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.
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.
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).
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.
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.