by: Matthew Quiroz [ ]
Originally published on:
Military Harley Davidson by Pat Ware
MSRP about $45 USD
Ian Allen Publishing
introductionBottom line up front, this book is excellent. I have several other books on Harley Davidson motorcycles, as that is what I ride, and this one beats the rest hands down in terms of information provided and subject interest. Read on….
historyWhen one thinks of Harley Davidson its easy to envision a rough looking group of leather clad individuals mounted on large, loud iron machines roaring down the highway. I doubt that image was what William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson had in mind when the sat out to build their very first motorcycle in 1901. (The actual first motorcycle they built didn’t hit the streets until 1903) Within twenty years, Harley Davidson (HD) would become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer and despite almost total ruin in the 1980’s, it remains the only volume motorcycle manufacturer in the USA. The machines we see on the roads today don’t resemble anything from the early days of HD with the exception of two tires, an engine, handlebars and a seat. The brothers continued to develop and refine their product as the years went on and the business continued to grow. By 1916 War was raging in Europe, but the US had yet to enter the fray. On 16 March 1916, the US Army ordered twelve Model 16-J motorcycles together with a number of sidecars, including a stretcher unit, special designs for mounting machine guns and carrying ammunition. They weren’t going to be used for war in Europe, but were destined to hunt the Mexican bandit known as Pancho Villa. The Harley Davidson motorcycle would go on to serve the military and other organizations into WWII and for years to come.
The history of the HD motorcycle is as vast as it is interesting. So much so that I couldn’t begin to scratch the surface here, but this book does a really good job of it, covering a lot of ground about the history, development, various models, and use of the HD motorcycle in the military and elsewhere. The book is broken down into six chapters and an appendix.
chapters "What Made Milwaukee Great" 30 pages that cover the early developmental history of Harley Davidson and how the company came about. A real insight for those that don’t know. They had a dream, they followed it and the rest is history.
"WWI" 22 Pages covering the US Army usage of the HD motorcycle in WWI. Covers the development and differences in the various models of the times, spec sheets, and photos of museum pieces etc.
"Inter-war Years" 24 pages that continue to highlight the changes found as the HD continued to evolve. Development of the servi-car and the 45ci engine which would go on to power thousands of WLA’s in WWII.
"WWII" 54 pages devoted to the HD during WWII covering the some 80,000 WLA’s produced during the war for military use, and also several other models other than the WLA. By far the most coverage of the subject in the book.
"Restoration" 22 pages that cover HD motorcycles after the war and the evolution of the rebel motorcycle scene. Also focuses on the preservation of older HD and other motorcycles of the time. Values of collector’s pieces military, re-enactment group efforts etc. are also discussed.
"Finale" The final 27 pages cover the use of the motorcycle after the war in Europe and its continued use today.
The appendix consists of 3 ¾ pages that lists the various models/frame prefixes, description, engine and transmission capacity, numbers of cylinders, gears and notes about each model from 1912 thru 1993. Definitely a nice reference.
conclusionEach of the chapters is well laid out and conveys a wealth of knowledge on the various models of the time, how they developed over the years and a huge amount of color photos, period photos and museum piece/restoration photos. There are also several close up photos of the various details of the motorcycles such as engines, suspensions, accessories etc. The period pictures provide a great look into the early days of the motorcycle and the people who rode them and will lend themselves well to diorama makers. I’ll be the fist to tell you I am not an expert on the HD motorcycle, but after reading this great book, I feel am a lot smarter about the subject than I was. If you want to learn about how this American legend came about and where it went, this is the book to get! A worthwhile addition to the library of Harley Davidson fans and others everywhere! Highly recommended.