Start of 1952 production

Production K Models

Start of 1952 production

Postby hennesse » Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:15 am

There's a letter from the factory to Harry Molanaar on eBay right now. It's dated April 24, 1952, and the first line tells Harry "Good morning and good news: Your K model demonstrator is on its way." The rest of the letter is typical sales cheerleading, with the only other important information being that the "K Party Announcement Postcard ("This is it. K-day") can be ordered Part No. 99501-52. The sample K-day card MIGHT come with the letter - better ask the seller!

The letter also mentions 98298-52 small, and 98299-52 large pennants. No idea whether these are K-specific or just generic Harley pennants. Has anyone ever seen a K pennant?

According to The Legend Begins, they sold 1970 Ks in 1952. That would be 500 each month - May, June, July, August. The dealers must have been selling them like hotcakes!
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby starcain » Thu Apr 30, 2020 12:25 pm

I believe K Model production in 1952 started before April of 1952. The attached picture of the F-404-52B-2152 season order blank shows both the WL and the K Model. This order blank is dated Feb. 1, 1952. I would think then that a person would have to assume the K was in production by the 1st of February if not before. There are four 1952 season order blanks for 1952. The first one has a 52 PN dated Sept. 1,1951. No mention of the K Model. WL only. The second one I don't have so can't say for sure if the "K" was on it. The third one has a 52B PN and that's the one pictured. It shows the WL and the K Model. The fourth one has a 52C PN and only shows the K Model. WL was dropped. This is the order blank that is in the Legend Begins book.

Does anyone happen to have the second 1952 order blank F-404-52A? Not sure what the date would be. Would like to know if the K Model is already on it or if the K's debut was on the third order blank as pictured.

Stan
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby JerrryR » Thu Apr 30, 2020 1:38 pm

Jan 52 Enthusiast, 1.jpg
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Jan 52 Enthusiast 2.jpg
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Jan 52 Enthusiast 3.jpg
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby starcain » Thu Apr 30, 2020 5:38 pm

Jerry, Thanks for posting the pictures of the January Enthusiast. I had forgotten about the Dealers convention in November of 1951. Obviously the Ks were in production in November. That's not that far off from the typical September new model roll outs.
That makes me wonder even more what the second 52A season order blank showed and what the date on it is. Is the "K" on there? I am hoping someone has one they can look at and post their findings.

Stan
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby thefrenchowl » Tue May 05, 2020 6:07 pm

Dave, Starcain, Jerry,

Just one K and one KR plus a few bits on tables were shown at the Harley dealers' convention in November 51...

The 1st batch bikes was not ready to ship before February 52 as shown in various Enthusiasts from March onwards...

Which makes the 52 sales figures to be taken with a pinch of salt... 1900 units in 6 months and basically the same amount for 53 in 12 months...

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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby hennesse » Wed May 06, 2020 12:17 am

The May 1952 Enthusiast (look over in the Literature section, click on "Enthusiast") is the first one to show production K's. Texas dealers got their first demonstrators on March 15, 1952. Five K's were entered in the Sixth annual Pirate Treasure Chest run in Shreveport on March 29 and 30. Another K demonstrator was was ridden for a story, but no date was given.

If the Texas dealers got their demonstrators on March 15, and Harry Molanaar didn't get his until after April 24, shipments of the demonstrator Ks were few and far between. These were dealer demonstrators, not quantity production for public sale. Note that the May, June, July, and August Enthusiasts all had Ks on the cover - they were really promoting them then!

Harley had a rather poor record of delivering new models. The 1930 VL had major problems with the flywheels being too light. As complaints from customers piled up, Harley recalled all the bikes shipped, and replaced the flywheels at no cost to the customers. The 1936 Knuckleheads had so many changes that each one was almost "hand built". The 1948 Model 125 missed the September/October 1947 new model introduction, and didn't ship in quantity until around January 1948. The 1955 Hummer was several months late. The 1959 Topper motorscooter missed 1959 entirely - it came out a year later as a 1960 model.

The WL model was dropped during 1952, about the same time as the Ks started rolling out the door. I don't think there was supposed to be a 1952 WL - I think it was continued into 1952 simply because the K was not ready for shipment. The February Season Order Blank shows that the K was targeted for shipment in February, but they blew that by several months. We don't know when production actually started. Was production hampered by supply problems? Mechanical problems? Quality problems? Who knows? But it's pretty sure that quantity shipments didn't occur until around the May 1953 timeframe.

Triumph and BSA were eating Harley's lunch with their inexpensive and fast 500cc (and later 650) vertical twins. Harley had to come up with something quick to repel the British Invasion. The K was the right general idea - mid-sized, mid-price, unit construction, hand clutch / foot shift, suspension front and rear. But the tired old flathead design was the wrong idea. Didn't Harley start eating Indian's lunch with the OHV Knucklehead 16 years earlier? But Harley was eager to get the Brit-killer out the door, and didn't want to invest the time in designing an OHV.

This was a short-sighted decision. The resulting bike wasn't as fast as the British twins, nor was it as inexpensive, and that became its reputation. After the initial sales euphoria wore off, sales of Ks and Sportsters remained flat at around 2000 units/year until the mid-1960s, when they finally took off. Had they invested the extra time and money to go OHV from the get-go, they might have conquered the market from day one.
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun May 10, 2020 7:25 am

Hi,

I thought I post all the 1952 K text and photos from The Enthusiasts. Most are what I would call advert shots, with proeminent dealers or personalities, very few from actual owners in the popular riders gallery section...

March 1952
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1952-03-p21.jpg
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun May 10, 2020 7:27 am

Avril 1952
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1952-04-p9-daytona.jpg
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Re: Start of 1952 production

Postby thefrenchowl » Sun May 10, 2020 7:28 am

Mai 1952

Well, I give up there, just too much hassle to post anything here...

Can this site be made user friendly??????????????????????????????

Patrick
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1952-05-p8.jpg
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