Harley Topper History
first scooter was a little over 6 horse power, the Topper Model A lasted
up into 1961.
Then the 5-brake horse power AU models built in 1960 to 1965 which used
a small plated air intake manifold along with a few other changes to
reduce the horse power, was built to meet the 5-brake horse power below
class required by some state laws which allowed youngsters to ride on
the main highways under the Junior licensing law program which existed
in the U.S.
Then the AH Topper 9 horse power, introduced in 1961, which had a high
compression engine, lasted to the end of the Topper motor scooters life
span in 1965.
Harley-Davidson was in competition in the early
fifties and sixties as imports were flooding the U.S. market at a fast
pace. Harley-Davidson was constantly changing tactics and introducing
new motorcycles and marketing the Topper Scooter at the time. It was
a changing world for Harley-Davdison and the company was doing all things
right. A known fact that during the early sixties to the middle sixties
the company was making numerous acquisitions in the U.S. and aboard,
strengthening the companies position in a new world market, getting
more of a competitive bite in the motorcycle and scooter market. This
was also a time Harley-Davidson was putting in place, a strategic plan,
like a master chess player, moving and hiring management, positioning
people in areas of the company to meet the new global demands within
Hiring managers from some of the top companies in the U.S., managers
involved in the oil, automotive and power industries. Highly regarded,
talented business managers chosen to keep the company on top of the
manufacturing, import-export playing field during that period.
Remember a new import-export trade agreement was
opened up about the same time in the sixties, which changed marketing
The European common market and the Free Trade association opened a whole
new world for U.S. companies to trade in Europe.
This period of time, from 1960 to 1965, was a very profitable time for
the company. Harley-Davidson was now very diverse.
With a new business strategy for the company, producing more than just
motorcycles and scooters in the early sixties, they now have to offer
in their product line, Powercrafts, Golf carts and importing small displacement
motorcycles from Italy, with the Harley-Davidson marquee adorning the
newly imported motorcycles.
Many articles have been written about this time period from the first
1948 lightweight 125s, all the way up to dropping the Topper scooter
from the Harley-Davidson model line in 1965.
Most of the articles blame the failure of the scooters popularity. But
if you are importing motorcycles, meeting the young adult market demands
at the time, as foreign companies were flooding the U.S., advertising
in venues: television, news papers and radio with the introduction and
sale of lightweight dependable motorcycles, then importing a low cost
dependable line of foreign lightweights makes sense. "Supply what
Harley-Davidson had several successful years in
the lightweight motorcycle market. For instance, the Aermacchi line.
Harley Topper was built in the U.S. at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin plant.
Most people believe the Topper was an import, NOT TRUE.
Today many Harley collectors have passed up adding
the Topper to their collection not understanding that the scooter was
built here in the U.S.
All the Topper parts are SAE.
The Topper has many parts that interchange with the Hummer lightweights
made here in the U.S. as well.
The Topper was being introduced in the U.S. as early as June of 1959
performing road tests and advertising venues and was on the drawing
board early in 1958.
When did Harley-Davidson invest in the Aeronautica Macchi civilian aircraft
Harley-Davidson spent two years prior to purchasing shares in Aeronautica
Macchi, researching and studying overseas motorcycle and scooter companies,
for foreign marketing, they purchased fifty percent of the company.
And in December of 1959 prior to Harley-Davidson's purchase, Lockheed
Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA., acquired a substantial interest
in Aeronautica Macchi Aircraft company to license them to build a Lockheed
designed light utility aircraft for the California-based company.
Another firm Harley-Davidson formed to beef up the companies presence
in the world market about the same time was the Harley-Davidson International,
S.A., in Switzerland. (This company was central control, administrative
and tech support for overseas sales of the Harley-Davidson product line.)
When did the first Aermacchi Harley Sprint sell in the U.S.? (1961).
Harley-Davidson, prior to April of 1962, purchased 60% of the Tomahawk
to have a manufacturing facility to produce fiberglass components for
the Topper Scooter and other motorcycles and pleasure craft components
along with manufacturing the two new models of the Harley-Davidson Golf
cart. (Electric and gas models)
The Tomahawk company was re-tooled and ready to produce fiberglass components
Also in the early sixties, improvements were being made to the Milwaukee
Around 1960, Harley-Davidson was able to offer
insurance to the owners of a Topper Scooter also to motorcycle owners
and riders by forming an insurance company named: Highland Insurance
Service Inc. The 1960 newly formed insurance company also was able to
offer Harley Dealers insurance on their own motorcycle dealerships.
President of the company was William H. Davidson and vice president
was George F. Fischer, General Manager. Secretary and treasurer was
O.P. Resech, Resech was also secretary and treasurer of Harley-Davidson
Motor Company at the time.
Harley-Davidson held four, two week courses, to
instruct mechanics how to service and repair Harley Topper Scooter's.
Enrollment started December 1st 1959 at the Juneau Ave plant
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 26 men from 21 states and 2 provinces in Canada,
graduated together on December 12th, 1959. The second class was held
in January 1960, at the same location. This time 24 men from 15 states
graduated on January 23rd. The third class started in February 1960.
25 men from 13 states and 2 provinces of Canada, graduated February
13th, 1960. The fourth class started around February 22nd and they graduated
March 5th, 1960. 22 men from 14 states attended. 97 mechanics attended
these 4 classes and would put most of the men mentioned from that time
period around the ages of 75 to 85 today in 2013. If anyone reads this
article, who was one of the mechanics, and is or was related to someone
who attended the classes at that time, please contact Harley Topper
We would like to meet with you and chat about your experience during
the 2 week course given by Harley-Davidson.
We have every mechanics name, city, state and photo, who attended the
classes and we are planning on contacting anyone on our list if possible.
Hopefully we can find a few guys on the list as we continue
our search. I'm sure they would be a wealth of knowledge.
We would like to get copies of the original films and visual aids used
during the eight week course that was put on at the Juneau plant from
1959 to the early 1960's. That would be a great wealth of information
to share on the Harley Topper Club.
Foreign Market orders:
Some foreign countries used the the Topper scooter
in small towns for Law Enforcement.
Most of the Topper's were painted black with Police stickers.
Some foreign countries used the Topper for dispatch
delivery in postal, customs and airports.
Some of the Colors of the Topper's ordered varied depending on the standard
color code used at the facilities.
We have some photos and will post them at some point.