The Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE: HOG) is an American manufacturer of motorcycles based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. It is an American mass-producer of motorcycles (along with Victory Motorcycles). The company emphasizes heavy bikes designed for cruising on the highway and known for their distinctive exhaust note.
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The Harley-Davidson engines
The classic Harley-Davidson engines are two-cylinder, V-twin engines with the pistons mounted in a 45° "V". The crankshaft has a single pin, and both pistons are connected to this pin through their connecting rods.
This design causes the pistons to fire at uneven intervals, the consequence of an engineering tradeoff: to simplify the engine and reduce costs, the V-twin ignition was designed to operate with a single set of points and no distributor. Consequently, the spark plugs in the two cylinders fired simultaneously. With the advent of electronic ignition, this design choice is entirely vestigial from an engineering standpoint, but has been sustained because of the strong connection between the distinctive sound and the Harley-Davidson brand. This design, which is covered under several United States patents, gives the Harley-Davidson V-twin its unique choppy "potato-potato" sound.
After the implementation of electronic ignition on the V-twin engine, the plugs were made to fire individually as follows:
1. the first piston fires (this is the 0° position)
2. the other piston fires at 315° into the stroke
3. there is a 405° gap (as both cylinders go through their exhaust stroke) until the first piston fires again.
On 1 February 1994, the company filed a trademark application for the distinctive sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine: "The mark consists of the exhaust sound of applicant's motorcycles, produced by V-twin, common crankpin motorcycle engines when the goods are in use". Nine of Harley-Davidson's competitors filed comments opposing the application, arguing that cruiser-style motorcycles of various brands use a single-crankpin V-twin engine which produce a similar sound. Interestingly, when Honda first began making a motorcycle with a 45° V-2 design, the Honda Shadow, it used a more advanced engineering approach with an offset crank design which allows for even firing pulses and higher horsepower because of the reduced vibrational stresses on the engine. However, because potential buyers complained that the Shadow did not 'sound like a Harley,' Honda in 1996 introduced the Shadow American Classic Edition (or ACE) which had a single crank-pin design, reduced horsepower and a much more Harley-like sound.
These objections were followed by litigation. After six years, Harley-Davidson withdrew their trademark application.
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