Harley-Davidson Fatboy History

by Jeri Klein
itstillruns article image
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Harley-Davidson, an American motorcycle company, has a history of paying homage to the American Armed Forces. According to Kevin Lang, parts manager at New Roc Harley-Davidson in New Rochelle, New York, and life-long Harley-Davidson enthusiast, the company named the Fat Boy after Little Boy and Fat Man, the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively.


The Fat Boy belongs to the Softail family, a line of motorcycles known for its hardtail look with hidden rear suspension that Harley-Davidson first introduced in 1984. Through 2009, all members of the Softail family, unless otherwise noted, have a rigid mountain twin-cam 96B engine, 6-speed cruise drive transmission, horseshoe-style gas tank with chrome external oil lines, a 5.0-gallon fuel tank and a Rockertail, Bobtail or FL-style rear fender.

Original Model

The Harley-Davidson Motor Company unveiled the Fat Boy in 1990. Inspiration for this bike came from the B-29 bombers that the American armed forces used during World War II. This original Fat Boy model featured the patented brushed-aluminum Evolution engine, solid-cast aluminum wheels, a wide-bodied fuel tank and a wide front fork.


Each year, beginning in 1999, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company releases a customized version of a few select motorcycles. Available only for one year, these bikes, known as Custom Vehicle Operations, have custom paint options, custom wheels, added accessories and the patented Screamin’ Eagle engine. In 2005, the Fat Boy joined the CVO program to commemorate its 15th anniversary and featured a lower suspension than the original model, as well as a solo seat called the "steel pan."

Additional Model

In 2010, the Harley-Davidson company introduced another Fat Boy model: the Fat Boy Lo. This motorcycle sports a very low suspension, an inch-and-a-quarter lower than the original Fat boy and the lowest of any Harley-brand motorcycle. Other details that separate the Fat Boy Lo from the original model include a narrower seat, narrow handle bars and a new tank panel with a Harley-Davidson medallion.

Fun Facts

In the movie "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Arnold Schwarzenegger rides around Los Angeles on the original Fat Boy model. Universal Studios in Hollywood, California, created an attraction based on this film, which features a custom-built Fat Boy similar to the one used in the film. Other films that feature the Fat Boy include "Wild Hogs," "Bulworth" and "Renegade."

More Articles

article divider