This 1953 Harley-Davidson FL started life as a Hydra Glide which used Harley-Davidson’s original telescopic fork, hence the  “glide” name. The fork was introduced on the big twins in 1949. Black lower legs on the stock fork is a one year only detail.

What we now refer to as the Panhead had arrived in 1948. It had a one year only springer fork, a carry over from the previous “Knucklehead,” similar to the fork on this machine. It’s a style some riders prefer, giving an antique and lightweight appearance, more so when extended.

The nearly 120 year longevity of Harley-Davidson, and their focus on continuing basic designs, a reluctance to frequently change anything besides cosmetics, means plenty of parts from different years and models are interchangeable. A few parts added or deleted can transform the look of a bike which is still all-Harley, like the popular modification of adding an XLCH Sportster tank to an EL or FL custom.

The owner of this ’53 FL opted for an extended springer fork and removed the rear fender flip for a sportier, less laden look. The clean Sparto “limp dick” tail light/license plate bracket helps here as well. The front fender is gone and a 19 inch wheel is substituted for the stock 16 incher. The tank may be from a 1960 era bike as are the badges. The swirl/marble shift knob fits. The chain guard, derby cover and some other bits are chromed and the exhaust is straight-through except for the billy-club proof welded-in washer baffles. It’s not a spectacular build but very typical of the enduring appeal of the bob-job, and how everyday riders chose to modify their machines for style and individuality with a bit of added performance a side benefit of less weight.

It’s easy to visualize this machine built around a current model Harley motor, as riders are still building bikes to this same minimalist formula. The bob-job was an important step on the path to the much more radical chopper. These common and easily achieved modifications gave a kind of permission to builders; making changes was more than OK, it made a bike much more individual and cool.


    • Engine: Air-Cooled, Overhead Valve, 45 Degree V-Twin
    • Bore & Stroke: 3.44″ x 4.00″
    • Displacement: 74 Cubic Inches / 1208 cc’s
    • Compression Ratio: 8 : 1
    • Carburetion: 1.30″ Schebler
    • Horsepower: 60HP
    • Primary: Duplex Chain
    • Transmission: 4-Speed, Hand Shift
    • Clutch: Dry, Foot Operated
    • Final Drive: Chain
    • Brakes: Drum, Front & Rear
    • Electrics: 6 Volt Battery, Coil & Points
    • Frame: Steel / Double Down Tubes
    • Fork: Sprung Fork; Springer
    • Rear: Rigid, Sprung Seat
    • Wheels/Tires: 5.00 x 16 / 3.50 x 19 Inches
    • Wheelbase: 59.5 Inches
    • Weight: 598 Pounds
    • Top Speed: 105 mph
13 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    Stunned at the sad news of the museum’s closing. I’ve been a member for some time and feel like I’ve lost an old friend.

  2. Dale Smith
    Dale Smith says:

    So the museum chugged along for 22 years and then covid and the unnecessary lockdowns which stunted attendance and lowered cash flow. Then Brandon steps in and causes our utilities to Skyrocket. Let’s go Brandon sorry to see the museum go that’s for sure.

  3. Andrew Mellor
    Andrew Mellor says:

    I’m with Jim. Grow up already. Not everything that happens is ascribable to your theories of fault.
    I have loved that museum, and have visited it more than once. All who have been involved in its design, presentation, restorations and all the little things that made it a great destination for us enthusiasts should hold their heads high with pride for all they managed to accomplish. My hat’s off to all of you for your hard work and perseverance. John Parham had a dream, and it was made to come true.

  4. Bill J. from Austin
    Bill J. from Austin says:

    I began supporting the museum when I first learned of it. Then, after two aborted attempts to visit — one time I got within fifty miles and was turned back by a blizzard! 🥶 — I finally got up there in July of 2021, on my way back to Texas from New York. I truly enjoyed the visit, and the young woman who seemed to be the only staffer that day was wonderful.

    However, I wonder if the museum’s passing isn’t to some degree self-inflicted. It’s located in a very rural area, and doesn’t appear to be on the way to anywhere else. Had the museum relocated — perhaps gotten closer to an Interstate or within hailing distance of a large city? — it might could have drawn more visitors.

    Or not. What do I know? 🤷🏻‍♀️

    At any rate, I’m sorry to see it close. It was a great venue, and deserved more than it got. I don’t know that I’ll make it back before September, but I would love to get in for one final visit.

    • Todd Edler
      Todd Edler says:

      The owners were the founders of J&P cycle. Which is a pretty big draw for motorcycle riders. They get business when events at J&P bring them.

  5. Jim
    Jim says:

    I’m just an old man who likes motorcycles, not a marketing expert. There appears to me to be a number of things that led to the museum’s closing. When I first went there it was located in a store front with a basement. There was a resurgence in motorcycles around the beginning of this century. Partly because many boomers look were motor heads and now had some disposable income for toys. The museum then grew into the old Walmart building where it is now. It thrived because of its proximity and connection to J&P Cycles. When controlling interest to J&P was sold, most warehousing and sales were moved to southern locations. I haven’t been to J&P for several years but when I was there last, it seemed like it was a big empty building with a parts counter where you could place orders. Also with the graying of the customer base, the interest has diminished. Instead of trying to make anything with a motor go faster, now interests are on electronics. Of course Covid didn’t help matters.
    Just my uneducated guess. It saddens me to think of that collection parted out. An auction? Way too rich for a retired old man. Just something else to exist only in my memory.

  6. Ron Widman
    Ron Widman says:

    So very sad to hear about the closure of the Museum having known John and Jill since they were running swap meets all over the Midwest and of course Sturgis. John visited my family’s Mtcy shop not long before he passed and we haggled over a few things and I donated some of my personal dirt track racing gear. We never came to a conclusion over a picture I thought belonged in a Mtcy museum. Springfield mile 1940s . Billy Huber, Bobby Hill and Bill Tuman wheel to wheel that was a gift to my Father from the President of Harley Davidson (at the time) because we were visiting the factory and I mentioned to the President that it was my Dads birthday the old man climbed up on his desk chair and took the picture down and presented to my Dad. It was hanging in the Museum the last time I visited.


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