Cover image for Outlaw machine : Harley-Davidson and the search for the American soul
Outlaw machine : Harley-Davidson and the search for the American soul
Yates, Brock, 1933-2016.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston, Mass : Little, Brown, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 249 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Central Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Boston Free Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Audubon Library TL448.H3 Y38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A magnificent telling of the definitive history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their unique place in American culture. Illustrated. I first encountered Brock Yates about thirty years ago when he was writing great stuff for the auto magazines, and I have been reading him ever since. It got to be one of my good habits, and 'Outlaw Machine' is a bitch of a fine payoff. This is an extremely smart book. In the business we chosen, Brock Yates is The Man.' - Hunter S Thompson'

Author Notes

Brock Wendel Yates was born in Lockport, New York on October 21, 1933. He received a bachelor's degree in history from Hobart College in 1955 and served in the Navy. He was an automotive journalist who wrote for Car and Driver magazine. In the 1970's, he founded of the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, more commonly known as the Cannonball Run. He wrote the script for the 1981 movie The Cannonball Run. He wrote several books during his lifetime including Sunday Driver: The Writer Meets the Road - at 175 MPH; Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine; and Cannonball! World's Greatest Outlaw Road Race. He also wrote Sport and Racing Cars with his father Raymond F. Yates. He and Jerry Belson wrote the script for the movie Smokey and the Bandit II. He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on October 5, 2016 at the age of 82.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Probably the pivotal moment in Yates' loving tribute to the last remaining American motorcycle comes late in the book, when he reveals that most Harley riders are drawn in by the mystique: images of the Hells Angels, Easy Rider, and black leather. Ironically, aside from the Hells Angels, the overwhelming majority of Harley enthusiasts are benign, mostly suburban, males who feel owning the bike and dressing the part allow them to be daring, macho, intimidating--if only when they're riding around the subdivision. Yates maintains that much of the imagery built up around motorcycles throughout the years is a result of Hollywood films and television. The biker became the rebel, the outlaw, the man who didn't have to answer to anyone. Is it any wonder suburban males were drawn to Harleys like moths to a flame? Yates details the company's response to the exploding Japanese market. His approach is straightforward enough for the casual bike fan, but he delves enough into Harleyana to keep even a Hell's Angel interested. --Joe Collins

Publisher's Weekly Review

Few people would dispute that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are sluggish, expensive gas-guzzlers, outperformed by their quicker, more up-to-date Japanese counterparts. How is it, then, that the antediluvian Harley is wildly popular, coveted and revered by hard-core riders and RUBs (Rich Urban Bikers) alike? Yates offers a detailed history-cum-explanation. William Harley, and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson, operating out of a shed in the Davidsons' backyard in Milwaukee, were an early success. But the company spent decades struggling once it became clear that automobiles, not motorcycles, would be the transportation of the future. After WWII, the company's survival came at a price: media hype about gangs like the Hell's Angels, and a spate of exploitation movies culminating in Easy Rider, effectively defined the bike as the plaything of rebels and ruffians. Yet it is precisely this association, long scorned by management, that lies behind Harley-Davidson's current revival. The HarleyÄwith its bulk, its propensity to break down, its V-twin design unchanged since 1909 and its thundering noiseÄhas become an American icon. While this book covers all the major moments in the company'sÄand the bikes'Ähistory, Yates's attempts to link social history with the rise and fall of the motorcycle's appeal are forced. The prose can be turgid: Harley riders "assume an attitude of bloated potency and importance embodied in the motorcycle itself." Ultimately, the players in this storyÄfrom the pioneers who created the legendary machine to the devotees who ride and adulate itÄnever come to life as fully as does the motorcycle itself. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this compelling addition to the literature on the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, journalist and automotive writer Yates (The Critical Path, LJ 7/96) probes the history and culture of the Harley and offers what he sees as the essence of the thundering American motorcycle, which has inspired cultlike devotion. This is a history not of the motorcycle but of the company and the social forces that defined the machine as an image of dissidence and freedom, an image that ultimately saved the company from bankruptcy and elevated the Harley to its status as a cultural icon. For Yates, Harleys have come to symbolize many of the virtues of the American spirit, having overcome a history of mechanical woes, poor company decision-making, and association with outlaw bikers. This is well written and extensively researched; Yates excels at locating events within their broader social and historical context. Solidly recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄDavid B. Van De Streek, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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