Harley Davidson Panhead & Sportster history

8 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Harley Davidson Panhead & Sportster history
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Harley Davidson Panhead Sportster history

After the Second World War had come to an end in 1945, there was a great demand for motorcycles in the USA. Above all, men returning from the war were looking for adventure of a peaceful kind. At first, large numbers of ex-military machines, some of them brand new, were sold off to ordinary people, thus temporarily satisfying the demand.

The army sold a total of 15,000 WLA models with the 750cc big V-twin engine for 450 dollars each and the XA Boxer machines fetched 500 dollars.

Many dealers bought these motorcycles in large numbers and offered them for resale in their shops – either in their original configuration or converted to civilian machines. At Harley- Davidson there were still large stocks of spares and unassembled military machines, and it was 1947 before the factory could concentrate entirely on the production of civilian motorcycles again. The overall economic situation in the USA at this time was greatly affected by the total economic collapse in Europe, for an important market had been lost to the export- dependent American economy.

In addition, the specter of Communism was hovering over Europe, and the American government under President Harry S. Truman decided to give the economy of Western Europe a boost with the aid of the Marshall Plan. Under this European Recovery Programme, considerable proportions of America’s output of raw materials, for example, steel, iron, aluminum and other light metals, were shipped to Europe. At the same time, import duty on finished products was lowered.

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This did not make the situation for American industry any easier. In order to give American companies a degree of security, the government guaranteed them a supply of raw materials equal to that which they had received in the last years before the war.

For Harley Davidson this was not a good basis from which to defend itself against the pressure of competition from increasing imports from Europe. In 1946, almost 10,000 foreign motorcycles were sold in the USA, most of them of British origin. Among the importers was a not insignificant proportion of men who had previously worked for Harley-Davidson and who knew exactly where the weaknesses of their old firm lay.

However, there was also an advantage in these imports, for they increased the range of machines on offer and thus helped to liven up the American motorcycle market considerably. Under these circumstances with limited supplies of raw materials, collapsed export markets and strong competition on the home market Harley-Davidson began only limited production of three pre-war models: the two 61 and 74 cubic inch ohv models and the 45 with its side-valve engine.

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