In 1930, Harley-Davidson introduced the 74, a stark departure from previous engine offerings.

The V-Twin flathead engine was the final step in the firm’s phasing out of the F-head that had established the company in 1903, a process that began in 1919 with the introduction of a horizontal twin Sport model. The highlight of this change was the big 74 cubic inch (ci) model V. Released in response to Indian’s own 74ci model, Harley-Davidson’s model experienced initial problems with its design, including an undersized flywheel that robbed power. By the end of the model year, problems had been eradicated and Harley had a product to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, as the Great Depression gripped the nation, 1932 did not see many changes to the existing models. In an attempt to stimulate slipping sales, Harley reintroduced a small, single-cylinder model. Another cost-cutting attempt was the 50% reduction of pay taken by company’s founders. However, the problems that showed up in the early Big Twins were quickly ironed out, and the Big Twin went on to a successful 10-year production life.

The side valve VL was introduced in the 1930s and is still used today. The total loss lubrication system was superseded in 1936 by the dry sump UL models. The UL was almost indestructible, and it was popular with police departments. Unable to sustain the comparable Indian Chief’s high speed, the ULs still set many distance and speed records as sidecar bikes.

Specifications: 28 horsepower, 73.73 cubic inch, two-cylinder air-cooled V-twin engine. Bore 3 7/16”, stroke 4”. Cost new: $320.00.

Accession no. 1983L07

Next Item