- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

STURGIS, S.D. The annual celebration of American freedom that takes place in these rolling Black Hills is probably the greatest costume party in the country.

The majority of the participants are almost in black leather uniforms, and while much of the public may view them as incarnations of the motorcycle warrior from "Raising Arizona," underneath those road duds are a lot of bankers, bureaucrats and now, a bunch of Ford engineers and managers.

The initial unveiling was a year ago at Sturgis. A group of Ford staffers and cycle club officers stood guard when project manager George Magros roared up on his bike to launch the ceremonies. Observers were unable to distinguish between the bikers and the staffers, and no one wanted to mess with either.

There have been many more lavish unveilings, but few so enthusiastically received.

Realizing there are few companies that have had such an effect on their industries and that the Ford trucks and Harley-Davidson motorcycles are each the icons of their buyer groups, someone was inspired enough to realize that the relationship was a natural.

Each company dates its origin to 1903, and each company is largely managed by descendants of the founders. The first truck in the series, the 2000 Harley-Davidson F-150 SuperCab pickup, arrived in showrooms in the spring of this year.

The limited production of 8,000 units quickly sold out. The Ford and Harley-Davidson brand alliance provides the opportunity for the two companies to jointly develop and market co-branded clothing and vehicle accessories.

The all-black truck, with distinctive Harley-Davidson orange pinstriping and chrome accessories, is a restyled and customized version of America's best-selling pickup for the last 22 years and the best-selling vehicle in automotive history. "Many Harley owners also own Ford trucks," said Gurminder S. Bedi, vice president, Ford Truck Vehicle Center. Mr. Bedi unveiled the new truck with Jeff Bleustein, Harley-Davidson chairman and chief executive officer. Said Mr. Bleustein. "Ford and Harley-Davidson customers alike want a distinctive vehicle that makes a statement about themselves."

The new Harley-Davidson F-150 is a black monochromatic 4X2 SuperCab pickup with a flareside box topped by a hard-shell tonneau cover, equipped with a 260-horsepower, 5.4-liter Triton V-8. Motorcycle cues are provided by massive 9x20-inch five-spoke cast aluminum wheels and the look of Harley-Davidson inside with badge-branded black leather seats, a leather pouch on the center console and a "spun metal" instrument cluster that has the distinctive look of Harley gauges. Most remarkably, the exhaust has the distinctive "throaty" note of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, but without the rough lope of the narrow-angle motorcycle V-twin.

First year's production will be at the Ontario plant, with Kansas City producing the 2001 model that adds the SuperCrew with four full doors. A welcome addition is the power-adjustable pedals that will allow all sizes of riders, I mean drivers. Despite subtle styling, the Harley badge is an attention getter, and gets attention and respect.

There is no production vehicle with larger tires, and the ride is surprisingly compliant, yet the tires allow amazing cornering and stopping figures on dry pavement. You have to be careful as the ground effects don't match up with urban curbs, so plan your parking carefully.

While Ford has its specially built performance editions badged as Cosworth or SVT versions, Harley has its Buell Motorcycle Co. that produces high-tech sport and sport-touring motorcycles. The alliance will include celebrations of each company's centennial in 2003 and is bound to be celebrated at each upcoming Sturgis event.

It's a place and time to let your hair down, and that is the spirit of Ford trucks and Harley-Davidson cycles. This is a natural marriage, and we can all enjoy playing with their precocious offspring.

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