APRIL 21, 1937

William A. Davidson, Harley-Davidson’s vice President and one of the four founders, passed away at the age of 66. He will be fondly remembered for his kind nature and the positive presence he brought with each day wherever he went. A skilled mechanic from a young age, he was interested in the challenge of creating a gasoline-propelled form of transportation. The creation of motorcycles and the unending improvement of their design became his life’s work. Beyond the bikes, he was someone who cared deeply about people. A welcoming demeanor, he was ready to listen to those around him and share his wisdom to alleviate their troubles. The world is a happier, more cheerful, and better for his having been among us

William A. Davidson

William A. Davidson passed away.

APRIL 19, 1943

Harley-Davidson began offering oil for sale to its customers beginning in 1909 and continues to do so today. Over the years, oil has come in a variety of containers and shipping configurations. During World War II, Harley-Davidson responded to the steel shortage by shipping oil in glass containers. This was one of many methods Harley-Davidson employed to aid in the war effort. After the war, Harley returned to using metal containers for its oil.

Shipping old in glass containers

Due to war-time restrictions in steel, Harley-Davidson begins shipping oil in glass containers.

APRIL 17, 1982

In the race for the Grand National Championship of Motorcycle Racing, Jay Springsteen, three-time AMA #1 plate holder, broke the all-time AMA record for career victories by posting his 30th win in the Winston Pro Series at Sacramento on April 17. Springsteen tied Kenny Roberts’ record of 29 wins in Houston on February 7. The victory was Springer’s second this year in as many outings. Harley-Davidson motorcycles took the first 11 places, leading Honda-mounted Mike Kidd, who placed 12th. Ricky Graham posted his third second-place final this season, followed by Harley-Davidson factory riders Randy Goss, placing third, and Scott Parker, fifth. Harley-Davidson leads the competition for the Manufacturer’s Trophy with 76 points, followed by Honda with 61 and Yamaha with 46.

Jay Springsteen

Jay Springsteen breaks all-time AMA National wins record with 30th victory at Sacramento, CA.

APRIL 12, 1915

Roy Artley and his Harley-Davidson carried away first honors in the one-hour race at Bakersfield, CA. Artley hung up a record of 68.7 miles for the hour, an average of about 53 seconds to the mile, conceded to be the best time ever made on the Bakersfield track. Artley’s performance proved to enthusiasts that the Harley-Davidson had the endurance as well as the speed.

Ray Artley

Ray Artley sets new track record at Bakersfield, CA

APRIL 6, 1931

On April 6, 1931, Harley-Davidson announced that it would begin offering a built-in reverse gear on all 74” Big Twins. This gear allowed the motorcycle to run backwards, something that wasn’t possible on previous motorcycles. Motorcycles at the time had three-speed gear boxes and the addition of this fourth gear required a design change in the gear box and cover. This meant that anyone wanting the reverse gear had to purchase a new motorcycle, as it could not be added to older machines. Furthermore, the reverse gear was only available on 74” Big Twin VL models.

Reverse gear models

Harley-Davidson begins offering a reverse gear on the VL models.

APRIL 4, 1915

On April 4, 1915, Otto Walker and Leslie Parkhurst took first and second place, respectively, at the International Grand Prize Road Race in Venice, California.  Both broke world records by running at 68 ½ miles per hour for 300 miles and finished within 15 ¾ seconds of each other. Their achievement proved the speed capabilities of Harley-Davidson stock machines.

Participants of International Grand Prize Road Race

Pictured:  Joe Wolter, E. E. Washborn, Otto Walker, Ray Artley, and Leslie “Red” Parkhurst at the International Grand Prize Road Race.

APRIL 1, 1983

During the 1970’s, overseas motorcycle manufacturers flooded the US motorcycle market with machines sold below market value, decreasing Harley-Davidson’s share of the motorcycle market. In 1982, Harley-Davidson sought protection from the International Trade Commission and requested a tariff on all overseas heavyweight motorcycles. A tariff would allow Harley-Davidson to improve their quality and become a thriving business once again. President Reagan signed the tariff into effect on April 1, 1983. While the act was supposed to last for five years, then CEO Vaughn Beals asked that it be lifted a year early in 1987. Harley-Davidson had grown strong enough to deal with overseas completion without the aid of a tariff. This was the first and only time such a request was made to the ITC and it impressed the US government so much that Ronald Reagan toured the York plant in May of that year.

New tariff

President Ronald Reagan signs tariff into effect.