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70th Anniversary

Bad luck in planning and destiny takes its toll

The precise date and timing of moving the motorcycle final assembly line from Milwaukee to York is still disputed – presumably because it didn’t go off without problems and frustration. Contemporary witnesses are hard to find. Sources report that the task was performed 1971-72 – and AMF put a lot of money into the restructuring and the modernization of production. The new final assembly line in York also had to be set up from scratch, as the York factory itself had been erected during WWII to manufacture anti-aircraft guns and ammunition.

Juneau Avenue and Eden Road in York/PA were and are 769 miles (1,283 km) apart. The engine assembly plant, GRP parts fabrication and paint shop a few miles more. This distance was bridged with a fleet of Harley-Davidson trucks. Gasoline was cheap and the surprising windfall momentum from the “Easy Rider” movie made the V-twins popular again.

1973 could have been celebrated – but the transformation of the Juneau Avenue factory into a warehouse and office complex may already have dampened spirits, especially in Milwaukee. Then came October 6th, 1973: Yom Kippur. Egyptian and Syrian tanks rolled into Israel. Between October 8 and 9, American reconnaissance aircraft observed with horror that nuclear warheads were being mounted on top of “Jericho” missiles in Israel. On October 16th, OPEC increased the price of oil by 70% – from US-$ 3 to 5 per barrel – and in 1974 to US-$ 12! This made all calculations obsolete!

The transfer of the final assembly line for motorcycles to York/Pennsylvania caused further “bad blood” in 1973/74: This erupted in a 101-day strike in 1974. Increased living costs as a result of rising oil prices due to the Yom Kippur War were also reflected in the transportation costs of Harley parts from Wisconsin to York, and inflation burned holes in the workers’ pockets. Sound kind of familiar…?

The 1973 “Super Glide” was a sales success from Willie G. Davidson’s design school. “The great American Freedom Machine” was the slogan for all Sportster and Big Twin models, but Harley now had a very “colorful” program of two- and four-strokes.


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