A Salute to the Harley-Davidson Factory in York, Pennsylvania

Birth of A Harley
The cover shot for the article “Birth of a Harley: An Inside Look at the AMF Harley-Davidson Factory at York” printed in the 1970’s

Yesterday Harley-Davidson announced they would be laying off 200 employees, the majority coming from the York, Pennsylvania assembly plant. While I fully understand and agree with the downsize I think for many it’s easy to forget these numbers represent people and families.

York Factory Worker
A Big Twin neck casting gets machined by a York factory worker in the mid-’70’s

 In recognition of these hard working Americans I dug into my archives and did some research on the York plant and it’s workers who’ve helped make Harley-Davidson what it is today. The majority of the information and all of the pictures I gathered came from an article printed in Custom Chopper Magazine in the mid-1970’s. The contributing editor listed his name as Bud Wiser.

The York plant has a colorful and Patriotic history that began when it was a Navy production facility during and following World War II. It wasn’t sold to AMF until 1964 when it began producing a multitude of AMF products before the manufacturing giant acquired Harley-Davidson. In 1972 the motorcycle business was booming and the decision was made to covert the entire 500,000 square foot facility into the motorcycle production plant we know it as today. It took only six months to get the facility up and running and producing 1 completed bike every 90 seconds or roughly 305 bikes per 8 hour shift.

York Factory
Workers lace and true wheels and then mount and balance tires in the York, Pennsylvania plant

Its impressive to think about the many different jobs completed each day at York. Not only were bikes assembled via a 3 mile long monorail conveyor, but frames, gas tanks, and fenders were created from steel stock and then painted in house. The prime and base coats were done by machine while the decals and pinstripes were famously laid by hand without of the use of any measuring equipment. In the ’70’s the plant even had a chroming facility on site. They polished and finish plated the chrome pieces that are now outsourced on-site. It’s amazing all of these departments could work together under one roof!

Knucklehead SketchTo quote Mr. Wiser, “Harley-Davidson is a way of life for most of the employees, not merely a job. Harley’s are built by people-happy people.” I salute these people, both past and present and I wish them best of luck to during these hard times.


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