• In southern France, a network of caves is discovered containing paintings and carvings between 17,000 and 20,000 years old, proving graffiti has been with us a long, long time.
• The optical disc storage media format (DVD) is announced… video rental stores rejoice… no rewinding.
• Microsoft comes up with Windows 95 as an operating system… nerds go nuts.
• eBay starts the online auction and shopping website that has kept bank balances in peril and impulse shopping at fever pitch ever since.
• Galileo reaches Jupiter… big time!
• U.S. space shuttle Atlantis docks with Russian space station Mur. Ah… OK?
• The movie Braveheart shows you can tell a great story and get nowhere near historical fact. Politicians love it!
• The movie Toy Story is the first completely computer-generated film.
• A car bomb devastates the Oklahoma City Federal Building… worse to come.
• O.J. Simpson gets off… uh… is found innocent.
Production breaks 100,000 motorcycles a year (over 106,000 actually) some of which are the brand-new offspring of the Harley-Buell connection… the S2 Thunderbolt. (Yeah… some S2s were built in 1994… we’ll get back to that.)
Harley-Davidson gets back into road racing after a 20-some-year hiatus. (Yeah… the VR1000 actually first raced in 1994… we’ll get back to that.)
The “30th Anniversary” FLTHCU-I Ultra Glide (figure 1) is exclusively equipped with H-D’s first attempt at EFI (electronic fuel injection).
The new kid on the block this year is the Bad Boy (FXSTSB), a Softail (figure 2), equipped with low bars, black springer forks and a look all its own. Never a good seller but a great styling idea (“blacked out” is revisited later, BTW), it only lasts two model years.
On the surface
The evolution engines were essentially approaching full potential. After over a decade of production any little bugs that existed were pretty much gone. Fully developed, both Big Twins and Sportsters really hit their stride, as evidenced by nothing more than detail changes from this model year clear to the end of production for both motors. From here on, Harley could and did concentrate on other aspects of motorcycle building. Mainly, increased production to meet insatiable demand, “fleshing out” detailed variations and feature
s to expand models available in each platform, piling on “genuine” accessories… and to get the Buell line-up going. It shouldn’t be overlooked as an indicator that the factory P&A catalog has a page count of 204… breaking all previous records for a pub that started out thinner than most motorcycle magazines of the day. It would only get thicker! There were additional seasonal updates (figure 3) as well, and Harley even had another low-priced accessory line-up (since the 1980s) in its own separate catalog… the “Eagle Iron” stuff… which was decidedly not made in the USA. (Cams and chrome and clothes… Oh my!)
The inside story
Since The Motor Company was on a roll and on an even keel… production soaring, motorcycles selling, P&A profitable, money in the bank, stock values looking great… it seemed only natural to look for new worlds to conquer. So, first the RV division is sold off and second Erik Buell makes his presence felt. (Yeah… the “Buell effect” began earlier… we’ll get back to that.)
In short, and to oversimplify, Vaughn Beals got bit by the performance bug. Net results included the factory’s return to pavement racing (figure 4) and a shot at producing an American sportbike (figure 5). (Whether either of these turned out to be worth the effort is a matter of perspective, background, details, and a dissertation in this month’s “Motorhead
Aside from that, and thanks in no small part to federal emission standards, H-D’s new Magneto-Marelli EFI wasn’t a terrific first effort. It took some selling to customers (figure 6) and the throttle position sensor was problematic…among other things. Basically, the learning curve mandated that by the following model year very little of the original system was carried over into future models.
Oh yeah, by the way, most people, even die-hard fans of the FXR, don’t realize how close the 11th hour decision was, to discontinue the bike in favor of the FXD… as evidenced by this rare, accidentally-released flyer for the “1995” FXLR (figure 7)… intended to sell accessories for a machine never built!