- NASA’s Mars Odyssey space probe (figure 1) begins to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system… outta this world!
- A near-Earth asteroid (estimated at a measly 30 feet in diameter) explodes in our atmosphere over the Mediterranean Sea between Greece and Libya. Estimated to have a force of 26 kilotons, more powerful than the Nagasaki atomic bomb… not the end of the world but close?
- The Netherlands legalizes euthanasia, becoming the first nation… dead to the world?
- The funeral of 101-year-old Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (figure 2), the Queen’s Mother, at Westminster Abbey, had more than a million people lining the nearby streets. A world-class royal that was on the money. (Although never on their money… British pound, that is.)
- The first public version of the web browser Mozilla Firefox (“Phoenix 0.1”) is released… what in the world?
- K-mart Corp becomes the largest retailer in United States history to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection… broke but not broken.
- Entrepreneur Elon Musk founds Space-X… what a break for NASA.
- Antonio Meucci is acknowledged as the (real) first inventor of the telephone by the United States Congress… who, as we all know, can be a little slow to get things done.
- Then… there’s the big news! For THUNDER PRESS, anyway. 2002 introduced her and her writings to the paper. Wasn’t long before she was an integral, indispensable part of it. Today, she runs it! Talk about a three-for-the-price-of-one deal having our own Shadow/NewJerseyBikerGirl/Marjorie Kleiman/ (figure 3) has been terrific! Our own “on the money” queen mother, who as we all know, can be plenty quick to get things done.
If anyone out there knows of anything besides making motorcycles (212,000 of ’em, counting Buell) and planning for 100th Anniversary festivities (which began in 2002)… I’d like to hear about it! Fact is, ’02 was arguably the calm before the storm for the Motor Company. I mean, no new models, no recalls, no unplanned excitement… not much of anything except business as usual. Seriously… the quietest year in years for the factory.
On the surface
Aside from yet more record-breaking sales (and drag racing)… I got nuttin’ for the Motor Company! Instead… it was the year of the XB Buell. First outta the gate was the Firebolt (the Lightning to follow shortly) and it was clearly a big deal to the motorcycle media. Among others, Cycle World magazine had no less than three different articles in its pages over the course of the year (figure 4)… even though it was a 2003 model released in the autumn of 2002. Literally bristling with chassis innovations from front brake to back wheel, and tires to handlebars… the under-reported element was the engine. Aside from the cylinder bore and the transmission gears, there was almost nothing left in common, or shared, with its Sportster siblings. Initially available only as a short-stroke 900 (figure 5), this was an engine that would rev quickly and survive high-rpm use. Coupled with incredibly forgiving and agile handling… it was different, special and underappreciated.
The inside story
Well, folks, just about the only thing to tell is the company had about 8,500 employees by December of the year, with quite a few involved in detailed Delphi EFI developments on Big Twins… too involved to go into here. Easier to tell was that H-D was at 48.2 percent of the big bike market in 2002… no more underdog hog!