Potato-potato through the agesby Harry Fisher, on LISTEN 01:38
The sound a Harley Davidson engine produces is one that can be traced right back to the very beginning of the company. Fondly referred to as ’potato-potato’, this video shows how little the sound has changed from the very first F-Head right through to the Milwaukee Eight of the present day.
Every Harley Davidson Engine Sound from the beginning
It’s as much a part of the Harley Davidson legend as the v-twin configuration. Whether kept in check by a full exhaust and muffler system or allowed to sing through straight-through pipes, the ’Harley Sound’ is as distinctive as the bikes themselves and a Harley just wouldn’t be a Harley without it.
The ’potato-potato’ sound is so important to H-D that the company at one point tried to trademark the sound, an action in which it was ultimately unsuccessful.
Harley says that the sound stems from the engine configuration which is, of course, a 45-degree v-twin with a single crankshaft pin that holds the two connecting rods. The spark plugs fire at uneven intervals, contributing to the cadence Harley describes as "pop, pop, pause."
This video traces the sound from its origins in the original F-Head single-cylinder of 1903 through to the present day Milwaukee-8. It just goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
You might notice that the Revolution Max liquid-cooled engine is not present but that is because this video was made in 2020, before the new engine was introduced.
The engines come in this order: