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Willie G retiring from Harley Davidson

It was recently announced that Willie G. Davidson, Senior Vice President and Chief Styling Officer of Harley Davidson motorcycles will retire on April 30th of this year and while we make no claims to be Harley Davidson experts, TorqueNews was able to talk to a hardcore Harley enthusiast well known around the internet.

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Terry Tillis is the man in charge at and in addition to leading the staff of moderators who keep over 200,000 Harley lovers in line at the internet’s largest Harley Davidson community; Terry is an avid rider and lifelong Harley Davidson enthusiast. I had a chance to ask Terry for his thoughts on Willie G and the man’s departure from the company with whom he shares a very famous name.

“Everyone has an opinion on Willie G. Some love him and consider him the "Guru" of Harley Davidson and some think he should have retired years ago. My opinion is that Harley would not be here today if Willie had not been with the company. He created bikes that were way ahead of their time (72 Boat Tail Superglide) and continued his innovative creativity through his career right up to his upcoming retirement,” said Tillis. “I've met and spoken to the man many times over my 35 years riding Harley Davidsons. I had breakfast with him, Vaughn Beals and Richard Teerlink (two former high ranking executives with Harley Davidson) in North Carolina years ago. Willie would show up at Daytona riding a modified bagger and soon you would see riders copying whatever he had customized on his. One example would be the cut down shorty windshield that everyone sports now (including myself). The Grandson of one of the Founding Fathers and the Son of the first President of Harley Davidson, he was also involved in the buyout from AMF which saved the company back in the 80's. I am one member that will miss ‘Willie G.’ He is a Legend as far as I am concerned.”

As was mentioned in Terry’s thoughts above, Willie G. is the grandson of company founder William A. Davidson and at 78 years old, Willie G leaves behind him over 50 years of Harley Davidson styling work. In his place, Ray Drea (current Vice President and Director of Styling) will step in as the Chief Styling Officer, bringing with him 19 years of experience with the company including a great deal of close work with Willie G. In addition to being a major part of the design of Harley motorcycles over the past 50 years, Willie G. was one of the 13 executives who teamed up to buy the brand from parent company AMF in 1981 and his best known projects over the past half century include models like the Low Rider, Heritage Softail Classic, Fat Boy, V-Rod and Street Glide.

Luckily, those who appreciate Willie G’s work with Harley Davidson won’t completely miss out on his styling touch or his presence at events, as the soon-to-be-retired styling chief will continue on as an ambassador for the Harley brand at rallies and events, along with also leading special design projects as Chief Styling Officer Emeritus.

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