Harley History – The Amazing Harley J Motorcycles
Harley introduced the first of its J model F Head, V-twin motorcycles as a 1915 model. It was a 61 cubic inch, F-head, V-twin engine with a three-speed transmission and electric lighting. It was the only year model to feature the Remy Model 15 magneto-generator with vacuum-operated battery cutout. The J Model Harley retailed for $310, making it the most expensive Harley motorcycle on the market at the time. Harley built 3,719 Model J motorcycles in 1915.
The price for the 1916 Harley J dropped $15 from the previous year to $295, and sales climbed to 5,898 motorcycles. There were some subtle changes over the previous model, including gas tanks with rounded edges, wider front forks, stronger wheel rims and an improved front wheel hub, and an upgrade to the Remy Model 250 generator with mechanical switch. This was the first year Harley-Davidson stamped the model year into the engine identification number.
1917 saw the Harley J increase back to the original 1915 price of $310 as sales soared to an impressive 8,527 Harley J motorcycles sold. Options included a Schebler Deluxe carburetor, 26 inch wheels, choice of Goodyear Blue Streak or Firestone Non-Skid tires and either the Troxel Jumbo saddle or Troxel Wizard saddle.
In 1918 the Harley J was renamed the J-Solo. The price climbed to $320 as sales trimmed to 6,571 motorcycles.
In 1919 Harley-Davidson added the JS Sidecar Twin to the J Solo motorcycle for the street and on the specialty side – the JA, JB, and JF motorcycles. The JA featured the Harley A motor, the JB featured a Harley B motor, and the JF featured a “500” motor. The J-Solo and J Sidecar each sold for $370 and sold 9,941 machines between the two.
1920 was the year Harley expanded the J series to include the J-Solo and JS-Sidecar (which now has sidecar gearing) plus the JF (“500” motor), JB (B motor), JE (E motor), JA (A motor), and the first JD with the larger 74 cubic inch F-Head V-twin as well as a sidecar version – the JDS. The J and JS sold for $395 and Harley sold 14,192 J model motorcycle.
1921 saw more larger displacement JDs move into the line up, which consisted of the J Solo, the JS – Sidecar, JD Solo and JDS – Sidecar on the street side, and on the specialty side the JA, JDA, and JE. The J and JS models sold for $485, and the JD and JDS sold for $520. Sales declined to 45,26 J models, and 2,321 JDs. The Harley “A” motor was specified as a high speed Police model. The “B” motor was a high compression motor for high altitude use, and the “E” motor was a special racing one.
The J Solo, JS -Sidecar, JD Solo and JDS – Sidecar machines continued in production as 1922 models, as did three specialty models – the JA, JDA and JE. Prices dropped considerably to $365 for the Harley J and JS, and to $390 for the JD and JDS. Production dropped considerably also to only 3,183 Harley J motorcycles and 3,988 Harley JDs.
The line up stays about the same in 1923 with the J, JS, JD and JDS. Specialty models are the JDA, JE and JDCA. Prices continue to drop to $305 for the Harley J and JS and to $330 for the JD and JDS. Sales increased tio 4,802 Harley J motorcycles and to an impressive 7,458 Harley JD motorcycles. The hinged rear fender was added to these motorcycles for convenience when changing the rear wheel.
1924 finds the addition of the aluminum alloy pistoned E series Harleys. The line up includes the JE, JES Sidecar, JD, JDS Sidecar, JDCA *aluminum alloy piston) and JDSCA Sidecar. The JE and JES priced dropped to $320, the JD and JDS increaed to $335, and the JDCA and JDSCA sold for $345. Harley sold 4,994 JE models, 2,995 JD models, 3,034 JDCB models and 3,014 JDCA motorcycles (including and original pint one thet I own). This was the only year Harley used the large box shaped muffler.
In 1925 Harley offered the JE, JES Sidecar, JDCB and JDCBS Sidecar motorcycles. The JE models retailed for $315 and sold 4,114 motorcycles. The larger displacement JD series price was $335 and Harley sold 9,506 of them. The new Harley J frame lowered the saddle three inches compared to earlier years. Harley moved to larger and rounded teardrop gas tanks and added wider but smaller diameter tires to gave the Harley JD series a huskier look. Color choices did not change since 1917 – anything the customer wanted, as long as it was Olive Drab.
The 1926 Harley line up for the J series motorcycles did not change – the proven 4 remained – the 61 cubic inch J Solo & JS Sidecar – which retailed at $315, and the larger and more expensive 74 cubic inch JD Solo and JDS Sidecar which sold for $335. The smaller J motorcycles sold 3,749 and the larger and more expensive JD Harleys sold 9,544 about the same as the previous year.It was the first year Harley offered a muffler cutout to deflect the exhaust gasses away from the rider. These models also featured a switch panel with a key lock and control levers.
The line up did not change for Harley in 1927. The same four J and JD models for the street but several new ones on the specialty side. They included the Harley JK Special Sport and the Harley JDL both with generator ignition. in 1927 Harley sold 3,561 J models for $310, and 9,691 JD motorcycles for $320. Harley introduced the “wasted spark” ignition this year with the distributorless ignition using a circuit breaker and single coil to fire both spark plugs at the same time.
The J models dominated Harley’s offerings in 1928. It icluded the following: J Solo, JS Sidecar, JX Sport Solo, JXL Special Sport Solo, JH (61 cubic inch 2 cam), JD Solo, JDS Sidecar, JDX Sport Solo, JDXL Special Sport Solo, JDH Solo (74 cubic inch 2-cam). Costs were $310 for the J, JS, & JX models, $320 for the JD, JDS, and JDX models, $325 for the JXL, $335 for the JDXL, $360 for the JH and $390 for the JDH. 4,184 Harley J models sold and an impressive 11,007 JD motorcycles too. This was the year Harley introduced the front brake and the hot rod 2-cam JH and JDH models.
1929 was the last year for Harley to sell the J series motorcycles. In 1929 Harley offered the following J series models: J Solo, JH 2-cam Solo, JS Sidecar, JD Solo, JDS Sidecar, JDH 2-cam Solo. Harley also offered the JXL, JDXL and JDF motorcycles. The J series sold for $310, The JD models for $320 and the JDH sold for $370. All told they sold 13,068 J and JD series motorcycles in 1929. It was the only year the J series were factory equpped with the dual bullet headlights, the electric switch panel and ammeter on the handlebars, and the 4 tube “Pan o’ Pipes” exhaust muffler set up.