The Pan America isn’t Harley Davidsons first foray into adventure style motorcycles, but is the first for the consumer market.
Originally developed for the English, Jordanian and Canadian military by Armstrong Motorcycles, in the late 1980’s Harley acquired Armstrong and hence the MT500 motorcycle. Later a 350cc Rotax single-cylinder powered engine was used. Neither machine made it into widespread use however.
One of the reasons the MT machines never caught on for military use was the easily detectable heat profile of the exposed engine. The large front-mounted panniers were an attempt to mask the heat. Another reason was the US army deciding that all of their vehicles had to be diesel-powered, one fuel for all vehicles, which led to the development of the diesel powered KLR650.
The MT bikes came fitted with front-mounted panniers or could be fitted with 10-litre jerrycans and a rear-mounted plastic rifle scabbard.