Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present: Volume V: Part I of II-The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985

Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present: Volume V: Part I of II-The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985

by Donny Petersen


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Donny Petersen, who studied privately with Harley-Davidson engineers, shares practical knowledge and street-wise tips in the fifth volume of his unauthorized guide on the best motorcycle maker in the world.

Written in straightforward language, this guide can help even a motorcycle novice to become an expert mechanic by following Donny's step-by-step instructions. Whether you're looking for detailed service procedures such as fitting engine bearings or simple tips on maintenance, Donny is eager to share the expertise he's stockpiled on the Shovelhead over the last forty years.

Donny shares real stories so you can find solutions to whatever is ailing your Shovelhead. Resolve teething problems, troubleshoot problematic aspects of the engine, and fix whatever comes up with various models.

Gear ratios, torque multiplication, and H-D and aftermarket tools of the day are prominent in the guide, which even includes information on tools Donny invented himself to make your life easier. Get the specifications for tightening all the Shovelhead fasteners and adjustments to mechanisms on various bikes.

In his usual forthright manner, Donny makes technical issues understandable, interspersing explanations with entertaining stories about the hard core lifestyle that comes with being a Harley rider.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475942828
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/31/2012
Pages: 776
Sales rank: 361,285
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.71(d)

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Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present

Volume V: Part I of II—The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985
By Donny Petersen

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Donny Petersen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-4282-8

Chapter One

You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda

In 1959, Harley-Davidson's nemesis Honda comes to America to meet "the nicest people." Their enduring and effective slogan, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda," provides the competition that almost destroys the already declining Harley Davidson.

This very effective mainstream catchphrase said it all to the Harley riders of the day. We were not that bad but this nice stuff was pure baby Pablum to us. We were tough, hardy individualists. Even if we were nice, we all had some of the old west outlaw free spirit in our soul. The problem with individualism, if there is one, is that some separation is required from the mainstream.

Honda also provides the rivalry to drive Harley-Davidson to the pinnacle of excellence as both companies eventually thrive in the North American motorcycle marketplace. However, Honda did not miss a beat in its continual success whereas H-D had to get up to speed before accelerating onto triumph.

My earliest memories of Honda was around 1969 when riders on the 450cc Honda CB450 whose name if memory serves me correct was the Hellcat (Canada) or the Black Bomber (USA) beat all our Triumphs, Norton's, Harley's and Indians with no trouble whatsoever. This was sacrilege. We socially ostracised anyone on a Japanese motorcycle. Of course, these riders would abhor the thought of associating with us.

However, Harley-Davidson did not need Honda to put the nails in its coffin, as their sales 10-years earlier in 1959 were only about $17,000,000.00 with approximately 12,300 units. Compare this to sales of $5,726,848,000.00 with a staggering 349,200 motorcycle production in 2007. By 1968, Harley-Davidson was in the midst of a financial crisis. This venerable company was in dire need of help from outside resources.

The requirement for financial help was immediate with structural reorganization an ongoing solution for the future. Although Honda became a constant threat beginning in the early nineteen-seventies, it did not precipitate the 1968 financial crisis that had been building for many years. The reader only need reference the May 15, 1951, Harley- Davidson petition to the U.S. Tariff Commission for a 40% import tax on all imported foreign motorcycles. This onerous tariff was not against Honda or the other Japanese companies, as they had not yet begun their assault. America was again fighting off an English invasion. This time it was Triumph, British Small Arms (BSA) and the likes of the Snortin' Norton not to mention the fastest of the fast Vincent motorcycles like the 998cc Black Shadow (the non-production Vincent Black Lightning was faster than the Black Shadow).

The Evolution engine and motorcycle may never have been. Harley-Davidson was in a slow decline. The venerable Motor Company had been struggling for decades lurching from year to year. H-D asked for tariff protection from foreign competitors as early as 1951.

