Harley Davidson, A Way of Life - book cover

A Pictorial History of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

For over a century Harley Davidson has had a long and illustrious history and more than once has come close to failure. Fortunately its recent history has been more successful. In Harley Davidson, A Way of Life, Albert Saladini and Pascal Szymezak chronicle that history in detail and it is lavishly illustrated large format paperback.

The text is a straightforward chronology of the ups and downs of the company. Along the way it details the models and describes the specification of engines and chassis in some detail. As a result the text falls between two stools; it is not an engaging read for the casual reader yet it does not present the technical details in a way that makes it a good reference for real Harley-Davidson aficionados. It may have been better if the specification details had been tabulated, perhaps in appendices, to allow the text to flow.

The text may be further compromised by being a translation. At times it feels rather stilted as though it is a literal translation. In fact the general feeling is of text translated by someone who had a good grasp of English but for whom it was a second language.

Although the English language edition was published in 2011 Harley-Davidson appears to have been written in the late 1990s and updated in around 2007. Occasionally the text is not consistent talking as it does of the middle of this century, clearly the 20th century, and has the 2003 centenary of Harley-Davidson in the future. Yet it does describe models up to the 2007 model year.

Notwithstanding the criticisms, it provides a comprehensive history and the book’s strength is the illustration. It combines much material from the Harley-Davidson company archives with the authors’ own pictures. The pictures work well and one suspects most people will buy the book as a pictorial history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A job it does admirably, the nature of the test becomes less of an issue when the reader is dipping into it rather than reading it cover to cover.

A Book for Enthusiasts

However the authors’ enthusiasm for Harley-Davidson motorcycles comes over strongly and I am sure most fans will enjoy the book. It is a book that any motorcycle enthusiast will enjoy dipping into and many will be surprised how much innovation there in the history of Harley-Davidson. As described in this book Harley-Davidsons are a complex mixture of traditional, apparently old-fashioned, elements and modern technology.

Harley Davidson, A Way of Life by Albert Saladini and Pascal Szymezak (2011, ISBN: 978-1-4463-0190-6) is published by David and Charles in paperback at £14.99

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