Image by David Mark from Pixabay
As one of the oldest and most recognizable motorcycle makers in the world, Harley Davidson has a legacy that few can hold a candle to. But despite this, there are some things that not many people know about them. In this blog post, you’ll learn 7 things about Harley Davidson that aren’t as well known, including:
  • A short-lived attempt at a scooter
  • A famous French actress and model
  • The origin story of the word “hog”

1. Harley once made a motor scooter

In the 1960s, amid the scooter craze with the Vespa, Harley Davidson decided to get a piece of the action and made a motor scooter. Known as the “Harley Topper,” the scooter featured a 165 CC two-stroke engine and a rope-recoil type starter motor (just like the one found on a lawnmower). To date, this is the only scooter Harley Davidson has made, and only 3,800 were ever built.

2. The Harley M50 – Harley’s moped

Similar to how the Topper competed with other motor scooters, the Harley Davidson M50 was built to compete with 50cc mopeds from Japan. Built in Italy by Aermacchi (a former aviation company), the Harley Davidson M50 featured a 50cc 2-stroke engine – being one of the smallest bikes to carry the Harley stamp. During its brief 2-year production lifespan, only 10,000 Harley M50s were built in total.

3. Bridget Bardot sang about Harleys?

Even though she’s mostly known as an actress and model, Bridget Bardot sang about Harleys in a song from 1967 appropriately titled “Harley Davidson.” 

4. Many Harley models are referred to by their engine

If you know anything about Harley engines, you’ll know that most of them end in “head,” such as:
  • “Panhead”
  • “Knucklehead”
  • “Shovelhead”
However, you might be surprised to discover that the “head” doesn’t necessarily refer to the cylinder head—instead, it relates to the rocker boxes.  For more information, watch the video below from RevZilla, which talks about the history and characteristics of each Harley engine type:

5. The Origin Story of the word “Hog”

The word “hog” is connected so profoundly to Harleys, so much so that Harley Davidson themselves used it as the name for their official community club – the “Harley Owner’s Group.” But do you know the origin story of how the word “Hog” stuck? In the 1920s, Harley had a racing team named “the Wrecking Crew.” One of the team’s riders named Ray Weishaar (pictured below) adopted a baby pig as a team mascot, which he called “Hog.”
image of ray weishaar and hog
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
And the rest is history…

6. The “Harley Sound”™ is trademarked

“Potato, potato, potato” – the phrase used to refer to the iconic sounds that a Harley Davidson motorcycle makes In fact, it’s so recognizable that, in 1994, Harley filed a sound patent for the sound made by their V-twin engines.

7. Tomato Can = Carburetor?

Surprisingly, yes – the very first Harley Davidson (the one built in a shed) used a tomato can for a carburetor.

Like to know more about the history of Harley Davidson?

Watch this documentary, hosted by Barry Corbin (AKA General Carville from Command & Conquer Red Alert 2):