However, in the nineteen-seventies, there was a glimmer of hope as a secret project motorcycle was developing in conjunction with Porsche. It was technologically far ahead of most competitors and at least equal to the Japanese ... and no, it was not the V-Rod but the Nova. Buzz Kanter, the publisher of American Iron magazine and I saw a stashed Nova in a dark corner upstairs on Juneau Ave. We were unceremoniously hustled away by an H-D Vice-President with a curt "No comment" to every question we asked until he brusquely told us we only had security clearance for the new Twin Cam. When we walked by the next day, the Nova had been moved from sight. The secretive Harley-Davidson has only begun releasing information during the Twin Cam years about this revolutionary Nova engine and motorcycle.

The Fault Game

Many blame American Machine and Foundry Company known in the Harley world as AMF for Harley Davidson's woes in the 1970's and beyond. Is this a fair assessment? No, it is not.

Conversely, some AMF executives saw stale family ownership and mismanagement as responsible for the malaise that led Harley-Davidson to the brink of extinction. Does this judgment have any merit whatsoever? I believe so. Of course, there should be blame as well as kudos for both sides.

This era saw the development of the hugely successful Evolution that saved the day and propelled Harley-Davidson into a stratosphere of success. Without the history leading up to the choice of producing the Evolution over the Nova, there would be no future and no modern unparalleled success story. Delving into this history is fascinating as the mythology of the bigger, uncaring AMF raping the vulnerable Harley-Davidson subsidiary is largely inaccurate.

For example, the executive put in charge of Harley-Davidson by AMF was a motorcycle enthusiast, had much affection for Harley Davidson, and was committed to the survival of this historical company. Harley-Davidson became very profitable under the tutelage of AMF, substantially increasing production. These facts run counter to prevailing folk lore that an uncaring mega-corporation with little motorcycle knowledge, American Machine and Foundry had brought Harley-Davidson to the precipice of ruination. After all, the infamous AMF made bowling balls, or so the story went with derisive Harley traditionalists. However, in reality, Harley-Davidson continues to honor the first man at the helm of AMF/Harley-Davidson whose name graces the Ronald C. Gott H-D Museum in York Pennsylvania. Harley-Davidson's rich history and the public's zeal to enjoy times gone by are also evidenced in the opening of a fabulous new museum for the 105th anniversary in 2008 in Milwaukee.

On the other hand, one truth that fully supports the problematic perception of AMF is the quality control issues of the era. Both Harley-Davidson and AMF deserve blame for this.

The First Harley-Davidson Takeover

Bangor Punta Corporation of Greenwich, Connecticut was listed on the New York Stock Exchange at the time. Bangor Punta specialized in many diverse fields such as aviation, law enforcement equipment, and recreational products. Bangor Punta also bought financially struggling companies. Two years earlier in 1965, Bangor Punta had successively bought out Smith & Wesson. Harley-Davidson was a natural buyout target. Bangor Punta attempted but failed to buy H-D through a stock buyout in 1967.

I can only imagine the names for different model Harley-Davidson's if Smith and Wesson were in the corporate fold; the Flathead 45 would take on new significance. How about the V-Rod Bullet with Gun Metal Blue paint, the 883 Derringer, or the Buell Magnum.

The AMF/Harley-Davidson Merger: 1969 to 1981

In my opinion, Harley-Davidson family management did not meet marketplace challenges for many decades. Living in the past does not bode well for the future. Slow and steady decay was eating the company from within. In a strange twist of fate the inability to develop and implement water cooling, overhead cams, multiple cylinders, and changing the inefficient engine design shape almost killed this venerable company. However, the nostalgia of the past began to equate with America's origins with metaphors of the iron steed, the modern outlaw, and the individualistic, self sustaining frontiersman. Combine this with the nostalgic, tough pushrod-operated V-Twin and the birth of arguably the most brilliant modern marketing strategy began to unfold in the years after the demise of the antiquated Shovelhead.

To capitalize on the past by inadvertently creating nostalgia of what was required a superior quality machine that did not mark its spot. The modern consumer wanted reliability with a dose of cool.

No one could read this future because a Harley was slower and less reliable than its competitors. Furthermore, a Harley cost more. Harley-Davidson was ripe for takeover at a low, low price. In 1968, negotiations began in earnest with AMF for a merger of the two companies, one much stronger than the other. The offer was reportedly 1.5 AMF shares for every share of Harley-Davidson stock. On December 18, 1968, Harley- Davidson voted to merge with American Machine and Foundry Company. On January 7, 1969, the AMF shareholders approved a majority buyout of Harley-Davidson stock for a measly $21,000,00000.

