When William Harley and Arthur Davidson began building an outboard motor in 1901, little did they know they were creating what would become one of the largest motorcycle companies in the world. Their outboard project became sidetracked and the two spent nearly two years creating their first motorcycle. Brothers William and Walter Davidson would enter the picture in later years. For the first 6 years, single-cylinder engines were the company’s mainstay. In 1909, the first V-twin was offered. This engine received a poor reception, and was pulled from production for a year. The problem was that the increased horsepower and the lack of an idler pulley caused the drive belt to slip. In 1911, the Twin was reintroduced, and remained in production until 1929.
In 1915 the Model J was introduced. The company offered a total of 17 different models that year. Initially rated at 6.5 horsepower, its output rose to 8.68 in 1929. Racing models pulled 55 horsepower from a 61 cubic inch engine in 1915. Its withdrawal from the market because of high production costs nearly caused a dealer revolt. Racing versions of this twin easily topped 100 mph. A Model J set a class record of 103 mph at Daytona, Florida in 1920.
Specifications: 8.68 horsepower, 60.34 cubic inch, two-cylinder V-engine. Transmission: Three-speed chain drive. Cost new: $370.
Accession no. 1980G28