The History and Evolution of the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

Harley-Davidson first released the Fat Boy in 1990 and since that time it became one of the brand’s most popular motorcycles. In order to fully comprehend its evolution, we must first look at the history of the bike, what it is, how it came to be and how it has changed over the decades.

From concept to a production model

The first prototype of the Fat Boy was designed by Louie Netz and Willie G. Davidson. They saw fit to define its characteristic look with solid cast disc wheels in the front and rear. The fenders feature a gentle flare and it made excellent use of shotgun exhausts which was a first in the brand. The concept that would serve as the basis for the new family in the Harley lineup was subjected to hardcore testing and a lot of customer feedback to get it ready for full production. It took two years of tweaking before Willie was satisfied with the end results. In both 1988 and 1989, Willie rode a prototype of the bike to Daytona. The bike was unveiled as a production model available for sale to the public in 1990.

The Fat Boy of 1990 was presented to the world with a monochromatic paint scheme of silver with a frame that was silver powder coated. To add remarkably attractive contrast, yellow detailing was used. To give the motorcycle a handcrafted look, the fuel tank and seat featured lacing details and it was crowned with a unique logo that was intended to create a sense of nostalgia and patriotism and this same logo has been featured on every edition of the fat boy produced.

What is the Fat Boy?

The Fat boy is a softail cruiser type motorcycle. Many people wonder how it comes to have its name. The term was given to the bike because of Willie’s interpretation of its massive size. It’s also a name that links the bike back to the Fat Bob model that was manufactured earlier with similar DNA. To further explain the term “softail,” it describes the appearance of a rigid hardtail chassis that is designed with a swinging arm and has concealed springs. It refers to the type of frame. The concept for the softail frame was bought from its engineer Bill Davis and is an in-house product which is currently designed by the Harley-Davidson team.

FLFB Specs

The FLFB manufactured from 1990 through 2017 was powered by a Twin cam V Twin engine in a 1,340cc and a 1,584cc. The Milwaukee Eight would make its appearance in 2018 in a 1,746cc and a 1868cc.

The first changes to the Fat Boy

The exhaust was the first thing to change for the 1994 edition of the Fat Boy. It was equipped with a new seamless exhaust that gave it a cleaner look. This was the only major change that was made for the year, but it was really all that was needed.

Harley-Davidson engineers game the switchgear and the master cylinder a revision in 1996. This was the only real change that was made since the revisions made in 1994. This would be the status until in 1999 when the team would be at it again.

It was not until 1999 that the Fat Boy was presented with a new twin-cam 1,450cc engine.

The evolution continues

Moving towards a modern age, while retaining the nostalgia of the past, Harley added a few innovations to the 2002 Fat Boy including an alarm and immobilizer and bullet style indicators. This would tide everyone over until more would be forthcoming in 2005.

2005 15th Anniversary Fat Boy

This special edition came out with an engine called a “Screamin’ Eagle” along with custom wheels and special paint.

2006 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

The Fat Boy was given an upgrade in 2006 with a 1,584cc twin-cam engine that was larger and it was paired with a six-speed gearbox.

2010 Fat Boy Lo

The only thing of a substantial change in 2010 was the addition of the Lo that featured the lowest seat height that Harley-Davidson had ever produced.

2018 Fat Boy

The Fat Boy is still alive and well in 2018 and it’s presented in the form of a new redesign in the softail frame that includes Showa rear and front suspension that replaced the twin shocks with a new monoshock fitted under the seat. It offers better control of the ride along with greater comfort.

along with the addition of the new Milwaukee Eight counterbalanced Engines available in two variants. The FLFB is a 1,746cc with 109 lb-ft of torque and the FLFBS is 1,868 offering 119 lb-ft of torque. The Fat Boy has appeared in several popular films including Terminator Genisys and Terminator 2 films, as well as in Wild Hogs, CSI: Miami, Sons of Anarchy.


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