Harley-Davidson Product Development Center | Behind Closed Doors

Gresh Gets a Finger Inside the Machine

By Joe Gresh, Photography by Harley-Davidson

The accessory guys are into everything. There’s a cool paint program where you send your tired, faded tin to H-D and get back a factory-original paint job. Can you imagine sending your Pacific Coast bodywork back to Honda for painting? No sane company would waste their time interacting with their customers so intimately.

In the back of the warehouse rows of custom bikes are lined up waiting their moment in the strobe. A few of the bikes look customized beyond functionality, mostly ground clearance or handlebar issues. Attention is lavished on surfaces, whether powder coated, painted or with decorative designs cut directly into metal. The goal: Each Harley rider owning a one-off bike unlike any other in the world. Some of the wild customs we saw may eventually wind up as production bikes. Trying to make them into producible motorcycles must chap the PDC’s hide.

Sadly the cool motorcycles parked here are destined for the crusher after serving as bling mannequins. Don’t fret, everything we saw is available in Harley’s 2013 catalog and has been tested by H-D as warranty safe.

Time is running out for the Skunk Works. Each year the entire operation—the studios, the bikes, all the computers, cameras and lights—evaporates into thin air. It’s a parts catalog Burning Man festival except cracked metallic paint is their godhead.

Permanent buildings, dominatrix receptionists and a clean company canteen are nice perks but not mission critical. Harley’s Accessory team has its priorities straight: the finished product is all that matters and for their customers, what matters most is the finish on the product.

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