H.O.G.® history: the beginning
Officially launched on January 1, 1983, the Harley Owners Group® boasted more than 30,000 members...
The Early Days: 1983-1985
Emerging from a dark cloud of corporate quicksand that stunted its growth in the 1970s, Harley-Davidson Motor Company regained its mojo following the landmark point in its history when a group of 13 executives bought the company back from the AMF Corporation in 1981. The buyback re-energised and refocused the fabled company on its strongest asset: the most loyal customers in the world.
Following the deal closure, executives celebrated by riding from York, Pennsylvania, (where the deal was finalised) to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, meeting with and talking to riders, retailers and Harley-Davidson® motorcycle enthusiasts along the way. More than just a celebration, the ride was a declaration: the Harley® brand is back, and we know how to take care of our riders. The seeds of the Harley Owners Group® were being sown.
But the H.O.G.® concept really got off the ground in 1978, the company’s 75th anniversary year, when Harley-Davidson organised a series of cross-country rides with different members of the management team. “We saw it as a way to get out on the road, reconnect with customers, and have some fun,” wrote Willie G. Davidson – also a member of the buyback team – in his 2003 book, 100 Years of Harley-Davidson.
Officially launched on January 1, 1983, the Harley Owners Group® boasted more than 30,000 members. The new club hit the ground running, with some of the now familiar benefits of H.O.G. offered from the very beginning: H.O.G. Fly & Ride launched in 1983; Hog Tales® magazine made its early debut with the February/March 1983 edition – a six-page, two-colour tabloid – and, of course, a variety of patches, pins, and other collectibles.
H.O.G. sponsored quite a number of official events across the US and Canada in 1983. That first year, however, they were staged in conjunction with established motorcycle events, such as the Sturgis Rally, Daytona Bike Week, and various motorcycle races. The first ‘stand-alone’ events took place in 1984, in Reno, Nevada, and Nashville, Tennessee. Together, they are considered the first official H.O.G. rallies. The events included many familiar activities – such as demo rides, a ride-in show, a poker run, drill teams and self-guided tours, to name a few. But the scale was much smaller than we have today; combined attendance was about 3,000. By the end of 1985, H.O.G. had reached more than 60,000 members (with 49 official chapters).
Next month: H.O.G. goes global