job done for millions of riders who wanted to get two wheels on the street and go.

The XS 650 had one asset that appealed to many shade-tree mechanics — it’s basic design was easy to work with. The bike has remained popular with tinkerers, and when the economy tanked five years ago, bikers stopped buying expensive motorcycles and started getting interested in building their own.

That was clear with the college bike, Owings said. It was the first motorcycle he’d ever built, though he had worked on car engines and fiddled around with some metal fabrication and welding.

“I think I was just inspiring people to do stuff they’d never done,” he said.

Owings takes the teaching aspect of his work seriously. He has little time for people who want him to build them a bike. Instead, he would much rather show someone how to bend a piece of metal and let them figure things out from there. And the Yamaha XS 650 is the perfect bike for that.

“It’s kind of like getting a plain piece of notebook paper. It’s something you can do anything with,” Owings said.

While he makes and sells a variety of custom parts, Hugh’s HandBuilt is known in the bike world for rephasing engines.

“We can modify internals for engines. We change the firing patterns” to create higher RPMs and a smoother-running engine, Owings said. “That’s what put us on the map.”

Customers from around the world send Owings engines to remake. Owings also sells kits for people to do it themselves.
The art of motorcylce maintenance

As much as he loves “wrenching” on an old bike, Owings gets as much or more satisfaction out of connecting with fans online. He’s active in a variety of online forums, and he keeps customers informed through his blog. Owings gets a kick out of customers sending him photos of themselves working on bikes on a kitchen table or in a crowded garage. And he’s recently been receiving packages from customers wrapped in “onesies” (Owings and his wife, Courtney, just had a baby girl, Rebecca.)

“I’ve got the greatest customers,” he said.

The connection is real and has led to steady business, one that could grow quickly. But Owings wants to do things on his own time. Owings spelled it out in a 10-point blog post he titled “Hugh’s Personal Engine Building Philosophy.”

First on list: “Don’t rush me. I enjoy building these engines, but if you think a large sum of cash or a checkbook is going to put me in a hurry, forget about it.”

Owings said he’s not afraid to put on the brakes. He’s also not afraid to charge a premium for his work. Sometimes slowing down production helps boost demand. And if you “work too cheap, you get cheap customers,” he said.

It was his grandfather who instilled his independent streak, Owings said. Growing up with his grandad in Murphy, Owings said he watched him do everything. “My grandfather told me it’s not about how much money you make, it’s how much you save by doing it yourself,” he said.

“That kind of screwed me,” he said with a laugh. “He never showed me how to do anything. He showed me how to think, and I think that’s lacking today.”

That do-it-yourself work ethic informs Hugh’s HandBuilt.

“We’re not building stuff to show it off. I’ll ride bikes I work on until their dead,” he said. “There’s no greater feeling than riding that first mile on that two-wheeled death trap you just rebuilt. You never forget that.”
What: Owner of Hugh’s HandBuilt motorcycle shop in the River Arts District.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial design and product design, Appalachian State University.
For more information: Visit his website at and blog at

Sick Motorcycle Tank Engraving


The Heritage Motorcycle Show at the Museum Will Rule


Got a cool antique motorcycle, awesome chop or sweet Brit ride? The Muskegon Heritage Museum wants you, brothers and sisters.

What do you get? The best damn parking on Steel Horse Alley during Muskegon Bike Time, and that’s only the beginning of the perks.

The Muskegon Heritage Museum is offering the ultimate sweet deal during Muskegon Bike Time from July 18-21, 2013.

Open to all makes and models, but pre-1970 is the rule. It is a museum, you know?

Supreme event parking right in the center of Steel Horse Alley on Western Avenue, overnight secure indoor parking for your antique or classic machine, free digital studio photos of your bike. You can roll up any day during the show or call ahead and make special

Yep, we roll like that…

Call Adam Winters for details, (231) 769-5243


Contact for more details…

561 West Western Avenue
Muskegon, MI