AMF's Rodney C. Gott, a motorcycle enthusiast and Harley rider becomes the chairperson of American Machine and Foundry and Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

The Failure of Diversification

Present day, the mantra is that diversification is the key to enduring and long-term financial success.

In 1970, the introduction of the ill-fated Harley-Davidson snowmobile began in limited production. It was not an AMF idea as the design preceded the buyout. Harley-Davidson has continually failed in strategic well-meaning attempts to diversify, primarily in other recreational areas such as golf carts, the Topper scooter, recreational vehicles notably Holiday Rambler, and entry level motorcycles like Aermacchi on/off road two-stroke motorcycles. The ideas may have been good for another corporation but Harley-Davidson's future success had to come from within.

In 1978, Harley-Davidson wisely returns to concentrate on their traditional strengths by selling Aermacchi to Cagiva. Cagiva grows into the Italian motorcycle conglomerate that includes the famed Husqvarna.

I feel that Harley-Davidson could have and should have been successful at some of these diversification attempts. In my opinion, these failings had much to do with inadequate financing, lack of modern manufacturing methodology, and virtually no research and development funding. How can any product blossom in such a void?

The ideas were good except there was no infrastructure to implement and support these well-meaning ventures properly. Many times Harley-Davidson ideas were ahead of the curve. For example, Aermacchi or a similar company would enjoy much success under a separate Harley-Davidson banner in later years when H-D had the resources and muscle to make it a success. What is more important, the void of younger riders joining the ranks of Harley-Davidson rider enthusiasts to replace the current aging demographics would resolve and be a major factor in future success.

The big problem today for Harley-Davidson is the aging ridership without young entry level riders to fill the void.

Ironically, in 2008 the independent Harley-Davidson Motor Company buys out Aermacchi's parent company MV Augusta the well-respected Italian motorcycle conglomerate.

The Great Recession

The recession hits the Motor Company and its consumer finance arm in 2009 with devastating effect. On Thursday, October 15, 2009, The Associated Press reports that Harley-Davidson announces that its third quarter profit (July, August, and September) slides by 84% because of fewer motorcycle shipments to dealers. The recession presented difficulties in getting loans for customers to buy their product.

Furthermore H-D announces that it will stop manufacturing Buell and that it is putting up MV Augusta for sale!

And so goes once again, Harley-Davidson's inability to attract a younger clientele to fill the void of a shrinking customer base.

AMF Truths and Mythologies

I realize many traditionalists will not want to hear what I have to say about the fact that AMF brought adequate financing, modern manufacturing methodologies, and R&D to Harley Davidson. I too, hated AMF back in 1970 and decried this monstrous company for my perceptions of what it was doing to my beloved Harley Davidson. I too, did not understand. Loyalty blinded me to reality. I disliked AMF for the same nonsensical reasons that I abhorred Honda.

I now realize that AMF was no monster and neither is Honda. The Japanese provided the competition and set the bar that Harley-Davidson needed to aspire to for survival amongst the fittest. Darwinian Theory demands this in a free economy. Today, a more mature attitude is that all riders are cast from the same dye of two wheels.

AMF laid to groundwork for continued existence and the unbelievable success that Harley-Davidson now enjoys. Rodney C. Gott turned Harley-Davidson around into a profitable company. Reliability was on the upswing ... for awhile. Research and Development was in full swing for future product development.

However, AMF changed away from its focus on recreation to their industrial side after the departure of Rodney C. Gott and with new leadership from Tom York changed Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present everything. Gott was a Harley enthusiast; Tom York was not. The recreational side of AMF, especially Harley Davidson was an ongoing profit center that helped finance the industrial side of AMF. Gott kept a balance between the two. In my opinion, Tom York's reputed use of H-D capital to finance industrial expansion left insufficient funds for development of future survival projects for Harley-Davidson. The policy change provides the impetus for the famed Gang of 13 to rise to the challenge to wrest control from the increasingly impersonal AMF behemoth.

