Donny is the Winner of the 2012 International Book Awards.
Donny Petersen offers workable solutions for whatever ails your 1999 to 2008 Harley-Davidson. Graphics, pictures, and charts guide the reader on a sure-footed journey to a thorough H-D Twin Cam understanding.
Petersen's insight makes technical issues understandable even to the motorcycle novice in easy-to-understand language.
The Secrecy Agreement
Ya’ll Ain’t Gitten in der Boy! Dats were da secret stuff is.
The cabby asked. “Where ya’ll going, boy.”
“Juneau Ave, 3700 West Juneau Ave.” I said.
“Wastin’ yer time, boy.” He admonished. “Ya’ll ain’t gitten in der. Dats were dey do dat secret stuff”
“You mean research and development?” I volunteered.
“Ain’t dat what I said boy! I will wait here. Got me a two-way trip, cuz you ain’t gitten in.”
The old six-story building at 3700 West Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee looks exactly what it is, a pre World War II factory. It now houses H-D’s corporate offices, normal and secret storage, and Harley-Davidson Archives.
The modern Milwaukee factories are located on Pilgrim Road, which normally does not offer tours and the Capitol Drive Plant that does have public tours. It has a little Harley store, which has exclusive souvenirs only available there.
Out front of the Juneau facility is a Harley’s only parking lot with a “No Cages Allowed” sign. Surrounding this primo parking area are the less desirable parking areas for the cages (cars).
The security in the lobby inside was strict.
Enclosed in protective glass was a 1903 Harley-Davidson. It was gussied up to look better than it did back then. Its single-cylinder 3 HP belt-driven engine with no transmission contrasted greatly with the 95th anniversary Road King in the opposite corner.
After this article was published in American Iron Magazine, Dr. Martin Rosenblum, the official Harley-Davidson historian wrote a letter to AIM asserting that I was incorrect and that the 1903 Harley was indeed totally original and identical to when manufactured.
Dr. Rosemblum wrote, “Thank you for the wonderful piece you wrote entitled “Security at Juneau Ave.” However, you made a serious error in referring to our 1903-04 Harley-Davidson as a “replica.” It is not. It is the real thing. Please inform your readers that we have Serial Number One in our lobby for the world to see just as it rolled out of the original factory.”
Dr. Martin Jack Rosenblum
Harley-Davidson Archives Historian
I replied “1903 Harley-Davidson that’s been gussied up to look better than it did back then.” I could tell the bike wasn’t a replica but I commented to a factory worker who was conducting a tour that it sure was pretty. It was obviously nicer looking than it was in 1903. He laughed and said, “It sure is.”
We disagree but Dr. Rosenblum is an authority on Harley-Davidson and did a wonderful job historically documenting the history of this venerable company.
Harley-Davidson Secrecy and Security
Returning to the lobby, opposite the 1903 H.D., the Harley emblazoned black leather furniture sat in the third corner nearest the door outside. A security guard sat at the front door beside the enclosed black check-in counter. Above him in orange neon was the Bar and Shield, Harley’s symbol.
After I identified myself, the secretary phoned the magic name I proffered and all of a sudden, I was okay. “Wait for security. Sign in this book, wear this security tag while in the building, and turn it in when leaving.” Cameras were prohibited. “You must agree to random searches at any time. In addition, the legal department requires signing a confidentiality agreement. You are not allowed to discuss anything you see until June 25th.” The date was March 18, 1998.
Do you have any idea how hard it was not to discuss the Twin Cam Fathead for three whole months while all the people supposedly in the know give opinions about what the Factory was doing?
H-D’s top engineers taught us over the best part of a week. We have held each individual part in our hands, seen the completed engine and assembled Fathead Twin Cam bikes.
It was tough especially when the rumors for the most part were wrong. I bit my lip more than once. Having delicious secrets was no fun.
Why did they choose me? I never thought the Factory would approve me in the first place since I was not shy when it comes to being critical in my columns. However, the Factory said I was okay. The body language was already telling me the Factory people were confident that they had a winner.
I was not so sure. I had my list of structural complaints about the predecessor Evolution engine. Resolve the whole list with improvements in the new engine and you have a convert. The critic in me becomes loud and clear if this does not happen. The H-D fan in me laps on the praise when it does happen.
Boxes, purses, and bags are searched going in and out. As I wrote this, waiting for my escort to be like Velcro on my side, a security glared at me, officiously wondering what I was writing. Suddenly, I was off the hook as the guard was busy searching a briefcase of someone wanting to leave.
Weather had delayed my cohorts Chris Maida and Buzz Kanter in Chicago. Therefore, up I found myself with a nervous Steve Peihl who was in charge of the press. He was great at keeping a secret and not so good at letting one out.
The elevators were the old style, pull-down-the-wooden-slat-door freight ones. We walked through a maze to get where we are going, which turned out to be the Harley-Davidson Archives. The door to the archives is always locked. It is necessary to bang on the door to get in and ask permission to get out.
What a strange place to be viewing the future. “How come here?” I asked. “No one will suspect here,” came the logical reply. Dr. Rosenblum, the fastidious H-D historian, didn’t like this violation of his inner sanctum, but he consoled himself by watching history in the making. Once allowed inside, I immediately discerned the reasons for security and secrecy.
There it was…a mechanic’s dream. About 460 foreign-looking but somehow familiar parts lay in front of me, I easily identified maybe fifteen or twenty as being 1984-to-present Evolution motor parts. To the side was the complete Twin Cam Fathead engine while on the other was a 1999 Dyna Twin Cam motorcycle.
I was ecstatic as the group lead by “Skip” Metz began educating me. When realizing my teachers were the engineers in charge of design, testing, and production, I was in heaven. Leading the team was Bill Davidson himself who was extremely emotional about this new milestone for Harley-Davidson. His grandfather must have felt the same way in 1936 when he introduced the new overhead valve Knucklehead that replaced the old Flathead side valve technology.
By now, Buzz and Chris’s plane had come in from Chicago. The engineers had to teach all over again. I now concentrated on the mechanical theory relating to the newer technology.
We needed pictures, many pictures. We gained security clearance from Steve. However, the archives were too dark for crisp, informative photos. We had to improvise somehow. Chris returned from the locked washroom across the hall. He said the light was great in there. Over we went carrying all the parts. The old-style washroom had lots of white marble, space, and big factory-style windows. We all reconvened in the washroom the next day, taking numerous pictures of each part and the subassembly it fit in.
After we relocated, poor Skip explained in detail, once again, everything about each part for the third time. I then understood every component, conceptualized how the different systems like oiling, breathing, and the spark map matrix worked. I also appreciated the noise and emissions aspects imposed by government regulations. More importantly, I grasped how they would influence the Fathead and the future.