Harley Davidson Museum Highlights Racing and Remembers Their Past Like We Did

Harley Museum racing program

Harley Museum racing program

Remember a few months back when I asked about Harley Davidson's road racing heritage? I have to wonder if someone at the museum saw that post because with Harley's present emphasis on their "core" which is all cruisers, all the time, you have to keep reminding people that it wasn't always so and the museum is having a program, Untold Stories: Built for Speed: The History & Evolution of Harley-Davidson Racing, which will cover that part of their past.

There's no need to rehash the points raised in that previous article or the comments that followed, but I can't help but notice the image on the flyer for the program is a road racer, not a flat tracker. They're going to cover flat track and drag racing, board trackers, too, but it's a road racer that gets the feature spot. While they still have their hands in other venues, it's road racing that is gone. Nice to see the Motor Company acknowledge they actually had a racing past instead of trying to hide it. Interesting.

Link: Harley Davidson museum


  1. Willy says

    Things are looking up! …no more poor Speed channel coverage of road racing and now the HD museum is including road racing in its display.

  2. rohorn says

    I can picture the show now, presented by some hipsterish guy who hates racing:

    “…..(swig of water) …Uh, and here’s what orange and black looked like in 1968. And in 1969, we boldly came out with the new black and a more traditional orange. Then in 1970, when everyone else did the same thing by being different, we were different by doing the same thing. As you can see, we never left racing, it left us.” [/sneer]

    They do have a roadracing heritage worth celebrating – I’m shocked they are doing it.

  3. Tin Man says

    Does anyone buy Bikes based on Road Racing?? Does anyone need Racing power on the street?? The current market it growing towards fuel efficent mid size bikes, not more over powered racers. Leave it to Harley to celebrate a past when no cares anymore. I do keep forgeting that HD is in bussiness to MAKE MONEY, not pander to a shrinking Boy Racer market.

    • rohorn says

      So what market are they pandering to now?

      My toilet was made by a company that makes money – not a very stimulating subject of enthusiasm or conversation, is it? Then again, somewhere on the internet…

      Are low performance people qualified to discuss high performance motorcycles?

      Are all roadracers “over powered”?

      If the “mid-sized” bike market matters to H-D, then why do they only talk about their “Heavyweight market” (Which includes the 883, by the way) leadership?

      Why do low performance people get offended by high performance bikes?

      How many times has H-D faced bankruptcy?

    • says

      Shrinking boy racer market?
      Have you seen the increase in Track Day business ? This summer there will be 3 Moto GP races in the States.

      Those are not indicators of a shrinking racer market .

      • Richard Gozinya says

        I think the main evidence for that is the falling off of sales of supersports. Though to believe that’s due to a decline in the popularity in sport bikes in general forces on to ignore the increase in sales of smaller displacement sportbikes, as well as as sales of superbikes. There is also the increase in popularity of what could loosely be described as middleweight standards, be that the new Honda NT700’s, the Moto Guzzi V7’s, or whatever. More and more flavors to choose from in that loosely defined category, which is great.

        • Matt E. says

          I believe the downturn in supersport sales has a lot to do with the demographic who would buy said bikes. As someone who sits at the tail end of Gen X and the beginning of Gen Y or whatever it was called, I am only a few years into my career, hurtling toward 30, have been through a layoff, and only a year ago was able financially to make my first purchase of a new motorcycle, which turned out to be a supersport. $10 grand is a lot of luxury to swallow when you’re living on ramen trying to keep tuition payed and a roof over your head, or you are just plain underemployed like many of my peers have experienced. We are a generation that graduated high school when the twin towers fell, and have had to wade through much uncertainty in the economy while trying to kickstart our adult lives. I don’t think the interest has waned at all, it’s just beyond the means of many who wish they could afford to.

          • todd says

            I see more bikes on the road now more than ever. There’s so many excellent used sport bikes available for much less than $6k, why would you pay double for new when there’s no real advantage?


  4. Greg says

    My step father (Richard O’Brien) was director of racing during those days. He designed the XR750, the world land speed record bike, and many others during his day. A time when advertising wasn’t as easy and winning races made people look up and take notice. Harley does not have much reason to pour millions into racing anymore. They spent it on marketing and creating a niche market. That is one of his racers in the poster image.

