Donny’s Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present
Volume III: The Evolution: 1984 to 2000
About the Book
Donny is the Winner of the 2012 International Book Awards. Donny Petersen has been educating motorcycle enthusiasts about Harley-Davidson bikes for years. Now, he has combined all his knowledge into a twelve-volume series masterpiece and this third book is one that every rider will treasure. Petersen, who has studied privately with Harley-Davidson engineers and has spent thirty-six years working on motorcycles, is sharing all of his secrets! As the founder of Toronto’s Heavy Duty Cycles in 1974, North America’s premier motorcycle shop, the dean of motorcycle technology teaches about the theory, design, and mechanical aspects of Harleys. In this third volume, discover: 1. How to identify the Evolution models. 2. Why the Evolution models are better. 3. Everything you need to know about engines. 4. Troubleshooting every facet of the Evolution. And so much more! The Harley-Davidson Evolution The Japanese had more than quality. Their arsenal included acceleration and speed combining with good braking and handling. They could design, tool-up and build a new motorcycle in a mere eighteen months. The flavor of the day could easily be accomplished with this organizational skill and dexterity. On top of this they had lower prices. The Gang of 13 took over a failing company or did they? By 1982, Harley-Davidson sales went into a tailspin with plunging production. The USA was in a deep recession. Adding to the perfect storm was the flood of Asian imports that many believe were being sold in the U.S. below their manufactured costs. Whether this was true or not, how did a small country a half-world away manufacture a quality product that was faster, handled better, and was less expensive? Furthermore, these import motorcycles were more functional. Well, of course they did because USA motorcycle manufacturing offered old clunker styling that was slower, did not handle well, and broke down all the time! And for all of this, Harley-Davidson’s cost more. Insulting if one thinks about it. It is not that the Evolution was that good relative to their competitors because in my opinion it was not. However, the Evolution was stellar relative to what went before. I was a loyal Shovelhead rider, necessarily becoming a mechanic along the way. I like the rest of my ilk would never consider riding any other product. I did not care that a Honda might be functionally better, less expensive, and not require my newfound mechanical skills. Honda simply did not give what my psyche craved. Importantly, H-D dropped its lackadaisical attitude towards copyright infringement, particularly with knock-off products. Harley-Davidson became extremely aggressive against the counterfeiting of their trademarks. It licensed use of its logos with all manner merchandise that was embraced by mainstream America followed by the world including the Japanese. H-D then saw the birth of HOG, the most successful marketing and loyalty campaign in the annals of corporate sustenance. The world embraced this pasteurized version of the outlaw subculture. You might meet the nicest people on a Honda but Harley riders are all about cool. They adapt a pseudo-outlaw lifestyle that emulates freedom and individualism. They spend much of their time adopting one charity or another to prove they really aren’t bad. Many charities benefitted greatly during the Harley boom. Can these riders be contesting the Honda mantra of niceness? The previous owners AMF deserve much credit for the success of Harley-Davidson. They gave the Gang of 13 a platform from, which to launch. These new guys were brighter than bright. They put a management team together that knew no bounds in success. I am sure that Marketing 101 in every business school teaches and will continue to teach their brilliant story. Harley-Davidson became the epitome of American manufacturing and marketing, the darling of capitalism at its finest. Think about it! How could a rusty old manufacturer whose time had drifted by reach such pinnacles of success? Well, H-D had a little help along the way with two main sociological factors: 1. The post World War II baby boom, the aging bulge in American demographics looking for adventure and whatever (safely) came their way. 2. A generation that worked hard; raised families and then looked back at what they had missed in their youth. Harley-Davidson embodied the freedom and adventure they lacked. Harley-Davidson was granted two decades, in which to plan a lasting and viable future. It sought to be the motorcycle of mainstream America. The world would follow. This venerable company almost pulled it off. The Motor Company updated technology both in their manufacturing venue and in the product itself. H-D balanced on a near-impossible fulcrum, maintaining tradition on one side and complying with environmental dictates on the other. The Evolution’s successor, the air-cooled Twin Cam introduced in 1999 with great success. H-D continued to grow and prosper. I have always viewed the Twin Cam as a transitional model embracing the past but leading into a future of overhead cams and water jackets. The new H-D V-Rod’s technological marvels are a wonderful attempt but as much as the Factory hoped, mainstream Harley riders did not take the bait en masse. After all they had their psychological needs. These attempts did not prevent dark clouds from appearing on the horizon: 1. Inexorably, the post World War II baby boom’s bulge has grown older, losing interest in reclaiming youth with interests shifting elsewhere. Who is to take over this downsizing market? Who will be left to support the Motor Company in the style it has become accustomed? 2. In my humble opinion, the masters of marketing did not fill the coming void of consumers. I think H-D is good at pretty much everything except lowering prices for the incoming generations. Nor have they developed affordable and desirable product lines for the youth. Certainly, the Factory began to enjoy economies of scale in manufacturing. I for one do not think they have used their profits wisely for continued prosperity. Will I continue to ride a Harley at age 62? Sure I will but I was riding them before they became cool. I am not a dentist looking for a safe walk on the wild side or a movie star acquiring the in-bauble of the day. The Evolution motorcycle saved the Hog’s bacon but a new savior is now required.
About the Author
Donny is the Winner of the 2012 International Book Awards. Donny Petersen operated Heavy Duty Cycles in Toronto, Canada, for thirty-six years. Since 1992, he’s written a monthly column, “Techline,” for American Iron Magazine. Instructed privately by Harley-Davidson engineers, he taught mechanics, designed school curricula and written exams. This twelve-volume series by the dean of motorcycle technology examines the theory, design, and practical aspects of all things Harley-Davidson. Having ridden hundreds of H-D Flatheads, Knuckleheads, Pans, Shovels, Evos, and Twin Cams across four continents—and doing all of his own roadside repairs—he has acquired a wealth of first hand practical knowledge that he now shares. He dispenses streetwise tips and walks readers through detailed service procedures—including everything from porting and polishing cylinder heads to performing simple maintenance, like oil changes. A Toronto resident, Donny enjoys riding, mountain trekking, boxing, and diving.