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Rear View Mirror: What we’d see in 1993

By Kip Woodring

The World:

● Nelson Mandela wins Nobel Peace Prize—South Africa votes for “Majority Rule” constitution.

● Intel builds the Pentium processor.

● The World Wide Web is born.

The Nation:

● The World Trade Center is bombed.

● Rodney King is beaten.

● Beanie Babies are born… Bah!

● First humans are cloned… Ah!

● Jurassic Park is the big movie of the year… Harley fans everywhere feel better about loving dinosaurs. 

Figure 1

● Harley-Davidson celebrates its 90th anniversary. (Figure 1)

● The Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) celebrates its 10th anniversary as the best idea ever. In the 10 years it has existed H-D’s share of the big bike market has gone from below 25 percent to over 58 percent… largely down to this fan club (and the Evo engine).

● Cycle World magazine celebrates its 30th anniversary as the largest motorcycle publication… Harley riders barely notice.

The factory:

Two FXR models are dropped, vendors’ deals are renegotiated back up suppliers are created, all three motorcycle factories are re-worked, assembly is made more efficient… all in the name of increasing production to meet demand. It worked… production went up from 260 machines a day to 345 or more, all in preparation for building 200,000 by 1996. Total for 1993… 82,000 machines; still playing catch up. In fact, there is essentially no “seasonal fluctuation” anymore; The Motor Co. runs full speed ahead every single day!

On the surface:

The big deal for the year as far as fans and customers are concerned is H-D’s 90th celebration. There are commemorative rides, parties, books (Figure 2), cool ads (Figure 3), paraphernalia and hoopla all over… all year long. As far as the anniversary motorcycles themselves are concerned there were six models: a 1200 Sportster, the “new-for-’93” FXDL Low Rider, the equally-new-for-’93 FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide, and three baggers… the Electra-Glide Classic, the Ultra Classic, and Tour Glide Ultra Classic. (The most expensive of the bunch in this pre-CVO era sells for $16,200!) Mostly, anniversary models were all badges and paint… and not much else. H-D would manage things differently 10 years later!

The “sleeper” for the year, however (not badged as an anniversary model) was the FLSTN Softail “Nostalgia,” a.k.a. the “Moo-Glide” or “Cow-Glide.” This bike split and/or combined features of the Heritage and the Fat Boy to good effect. The funky part was the seat. Done for Harley in genuine black and white Holstein hide by Milwaukee’s own Milsco Company (Figure 4) … it turned out to be a warranty nightmare! Because the seat cover was actually an organic, hair-covered cowhide… no two alike… “butt” sweat and scrubbing of behinds in jeans (or ironically, leather) would snatch hair out of the hides! At first, H-D tried to warrant this “pattern baldness” situation, however, replacements would do exactly the same… so the only solution was a regular saddle. Once word was out most owners of the mere 2,700 (collectible) Cow-Glides built took the Holstein seat off the bike and put it on a garage shelf… running a regular Heritage seat instead. And now you know!

Figure 4

The inside story:

Actually, with the push for production of motorcycles the priority, there’s only a few salient points to touch on. But they are “salient” indeed! First, nothing to do with motorcycles, Harley’s Recreational Vehicle division, Holiday Rambler, was on its ass, to the tune of a $57 million “goodwill” write-off! Fact is, the market for high end RVs was flat, so what’s a motorcycle company still doing in that business anyway? (We’ll see… later!)

Second, EPA, CARB and other federal mandates finally led to “head breather” Evo Big Twins that year. New crankcases with no “wall” around the breather gear and passages up through the cylinder heads to rubber flapper valves in the rocker boxes, dumping fumes and fluids into the air box… made it so. Compliant enough! Another interesting anomaly that year… only… the re-geared Softails! Most likely, intended to tame vibes at highway velocities and perhaps to quiet the bikes as they passed by federal noise meters, the factory stuck the “Euro” 61-tooth pulley on the back, in place of the 70 they’d had since day one. Made for easy, long-legged cruising, but killed acceleration, especially on California models with the notoriously weak “California” cam! Almost as if to compensate for that goof… The Motor Company stuck a belt on 883s… thus an all belt-drive line up, from then on!

Dressers finally dumped the battery outta the right saddlebag rail, sticking it under the seat where it belonged and adding 15 percent to saddlebag capacity. The battery relocation also led to the oil tank moving from under the seat to under the engine. Brilliant… as that meant no more dry-sumping of bikes that sat parked for weeks or months on end. Two birds with one stone, as it were!

Oh! And… last but not least, 1993 was the year Harley-Davidson bought a minority interest (49 percent) of Buell.

Yeah… the bosses at The Motor Company were not letting the grass grow in ’93… for sure! ’Course, neither was Reg Kittrelle, founder of the paper you are reading right now. Among other things, he found this goofy service manager at a dealership in San Diego and turned him into a writer… the one you’re reading right now.

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