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Rear View Mirror: Millennium Fool-Cons

By Kip Woodring

The world
• Gisbourne, New Zealand, population 32,754 is the first city in the world to experience the new millennium and apparently all three of their computers kept working. Surprised the hell outta all the Y2K doomsayers! (The other surprise… computers tell us that the new century didn’t really begin until 2001.)

• A rare century leap-year date occurs. Usually, century years are common years due to not being exactly divisible by 400. 2000 is the first such year to have a February 29 since the year 1600. The next such leap year will occur in 2400.

• President Bill Clinton announces that GPS access would no longer be restricted to the United States military. Soon, men the world over will no longer have to stop and ask directions. Yay!

• The Oscar class submarine K-141 Kursk of the Russian Navy explodes and sinks in the Barents Sea during a military exercise. See below and check back in 136 years?

The nation

• The last original “Peanuts” comic strip appears the day after Charles Shultz dies… but the strip still lives in reruns!

• Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, premieres in LA. Pets get named after the main character… ours is a cat named (yup!)… Maximus.

• Coldplay release their debut album Parachutes. Nobody names their cat “Chris.” Or “Chute” for that matter.

• Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley (figure 1) is raised to the surface after 136 years on the ocean floor. Who says the South won’t rise again? Ask the Russians?

Figure 1

• The U.S. Supreme court picks Bush as president over Gore and orders the ballot recount stopped. Appointing rather than electing… never happened before and shouldn’t ever happen again.

• Harley quits building the unsung singles… the MT350E (figure 2) and MT500. The “inherited” Armstrong/CCM 500 design was cataloged for civilians and racing. The 350 was always a strictly military machine.

Figure 2

The factory

Busy! Busy! Building over 203,000 machines! While Buell sportbike sales sagged a touch, Sportsters, cruisers and touring Harleys surged. While most things were booming, a couple went bust and one was a Blast. Probably the best thing for 2000, turned out to be the new sealed wheels bearings and 4-piston (figure 3) brakes. In ABS form, they are with us today and Harleys have never had more stopping power.

Figure 3

On the surface

Everything at the Motor Company was in place and at peak, from the paint shop to finance and back again. These were the years that Harley “could do no wrong”… or so it seemed… and that period was epitomized in 2000. The Millennium was going to be good for the soaring eagle to make the jump to lightspeed.

The inside story

Speaking of light… those single-cylinder Harleys mentioned above were killed off just in time for the release of Harley’s latest “entry level” machine, the innovative but star-crossed lightweight 500cc Buell Blast. Nice enough machine to ride, but it was too hard to look at (figure 4), and never really destined to appeal to any rider, let alone a “newbie.” Harley would have to look elsewhere to get fresh buyers. But that wasn’t the main thing. The last Evo Big Twin was sold in 2000 in the form of the FXR IV (figure 5), but that wasn’t the main thing either. That honor went to the new balanced “B” motor Twin Cam and its fresh chassis, embodied in the Softail models. A smooth-running Softail… who ever heard of such a thing? Neat stuff!

Figure 5

Sadly, the flagship of that fleet was supposed to be the intensely-styled Deuce. But the Duece (figure 6) was a bridge too far for conservative buyers. Besides which, most regular Softail goodies didn’t fit it anyway so, though it sold in trickles for several years, the Deuce faded into oblivion. To the few who appreciated it for what it was… rest assured. The bike was ahead of its time by about 15 years, and looks better every year that passes. Just compare its looks to the “normal” stuff in the 2018 line-up and you’ll see the influence!

Figure 6

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