Harley Davidson Gas Tank History in Pictures

In Harley-Davidson's early years, engineering and technical advances occur at a rapid pace. In contrast Harley gas tank and gas tank styling along with tank graphics changed very little for the first three decades. Though colors changes occasionally the changes were mostly done by request of the the military.

It wasn't until the mid-'30s that the traditional Harley-Davidson tank lettering gave way to more stylish graphics. After that, new designs changing more often than the motorcycles themselves.

Below is a large picture history of many of the Harley gas tanks that graced many of the most memorable Harley motorcycles.
AS WITH MOST IMAGES click on image to enlarge
Harley Logo
Harley oil
Harley Davidson Gas Tank History in Photos
Harley Davidson Gas Tanks
New standard colors introduced in 1933 were combined with intricate tank logos and hand-painted pin striping to create a striking look. The art deco-inspired designs demonstrated the creativity and skill of the company's employees. The tradition of developing new tank designs to accompany changing paint schemes became a trademark of Harley-Davidson style.
Harley-Davidson Gas Tank HD Flying Bird Logo     Harley Flying Diamond Tank   Harley Flying Wheel Tank
Though colors changed occasionally, the same basic lettering was used on Harley tanks for over three decades.
The first change to the logo appeared in 1933 when a bird-like scroll surrounded the usual lettering.
Replacing the 1933 Harley Bird motif that one lasted a short one year was the Flying Diamond
A new tank logo was released the same year same the Knucklehead motor It lasted only through 1939,
Harley-Davidson Logo Harley Speed Ball Logo     Harley Script Logo   HD Script Logo
1940 saw the first metal logo to grace a Harley gas tank. Since World War II caused shortages, relatively few HD motorcycles carried it.
Harley Davidson Red "speedball" Logo . This logo would grace the last Knucklehead and the first Panhead.
Classic Harley Davidson script 1954 saw the identical Harley script minus the underline
This classic 1955 design added a background to the script along with a large "V" to capitalize on Harley's famous V-twin motor.
Harley Sportster Gas Tank  Harley-Davidson Motorcycle     Harley-Davidson Tank   Harley-Davidson Logo
New tank emblem for the Sportster and Duo-Glide models This was HD's first use of plastic for emblems.
The 1959 Arrowhead logo was larger and made of metal as opposed to plastic from the previous year.
Harley-Davidson ran the "gun sight" logo for two short years.
This Harley logo would adorn the first Electra-Glide and the last Panhead.
Harley-Davidson Logo Harley-Davidson Motorcycle     Harley-Davidson Tank   Harley-Davidson Logo
Harley-Davidson returned to a plain, simple badge for '66 that carried on into the AMF years.
  1972-1976 AMF Era
Most Harley Davidson fans didn't particularly like the Motor Company's association with a bowling ball manufacturer, the "AMF" logo on the tank didn't help.
  1977-1978 FXS Low Rider
The first Low Riders wore graphic lettering inspired from early Harley racing motorcycles.
  Harley Racing Tank
Harley-Davidson racing department used this lettering on it's race bikes
Harley-Davidson Harley-Davidson     Harley-Davidson Motorcycle   Harley-Davidson Logo
1988 Harley FLSTC
With the FLSTC retro-look it's only appropriate that decals mimicking Harley designs of old would adorn this Softail Custom.
  1988 Harley FLSTS
With the FLSTS Harley took a nostalgia step into the past with this Softtail Springer and its retro style front end.
  1991 FXDB Sturgis Anniversary
Harleys first Sturgis model came with a Shovelhead in 1980. The 91 edition was powered by a Evolution V-twin
  1992 FXDB Daytona Anniversary
Harleys first true pearl paint job graces the tank along with a decal announcing the 50th anniversary of Daytona speed week.
FREE OFFER Extremely Rare 1917 Harley Davidson Brochure
1906 Harley-Davidson
This is a very rare Harley Davidson Motorcycles brochure covering the full motorcycle lineup for 1917. Of the three dozen or more books I own covering the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company not a single one has any images from inside or outside of this brochure

Recently I became aware of just how rare this Harley brochure is. One of the items you receive when becoming a member of the official Harley Davidson Museum is the book: 100 Years of Harley-Davidson Advertising. Surprisingly the book doesn’t have a single image of what is easily the most beautiful engraved color lithograph art work to ever grace a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Brochure.

Since no other publication ever displayed this, I wasn’t surprised when not a single image from this brochure could be found in the official Harley Davidson Museum, which BTW is beautifully decorated from top to bottom with Harley Davidson advertisement material.
Download one of the rarest Harley Davidson Brochure FOR FREE

The download includes large desktop sized wallpapers of the color lithograph cover and center spread along with the other full page images that grace this rare brochure. Yours absolutely free for just signing up to HarleyDavidsonMuseum.com
1906 Harley-Davidson  
 Harley Davidson Parts and Accessories

Harley Davidson parts and accessories have become a important ingredient in the success of both the company and dealers. The fact Harley formed A separate parts and accessories department as early as 1912 proves just how early Harley and the Davidson's realized the importance of these items.

Arthur Davidson warned dealers that the company would not tolerate affixing non Harley aftermarket parts on H-D bikes.

The Motor Company's reputation for durability and performance helped Harley-Davidson stand out in an increasingly crowded field of motorcycle manufactures. He knew insisting on genuine parts and accessories would maintain that hard earned reputation.

