Motorcycle History: The Wrecking Crew
By John Gunnell
When World War I forced the suspension of motorcycle racing in 1916, Harley-Davidson’s factory racing team was regularly cleaning up at major competitions.
The big Labor Day road race in Marion, Indiana, marked the official return to racing in 1919. Harley-Davidson riders turned out in force. They swept the first three places in the hard fought contest.
This triumph began a string of dominant victories that earned the Harley-Davidson team the nickname “The Wrecking Crew.”
In the September 3, 1919 edition of Motorcycling and Bicycling magazine the writers said, “Marion was truly the motorcycle city last Sunday and Labor Day. Every road was crowded with fans anxious to get an eyeful of dust, speed and daring. Hundreds of motorcycles from every part of the country wound their way about, despite detours and rain, in order to see the big race.”
The term "hog" referring to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle traces back to the Wrecking Crew. A small pig served as the racing team’s mascot. When a team member took a race, he would pick up the pig, sit it on his gas tank and take it on the victory lap. Fans began calling the team the "Harley Hogs." The Wrecking Crew name gained favor, so the team was no longer the Harley Hogs.
Although the Harley Hogs nickname disappeared, the word "hog" started to be used for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The name became official in 1983 when the Harley Owners Group or HOG was formed.
Historical photos of the Wrecking Crew as displayed in the Harley-Davidson Museum, (www.h-dmuseum.com) Milwaukee, Wis.
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