The Crisis of Quality Control

Looking at production statistics, the years of 1962 to 1965 demonstrate lackluster figures that begin with 7900 units and reduce to 3700 units by 1965; more than a 50% drop.

However, in 1966, production picked up substantially with 13,300 traditional Harley-Davidson units.

This continues in 1967 with a slight drop to 12,900 motorcycles; up in 1968 to about 14,400 bikes and to 15,600 units in AMF's first year at the helm in 1969.

AMF gathers steam in 1970 with a paltry 13,900 units. AMF readies for necessary massive production increases to ensure Harley-Davidson survival and perhaps, more importantly profitability. Profit needs to be balanced with quality. Too much profit often affects consumer product value. AMF and H-D are about to receive valuable lessons from this economic reality. In the Twin Cam years, H-D does give reliability and product value for a hefty price.

Huge increases in production begin in 1971, increasing to 22,700 motorcycles, a 60% increase over 1970.

In 1972, production goes to 34,750; an incredible 50% year-over-year increase.

The last year of AMF sees production increase to 48,200; an almost 40% increase over 1972.

These increases added much to Harley profitability. It also temporarily saves Harley Davidson's bacon. However, the sacrifice in quality is at a destructive cost that again threatens survivability. H-D strives for quality before and during the introduction of the Evolution in the 1980 to 1985 Shovelhead years. The initial positive changes were developed under AMF tutelage.

Therefore, AMF first saved the Hogs bacon right after the takeover, put H-D in another perilous situation in the middle years, and then instituted the changes that would allow H-D to survive and blossom into a modern American success story.

AMF Failure

The failure of AMF was to increase production ahead of a quality curve. Production needed to increase for success. Increases in motorcycle manufacturing gave substantial increases in profit. The profit increases came at huge cost. Quality control could not keep up. Quantity became king.

Then AMF began to use H-D profits to finance industrial expansion. In short, profit was not reinvested in research and development to increase modernity and necessary quality control. In my opinion, this was the failure of AMF.

The riding public, including myself suffered much in these years from a substandard product. Of course, it changed my life in academia as it forced me to develop mechanical skills just to get from point A to point B. The ongoing repairs became a joy and lead me into a life of mechanics.

Donny's Blast from the Past: the Quality Control Fiasco

Imagine being a Harley-Davidson service manager back in the AMF days. This was a very stressful job as H-D riders of the day had shall I say, aggressive tendencies.

My friend Teddy's considerable bulk of 450lbs served him well with the Harley crowd in the multiline dealership called Cycle World.

Teddy kept four stacks of warranty files on the go on his desk at any given time. The Japanese bikes outsold Harley in the dealership by at least a ten to one ratio. However, the Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha warranty claim piles were miniscule. The Harley-Davidson Shovelhead warranty pile was always six inches thick and some days so high in danger of falling over.

Teddy and the mechanics had to cope with the onslaught of unhappy Harley customers with dark humor. The dealership employees set up a gambling pool. The betting revolved around how far the newly delivered Shovelhead Big Twins and Ironhead Sportsters would travel before the writing of the first warranty claim. Many did not make it out of the parking lot before Ted in resignation wrote the first claim of many for that bike.


Excerpted from Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present by Donny Petersen Copyright © 2012 by Donny Petersen. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter I You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda....................1
Chapter II The Shovelhead Models: Year-by-Year....................31
Chapter III The Shovelhead Engine: 1966 to 1985....................131
Chapter IV The Shovelhead Engine: Top End....................165
Chapter V The Shovelhead Engine: Bottom End....................249
Chapter VI The Shovelhead Engine: The Gear Case....................305
Chapter VII The Shovelhead Engine: The Camshaft....................349
Chapter VIII The Shovelhead Engine: Compression....................379
Chapter IX Shovelhead Transmissions....................389
Chapter X Torque Multiplication: Gear Ratios....................501
Chapter XI The Drive Train....................527
Chapter XII Shovelhead Clutches....................547
Chapter XIII Tools, Fitment, and Specifications....................597
Chapter XIV Shovelhead Summary....................717
Author Biography Update....................735
Contents Part II of The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985....................741

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