For many motorcycle enthusiasts, Harley-Davidson is an iconic and enduring symbol of Americana. The miniseries tells the fascinating story of how the Harley-Davidson brand was created and evolved. Three young men, with amazing vision and drive, overcame many obstacles and challenges to produce one of the most popular motorcycles in the world.
“This is the type of compelling and honest storytelling that fits perfectly for Discovery Channel,” said Rich Ross, group president of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and Science Channel. “It is a story about brotherhood, an ironclad will to succeed and going against the conventional wisdom of that time. The founders of Harley-Davidson created more than just a motorcycle. They created modern entrepreneurism.”
According to American Motorcyclist, Harley and the Davidsons will provide insight into the success and struggle of the company founders. Walter (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones) and Arthur (Bug Hall, The Little Rascals) Davidson along with their friend Bill (Robert Aramayo, Game of Thrones) Harley, were the sons of hard-working, blue-collar immigrants. Together, the young men featured in Harley and the Davidsons firmly believed in the American dream, and they were willing to give everything they had to see their dreams fulfilled. Launching a successful business of building motorcycles was their united goal, and despite facing different challenges along the way, Harley and the Davidsons will highlight how they persevered throughout the good times and the bad.
The Futon Critic shared that at the dawn of the 20th century, social and technological advances helped to pave the way for Walter, Arthur, and Bill to get their fledgling business off the ground. Harley and the Davidsons examines how they wanted to build a motorcycle that would stand out from what the approximately 50 other motorcycle builders were producing, and believed that risking their entire fortune and livelihood was a gamble that could pay off.
Walter saw the venture as a chance to escape the stifling confines of society, and to build a motorcycle that was made to be ridden hard and was tough enough to go virtually anywhere. For Arthur Davidson, he saw the company as an opportunity to finally make good on his name. Bill Harley saw the business as a way to break away from his overbearing parents, and to apply his impressive talent as an engineer.
The Harley and the Davidsons trio began building motorcycles out of a shed located in Milwaukee, and the bikes were designed to be stronger and faster. Walter put the bikes through every test he could think of to make sure that the motorcycles were able to survive nearly anything a rider might encounter. He soon became one of the top motorcycle racers as he competed in the rough and deadly competitions that were being held all over the country. USA Today noted that Harley and the Davidsons does feature scenes of motorcycle racing, which in the early years was very risky, said executive producer Dimitri Doganis.
“At the time, motorcycling was an incredibly dangerous activity and motorcycle racing was extremely dangerous. … the bikes had no brakes and no gears. You would turn them on and they would go as fast as they could go,” Doganis said. The machines also would spew oil on the velodrome-like wooden tracks, so that “these things were not only hugely dangerous to the riders, they were also massively dangerous to the spectators because the bikes would fly into the crowd and there were historical examples … of multiple spectators being killed. This was a gladiatorial arena.”
People began to notice what these tough motorcycles were able to accomplish, and Walter put the name Harley-Davidson firmly on the map. Eventually, his ambition and exploits helped push the company to the forefront, first rivaling then overtaking their main competitor, Indian, which had previously held a major piece of the market. Eventually, they would risk it all to create the very first mass produced, state-of-the-art superbike.
The founders of Harley-Davidson weren’t afraid to take on their competitors such as Indian and with hard work, visionary innovations, and solid designs, they were able to grow a loyal following over the years. Even when the Great Depression struck and most of the motorcycle industry was hit hard, they continued to push forward. Over time, they were able to secure the American Army contract, taught riders how to make repairs on the go, and embraced emerging motorcycle clubs across the nation. Harley and The Davidsons reveals how Walter, Arthur, and Bill produced more than a motorcycle brand; they created a lasting legacy that has now endured for over 100 years.
Have you ever owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle? Will you be watching Harley and the Davidsons? Leave your comments, thoughts, and opinions below. The first two-hour installment of Harley and The Davidsons will premiere Monday, September 5 at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel. Parts two and three will air on Tuesday, September 6 and on Wednesday, September 7 at 9 p.m. ET.
[Image via Discovery]