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