Despite not being too impressed with the city of Milwaukee, the Harley-Davidson Museum downtown was a great place to visit!
Everyone should arrive at the museum on a motorcycle. They had a huge parking lot right in front dedicated to motorcycle parking. I didn't feel nearly as cool pulling up in a cab!
Serial Number One
This particular vehicle known as Serial Number One is a bit of mystery. Its engine is very early, but doesn't match what is known about the first engines produced by Harley-Davidson. The frame itself is not original to this motorcycle. These oddities triggered much debate.
During the 1990s, restorers discovered a number "1" stamped inside various components, inspiring the bike's nickname. Because of the questions surrounding it, Serial Number One has become a legend in Harley culture. Only one thing is for sure, this is the oldest Harley-Davidson in the world.
Meticulous research by Harley-Davidson archives staff and external experts has proven that Harley-Davidson Serial Number One was built without fenders and used in competition, probably to illustrate the power and reliability of the motor.
Most believe that this is not the very first Harley-Davidson every built. That distinction would go to one of the prototypes. Instead, they believe that it is the developmental platform from which the first true Harley-Davidson street motorcycles sprang. It is the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle to be considered ready for production. And, beyond any doubt, it is the oldest Harley-Davidson motorcycle in existence today.
One of the original uniforms worn by the Harley-Davidson racers.
Part of the Pre-WWII era bikes.
Part of the Post-WWII era bikes.
There was a huge room dedicated to the involvement of Harley-Davidson vehicles in World War II. It was probably my favorite part of my entire museum.
An entire wall is used to display examples of the famous Harley-Davidson fuel tanks. I loved the sparkly bright pink ones!
This wall was devoted to showing all of the different motors that Harley-Davidson has used over the years beginning with a 1903 model! The display area in front of this wall had several digital screens showing each of the motors on the wall. You would press the picture and it would play a recording of the sound of that particular motor. I stayed there for a while!
This was entering into the lower level of the museum where it focused on the 1960's and beyond for H-D. Most of this area was about showing how customizable the bikes are for the individual rider.
And here is an excellent example of an owner customizes his bike! When Russ Townsend found himself laid up from an injury, he chose an unusual form of therapy: decorating his 1973 Electra Glide model with thousands of red, white, and blue rhinestones. He also added many lights, as well as homemade light bars and trim.
Over the years, his bike has been featured in numerous magazines and books.
Part of the Harley-Davidson Archives Vehicle Collection
This particular model was found decades later buried in a barn.
I absolutely loved the sign! The work area for the restorers was easily visible for those that head up to the third floor to see the archives collection.
Totaling more than 450 motorcycles, the Harley-Davidson collection is the only one of its kind in the world. No other motor driven vehicle manufacturer has ever had the foresight to save at least one model vehicle from each model year. The founders began the collection in 1915, and actually went into the field to repurchase sold vehicles from dealers and riders that represented the first 12 years of the company's history.
The collection vehicles from 1915 to present are retained in their original condition. At no time are parts re-plated. Sheet metal parts are never repainted or stripped. In short, they take great pride in preserving the vehicles in their original condition.
As part of the preservation process, each vehicle is completely disassembled. Each part down to the last lock washer is cleaned. Surface grime carefully removed to ensure that original decorative work is not altered. They do as much as possible to preserve as much of the original finish as possible.
My pictures don't really do it justice as to how large this area actually is when you see it in person.