On March 23, 1942, Harley-Davidson announced that it would discontinue the sale of 45 cubic-inch solo models to its dealers. Like other manufacturers during World War II, Harley-Davidson shifted much of its production toward supporting the war effort. During the war, Harley-Davidson produced approximately 60,000 WLA models for the military and converted the Service School into the Quartermaster School to train military mechanics. From 1941-1946, motorcycle models did not change and, due to the many shortages brought on by the war, even paint was hard to come by. It was very difficult to purchase a new motorcycle even if one had the means to do so. Most motorcycles produced during this time were sent to the Army and production for the general public often came in second.
The sale of 45 cubic-inch solo models to dealers was discontinued due the demand for WLA models by the Army.
Dick O’Brien was arguably the most successful racing directors in Harley-Davidson history. Born in 1921, he worked as a mechanic and racer for the Puckett Motors Harley-Davidson in Florida. Hired by Harley-Davidson in 1957, he led the company’s racing team to 16 Grand National Championships and 183 individual championships over the course of his career. In response to stiff competition from Japanese and British dirt and road bikes, O’Brien supervised the development of the XR-750. This innovative motorcycle went on to become the most successful dirt track motorcycle in AMA history. He also worked with Willie G. to develop the Sportster Streamliner, which set record-breaking speeds at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. He retired in 1983 after 26 years with the company.
The photo features Dick O’Brien and the 1976 racing team standing behind the XR-750. From left to right: Rex Beauchamp, Jay Springsteen, Dick O’Brien, Clyde Denzer, Greg Sassaman, Mert Lawill.
Former racing director, Dick O’Brien, passed away.
In 1916, the U. S. was involved in a conflict with Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary. Pancho Villa orchestrated a series of border raids that had the army scrambling. General John “Black Jack” Pershing instituted “maneuver warfare”, which emphasized speed and mobility. He recognized that Harley-Davidson motorcycles would meet these criteria. On March 16, 1916, Harley-Davidson received an order for twelve motorcycles to be sent immediately to the border. A second order came in on March 27. The motorcycles were fitted with sidecar gun carriages that allowed machine guns to be mounted on them. Harley-Davidson went on to have a long partnership with the U. S. military and supplied vehicles during both world wars.
The War Department requested twelve Harley-Davidsons for use on the Mexican-American border in the conflict with Pancho Villa.
On March 13, 1937, Joe Petrali set a land speed record of 136.183 miles per hour at Daytona. He rode a blue 1936 EL equipped with a 61 cubic inch Knucklehead engine that was specially designed for the attempt. It featured low-slung handlebars, a fairing made from a cut and reshaped gas tank, and a rear tail fin assembly for aerodynamics. The tail fin had to be removed for the official attempt, though, because of the vibration it caused. This race marked the beginning of Harley-Davidson’s pursuit of land speed records. Since then, Harley-Davidson has built a variety of vehicles that have broken several different classes of land speed records.
Joe Petrali set the land speed record for two-wheeled vehicles on a 4-valve 61 OHV with a speed of 136.183 mph.
Brad Andres, a young and handsome Harley-Davidson rider, scored an impressive victory in the 200-Mile beach-road race at Daytona Beach. Andres scored his second victory in the grueling Classic with a skillful ride over the rough, windswept and crowded 4.1-mile course. His previous 200 victory was in 1955, when he was only 18 years old. This year's 200 miler was one of the most thrilling and hard fought races in the 22-year history of the Daytona Classic. Andres admitted that "the backstretch had never been so rough." Strong northeast winds buffeted the riders on the beach straightaway and pushed the waves up onto the beach, leaving it soggy. The 14,000 spectators were amazed at the power-packed competition.
This marks the fifth year in a row that a Harley-Davidson rider won the 200, and the second consecutive H-D win in the 100 thanks to victor Bill Scott. The first five places in the 200 went to H-D riders—Andres, Dick Mann, Tony Murquia, Jack Gholson and Bobby Sir Kegian. Eight of the first 10 finishers in the 100 relied on Milwaukee power. Truly a most impressive showing for Harley-Davidson.
Brad Andres crowned the 200-mile AMA National Champion at Daytona. It was a repeat performance of his 1955 win, this time with an average speed of 98.705 mph.
Joe Leonard of San Jose, California affirmed his nickname “Mister Missile” as he set a new record at Daytona Beach, winning him the 200-Mile National Championship. This marked the third Daytona win for Harley-Davidson in five years. The former record, 94.57 mph – set by Brad Andres two years earlier – was surpassed by 3.95 mph. Leonard’s record time was 2 hours, 49.2 seconds.
Joe Leonard wins the Daytona 200 with a new record average speed of 98.52 mph, smashing the old record by nearly 4 mph.