By John Burns
MO Books: The Harley-Davidson Story: Tales from the Archives
By Aaron Frank
Ex-Motorcyclist staff writer, current Milwaukee-residing advertising man, and all-around good guy Aaron Frank’s new book puts an interesting twist on telling the tale of Harley-Davidson. Rather than rehashing the history of all the models – though there’s a bit of that here for all the major updates – Frank worked in cooperation with the H-D Museum in Milwaukee to look back through the lens of the museum’s holdings and displays. It makes sense, since the museum staff has already gone through the painstaking work of winnowing God-knows how many H-D artifacts into what will fit in a 130,000-square foot building. Buildings. If you’ve been to the museum, you’re already familiar with what a lot of fascinating objets d’ Harley, and Harley people it contains.
The foreword is by Jim Fricke, the museum’s Curatorial Director. With that kind of cooperation, you shouldn’t expect to read much about some of H-D’s less glorious moments: There’s plenty about early racing successes and Aermacchi, and XR750 – but no mention of Buell, MV Agusta or the VR1000 escapades. Still, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into.
For instance, everybody’s heard of the tragic crash at Monza that killed Renzo Pasolini and Jarno Saarinen, but I was not aware that Pasolini was riding for Factory Harley-Davidson at the time. The RR-250 used some Yamaha TD internals, says Frank. Pasolini finished second on it in the 250 GP World Championship in 1972. Hopes were high for `73, before the deadly crash at that year’s Italian GP.
The counterculture that sprang up after WW2 can’t be ignored, even though H-D at first battled bravely to distance itself from clubs like the Boozefighters. “Well-dressed motorcycle riders on shiny, good-looking motorcycles are likely to stay out …read more