An old rumour has re-emerged this week that suggests Harley-Davidson’s 1990 Fat Boy was designed and named to represent the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan during World War 2.

Some believe that Harley built its Fat Boy as a tribute to B-29 bombers like the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car due to the fact that it is painted silver, features wheels similar to the type used on WW2 aircraft, and that its gold accents are similar to markings on the ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ atomic bombs.

This urban myth is currently doing the rounds following a viral video on the YouTube channel FortNine, in which the Canadian content creator says the original Harley model was an “amalgamation of Fat Man and Little Boy, the gun-metal grey and yellow-striped atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 200,000 men, women and children”.

Harley-Davidson Fat Boy atomic bombs?
Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy 1990.

Respected fact checker Snopes dispelled the rumour in the early 2000s as ‘just the fanciful product of someone’s imagination’, saying that any design similarities are merely coincidental and that the Fat Boy nameplate refers to the bike’s wide stature.

Some conspiracists believe that the Fat Boy’s design was modelled after the atomic bomb as some kind of symbolic attack on Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, which were strongly competing with American bikemakers in the 1980s.

Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 2021
Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 2021.

When asked if the Fat Boy was designed to snub Japanese competitors, the late Harley-Davidson historian Martin Rosenblum reportedly said it was “one of those urban legends, completely false,” and explained that when the rumour came up, “everyone [at H-D] was shocked”.

Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy is still in production, with the 2021 model priced from $33,995 rideaway and available in four colour schemes. The bike is no longer offered in silver, or with gold accents.

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