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Harley-Davidson


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(established 1902)

Many of the products of this American motorcycle manufacturing company have become symbols of national identity, none perhaps more so than the customized Harley‐Davidson chopper seen in the 1969 film Easy Rider. The potency of the brand can be inferred from the company's introduction of the Heritage Classic motorcycle in 1995. Following the marketing of the first Harley‐Davidson in 1903, one of its most distinctive products was the 61 EL, known as the ‘Hog’, designed by the William Harley and William and Walter Davidson in 1936. The post‐Second World War period proved a difficult one for the company, a position further undermined by the representation of ‘bikers’ as morally decadent in the 1954 film The Wild Ones. Japanese motorcycle imports such as Honda and Kawasaki increased significantly in the 1960s and in 1969, the year in which the film Easy Rider portrayed the ‘biker’ as a latter‐day ‘pioneer’, the company was sold. It was reacquired by its former management in 1981 and, within a decade, the company was producing 60,000 motorcycles per year. In the 1980s and 1990s the company produced a number of Retro models including the Heritage Classic of 1995, a design that in many ways recreated the image and identity of the 1936 ‘Hog’. It offered American consumers the opportunity to purchase the image and American values of a seemingly ‘individual’ and ‘customized’ product. It was, of course, mass produced and also very distinctive in styling terms from its Japanese competitors.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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