Photo by Genghis
WILLIE G.’S CREATION: 1971 Super Glide, but modified by Genghis.
While I don’t think Willie G should be elevated to sainthood, his personal contributions to motorcycling can’t be denied. There are those that say he ripped off and copied innovations that were cropping up around the country by independant and home builders (and clubbers) of HDs.
I contend that he was the only person in a dying company that actually took notice of what was happening in the streets to machines that had his name on the tanks. The company was out of touch with the times. Willie G took (tore) the blinders off. He didn’t copy, he PAID ATTENTION.
I am just old enough to remember the days when even a mildly modified (not to mention chopped) Harley would be turned away for service from an HD dealer….some wouldn’t even sell you parts or even oil if you had long hair. And the Factory condoned this! Harley corporate’s idea of clubbers were AMA types wearing milkman-type hats, vinyl bowties and other para-military garb. The kind of clubs that gave trophies for “Cleanest Uniform”. Vestiges of the 30s and 40s that were so dated they were laughable.
Now, imagine: Willie G has been employed at his family’s biz and entrenched in the ultra-conservative culture of the company at a young age. Pictures of him in the early 60s show a young dude with a crew cut and Buddy Holly glasses wearing a white short-sleeved dress shirt and tie.
Now he has to convince the powers-that be that not everyone wants a fat dresser. Long story very short…the birth of the Super Glide in 71. A factory model that would have been unthinkable just a year or two before. The success of the Super Glide far exceeded factory expectations, and set the pace for what was to come during the following decades to the present day. There were hits and misses along the way, but he had the guts to keep trying new stuff.
Willie then took a page from the founder’s book. He went out and mingled with riders of the company’s bikes. He went to rallies, he listened to suggestions and, as always, he observed what was happening and evolving. Like the original four founders, he put a face to the company.
No, I don’t think Willie G is a motorcycling god or that he should be canonized, but I do not think it is an exaggeration to say he was very instrumental in saving my favorite motorcycle brand when things were at their worst.
The guy is 78 years old!