In 1949, a year after receiving the “Panhead” engine, the FL was given a new front suspension and a model name to go along with it. In honor of their first production motorcycle with hydraulically damped telescopic forks, the FL was officially called the Hydra-Glide. This name would change twice in the history of the basic large-framed FL bikes, each time signalling an improvement in the bike’s technology. In addition, the Glide ending would be used on other models, based on both and FL and FX formats.
In 1952, the Hydra-Glide’s transmission standard hand-shift/foot-clutch was joined by the optional foot-shift/hand-clutch. Although the original format continued to be offered as an option until 1978. 1952 was also the last year of the 61 cu in (1,000 cc) EL, making the FL the last remaining large-frame model.
Although the 1903 founding is now the basis for “Anniversary Models”, Harley-Davidson’s 50th Golden Anniversary was celebrated in 1954 with special paints and badges on the front fender. (1904 was the first year of production.)
A more highly tuned engine with high-compression heads, higher-lift cams, and polished ports, was offered with the FLH version of 1955. The FLH designation has continued up to the present.
The Sportster is a line of motorcycles produced continuously since 1957 by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Sportster models are designated in Harley-Davidson’s product code by beginning with “XL”. In 1952, the predecessors to the Sportster, the Model K Sport and Sport Solo motorcycles, were introduced. These models K, KK, KH, and KHK of 1952 to 1956 had a flat head engine, whereas the later XL Sportster models use an overhead valve engine. The first Sportster in 1957 featured many of the same details of the KH including the frame, fenders, large gas tank and front suspension.
The Harley-Davidson VRSC (V-Twin Racing Street Custom) family of cruiser motorcycles was introduced in 2001 in a single model called the V-Rod. The V-Rod was developed by Harley-Davidson to compete against Japanese and American muscle bikes. The “V-Rod” made use of the Revolution engine, developed jointly with Porsche that, for the first time in Harley public production history, features overhead cams and liquid cooling. The V-Rod is visually distinct from other Harley-Davidson motorcycles. It can be easily identified by the 60-degree V-twin engine, the radiator and the hydroformed frame members that support the round-topped air cleaner cover. A distinct difference between the V-Rod and all other Harley production motorcycles is the location of the fuel tank. The fuel tank on the V-Rod is located underneath the seat, placing the rider on top of it, rather than the usual frontal placement. The “tank” in this case is simple dressing, hiding the frame. Loosely based on the VR-1000 superbike, it continues to be a platform around which Harley-Davidson builds drag-racing competition machines. All VRSC models are produced at Harley-Davidson’s Vehicle and Powertrain Operations facility in Kansas City, Missouri.