The best Harley Davidson motorcycles ever made

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The world is full of amazing motorcycle brands, but I can’t think of a single other manufacturer that can claim to have a lifestyle. Is there another motorcycle brand in the world that has the level of worldwide recognition of Harley Davidson? I can’t think of a single one.

How did Harley-Davidson get here? What are the best bikes made by Harley to make this company the legend it is today? I have to say it looks a bit like walking through a minefield; it’s like being asked to choose which of your kids is your favorite. Well, challenge accepted!

Follow us and I’ll do my best to share what I think are some of the best Harley-Davidson models ever produced by this legendary manufacturer.

Just a note, I don’t have a strong enough flame combination to handle the comments section if I tried to rank them from 1 to 10, so I just list them by year.

1915 Harley-Davidson 11F

Photo credit: Mecum Auctions.

I’m sure for many it’s no surprise that I start with the 1915 11F. There are so many cool changes that have happened with this bike, but I love this quirky. When it was introduced, the 11F cost $ 275, which is $ 35 less than the 11J, and it’s all thanks to the flagship.

Basically HD did away with the expensive electric headlight used on the 11J and replaced it with an acetylene headlight. Customers loved the savings and quickly made the 11F the most popular model of 1915.

OK, there might have been a few other key features introduced on the 11F. Maybe the three-speed sliding gear transmission or the mechanically driven oil pump was more attractive than the lower price? Or could it have been the 22% power increase? the 1000cc V-Twin engine went from 9hp to 11hp.

Imagine sales for 2022 if all Harley models had 22% more horsepower and 10% less price!

1936 Harley-Davidson EL “Knucklehead”

1936 Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead

Photo credit: Hagerty.

There are some amazing stories surrounding this bike, and I love to hear them all. After the Depression and before World War II, business was difficult. Harley Davidson was up against some reliable and fast motorcycles from its rival Indian Motorcycles and needed serious innovations to set them apart.

Engineers at the time knew that for true reliability, improved lubrication was key. Oil recirculation (dry sump) systems were still very new and side valve binoculars had many known limitations. William Harley, the company’s chief engineer, didn’t want a repeat of the previous big side-valve debacle and had worked hard on a whole new overhead valve design.

This new design produced great horsepower but was so plagued with oil leaks that Harley Davidson almost didn’t let go of the bike. Fortunately, solutions were found, the bike was launched and although engineers performed several on-the-fly revisions until 1936, the unique “Knucklehead” was born.

Aside from the incredible motor – and I barely touched on its many design features – Harley designers have created what I personally think is the most beautiful bike they’ve ever made with the EL. The frame and forks were cool designs. A 4-speed transmission was installed. The EL was also the first Harley to have the instrument cluster on top of the tank with its beautiful two-tone paint scheme.

Simply put, the 1936 Harley Davidson EL was a no-brainer for this list.

1940s Harley-Davidson WLA ‘Liberator’

1940s Harley-Davidson WLA LiberatorPhoto credit: ESSC.

As WWII was in full swing, the military needed a tough and reliable motorcycle, and Harley Davidson responded with the WLA.

Many years of development had made the 45 cubic inch “Flathead” engine extremely reliable and tolerant of poor fuel quality, and the Depression era roots of the 45 as a durable utility vehicle were well suited for use. military. Increased ground clearance, a skid plate, and a heavy-duty air filter completed the basics of the “A” or “Army” model, and the increased production allowed Harley Davidson to make a significant non-contribution. only to the US military, but to many others. allied nations.

Over 90,000 WLAs were produced during the war (along with spare parts the equivalent of many more). Harley-Davidson would also produce a close WLA variant for the Canadian military called the WLC and would also supply a smaller number to the UK, South Africa and other allies, as well as orders for various models of the Navy and Marine Corps. Thanks to the loan-lease program, the USSR received more than 26,000 WLA.

Some call the WLA the ‘motorcycle that won the war’, and this level of importance cannot be overlooked.

1958 Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster

1958 Harley-Davidson XLCH SportsterPhoto credit: Mecum Auctions.

The economy was booming in the 1950s, unemployment was low, Americans had extra pocket money, and the biker crowd demanded performance. British bikes nibbled away at Harley’s sales, and dealerships had become increasingly demanding of a bike that could compete.

