A Timeline of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

A Timeline of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

A timelime of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, from the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer's humble beginnings to the present day.


1904 – First real Harley-Davidson, a 405 cc loop-frame, competes in a motorcycle race at Milwaukee State Fair Park.

1907- Prototype of a 45-degree V-Twin engine is shown at the Chicago Automobile Show. The 880 cc V-twin produced about 7 hp.


1914 – Production of Harley-Davidson motorcycles jumps tremendously with introduction of the 1,000 cc F-Head V-twin. Like many bikes at the time, the F-Head featured an IOE (intake over exhaust) configuration.

1917-1918 – Harley Davidson contributes 15,000 motorcycles to U.S. military forces during WWI.


1922 – F-Head V-Twin now available in 1200 cc.

1925- First “Teardrop”-shaped gas tank appears on a Harley.

1929- 750 cc Flathead D model is introduced to compete with the Indian 101 Scout and Excelsior Super X.


1930 – Flathead V-twin increased to 1200 cc.

1936 – The Knucklehead 1,000 cc V-twin replaces the Flathead as the top-of-the-line model. Originally referred to “OHVs” these engines became known as Knuckleheads by the 1960s due to the distinctive shape of the rocker boxes.


1941 – 1210 cc Knucklehead introduced in the F and FL models.

1942 – The Harley-Davidson XA is developed for military use. It was based on the BMW R71, featuring a 750cc flat-twin across the frame and shaft-drive. Only 1,000 models were made and the XA remains the only shaft-driven Harley.

Harley-Davidson Timeline

1948- The Panhead 1000 cc and 1200 cc V-twins replace the Knucklehead, earning its name from the rocker covers that look like upside-down pans. Both the “Captain America” and “Billy Bike” motorcycles in Easy Rider featured Panhead engines.

1949 – A FL with Panhead engine and new front suspension is released as the Hydra-Glide.


1955- The Harley-Davidson Hummer, a 125cc two-stroke, is produced after Harley acquired the design of the German DKW RT 125 as part of the WWII war reparations.

1957 – First Sportster is introduced as the XL. It came with either an 883 cc or 1000 cc Ironhead (named after the cast iron heads) OHV engine.

Harley-Davidson Timeline


1965- Electra Glide is the first “big-twin” Harley equipped with an electric starter.

1966 – Shovelhead V-twin replaces the Panhead with a ten percent power increase.


1970 – The Sportster XR-750 dirt tracker is created in response to rule changes in the AMA Grand National Championship. This bike has won more races than any other in AMA racing history.


1984 – 1340cc Evolution (“Blockhead”) engine replaces the Shovelhead in Harley’s big V-twin bikes as one of the companies most reliable engines to date.

1984- Harley releases the FXST Softail. The bike was designed to look like the classic hardtails of the pasts, while still providing rear suspension hidden under the transmission.

1986 – Sportster Evolution engine (883 cc, 1100 cc, and 1200 cc) introduced with four camshafts (one per overhead valve).

Harley-Davidson Timeline


1991 – Dyna Chassis introduced with the FXDB Sturgis. These traditionally-styled bikes featured big-twin engines and coil-over suspension as opposed to the Softail’s hidden suspension.

1993- All Sportsters transition to belt-drive.

1999- Twin Cam 88 (“Fathead”) 1450 cc engine replaces the Evolution except in the Softail family.

Harley-Davidson Timeline


2000 – The single-cylinder Buell Blast is released by the Harley-Davidson subsidiary, Buell.

2000- Twin Cam 95 engine available at 1550 cc.

2001 – A new family of cruiser bikes called the VRSC (V-Twin Racing Street Custom) is introduced with the V-Rod. The V-Rod uses the Revolution engine developed in conjunction with Porsche for the VR-1000 Superbike. Unlike Harley’s other V-twins, the Revolution is set at 60-degrees and features liquid cooling.

2003- Twin Cam 103 engine with 1,690 cc introduced. 2007- Electronic Fuel Injection becomes standard on all lines.

2007- VRXSE: V-Rod “Destroyer” is a non-legal production drag racing motorcycle designed to run a quarter mile in under ten seconds.

2008- Sportster XR1200 pays homage to its dirt-tracker heritage with Evolution engine tuned to produce 91 horse power.

2009 – Harley redesigns entire touring range. Changes include new frame, new swingarm, revised engine-mounting system, and 6-gallon tank.


2012 – Twin Cam 103 becomes standard on most models, except the Sportster and 2 Dyna Models.

2012- FLD Dyna Switchback introduced as the first Dyna-series bike to use FL-style forks.

joshua mattie

Joshua D. Mattie

My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!

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