Remember When Porsche Engineered an Engine for Harley-Davidson?

Harley-Davidson and its V-twins share a storied history that began in 1914 with the introduction of the company's first big-bore twin, the F-head. The V-twin remains a cornerstone for Harley, seen in models from the mid-range Revolution X to the powerful Milwaukee-Eight. However, in 2002, Harley decided to take a different approach with its V-twin, enlisting Porsche's expertise.

Imagine American muscle-man Harley-Davidson collaborating with the epitome of German engineering, Porsche. This seemingly unusual partnership occurred at the turn of the millennium, producing the V-Twin Racing Street Custom, or V-Rod. This collaboration, though not their first, resulted in one of the most impactful models in Harley's history.

The V-Rod represented a significant departure from Harley's traditional Americana style, bringing contemporary and innovative ideas to the brand. Built on a perimeter tube frame with numerous aluminum components, including a swingarm and body panels, the V-Rod featured a 38-degree rake angle, solid disc wheels, and dual exhaust tips. The bike even had a faux gas tank that housed the airbox, with the actual fuel tank located under the seat.

“To fill up, you flip the seat on a hinge and then watch the reactions of people around you,” Barry Winfield of Car and Driver explained. The V-Rod's design prioritized aesthetics and attitude over tradition, boldly embracing a loud, powerful, and proud identity.

The heart of this muscle bike was a water-cooled, DOHC 1,131cc 60-degree “V2” engine developed in collaboration with Porsche. This engine introduced water cooling and dual overhead cams to Harley's lineup, delivering 115 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque.

The V-Rod could have either redefined Harley's future models or flopped commercially. Instead, it carved out its own niche, coexisting with Harley's other offerings for 15 years. Media and customers were both fascinated and impressed by Harley's innovation, and the first batch of V-Rods sold out quickly. While it didn't appeal to as broad an audience as other Harley models, it maintained a dedicated following and gained exposure on the racing scene.

In 2007, the Custom Vehicle Operations V-Rod Destroyer, a drag-racing variant, set a speed record with a 6.991-second quarter-mile time. Over the years, the V-Rod evolved with versions like the Night Rod and the Muscle, and its engine grew to 1,247cc by 2017.

However, in 2018, Harley-Davidson discontinued the V-Rod. The 2018 lineup featured 17 models, but none included the V-Rod, which quietly exited the stage. Reasons cited included Euro 4 emissions standards and declining sales. Despite its end, the V-Rod left a lasting legacy.

Harley-Davidson now relies on its CVO lineup for high-performance bikes. The V-Rod may be gone, but it is not forgotten. We'll always remember that time when Porsche built an engine for Harley-Davidson.