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An American made bike in production from 1919 to 1923, the Harley-Davidson Model W has a side valve, flat-twin 584cc engine and a top speed of 50 mph (80 k/h).
The Model W's engine design imitated the British Douglas motorcycle's flat- twin with cylinders in line with the frame. This design was a departure from the v-twin which Americans developed an affinity for. The Model W offered several features that brought new motorcyclists into the market, including a smooth running engine (smoother than a typical Harley-Davidson V-twin), a lower center of gravity for easy handling.
The design was clean because there were fewer oil compartments. Due to the transmission and clutch being integrated within the engine case, there was fewer ways for the oil to leak. The engine was Harley-Davidson's first flathead engine, and its transmission was the first to be housed in the engine cases.
The first year Model W used a magneto-powered ignition system. Later in 1921 it used a battery and coil system became available. Then the Model WF continued with the original magneto ignition. In 1920 Electric lighting became available on the Model W.
In July 1919, the Model W became the first vehicle of any kind to climb up Mount San Antonio's 10,114 foot summit, near Mount Baldy, California. Also Hap Scherer, a publicity manager for Harley-Davidson, set records for endurance runs from British Columbia to Tijuana and from New York to Chicago.
The Model W didn't do well in the United States. The Indian Scout, similar in size, was faster and sold much better. Although the Model W did do well in Europe, Harley-Davidson decided to discontinue it in favor of promoting their single-cylinder models there.
The Model W was discontinued in 1922; only 6,000 machines were built, the majority of which were exported to oversea markets where the twin design was already generally accepted.
The bike can be seen on display at the Otis Chandler Museum of Transportation and Wildlife in Oxnard, California.