Thus was born the Sportster of 1957 with a new OHV engine and a heavy dose of KH parts. While this was a step in the right direction, dealers were unimpressed and turned to Walter Davison to demand improvements. They wanted a smaller tank and fenders, basically a KRTT with the new Sportster engine.

HQ built it, and dealers sold them, and now the Sportster family is Harley’s oldest model. This little peanut reservoir and the 883 engine can trace their lineage back 64 years.

1965 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide

1965 Harley-Davidson Electra-GlidePhoto credit: Mecum Auctions.

There have been many significant FL models over the years, but the 1965 Electra Glide stood out as the basis for fully-dressed touring machines to come.

In the final year of the Panhead engine, this was the first Harley FL to be equipped with an electric starter. Riding up to a five-gallon Turnpike tank gave the Electra-Glide some range, and the additional accessories showed the true touring potential.

1970 Harley-Davidson XR-750

1970 Harley-Davidson XR-750Photo credit: Mecum Auctions.

Eventually, yielding to pressure from foreign bicycle manufacturers, in 1969 the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) established new rules that there would be a maximum displacement for track racing: 750 cc, regardless of type. valve. This decision made the KR series obsolete and HD needed a replacement quickly.

It is true that the 1970 XR with its iron heads was not the fastest, it was the start of things to come and the eventual winner of 29 Grand National titles. If that’s not enough, this is the bike Evel Knievel chose for his legendary 1970s stunts.

1990 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

1990 Harley-Davidson Fat BoyPhoto credit: Mecum Auctions.

Arguably the most recognizable of all Harley Davidson models, the Fat Boy ticked every box for what makes a Harley so cool.

Based on the 82 cu / in softail, Willie G. Davidson and Louie Netz nailed styling with the signature stance and solid wheels, creating a road presence that has fully stood the test of time.

Cementing the badass factor, the Fat Boy claimed a starring role in a small movie called “The Terminator”.

1999 FXR2 & 3 “CVO”

1999 Harley Davidson FXR2 CVOPhoto credit: HDForums.

It’s not a model that is usually brought up in discussions about the best Harley-Davidsons of all time, but I’m a fan of history and firsts.

The idea was to start producing niche custom factory bikes and take over the business that aftermarket manufacturers thrived with, and this is how “Custom Vehicle Operations” or “CVOs” came to be. born.

The FXR had already stopped production, but customers still loved the bike, and with all the tooling still available, it was possible to be up and running very quickly.

Jim Hoffman, the Parts and Accessories Program Manager, was commissioned to make these bikes, and both models received approximately $ 4,000 in freebies.

the Harley davidson Dyna was a good bike when production stopped and despite the 5 year hiatus the CVO treatment and limited production made them even better.

Can you even imagine the HD range now without the CVOs?

2002 Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod

2002 Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod doing a burnoutPhoto credit: Visordown.

It was exactly the bike Harley Davidson needed to show the world. The impact of V-Rod on the motorcycle community was huge; therefore, performance and Harley Davidson could be combined in the same sentence.

All-American DNA was fully present, but now in a package the rest of the world could have a head start on. The motorcycle’s launch on the drag strip left no doubt what the new 1130cc Revolution engine was: 115 crank hp and 7000 rpm 74 ft-lbs, developed with help from Porsche.

The least Harley-like bike that was absolutely a Harley-Davidson became the company’s top-selling bike outside of the United States.

Night train FXSTB 2009

Night train FXSTB 2009Photo credit: Total Motorcycle.

Much like the Fat Boy 1990, the Night Train 2009 quite simply succeeded with design and performance. For the last year of the night train, it was now fitted with the 1584cc Twin-Cam 96B engine. With the fat rear tire, 21ft front tire, brake bars, and the extended front end, the blackened machine was a quick turn.

With a stance and riding stance that buyers have been clamoring for, the Night Train showed just how great a Harley can be of a daily ride.

Conclusion

There you have it, my list. I guarantee you there are a lot of models that should be on this list that I missed. It is almost impossible to satisfy everyone when the brand’s history is as long and rich as that of Harley-Davidson.

Looking forward to your return. Tell me what you agree with and what you think I should have included.

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