Continuing the story of Harley’s role in the Second World War, we should also mention its involvement in the Lend-Lease programme. Officially known as the Lend-Lease act, it was an American defence programme that supplied food, equipment and oil to Britain, France and the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945. Under this programme, some 30,000 Harleys were delivered to the Soviet Union.
The US Army commissioned Harley-Davidson to produce a new motorcycle with many of the features of the BMW side-valve and axle-drive R71. Harley-Davidson copied much of BMW’s engine and drivetrain and produced the shaft-driven 750cc 1942 Harley-Davidson XA. It shared no common dimensions, components or design concepts (except for side valves) with any previous Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The XA never went into commercial production, and in the military, the engines were replaced by Jeep.
After the victory As part of war reparations, Harley-Davidson was given the design of a small German motorcycle, the DKW rt 125, which was adapted, produced and sold between 1948 and 1966. Various models were produced, including the Hummer between 1955 and 1959, but all are now known as “Hummers”. In the UK, the BSA adopted the same design as the BSA Bantam base
In 1960, Harley-Davidson merged the Model 165 and Hummer lines to create the Super-10, the unity of the two. It introduced the Topper scooter and bought fifty percent of Aermacchi’s motorcycle division.
In 1969, AMF bought the company. The new owner rationalised production, laying off a large number of workers. This triggered a strong wave of strikes. The lower quality bikes were subjected to severe cost-cutting, and Japanese rivals such as Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki took advantage. They managed to enter the North American market at a time when they could produce cheaper and better bikes than Harley. This almost led to the bankruptcy of Harley-Davidson in the medium term. Harley-Davidson was constantly mocked as Hogly-Fergusson, or barely ridable.
In 1977, following the successful production of the Liberty Edition to commemorate America’s 1976 Bicentennial, Harley-Davidson produced what would become one of its most controversial models, the Confederate Edition. In America, the Confederate flag was the flag of the slave-holding Southern states during the Civil War. Thus, it was associated with the idea of white supremacy.
Adam Gubán

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