RIGHT 1912 Harley Davidson parts and accessories catalog
 Harley Davidson Trike
Harleys first Motorcycle Trike called the Servi-Car first appeared in late 1931 as a '32 model. Built in response to Indian's popular Dispatch Tow three- wheeler. Previously, Sidecar rigs had been modified for various commercial applications, but the Forty-five powered motorcycle trike was a better multi-purpose machine.

Both manufacturers offered optional tow bars with the three-wheelers, which automotive service shops found useful for picking up and returning cars due for service. A single employee could ride to the client's site, tow the Servi-Car back to the shop, return the car, unhook the trike and ride back. The three-wheelers also found wide use as light-duty delivery vehicles and made perfect meter maid vehicles for city police departments..

RIGHT   1932 sees the release of  the Harley Trike
click on image to view enlarged version
Harley Davidson Gas Tank History in Photos
Harley Davidson Gas Tanks
New standard colors introduced in 1933 ushered in a new era in Harley gas tanks Harley gas tanks . Combining intricate tank logos and hand-painted pin striping the Harley gas tank became works of art. The art deco-inspired designs demonstrated the creativity and skill of the company's employees. The tradition of developing new gas tank designs to accompany changing paint schemes became a trademark of Harley-Davidson style.
1909 Harley Davidson
1909 was the first year Harley-Davidson released more than one model, adding its first twin-cylinder engine. However, the first twins were recalled, so single-cylinder bikes like the Model 5 remained the mainstays.
Model 5 - 30ci (500cc) single, 28in wheels, battery ignition Price $210
Model 5A - 30ci F-head single, 28in wheels, magneto Price $250
Model 5B - 30ci F-head single, 26in wheels, battery ignition Price $210
Model 5C - 30ci F-head single, 26in wheels, magneto Price $250
Model 5D - 50ci (819cc) F-head V-twin, magnet Prices Price $325
1909 Harley-Davidson   1909 Harley Motorcycle
Harley Sidecars
Harley Trikes
Harley Davidson Sportster
Harley Davidson Accessories
Harley Model List
Harley 1957 Models
Harley 1958 Models
Harley 1959 Models
Harley 1960 Models
Harley History 1933
harley gas tank
Harley Davidson
Olive Green is replaced by a variety of standard colors; bird tank graphics gas tank graphics appear signaling first real change in three decades.

With the depression grow worse total U.S. motorcycle production plummets from 32,000 cycles annually during  the late 1920s to just 6,000 by 1933. Harley-Davidson builds over half the motorcycles built in the U.S. With 3,700 total motorcycles produced. 

Harley Motor Oil

January 1937 Harley Davidson Enthusiast Promotes the new Harley Davidson Motor Oil. The ad goes on to say: Harley-Davidson engineers have perfected a new Medium Heavy grade of Harley-Davidson oil. The new Medium Heavy Oil is ideally suited to and recommended for the exclusive, year 'round lubrication needs of the 61 " OHV motors. Your Harley-Davidson dealer stocks genuine Harley-Davidson Oil in the refinery sealed handy quart size containers. Accept no substitute to genuine Harley Davidson parts and accessories
Harley Trike

Harley Davidson's Package Truck was offered in a number of configurations. Using a modified version of the sidecar chassis, the frame and body were just a few dollars more than the sidecar.
Model MXP Package Truck shown above, with Harley-Davidson designed snubbers, Alemite fittings, Timken roller bearing hub, 48 inch road tread, $150 at factory. Chassis complete without body, $65 at factory. Prices do not include motorcycle. Harley Davidson also offered other parts and accessoriess
Harley History 1910
Harley Motorcycle Logo
The famed Harley Davidson"Bar & Shield" logo is used for the first time in 1910. It is trademarked at the U.S. Patent office one year later.

Sportster 883
Harley Sportster XLCH
A racier version of the Sportster was introduced in 1959 under the XLCH tag. Intended as a performance-oriented on/off road machine it differed from its street XLH sportster by sporting magneto ignition, high-mounted exhaust pipe, "peanut" fuel tank (barrowed from the hummer) , "bobbed" rear fender, and semi-knobby tires. Tank badges were also different, being of a design shared by some of Harley's contemporary racing bikes. The XLCH also debuted the "eyebrow" headlight cover that remains a Sportster trademark to this day.
Davidson Panhead

In 1948, the FL, with redesigned rocker covers for the cylinder head, got the name of Panhead. Hydraulic valve lifters caused less engine noise, ran cooler with aluminum heads, and needed less maintenance.

Harley Dealer

In 1907, at age 14, Dudley Perkins rode his first Reading Standard Cycle. Perkins along with Al Maggini opened their own Harley-Davidson dealership in California . They promoted the bikes by racing them. As world war II was coming to an end, Dudley Perkins saw the need to purchase the 80,000 plus bikes produced by H-D for the military. He had them repainted and ready for sale as the war ended. Dealer sales escalated as the veterans demand for bikes came into full swing.  

Harley Sportster
Harley Sportster era begans in 1957 when Harley Davidson introduced an overhead-valve, 54-cubic-inch engine (883cc). Before that, Harley motorcycles were side-valves (Flatheads). In 1957, Harley Davidson released the overhead-valve cylinder heads, which gave the motorcycle increased horsepower and performance. Today there are many iterations of the Sportster.  

Harley 50th

In 1953 marked the fiftieth year of business for Harley-Davidson. To commemorate the event, a logo was designed, depicting a "V" symbolic of the engine configuration, crossed by the company name and embossed lettering stating "50 years American made." This brass medallion logo would grace the front fenders of all 1954 models.  

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