Harley Tries to Take on the NYPD with the UMG

Since the inception of the Motor-Cycle Squad in 1911, the New York Police Department had only used Indian motorcycles.  Harley-Davidson was so determined to end this monopoly that they produced a model expressly to compete with the Indian police motorcycles.  Pictured above are two NYPD motorcycles from 1937.  On the left is the tried and true Indian Chief and on the right is the newcomer from Harley-Davidson, the UMG.  They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that is exactly what Harley-Davidson did when they set out to design the UMG.

Harley based the UMG around a 74" U-series flathead engine mated to a three-speed transmission.  The first major change you'll note is that the UMG uses a magneto ignition coupled to a generator.  This was added to satisfy one of the specifications required by the NYPD.  The idea being that the lack of battery would make the motorcycle more reliable.  In the picture below you can see that there is not a timer on the engine as you would expect to see on a Harley.

The controls were also reversed, so the hand shifter was mounted on the right hand side of the tank, the throttle was on the left and the spark advance was on the right.  Harley even went as far as reversing the operation of the foot clutch so that it engaged when the lever was rocked backwards.  To top it all off, the tanks and fenders got a coat of dark red paint, very similar to "Indian Red".

Harley produced the UMG from 1937 to 1939, but actual production numbers are unknown.  Some speculate that close to 400 units may have been made during that time period, but there is only one model known to exist in the United States.  It is located in Maggie Valley, NC at the Wheels Through Time Museum.  That being said, it is obvious that Harley failed to unseat Indian as the motorcycle manufacturer of choice for the NYPD.  It was until the mid-50's and the demise of the Indian Motorcycle Company that Harley's would be found patrolling the streets of New York.