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THE EVOLUTION MOTOR: I call it the Blockhead.


“Making a point of folks not knowing their history, and terminology. and then using the term “blockhead” are very contradictory…Nobody that I ever knew who owned a Harley called the Evolution anything but EVO’s…Blockhead as a Term for the EVO was being pushed by a different School. I don’t think it is nearly mandatory to know any history…on anything…but, I make it a point to stay a bit up on it. I do agree that people who don’t know, shouldn’t act like they do know. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open yer mouth and Prove it!!!”


Recently, a biker at the SEEDY X-BAR & GRILL said to me, after I referred to the Blockhead….

“I haven’t heard anyone call it Blockhead in a very long time.”

When The Firm came out with the Evolution engine in 1984, many bikers called it the “Blockhead.” The fact that “Blockhead” fell out of favor, to the point of disusage, says a lot about the biker subculture’s lack of love toward the Evolution motor. However, I’ve continued to used the rarely used nomenclature of Blockhead, as a nod of respect to the motor. Certain designations of nicknames, signify the positive perception of motors in the biker subculture.

I wouldn’t know anything about a “different school” pushing “Blockhead” as a nickname for the Evo, but I do know that when the Evo came out, I started using “Blockhead” and continue to do so, as a matter of habit. I also admit to liking being somewhat different from everyone else, who calls the motor an “Evo.” Call it the crazy rebel in me, man….

“Hey Genghis, what are ya rebelling against?”

ME: “Whatta ya got?”

I believe that “Blockhead” was reflexive usage by bikers in the beginning (beginning of the Evolution motor), to include the Evolution, as a familial continuation of the other three classic “-heads”—the Knuck, Pan and Shovel. So, I guess in that sense, this is the “school” of bikers, who have always called the Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovel—“Knucklehead,” “Panhead” and “Shovelhead”—traditional bikers. This triad of righteous Harley mills, proudly carry the “-head” suffix, as a show of respect by bikers for these revered motors. So, as a member of the traditional “school” of bikers—full disclosure—I dig using the term.

Bikers believe in tradition. The fact that “Blockhead” didn’t continue in common usage in the culture, but in fact fell into almost total disuse, unlike Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead did—demonstrates that many in the culture simply did not elevate the Evolution to the same status of it’s three “-head” predecessors—the Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead. If the Evolution motor did reach the same rarefied air as the Knuck, Pan and Shovel—believe me, we ‘d talking about the quartet of classic motors, that were made from 1936 until 1999.

But—I continue to call it the Blockhead, simply as a matter of habit and traditional respect. It also shows, that I just have a very long memory! Thanks for your comment.



“Really nice, Scott. I, too, just give up on the clueless— trying to explain Harley history is casting pearls before swine. Just a waste. I, too, just rely on, “It just an old Harley…” Before I finally got my first HD, I spent years reading about Harleys, going to dealers & bike shows. It’s telling that most newbies are all about form over substance. Twas ever thus.”


Hey David, great minds think alike, huh? Ha! Later.



2 Responses to ““BLOCKHEAD OR EVO?””

  1. None given Says:

    Yeah … but I don’t know if it is true. Funny, I was just thinking of you and the ‘Horse today and how Evos – and the scene around them – have become the new Shovelheads.

    I remember when the Evos first came and it pissed the hell out of me. I had just acquired the means to buy my first new Harley-Davidson, and all of a sudden the scene was flooded by bankers and advertising men and it was almost impossible to buy some models. They were selling for more than list price. Even second hand ones were.

    And all the prerequisite accomplishments for being a biker went down the drain because these things just ran and ran.

    I bailed out and went for a big Kamikaze bike instead.

    I remember when “Blockhead” was first punted … and, truth be, many threw it about as an immature insult … but I think it just couldn’t stand against Evo because Evo was just one syllable, and sounded “evil”.

    Take that as a swipe from Occam’s razor. It certainly did not travel internationally. So what’s a Rushmore … a Wethead?

    It might be interesting to look at the history of the phenomenon of naming. I wonder who and how and when the Knuckles and Shovel and Pans got their nicknames? Perhaps the too conscious effort to name the Evo just meant that it was never going to work … like some pop group attempt to exploit their formula for a 4th top 20 hit?

    I recently saw a signature on someone’s posts on a discussion forum … “What’s wrong with being the only Evo in the car park?” which said a lot. It’s kind of like being the Black or Asian rider in a club. Evos are now outsiders’ bikers. A chance for cheapo, crazy ass bikers to buy into the experience and learn to hack their own ride as it’s cheap, simple, more than perfectly adequate to do so.

    Indeed, more than one other commentor wrote how when they stopped at dealers or ride outs, they got asked if their bike, an eminent FXR, was a Sportster.

    And now we have the phenomena of,

    a) techs working for dealers who are younger than the bikes, and

    b) official dealers refusing to work on them.

    They are long “officially” obsolete. All the inhouse parts having been sold off to ‘Vintage Parts, Inc’ for re-distribution, and some ridiculous speculators are selling junk for several times more than it is worth, exploiting their cache. Hi Elvis.

    Quo vadis Evo?

    In the long term, I think they are just going to run and run and run and until all the early bikes have returned to the soil.

    I’d put my money on the last free biker alive riding one.

    Certain models, like the FXR and Fatboy, have made their mark, forever in the pantheon of Milwaukee Gods. I think there are worthy commendations for others, like the fugly FLTCs. Other folks might vote for the Springer.

    Signed, an old Iron Horse Reader wondering where the world’s headed these days

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