10 Vintage Motorcycle Brands



The first Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle was introduced in 1965.
The first Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle was introduced in 1965.
Image courtesy Harley-Davidson

In some respects, motorcycle journalist Stein says it's hard to simply call Harley-Davidson just a company or a Harley simply a motorcycle. "Harleys are motorcycles in that they have two wheels and an engine; but to use an overused phrase, they march to the beat of a different drummer," he says. "For Harley people, it's more of a lifestyle or leisure activity compared to the way you would describe enthusiasts of Japanese bikes."

As is so often the case with iconic brands, Harley benefits from having a really good company story. Launched in 1903 by two brothers and a friend, Harley has had times when it has flourished and floundered, managing to pull off a dramatic turnaround of the business in the 1980s [sources: Harley-Davidson, Cerilli]. Among the more popular vintage models include the Flathead, Knucklehead and Panhead and the legions of famous people who ride or have ridden Harleys is long, from Malcolm Forbes to Clint Eastwood to former Texas Governor Ann Richards [source: Cerilli]. Jim Wagnon of the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute argues that the 1965 Harley Electra Glide, which had an electric starter, wind screen and saddle bags, really propelled the motorcycle touring culture. "I think this bike kicked off the king of the road market stance for Harley, and you throw in Americana and Elvis and apple pie, and that to me is what this bike means to most people," he says.

Go to the next page for a taste of a different sort of British Invasion.