Why Is a Harley Called a Fat Boy?by Marijon ShearerUpdated August 06, 2023
The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle, renowned for its distinct style and powerful presence, has captured the imagination of motorcycle enthusiasts around the world. But why is it called a Fat Boy? Let's delve into the origins of this iconic name.
The naming of the Fat Boy arose from a collaborative "brainstorming session" among Harley employees, according to Martin Jack Rosenblum, esteemed historian for Harley-Davidson. The bike's imposing stature and robust build inspired a poetic description of its enormity. Its massive appearance, combined with the revolutionary Softail suspension and distinct disc wheels, truly sets it apart. Interestingly, Harley had previously introduced a similar model called the Fat Bob from 1979 to 1982.
Harley-Davidson Motorcycles: The Harley Fat Boy
Harley-Davidson motorcycles have a rich heritage, and the Harley-Davidson Fat-Boy holds a special place in their lineup. Designed by the visionaries Louie Netz and Willie G. Davidson, the Fat Boy Lo showcases the brand's commitment to timeless design and the pursuit of motorcycle perfection. Before even entering full production, the company put the Fat Boy under a lengthy testing routine, asking for plenty of customer feedback. Willie G. was not satisfied with the motorcycle until two years of tweaking. He himself even rode the motorcycle to Daytona twice (once in 1988 and again in 1989) before the bike was officially unveiled in 1990. With its low seat height, blacked-out components, and distinct style, the Fat Boy Lo exudes an irresistible charm.
The Rumor Mill
Several legends surround the origin of the Fat Boy's name. Among the various rumors surrounding the Fat Boy's name, one suggests a connection to the atomic bombs, Fat Man and Little Boy, dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, signaling the end of World War II. The alleged combination of "Little Boy" and "Fat Man," the names of the bombs, intertwines with the motorcycle's name. However, these claims remain speculative. The truth is, the Fat Boy name perfectly embodies the robust spirit of Harley-Davidson's V-twin engine, boasting powerful performance and unforgettable rides.
During the release of the Fat Boy, Harley-Davidson faced intense competition from Japanese rivals. The brand's loyal owners held a strong sense of patriotism, and the Fat Boy's retro styling struck a chord with the growing desire for nostalgic motorcycle designs.
Advocates of the bomb theory point to the visual elements of the original Fat Boy, featuring a medium-gray gas tank and fenders, complemented by school-bus-yellow trim and a winged logo reminiscent of a pilot's insignia. Drawing a parallel, they highlight the silver appearance of the Enola Gay, the B29 bomber that dropped the "Little Boy" bomb, with yellow accents on its black propellers.
Martin Jack Rosenblum dismisses the notion that the Fat Boy's name aimed to disparage Japanese competitors. He labels this claim as an urban legend, stating that it is entirely false. The corporate office at Harley-Davidson was genuinely surprised when they learned about this unfounded rumor.
Dealership Experience: Air-Cooled engine and Rear Suspension
To truly appreciate the allure of the Fat Boy, visit your local Harley-Davidson dealership. Experience the visceral thrill of an air-cooled V-twin engine, coupled with the confidence-inspiring hardtail rear tire suspension and the comfortable pullback handlebars. Explore the ergonomic design, optimal seat height, and ground clearance, all crafted to deliver an exceptional riding experience.
Marijon Shearer is a former newspaper reporter and bureau chief in central Pennsylvania who retired to graduate school about a year before big changes descended on local newsrooms. Besides writing for print, she also knows darkroom photography, cooking from scratch, basic accounting, how to maintain buildings and small machines and Pennsylvania local government.