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My brother works at Harley-Davidson here in York, PA. A story that's part of the legend that is Harley culture goes something like this...

In the early 1980's Harley-Davidson was on the brink of bankruptcy. AMF had bought them several years earlier because Harley wanted to go public. Only it didn't happen. AMF simply drove the company into the ground. New motorcycles would literally leak oil on the showroom floors. The quality, if you want to call it that, was awful. Broken down bikes could be seen littering the roadside.

A group of executives within Harley decided to try and save the company. They pooled all of their money and approached AMF to buy the company. AMF was only too happy to oblige as the brand had diminished to such a level that they viewed it as not worth saving.

The Harley execs, now new company owners, went to work right away. First, they asked Ronald Reagan to enact tariffs in order to protect them from foreign competition, thereby making the playing field level (previously it was alleged that the Japanese were dumping cheap bikes in the US). Reagan took the steps necessary and then visited the plant here in York. I still remember seeing Marine 1 flying overhead.

Next, they unanimously agreed that they needed a ground-breaking bike to market and came up with what is still one of their best sellers, the Fatboy. The name behind the motorcycle is where the lore begins...

They decided that they wanted to destroy the Japanese competition and that the name of their new bike was going to be the Fatboy. Any one who is familiar with World War II history knows that there were two atomic bombs dropped; one on Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki. One was nicknamed the Fat Man and the other, the Little Boy. Harley put each of these words together to come up with the Fatboy. They also painted the bikes the same color that the atomic bombs were painted, a drab gray, with an orange stripe. Sales of the Fatboy turned the company around and the rest, as they say, is history.
 

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As a longtime, now former, Harley owner I have seen this story in various forms for many years--a very popular notion for many, but unfortunately not so. It is just an urban legend.

I first heard/saw it in the early/mid-90s with just the Harley history and tariff parts (all true, any bike 700 cc or larger was subject to the tariff), the "drab gray with orange stripes" color part was added later. In reality Fat Man and Little Boy were not gray and orange at all. Here are photos of the originals and replicas I have seen at Los Alamos:

Fat Man:


Little Boy:


The replicas:
 

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Gotta love urban legends! It's a great story and one that took some bit of imagination to conjure up. The Fatboy was a game changer for sure, leading to a domination of the big cruiser market. As a result, many Japanese companies started to manufacture very Harley-esque bikes that even sounded like them. Harley in turn filed a lawsuit, claiming the sound was so distinctive as to be a trademark. I recall the Harley lawyer describing the sound as, "potato, potato, potato". How funny.
 

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I had a bunch of Harleys, my first a 1955 45 cubic inch Korean War surplus model, my last a '68 FLH I had restored from the ground up. I sold it in '89 as part of the scrounging for cash needed to buy MY house back from my ex'. Bought a left-over '88 Kawasaki Vulcan after that and never had another Harley.

It's a nice completely red, white and blue story though.

This is my "other" ride--about 95% made in USA, close as you could get in 2003:



The 2012 Mustangs have "GetRag" transmissions made in China--makes me want to cry...
 

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Nice! Looks sharp...and well loved.

Chris
 

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I've been to the Trinity test site and stood inside the crater made by the first Atomic Bomb. It's a humbling experience. :shock: The replica of the bombs I've seen there, at the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque and at the Air Force Museum in Dayton OH are not painted as described in the urban legend but painted as shown above. :D
 

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QuantumRift said:
I've been to the Trinity test site and stood inside the crater made by the first Atomic Bomb. It's a humbling experience. :shock: The replica of the bombs I've seen there, at the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque and at the Air Force Museum in Dayton OH are not painted as described in the urban legend but painted as shown above. :D
Makes you feel pretty small and insignificant doesn't it? And that, and the two used in combat, were all "little ones"...
 

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The story is true - to a point. Harley execs and Willie Davidson in particular are credited with saving Harley. In 1981, AMF sold the company to a group of thirteen investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson for $80 million after milking the Harley name for all they thought they could get from it. Seems like a paltry sum given how well they are doing today. What saved Harley was the Evolution engine (and those 13 investors) which debuted in 1984. The FatBoy would wait another 6 years (1990) to make it to market. By then Harley was doing well. The FatBoy simply added to the profit line.

The list of shortcomings of the Shovelhead engine are long - running hot being one of the worst of its traits - the Evolution engine had a few problems but it was for the most part a solid motor. Quality control and good engineering helped. As for the FatBoy - well I owned the very first model - 1990 - and it had NO orange on it anywhere - but it did have yellow trim - the bike was very vivid metallic silver - not drab gray. I sold it in 1999 after owning it and a 95 Ultra for a few years together and never riding the FatBoy more than 500 miles per year after getting the Ultra.
 

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I've been to the Trinity test site and stood inside the crater made by the first Atomic Bomb. It's a humbling experience.
Good read is The Making of the Atomic Bomb...remarkable story and accomplishment.

They said Enrico Fermi tore some paper into fragments when it went off and calculated the yield in his head by how far they blew when he dropped them ( he knew the distance to the blast and the approx weight of the paper ) - bright boy that one tho he almost melted Chicago ;)
 

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I bought a '79 Low Rider in 1995. I just HAD to have a Harley.
Owning one will cure you of wanting one again. What a mess. Had to rebuild it completely just to resell it :(
 
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