● The RMS Queen Mary 2, largest WNA-certified ocean liner ever built (figure 1), sets sail. She measures 1,132 feet (RMS Titanic was 882 feet), is over three times the tonnage (and horsepower) of the Titanic… yet carries, 2,620 passengers, only 64 more than Titanic. No immigrants!
● A sperm whale explodes (figure 2) in the town of Tainan, Taiwan. A buildup of gas in the decomposing carcass is suspected of causing the explosion. Sushi does that to me once in a while too.
● The first images… ever… of a live giant squid, all 50 feet, in its natural habitat (figure 3) are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo. Some say it’s a selfie of me on a moped!
● Official opening of Taipei 101 (figure 4), then the tallest skyscraper in the world, at a height of 1,670 feet. A tall tale indeed!
● British private equity group Stellican acquired the Indian trademarks out of bankruptcy. Overall quality, fit, and finish of the bike was improved from the Gilroy era, but visually, virtually the same. The most significant changes were the addition of Brembo brakes, Paoli forks and fuel injection. Pity we had to wait till ’08.
● Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room. Just wish I knew where it would land.
● The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics discovers the universe’s largest known diamond, white dwarf star BPM 37093. Liz Taylor’s purple eyes turn green!.
● Google introduces Gmail: the launch met with scepticism on account of the launch date—April 1.
● Oldsmobile builds its final car (figure 5) ending 107 years of production. America’s oldest went with a whimper… Ah!… Alero… wimpy all the same.
● The World War II Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. (figure 6). That took way too long.
● Ronald Reagan’s funeral is held at Washington National Cathedral. Republicans haven’t been the same since.
● Space Ship One (figure 7) becomes the first privately-funded space plane to achieve spaceflight. Uber-cool!
● The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty reopens after being closed since the September 11, 2001 attacks. No torching allowed.
● Victory’s new-for-’04 fat-fendered Kingpin (figure 8) has over 200 changes from the Vegas, including 18-inch wheels, low-profile tires at both ends, with a wider tire and wheel than the Vegas up front, inverted cartridge-type fork legs up front, vibration-absorbing floorboards and matching polished forged-aluminum foot controls, plush dual-density saddles for rider and passenger and in conjunction with the new fork, the revised rear suspension claims to make the Kingpin the smoothest-riding Victory ever. The original V92 is discontinued.
● Harley does something unusual—a mid-year supplement to the Screamin’ Eagle Pro catalog featuring the new overdrive 6-speed… not the factory “cruise drive” six that appeared later on Dynas.
On the surface
● Buell offers up bigger brothers for the XB9… XB12S and XB12R. Torque freaks rejoice! Harley makes 317,289 motorcycles, and Buell manages 9,857, for a total of 327,146!
● Rubber-mount Sportsters (figure 9)!
The inside story
Rubber-mount Sportsters! Three objectives: vibration reduction, lower seat height and “improvements” in styling (still going on BTW)… led to major re-engineering. In the end, not much besides carbs, some tranny parts, and a few incidentals remained interchangeable with the older ’86–’03 models. What we got was a Buell-influenced top end (heads, piston oilers and more fins too), improved shift mechanism, new cam profiles, all-new crankcases, all-new 126-percent stiffer frames… and of course, rubber vibration isolation. The new Sporty “sat” on its rubber mounts whereas the Buell’s hung from theirs, which meant a different approach to swing arm design and such.
Rear wheel power in 1200s was right at 60, bone stock and H-D’s SE stuff got you to 75 hp (and more) easily. The trade-off was extra weight… to the tune of 50 pounds! Still, largely because you could use the new engine’s extra top end urge, a simple re-gearing of ratios in the box meant the bikes were quick, fast and usable in ways no previous XL could match. The Roadster, in particular, evoked the Spirit of FXR, but in hindsight the new rubber-mount bikes meant that lots of people who didn’t want a Harley… wanted a Sportster. A far cry from the days when the XL was only the path to a Big Twin.