Harley-Davidson surprised riders with the new XL model line for 1957. And for 1958, the hotter XLH and XLCH Sportster satisfied the needs of riders looking for lighter, nimbler high performance motorcycles.

Following in the tracks of the flathead K model, which remained only in racing form as the KR750, the overhead valve XL Sportster was built on the K model. The biggest advancement was overhead valves plus eventually electric starting on the basic H model. But the XLH options list included saddlebags, a windshield, buddy seat and riders could even opt for two ride heights by specifying 18 inch or 19 inch wheels. Seat options varied from traditional sprung post to rigid mount in later years, and there was even the “boat tail” seat/fender unit for awhile. The magneto ignition XLCH was a no holds barred beast, strong competition for the Triumph Bonneville.

While it has played an extremely limited role in the military, or as a police mount, like its predecessors the K Model and the WL model, the Sportster has been a very flexible machine. Properly equipped it was a light weight “sport touring” machine. Stripped, it served well at the drag strip. And men like Leo Payne were able to tune it for assaults on the Land Speed Record at Bonneville. Some riders have enjoyed chopping and bobbing Sportsters as well.

With the high performance Buell no longer in Harley’s product mix, after over 60 years in the model line-up the Sportster lives on now as DOHC technological wonder. Recently with big changes to bring comfort, smoothness and overall sophistication, the new liquid-cooled Sportster is as cool as ever. This great original XLCH Sportster was donated to the National Motorcycle Museum by Lawrence Allen of Sterling, IL. It’s one of several Sportsters, stock, custom and competition that you’ll see when you visit.


    • Engine: 45 Degree Overhead Valve V-Twin
    • Displacement: 54 Cubic Inches / 883 cc’s
    • Bore & Stroke: 3.00″ x 3.81″
    • Carburetor: Tillotson
    • Primary: Triplex Chain
    • Clutch: Dry, Multi-disk
    • Transmission: 4-Speed, Foot Shift
    • Ignition: 12V Battery, Points & Coils
    • Horsepower: 61HP
    • Frame: Steel, Double Down Tube
    • Suspension: Telescopic Fork / Dual Shocks, Swingarm
    • Brakes: Drum, Internal Expanding
    • Wheelbase: 58.5″
    • Weight: 530 Pounds
    • Wheels/Tires: 3.50 x 19 / 4.00 x 18
17 replies
    • Tom Pedro
      Tom Pedro says:

      ”An original” would be grammatically correct..some regions of the world do say “a ” ..
      That said..The1968 Sportster Mr Allen donated ( good men know $ isn’t everything )
      is in fact an original, due to the fact that anything changed made it an original Mr Allen 1968 XLCH unlike any other! Love all iron heads, My original to me is 50 years old this yr!

  1. Donald Jones
    Donald Jones says:

    I remember spending a lot of time as a 15 year old in 1968 standing in the dealer showroom dreaming about the day……
    Thanks for the memory.

  2. Jim K
    Jim K says:

    There’s always some person who wants to point out what might not be original. It probably doesn’t have Milwaukee air in the tires. Just enjoy, don’t criticize.

  3. woodie Campbell
    woodie Campbell says:

    Looks nice. I bought a used one in 72. It had a big comfortable seat and the oblong air cleaner. It kept many of the bugs out. Mine had a tach and an oil pressure gauge and illegal quartz halogen lights… I carried 2 sets of plugs. One for in town and a colder pair for longer rides. She was a first kick or next day starter. I had a ceriani front end and girling shocks. I ran through 4 front tires and many Rear tires before I sold the worn out bike to the next person. Like all of my bikes I rode it till it did not run anymore.

    • Jack R Brewer
      Jack R Brewer says:

      Great looking 68 . I have a 1969 XLCH Sportster that has been converted to a Hard tail Bobber. It wasn’t in great condition when I got it. But for the $ 800 I paid I couldn’t pass it up. It’s now a much nicer bike. Complete engine and transmission rebuild, new bars, solo springer saddle, new paint, tires , lots of polishing and it’s a completely different looking and running bike. I am impressed with just how well it gets down the road. I have a few Harley’s but the XLCH is the quickest and I love the old school bobber style . Fun bikes

  4. Joe Smally
    Joe Smally says:

    The description says magneto, and the pictures show a magneto, but the specs say 12 volt battery, points and coil. No battery box in pictures. I have a 1969 xlch with a battery and a distributor.

  5. Mark
    Mark says:

    Morris is correct this is not a bone stock 68 Sportster. Few were left alone! Nice pearl white paint, lots of chrome and the banana seat. (What else?) This is a “side magneto” bike; KRs and XLRs mostly ran a front mag, race only. The generator is down low in front of the the crank case, regulator behind the oil tank. No battery this year. The evolution of these bike from 57 to about 72 is complicated but worth reading up on. K Model and XL Forums are great sources. Many variants especially when you look at Harley’s production race bikes. Thanks for your comments, gentlemen.

  6. Gerald Blakey
    Gerald Blakey says:

    In 1978 I bought a 1968 XLCH .It was one of my favorite bikes .Light and easy to throw around on the back roads.It was a nice looking machine. Wish I still had it .

  7. W. Jack Reinhart
    W. Jack Reinhart says:

    I was NAVY on Submarines 1969. I flew in Charleston SC to my city(Clinton Iowa) and friend ROSS BAKER who owned the Harley Davidson dealership…well purchased New 1968 XLX . It had bags and everything just the Big Guys. (I work BUELL as R&D Fabricator/Designer for 17 years until HD shut us down. Now 75 years old living on SS and HD pension. What A wonderful Life!

  8. Paul
    Paul says:

    I had a 68 Sportster some were around 97-98.It had been converted to a hard tail along with a one piece 2 gallon fatbob tank. It had a nice custom paint job. It was black with sky blue and mauve ghost flames. I traded a four wheeler for it and only had around $900-$1,000 in it. Should have kept it. As great as it looked and ran I could have had some fun with it. My only thing was the rigid frame. I have and even had then terrible back trouble so it was a challenge for me to ride. I’ve owned 4 sportsters over the years as well as a bunch of “big bikes” and I have to say the Sportster was always some of my favorites. My first bike was a 76 Sportster that I bought from an old friend around 1990.
    Wow that’s crazy that it’s been 33 + years ago.
    I’m getting old

  9. Mike Retz
    Mike Retz says:

    I had a 68 sportster xlch. Bought in Detroit off a Detroit cop police officer. Had a magnti and no battery. I was 17 and weighed 130 lbs. Thing would put me over the bars when trying to start it in a damp day! Thing was scary fast. Nyes it did give the Bonneville a hard time. ! Then out came the 550 rice 4 cylinders. When I bought it the tank a a picture of a guy smoking pot on the tank . ! God I wish I still had it. Later..


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