Historical and technical profiles written by Harley-Davidson expert Dain Gingerelli and masterful motorcycle photography by David Blattel come together in Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle (Motorbooks, 2011). The result is a breathtaking review of over 100 stunning Harley-Davidson greatest hits from the early 1900s to today. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 1, “Finding Form: The Early Harley Motorcycles.”
1933 Model VLD
With little capital available to make major changes for 1933 models, Harley-Davidson’s engineers got creative, introducing a few minor and low-cost improvements for the year. Chief among them was the Ride Control option that consisted of a pair of slotted steel plates mounted on the front fork assembly. By changing the position of the slotted plates, the suspension could be tailored to meet the rider’s specific needs. While the Ride Control option didn’t alter the bike’s handling much, the feature proved popular among customers, as did the Buddy Seat, which was an elongated saddle that made room for a passenger on the back portion. This style seat later became popular with FL owners when the Duo-Glide and early Electra-Glide models became Harley-Davidson’s top sellers in the 1950s and 1960s. But perhaps the most welcome feature for 1933 VL customers was the wide selection of paint and graphics that Harley-Davidson offered. And if that wasn’t enough, chrome-plated components were added to the list. If for no other reason, 1933 proved to be a watershed year for Harley-Davidson in terms of how the company’s marketing team approached the way it viewed its customers’ wants and needs.
Engine Displacement: 74 cubic inches
Horsepower: 29 horsepower
Weight: 529 pounds
• A 1933 VLE (higher compression engine) set a worldspeed record of 104 mph.
• The Great Depression forced Harley-Davidson to run its factory at about 20 percent in 1933.
More examples of Harley-Davidson innovation from Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle:
Main Article: Finding Form: Early Harley-Davidson Innovation
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, published by Motorbooks, 2011.