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Old 6th October 2020, 18:28   #1
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Default The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This is one of those posts that stayed in “Draft Limbo” till a catalyst in the form of “HD Exits India” shot it back into the land of the living. Since HD has been in the Indian auto news limelight the past week, I figured now would be a good time to dust off this work-in-progress post and finally finish it.

It was the start of summer of 2017. The snow had finally melted and the sun was out again. Living and working in the city of Milwaukee, the home of the Bucks, Packers, Miller Beer and Harley Davidson, it never occurred to me to visit the HQ of HD and HD Museum which was only 15 minutes away from where we lived. I initially thought of going alone as both our kids were only just out of Kindergarten and I felt it would be boring for them to visit a museum exclusively for motorcycles.

Luckily, I did some research on their website and was surprised to find that the museum has attractions for all ages and even for Japanese bike nuts like me. You can find details of the various exhibits at the museum website at this link
The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-museum-entrance.jpg
The Headquarters of Harley Davidson America and the museum are located in downtown Milwaukee at this location

Disclaimer: While going through my post, some of you who have been there before or hard-core HD fans might ask me why I've missed some areas or didn't take photos of some particular models. I'm not very fond of HDs nor am I familiar with all the models in their portfolio so I may have missed a few. The only experience I've had on a Harley was a very brief ride with a family member on his XL1200 Sportster and it was a bone jarring experience compared to my friend's Ninja 650 which I later tried. No offense to HD fans but I guess large heavy V-twins aren't meant for me.
Also, I apologize for many of the pictures where there’s glare from overhead lights and reflections from the glass shelves as I didn’t carry my lens polarizer on this trip.
Let’s start the tour!
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The Shed
The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-shed.jpg
Many American success stories often involve a garage, a basement or a shed and HD isn't any different. Right when you enter the museum grounds, you'll see a tiny wooden shed with "Harley Davidson Motor Co" crudely painted on the door. This isn't the actual shed though, it was faithfully replicated from archived photographs of the original from 1903. There's a plaque on the side that has the story behind the shed. "Respect the shed!".
The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-shed.jpg

Harley Culture and HOG Chapters from around the world.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-hog010.jpg
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Some of my colleagues in Kuwait and Saudi are Harley riders and being a member of your local HOG is a good way to participate in group rides and public events. My colleague in Riyadh used to ride to Bahrain and Dubai with the local chapter until he moved to another motorcycle brand. There’s safety in riding in numbers, especially when you’re riding non-stop for hundreds of kilometers through deserts.

Having said that; there’s no surprise that HOG chapters are an integral part of the HD experience and hence this is one of the first displays in the museum. HOG patches from Harley Owners Group chapters representing 315 out of more than 1400 chapters from 70 countries worldwide are displayed in glass cases. I have slight ADD so gave up looking for any Indian chapters after my eyes lost focus after the 20th or so patch.
The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-hog006.jpg
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The Shriners and Tripoli Milwaukee Shriners scooter

Apparently, the Shriners are some sort of Masonic Brotherhood similar to the Freemasons and there's some memorabilia from the Tripoli Shrine Motor Corps of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They have an outfit similar to the Moroccan traditional outfit, including the fez, all of which are proudly displayed at the entrance.
The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-hog005.jpg
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Ever heard of a Harley scooter? Here’s the HD Topper! The HD AH Topper scooter uses a variable-speed Scootaway belt-drive transmission that sends power to the wheel via a roller-chain drive. With a top speed of 60 Mph and range of 100 miles from its 1.7-gallon tank, this was a serious scooter!
You can see more pictures from a fellow BHPian’s post on the AH Topper (Harley Davidson Scooter - The Topper)
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THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON JOURNEY

The museum has painstakingly curated all the significant memorabilia and documented all the major milestones in the bike maker’s journey from a simple cycle fitted with an engine clamped on, all the way to the iconic big block v twins in a low-slung frame.

The displays included artifacts such as the first drawings of a Harley cycle fitted with a motor, minutes of meeting of the first board meeting, patents, catalogs and brochures from the initial days of the brand.

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Last edited by BloggerMathai : 6th October 2020 at 18:39. Reason: WIP - Adding text
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Old 7th October 2020, 10:17   #2
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON JOURNEY contd...
The interesting part of this section were all the original HD cycles and how similar they looked to our BSA SLR cycles!
Here are some more pictures from the journey.