  5. B50 Jim says

    Wonderful stuff from the 60s when racing was the path to sales, not only for motorcycles but cars as well. More than that, even though the atmosphere around racing was superheated, anyone with some talent and a reasonable amount of cash could go racing, do fairly well and have fun. Now, most of the American market doesn’t care about motorcycle racing; thanks to Harley’s successful bad-boy campaign, motorcycles became all about image. Sure, there still is racing but it’s barely in the national consciousness. This book reminds us that racing roots go deep in the motorcycle world.

    Paul — what’s with the captchas? They’re getting too easy. I enjoyed puzzling them out!

    • says

      Barely in the national consciousness?

      3 Moto GP races are being held this summer in very distinct parts of this country. The northeast and southeast aren’t even included but have the population and interest to support a 4th GP race if it was available.

  6. Mike says

    H-D using their influence with the AMA to make rule changes to give them an edge is legendary. Except to the those wearing H-D tm. glasses. They did it when Daytona was 1/2 a beach race. They did it in dirt track. They have to have an all H-D drag race series to win. They can win at he drags against other brands, but with a bike that has no H-D parts left on it.

  7. todd says

    I imagine this is another attempt to appeal to a younger crowd. Sure, hipsters don’t care much for modern racing but old racing stuff has much more cred to kids than big cruisers do.

    The young kid market is naturally growing and is going to eventually outpace the dwindling boomers. If this does reflect a shift in their core this would be an exciting change for sure. No, there won’t be any 600 in-line fours but a greater focus on performance and value and less focus on bling and “Bad Boy” image.

    Say good-next to all show, no go!


  8. Manxman says

    A very comprehensive book on Harley racing in the golden age of racing is Allan Girdler’s Harley-Davidson Racing, 1934-1986. It was a time before motorhomes, umbrella girls and the Speed Channel. Perhaps one of the greatest road racers was Cal Rayborn – I believe that’s him on Number 25 on the poster.

  9. Mike says

    At first glance, I thought the racer’s number was plastered in his bum going the other way around :)

    I think i need to visit an eye doctor.

  10. Hooligan says

    Did I miss something – HD in Moto GP?
    I have no idea what happens in America but I don’t think MotoGP is a reliable indicator of any increase of interest in racing. Given that the grid keeps getting smaller. And Dorna etc are fiddling as the good ship burns (if you see what I mean)
    However WSB is in better health.

  11. zipidachimp says

    say what you want about Speedtv, but at least I knew where I was going to be on most Sunday afternoons. Not so much this year. Damn!

  12. Medicated Steve says

    Wait first of all, even if sport bikes are in popular demand why would that matter to Harley Davidson? Last time I was at a track day most kids were on 600-1000cc Asian bikes. My friend raced a Yamaha r6 semi pro. Buell hung around for a little while and is now doing his own race program or whatever. So where is Harley going with this? They seem to leave everything to displacement which won’t do anything when up against a smaller, lighter, and more powerful rocket ship. If Harley did get into the sport bike world, the price tag would almost immediately kill it off.

  13. todd says

    Did they ever get the Aermacchi brand back from Cagiva? That would be sweet if they did. That would allow them the freedom to do a sporting brand without all the baggage (snicker) associated with the H-D label. It would be like Yamaha-Star but in reverse and still maintain all of the racing glory of the H-D / Aermacchi efforts. Start with a range of singles in various forms, moving on to more cylinders and more configurations. How could it go wrong? Well, I guess Husqvarna would be one precedent to look at but then so would KTM. Remember the H-D KTM merger rumors some time back?


    • Richard Gozinya says

      If they wanted to go the Yamaha-Star type of direction, they could just do that with the VRSC family of bikes. It’s not as if V-Rods have ever been their biggest sellers anyways.

      • todd says

        No, no. You’d want to have something small, light, and powerful. Something that will fit in any type of chassis. The VRSC might be a good engine but only really if you compare it to other American V-twins. Of course, H-D was pretty far off the mark with the styling of the V-rods so I’m sure that didn’t help sales.

        I meant Yamaha-Star as in H-D is the “Star” brand, now Harley needs a “Yamaha” brand, a brand all about value, performance, and engineering excellence. A single and parallel twin would be a good place to start. And it wouldn’t even need to pretend to be All American.