Harley-Davidson is an American success story. The company has been manufacturing its iconic machines since 1903 but its values were forged by association with the post-war "rebel" motorcycle clubs and paradoxically with the highway patrol police they were so often in conflict with. Like so much of US manufacturing Harley-Davidson took a hit from the rise of the Far East in the 1980s but the boom years of 90's excess saw Harley-Davidson successfully consolidate its brand into the global symbol of 'the American Dream' that it is today. Harley-Davidson understands its place in the world and the 2012 model line up contains variations on all the traditional designs that people expect, some of them going back to the 1920's. It would be wrong however to imagine that the company rejects technological advancement - far from it, and there can be no more beautiful expression of that than the Night Rod Special.
The Night Rod Special is a custom variation of the V-Rod series that brought a more modern and aggressive street style plus a number of technological advances to the brand. The famous V-Twin engine has been "breathed" on by the engineers at Porsche to bring increased RPM and power - 125bhp - with fuel injection, double overhead cams and water cooling. The unique feature of the V-Rod series though is the "exo-frame" which wraps around the tank and engine like no other Harley. To manufacture the sensuous curves that the designers wanted Harley-Davidson turned to the use of hydroforming where the frame tubes are created in a mould using 60,000 psi of pressure. They are the only bike manufacturer using this technique at present.
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To ensure the iconic engine and unique frame are seen without distraction all cabling is invisible, either passing through the frame or mounted in plastic mouldings under the fuel tank. Of the all the electronics on the bike Harley-Davidson is most proud of their self-cancelling turn indicators that use accelerometers to detect lean angle, direction and speed to calculate when to cancel the signal.
But enough of the technology, Harley-Davidsons are all about cruising and looks, and the visuals of the Night Rod Special couldn't be stronger - fully blacked out tank, engine, wheels, forks, tail and exhaust - apart from the stainless steel mufflers. A black low-rise bar, some contrasting red lining, a fat rear tyre and lowered suspension complete the look. If you're not particularly interested in going around corners and want to pretend to be keeping a low profile whilst gaining really rather a lot of attention, it's yours for around US$16,000.View gallery - 11 images