Advertisement for an HD cycle and check out the front sprocket!

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey015.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey016.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey017.jpg

Another advert from this era;

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey018.jpg

A model from 1907 that's basically a cycle with an engine bolted on!

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey019.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey020.jpg

A Harley Davidson Bullet!

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey021.jpg

Some metal toys from HD

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This one is an HD police bike and from the looks of the uniform and the wind shield, might have been used here locally or in Chicago to protect them from the cold winter winds.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey024.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-journey025.jpg


THE ENGINE ROOM

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room002.jpg

This is a large hall that has a huge display of HD engines from different time periods and you can see them on the wall next to a plaque with the details.

The Milwaukee Eight

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room001.jpg

Since Harley had just debuted the 2017 Milwaukee Eight series of engines, they were proudly on display at the entrance of the hall. There are a few cutaway sections in the cylinder and crank case which allows you to see the inner workings of the new engines.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room003.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room004.jpg

Traditionally Harley engines were known by the shape of the cylinder heads so you’ll see models such as Panheads, Knuckleheads and Shovelheads to name a few. The surprising thing was seeing engines that generally don’t fit the image of Harley, like a horizontal single or a two-stroke vertical single.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room005.jpg

The HD Sprint was interesting in particular. I did some ‘Googling’ on the model once I got home and found out it originated from Italy as the Aermacchi Sprint 350 and in in 1960, HD bought a 50% stake in Aermacchi's motorcycle division. Wiki link

You can read more about the Sprint 350 on a more recent article here:


Another interesting Aermacchi model that I found is this one. Looks like the predecessor to the HD and Buell racing line, which you'll see in my Racing and Competition post.


Next is a 3D exploded view of the classic Harley-Davidson® Knucklehead motorbike. From the side it looks like random bike parts suspended on sticks but take a walk to the far end of the display where you see it come together and form a bike. I took a short clip which you can see in the video link.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room006.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room007.jpg

The interactive engine wall is an interesting part of the hall where you can move dials, push buttons or turn wheels to move the HD engine and see things such as cylinders firing or how the crank moves with each cycle. This was interesting for my kids as well as me coz who doesn’t like moving parts, flashing lights and sound effects?

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-engine-room008.jpg

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Continuing to the next section... THE GALLERY

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery001.jpg

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The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery004.jpg

Last edited by BloggerMathai : 7th October 2020 at 10:23. Reason: adding preview to next post
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Old 7th October 2020, 10:55   #3
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

THE MOTORCYCLE GALLERY

The gallery is literally a parade of many HDs through the years. Some of the earlier models appear so crude now when you see it from a modern perspective. It was interesting to see the “Suicide gear shift” on some of the models from the 20s and 30s. I went in for a closer look on some of them and looks like they were 3-speed transmissions and the third gear was like an overdrive ratio.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery015.jpg

Here's a closeup of the Police trike you saw in the preview;

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery002.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery005.jpg

A couple of bikes with the Suicide Shift configuration. You can see the clutch pedal on the left of the bike. The kick starter pedal looks like it was lifted from a bicycle

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery006.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery007.jpg

Next are a few US Military models which included rifle holsters;

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery008.jpg

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This next one had heavy duty off-road tires and a seat that you would mistake for one from a Willys jeep from the early days.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery013.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery014.jpg

The next one could either be an armed forces model or a law enforcement one coz I noticed the Klaxon siren in the front. Or maybe that was the choice of horn at the time.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery016.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery017.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery018.jpg

A few more classics;

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery019.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery020.jpg

I love the next two as they remind me of classic Cadillacs with their flared rear wings and fenders. Here are some close-ups.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery021.jpg

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A race bike with a cylinder head that looks very familiar, almost like a two stroke but there are valves on the side so it must be a four-stroke.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery028.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery029.jpg

Here's one that caught me by surprise; a boxer twin Harley! This one was specifically designed to match the Germans with their BMWs.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery030.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery031.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery032.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-gallery033.jpg

Now on to the next section...
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Old 7th October 2020, 11:05   #4
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

THE TANK WALL

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-tank-wall001.jpg

The Tank Wall is literally a huge wall of HD tanks from different periods. You can walk from one end to another admiring the various paint schemes and tank logs that adorned HD tanks through the years.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-tank-wall005.jpg

