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Rear View Mirror: What was in store for 1994

By Kip Woodring

The World

• The first satellite digital TV service is launched. Cable companies laugh… but the last one is on them.

• The 31-mile channel tunnel or “Chunnel” connecting France to the island of England is opened. It took 15,000 workers and seven years, enabling people to drive a distance that no potential invading nation had been able to sail across in 1,000 years.

• The Winter Olympics is held in Lillehammer, Norway. Twenty-two years later a cable TV show by the same name… has more success.

• Sony Play Station is introduced and online gaming changes forever.

The Nation

• OJ Simpson leads a televised pursuit/parade on Los Angeles Freeways in his white Ford Bronco—his last broken field run.

• Lisa Marie Presley marries Michael Jackson… Kurt Cobain commits suicide.

Figure 1

• Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, Speed, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction… it was a good year for movies.

• Yerz Troolee… writes a column in THUNDER PRESS, railing against the factory’s lack of a solution to the pervasive blowing of base gaskets on Big Twins. Must’ve hit a nerve, because for six months afterwards, no one at The Motor Company would take his calls! More of a problem than you might think for a dealership service manager! Interestingly enough (perhaps under the influence of the tirade) the aftermarket came up with plenty of “solutions” (Figure 1) to this problem… (some good, some not) just a little bit in advance of the official one. It was no fun while it lasted!

The Factory

H-D kills off the poor-selling FLHS and introduces the FLHR… Road King! The “King” was more than a new variation on an old theme… emulating the Electra Glide in style (Figure 2)… it was the bellwether, the game changer, that swung the pendulum away from the best-selling Softails and back toward the company’s backbone product… the basic bagger. Man, was it a hit… the right bike at the right time! The waiting list for these things (Figure 3) in many areas of the nation stretched up to two years in no time! Talk about maximum benefit from minimal effort! All Harley really did to turn the FLH Sport turd into the Road King gem was get rid of the earlier bike’s hideous instrument “binnacle” on top of the forks and put the speedo on the gas tank. Add a tasty headlight nacelle, strip the rest of the front end clean, and you have the essence. Nothing in the touring world has been the same since! You wonder why they didn’t think of it sooner.

Figure 2

Figure 3

On the Surface

Updates for the year were few but major! The HCR (high contact ratio) gears were introduced to quiet things down to federal approval levels. For the curious few, HCR (Figure 4) also means more teeth share the load, so this arrangement is also an improvement in strength and durability.

Figure 4

The goofy gearing used on Softails in ’93 is gone… although it had served as prelude to the real key to refine things in the driveline gaps… a change from 24 teeth on the primary sprocket to 25 teeth. On Softails, this change was accompanied by a switch to a 65-tooth rear drive pulley. All good… sort of… changing overall ratio from 3.37 to 3.15! All the same, technically, the Big Damn Deal for 1994 was that finally—finally—the factory switched to silicone-beaded cylinder base gaskets! Though not a metal gasket such as James had come up with (Figure 5), the factory version ended a nearly three-year period of chronic leakage on the left rear corner of the rear cylinder on Evo Big Twins. From the time that asbestos (or whatever) was eliminated from the gasket material in the late 80’s, it had been a nightmare issue. Aside from the gasket materials, the issue was cylinder studs “working” (not!)… in some cases (literally) completely loose. So, in a one-two tech punch, the studs were also changed (and turned upside down) to shoulder against the case. Along the way, new, more accurate methods were developed to properly torque the heads down. Voila… got it!

Figure 5

The Inside Story

Head scratching and back busting of another sort are the order of the day at the Harley’s three factories… production hits 96,000 for the year. H-D begins to think seriously about what business they want to be in… motorcycles or “transportation?” The Motorcycle division can’t build fast enough to meet demand and the other stuff (RVs, truck bodies and such—Figure 6) is dragging and lagging. Where and when is the payoff? How do you think that turned out?

Figure 6

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