MENOMONEE FALLS, Wisc.--The Harley-Davidson Steel Toe Tour at the company's Powertrain Operations plant here gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the engine-build process, as well as some insight into how a bike evolves from a sketch on a notepad to a roaring machine on the open road.
In 2010, Harley-Davidson, the last American motorcycle manufacturer, started giving tours at the company's primary engine manufacturing plant here just north of Milwaukee. Only about 2,000 motorcycle enthusiasts have taken the Harley-Davidson Steel Toe Tour, and CNET got to tag along for it this weekend.
While portions of Harley-Davidson's operation are off limits to photographers, we were allowed to offer some images from the company's factory and museum archives. This rare sketch of possible passenger seat designs for the Harley-Davidson Rocker concept bike shows that the entire process all starts with pen, ink, and paper.
The Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations Plant is the home of the company's signature V-Twin engine, which is detailed in these complex blueprints. The completed engines are sent to bike assembly plants in Pennsylvania and Missouri. (We got a tour of the York, Pa., plant last summer.)
Who does the actual building? About 100 human workers operate during two daily shifts at the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations plant, but Swedish-made robots like this one do assembly, welding, and inspection work on the company's assembly line.