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Biker Build Off or American Chopper, you’ll know that the tank has always been a canvas for American bikes, be it factory bikes or custom ones.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-tank-wall002.jpg

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The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-tank-wall017.jpg
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Old 7th October 2020, 11:33   #5
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

CLUBS & COMPETITION

The Competition and Racing section starts off with a replica of Evil Knievel’s stunt bike suspended in the air and a plaque with the details of his feats.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll001.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll003.jpg

I couldn't resist
The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll002.jpg

Once again, your impression of HDs being oversized lumbering giants goes out the window as HD has been present in dirt/motocross races, flat tracking, drag racing and even circuit racing especially with the Beull line.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll004.jpg

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This next one reminds me of an Enfield/Zundap Fury from back in the day. Must be the fairing and the overall look of the bike (minus the engine of course)

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll014.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll015.jpg

The next display is this huge, almost vertical, wall with a twin v-twin dragster and a collection of race bikes going all the way up.

Check out the engine and fat rear tire on this bad boy!

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll016.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll017.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll018.jpg

A closeup of the wall;

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll019.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll020.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll021.jpg

A few more racers, including a 250cc two stroke dirt bike.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll022.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll023.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll024.jpg

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-racingll025.jpg
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Old 7th October 2020, 12:13   #6
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

CUSTOM & POP CULTURE

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom001.jpg

This was one of my favorite exhibits as I instantly recognized a couple of the models on display. HD bikes from movies, comics and popular culture are on display. There were even some crazy customs like a fully chromed one and the one they call “King Kong”. Appropriately named, King Kong is this massive bike with two V-twins stuck together in-line so its long and is probably one of the craziest bikes I’ve seen up close.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom002.jpg

Elvis Presley's HD

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom003.jpg

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Peter Fonda's Captain America from Easy Rider

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom005.jpg

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Captain America's bike from the comics and MCEU movie

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom008.jpg

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Playboy Bike

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom012.jpg

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King Kong

This is literally a KING KONG of a bike! Two V-twins mashed together in a long chassis and the rear lights and exhaust setup on this thing is insane!

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom014.jpg

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50th Anniversary Harley

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom021.jpg

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A blinged out bike that similar in style to the rickshaws and interstate trucks from the Philippines and East.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom023.jpg

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A few more customs, including a fully chromed bike.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom024.jpg

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The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-custom027.jpg
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Old 7th October 2020, 12:33   #7
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

IMAGINATION STATION

This was something the kids really enjoyed! There are scale models of a couple of bikes in the play area and HD kids wear available for both boys and girls. Our kids put on a pair of jackets and matching hats to pose with the bikes. They bikes are stationary but play the rumble of the twin engines when you twist the throttle or press a button on the tank.


The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-imagine001.jpg

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The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-imagine004.jpg


EXPERIENCE GALLERY

The experience gallery consists of bikes, scooters and trikes securely bolted to the floor and you can hop on any model that catches your fancy and play around with them. My wife and I tried a few models and it seemed like a great bike to be on if you’re planning an interstate ride. Heated grips, GPS, weather-proof loudspeakers and lots of storage options were the main features on some of the Glide models that we experienced here.

The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-experience001.jpg

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The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin-experience008.jpg


And finally, here's a short video clip I've put together of our trip.



Hope you've enjoyed this post.
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Old 8th October 2020, 13:20   #8
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Nice thread with beautiful pictures to go with it. Me too not a super fan of HD, but yeah HD has its special place in the world of motorcycling. Back in 2005 I missed the opportunity to visit the place due to some last minute unexpected work commitments on my visit.

Thanks for sharing
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Old 8th October 2020, 16:12   #9
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Big fan of the brand. Thanks for sharing. The detailing and presentation of the museum is something to learn from.

The fan club and the customization available for these machines are just mind boggling. Seriously hope the execs visit this museum and come up with designs which the younger gen will buy as there is so much that can be done.

Maddy
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Old 8th October 2020, 21:03   #10
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Default Re: The Harley Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I'm a HD bike admirer, thank you for this post. Loved it all the way but sadly not going to buy a HD bike anytime in my life as the HD dealership india is soon going to be history.
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