Fat's Back Baby!
Australian Road Rider|May/June 2018

The bike that took Harley-Davidson to the top of the pops. Um, no pressure, but H-D must be hoping the much-revised Fat Boy can perform miracles one more time.

Greg Leech

When the Fat Boy landed down under way back in 1990, there were a few sniggers about that name. You have to remember that was 28 years ago — yes, we know — and there were plenty of blokes known for a second helping of Christmas pudding rusted on to the H-D shield. Would they get the subtlety of the gag?

Well, the resounding answer was and remains “yes”. In fact, the bike went on to become the brand’s best seller in Australia for most of that time. Yep, it sold like high cholesterol hotcakes.

There was a good reason for all that because the Fat Boy strategically repositioned the H-D phenomenon. It was all about toughness. From the cast-solid wheels to the muscular masculine lines, the bike screamed Alpha Male and a lot of blokes like that sort of thing.

Designed by stylists and family patriarch Willie G. Davidson and Louie Netz, the Fat Boy’s defining characteristic was those rear solid-cast disc wheels. The original Fat Boy also featured the first use of shotgun exhausts. The 1990 Fat Boy carried distinctive monochromatic silver paint and a silver powder coated frame, with yellow detailing. The Fat Boy die was cast.

The bike stayed true to its roots, undergoing some modifications over the years and gaining the new twin cam 1450cc engine in 1999. The 15th anniversary in 2005 was marked with a custom version for one year only with custom paint options, custom wheels, Screaming Eagle engine and added accessories. In 2006 the Fat Boy got a larger twin cam 1584cc donk and a much-lauded six-speed gearbox.

Fast forward to 2018. The bike is a very different beast to that first 1340cc jobbie that plumply rolled off the production line in Milwaukee, late last century. The new model is offered in two variants: the FLFB 1746cc (107 cu in) and FLFBS 1868cc (114 cu in).

The 45-degree V-Twin persists. The engine still uses the old push rod system, but instead of just a pair of poppets in each head, the engine runs four for a total of eight, hence the descriptive moniker. Eight-valve tech is a giant step for Harley-Davidson so going very literally there was the go. Americans? Literal? Who’d have thought!

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