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Short History of the Hummer

1948 Model 125

In 1948, Harley-Davidson released the MODEL 125, a small but sturdy two-stroke road machine of 125cc displacement. After the war, America was ready for economical transportation, and the Model 125 was introduced to fill that need.

DKW RT-125

The Model 125's design was an adaptation of the German DKW motorcycles whose engineering designs were forfeited to the Allies as a part of War Reparations at the conclusion of World War II. In America, Harley-Davidson produced the Model 125. In England, BSA made the Bantam. The U.S.S.R, having control of what became East Germany, also appropriated the DKW designs, and made the Mockba M1A. In Japan, Yamaha also got into the act with the YA-1.

The Model 125 put out a whopping three horsepower. One of its more interesting features was a girder-type front end whose suspension consisted of five large rubber bands. In 1951, the rubber band front end was replaced by a more conventional hydraulic unit, the "Tele-Glide".

1953 Model 165

The Model 165 was introduced in 1953 as a replacement for the Model 125. The larger engine size (165cc) boosted horsepower to 5.5. And restyled sheetmetal gave the Model 165 a much cleaner look than its predecessor.

But the 125 wouldn't be out of the picture for long. It was re-introduced in 1955 as the economy model HUMMER. Although the HUMMER appeared to be a stripped-down version of the 165, the engine had been redesigned. This new "B" model engine would see service through many newer models. A 1955 HUMMER weighed 178 pounds, put out 3 1/2 horsepower and sold for $320 F.O.B.

In 1960, the SUPER-10 emerged, replacing both the HUMMER and MODEL 165. This new model sported a 165cc engine, but it was the "B" engine that had formerly been available in the 125cc HUMMER. This would be the end of the road for the MODEL 165s "S" engine.

Radical changes were in store for 1962. Three models were available. The 165cc RANGER was a stripped down back-woods version similar to the SUPER-10, and was discontinued after only one year's production. Rear suspension was incorporated in the street PACER and trailbike SCAT, both 175cc versions of the "B" engine.

By 1966, Harley was hard-pressed to compete with the Japanese invasion. The SPRINT-series had been introduced five years earlier and the decision was made to shift small-bike production to Italy. One model was produced in 1966, the BOBCAT, which sported an innovative fiberglass "body" similar to the one used on the first SUPERGLIDES a few years later.

See How To Restore for details on each year and model.

Why are they called "HUMMERS" ?

1955 Hummer

Dean Hummer purchased a Harley Davidson dealership in Omaha Nebraska, at a very early age. This would have been in the late 40,s or very early 50's. Harley offered the model "125" at this time, but the "Harley Hummer" was non-existent.

Omaha Nebraska was also home to the Cushman factory. Needless to say, selling lightweight Harley Davidson's was difficult in Cushman territory!

Dean realized it was going to be difficult to sell the lightweight Harleys in Omaha. So anytime a prospective customer would walk in his dealership door, and even mention the word "Cushman", Dean would offer the 125 or 165 at a price that included little, if any profit!

This caught on like wild fire! By 1954, customers were going out of their way, literally traveling hundreds of miles, to purchase a Harley 125 or 165, from the Omaha dealership! Dean's dealership was selling more Harley 125 and 165's than any other H.D. dealer in the country! In contrast, sales of the Harley lightweights were steadily declining nation wide, but in Omaha, sales were unusually strong!

Dean said he received a phone call one day, (early 1955), from Walter Davidson, who was president of the Harley Davidson corporation. Walter informed him that they needed to have a meeting, and had made arrangements for Dean to attend this special meeting in Milwaukee. But he wouldn’t elaborate as to the purpose of the meeting.

Dean told me that weekly telephone conversations with the president of H.D. were not uncommon back then, but an urgent (and expense-paid) meeting in Milwaukee perplexed him! In fact, Dean told me that he wondered if he was in some sort of trouble with the corporation! He made several phone calls to other dealers, and they too were clueless, and were not invited. So Dean nervously made plans to attend.

Dean Hummer admires the new 1955 Hummer

To his surprise, and relief, he was informed that the new model lightweight would be named the "Hummer"!

Dean told me that the Harley Davidson corporation, suddenly came out with the new model called the "Hummer", and that he had little to do with the name, other than being #1 in sales, and having the last name of "Hummer"!

My interpretation is that Harley-Davidson took notice of Dean's high performance in lightweight sales, and the Board of Directors were mightily impressed. With slowly declining lightweight sales nationwide, it was time for a model change.

A basic, no frills, version of the 125 was in order. This would lower the cost, and hopefully increase sales. When it came time to attach a name to the new model, "Hummer" was engraved into their minds! After all, Dean Hummer was selling the heck out of lightweights, and it was a catchy phrase "HARLEY HUMMER". So, the term "HUMMER", came about, as a result of Dean Hummer, who happened to have the last name of "Hummer", and was selling the heck out of lightweight 125 and 165 models, at a time when other Harley dealers were not doing so well, due to the foreign competition.

We had been under the assumption, that Harley Davidson had a contest of some sort, and that the dealership that sold the most lightweights, was able to name the new model. However, Dean quickly dismissed this rumor, and told me that there was no contest, and it was simply a matter of coincidence!

Check the Club page to see some photos of Dean and Priscilla Hummer.
Check the 1955 Literature and 1955 Hummer pages for more info about the 1955 Hummer.

Are they ALL called "Hummers" ???

No! Only the 1955 - 1959 125cc bikes are properly called Hummers. The others have imaginative names like "Model 125". But the Hummer name has stuck, and most people call the whole series of American-made lightweights Hummers.

On this website, we'll use Hummer when we mean the 1955-1959 125cc Hummer. To refer to the entire 1948-1966 American-made lightweights, we'll use either "Hummer" or Hummer-series.


Here's a quick table listing the different "Hummer" models. The How To Restore chapters give details about each model. Pictures are in each chapter and various other places.

Model 125 1948-1952 125cc
Model 165 1953-1959 165cc
Hummer 1955-1959 125cc
Super 10 1960-1961 165cc
Ranger 1962 165cc
Pacer 1962-1965 165/175cc
Scat 1962-1965 165/175cc
Bobcat 1966 175cc

  Last updated: May 17, 2010 Up