Great Advancement In Harley-Davidson 1935 Models

By Chet Billings, Photography by Harley-Davidson

From the January 1935 issue of Motorcyclist magazine

THE real test of a new machine is to try it out before you read the new specifications. After considerable anticipation, listening to rumors, and some cogitation as to whether or not paint and a brush would be able to convert a ‘34 into a ‘35-after all these things came the new Harley-Davidsons and the trial.

To get on a new model and ride it without first looking it over would be as impossible as to keep from putting your tongue in the socket after a tooth had been pulled. You want to have all the joys of standing back and critically surveying it. We did. First one side and then the other. And we were forced to admit that the sum total effect was sporty-considerably more deeply so than could be attributed to a brush and paint. The tool box had been moved away from the front wheel, short handle bar grips changed the appearance of the bars, a new design of air intake looked more streamlined, the exhaust pipe had an unfamiliar gadget on the end of it and the tail light looked longer.

With that we kicked her over and right after the first kick stopped to look quizzically at the step start. We were to learn that new gear ratios made starting easier-and faster.

From there on surprises came in rapid succession. The motor ran quieter, there was a hitherto unknown smoothness from lessened vibration and shifting was easier. In motion and around the corner we started threading through traffic. The surprises continued. There was a better feeling of balance and to reduce gears was simply to clutch and shift.

The motor was quite new. Having a certain love for machinery akin to the old-time respect for horseflesh, we tried to guard against cranking it on. Of course, there was just that almost imperceptible flip of the wrist once or twice. It was like putting the tip of your finger in the cake frosting and licking it off. It tasted just as good, the taste of quick, ready response. So, in that aw-what-the-hell frame of mind we gave it one real twist. With that we had picked the cake up and taken a bite right out of the side of it. The next thing we knew we had pinned back our ears and tucked in the flapping knees and elbows, and started to town. We had unconsciously assumed that old crouch which seems to help give expression to your feelings when you have a motor tucked between your knees that is acting just right, almost guessing your desires before you command the controls.

After all, it was in town and there were speed limits. We had noted the motor was plenty warm, but there was no indication of seizure. Our respect increased and there followed some sweeping turns down side streets, a little rapid shifting and weaving in and out among cars. A couple of dips at intersections were tried and a set or two of car tracks were zig-zagged. She’d zig or zag without a tremble. No hills being in the vicinity, we returned to the show room and to the specifications. We had intended to look for something to kick about, but, our conclusion might have been summed up in the words, “Better looking, smoother, more pick-up, more speed and safer.”

Since it was looks we first considered, let’s take up the responsible factors. The toolbox has been taken off the front forks where weight interfered with best handling of a motorcycle and where it detracted from looks. A flat box, hinged at the top, has been mounted between the rear fork and stays, on the right side of a 74 and the left side of a 45. Of course, a new paint design has been selected, and it seems to add to the flowing appearance of the machines. Handlebar grips have been shortened, which makes for shorter bars and for more clearance in making sharp turns. The shape of the grip is such that it is easier to hold.

The tail light lens is of a new beehive design. This accounts for the slightly longer appearance of the tail light assembly. The lens sticks out far enough that it gives warning from the side. No longer need a fellow hang lights over his machine like the running lights on a battleship and place that added wear and tear upon his battery. There is enough bulge to the headlight and to the tail light to make a ‘35 motorcycle easily discernible from the side. While upon the subject of lights, we might note that a bulb of an entirely new conception is used in the headlight. With a guide plate it fits exactly into a special socket and being thus prefocused it assures perfect focus at all times. The bulb itself is of a new shape, the reflector shape has been changed and the lens is of a new design. The filament image has been removed. All in all, the rider is assured of better and more positive lighting than at any time since he first felt his way through a fog with an old gas lamp.

By Chet Billings
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