On April 30, Willie G. Davidson is retiring after almost 50 years of work in the family business.
Five decades is a long stint in any company, but when that company is Harley-Davidson, founded by your grandfather, and when you’ve spent a lifetime designing bikes in the constantly shifting world of motorcycles, well, that’s truly impressive.
Willie G., as he’s best known, was Harley-Davidson’s first head of styling wayyyyyy back in 1963. He was also one of the 13 executives who bought the company back from the AMF in 1981, so he’s certainly been an integral part of the company for the past few decades.
You can thank Willie G. and the factory custom team he founded in 1971 for many of Harley-Davidson’s most memorable models, including the Low Rider, Heritage Softail Classic, Fat Boy, V-Rod and Street Glide.
Over the years, Willie G. wasn’t just a styling brainiac who kept in the background, though; he was also the public face of the company at many motorcycle rallies and other events in the U.S.; he’ll keep this up, even in his retirement, the company’s press release says. He may be 78 years old, but he’s not ready for the back porch rocking chair yet.
He’ll also retain the title of Chief Styling Officer Emeritus, and he’ll apparently be working on “special design projects.” Likely, this means more commemorative bikes from Harley-Davidson, with Willie G.’s official stamp of approval. Meanwhile, day-to-day styling management will be run by Ray Drea, Vice President and Director of Styling, who’s been with Harley-Davidson for 19 years, and has worked with Willie G. on several high-profile projects.