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The Harley Davidson Alphabet
A great many people over the years have become suitably confused by Harley-Davidson's model designations. And rightfully so. The alpha-designations merely exist, the letters seemingly drawn out of thin air.
Today, even though we have only two basic engine designs to deal with, the Sportster X and big twin F, the number of letters for one model would do credit to a bowl of soup. For example, the 1995 model line included the FLHTCI and the FXSTSB - mouthfuls both.
Let us analyze these. First, the FLHTCI bagger. The F stands for the medium compression 74-inch OHV engine introduced in 1941; the L stood for the slightly more powerful "Special Sport Solo" version. The H was tacked on in 1955, indicating the " Super Sport Solo." In 1978 the 80-inch engine was introduced as an option, and by 1981 the F model designation meant an 80-incher. The T was added in 1983 to indicate that this was a touring machine with bags and batwing fairing, and the C also came in that year to show that this model had "classic" looks and a higher price tag. The I is the first use of that letter, and is alphabetical proof that this model is fuel-injected rather than carbureted. Got all that?
Now the FXSTSB. The F has been demonstrated. The X shows that this big twin had the lighter, Sportster-type front end inaugurated in 1971. The ST (in this case those letters have to stand together) stands for the Softail chassis design, introduced in 1984. The second S is the Springer front end, intro-ed in 1988. The B is for the new 1995 model, the Bad Boy.
Confused? And rightfully so. While all these letters might not make much sense to the average Harley enthusiast, they help a lot in the parts department - especially when prefaced by a year, such as an 1984 FXRT.
Often the first alpha-designation a Harley enthusiast interested in Harley history hears is about someone's JD model, indicating the 74-inch V-twin introduced in 1921, but the lettering goes back long before that.
Up to 1908, there was only one Harley model per year, a battery-fired single cylinder, so any further designation than the year was superfluous: i.e., an 1907 Harley. But in 1909, the factory offered four singles, with either 26- or 28-inch wheels (wheels were measured from the outer edge of the tire back then), and either battery or magneto ignition. These were referred to as the Model 5 (fifth year of production, which, for Harley-Davidson purposes, began in 1904) with battery and 28s, the Model 5-A with mag and 28s, 5-B with battery and 26s and 5-C, mag/26. The abortive twin was called the 5-D.
In 1910, the single-cylinder racer was called the 6-E. In 1912, things got real complicated with both chain and belt drive being offered, and a clutching mechanism designated by an X; all wheels were the 28-inch variety. The basic single was the Model 8, the mag-fired twin with "freewheel control" and chain drive was called the Model X-8-E.
In 1914, we see the first use of the F letter, a 61-inch magneto twin with two-speed gearbox. In 1915, the J model appeared, the twin with three-speed transmission and battery ignition. That was also the year of the first K model, a racing twin.
In 1916, the year designation was changed from year of production to calendar year, so it was not 12-F, but 16-F. Eight models were available that year: the F, J, E, R and T twins, and C, B and S singles. Already Harley was complicating things, as the E of 1910 was a racing single, while the E of 1916 was a one-speed twin.
The heck with this; let us start with the alphabet and go right through to see how many letters have been used, and how many times. When you see a /, that means the letter(s) was secondary (FL), tertiary (FLH), etc. To try to keep this under control, I will start with the models that were in the 1920 line, and ignore what went on before that date.
A (1926): SV/OHV 21-inch single (magneto ignition)
A (1960): TS (two stroke) 165CC Topper scooter
B (1926): SV/OHV 21-inch single
B (1955): TS 165CC single
/B: Belt-drive Sturgis model (ex. 1982 FXB)
C (1920): i.o.e. 35-inch single, special order
C (1930): SV/OHV 30.5-inch single
/C: Custom, Classic or Caf
/CH: Magneto Sportster (ex. 1958 XLCH)
D (1929): SV 45-inch twin
/D: 74-inch engine (ex. 1921 JD)
/D: Extra power (ex. 1930 DLD)
/D: Dyna Glide frame (ex. 1991 FXDB)
/DG: Disc Glide (ex. 1983 FXDG)
E (1936): OHV 61-inch twin
/E: Electric starting (ex. 1964 GE, 1974 FXE)
/E: Police engine (ex. 1953 FLE)
F (1920): i.o.e. 61-inch magneto ignition (dating from 1914)
F (1941): OHV 74-inch twin
/F: Battery ignition flat twin (ex. 1921 WF)
/F: Footshift (ex. 1952 FLF)
G (1933): SV 45-inch Servi-Car
/H: Larger engine (ex. 1936 80-inch VHL, 1955 55-inch KH)
/H: More powerful engine (ex. 1955 FLH)
I: Fuel injection (ex. 1995 FLHTCI)
J (1920): i.o.e. 61-inch twin (dating from 1915)
/J: Magneto ignition flat twin (ex. 1921 WJ)
/K: More powerful K model (ex. 1955 K11K)
L (1920): Single-passenger sidecar (dating from 1915)
/L: Higher compression engine (ex. 1936 EL)
M (1920): Commerical sidecar (dating from 1915)
M (1965): TS 50CC single, Aermacchi
/N: Newspaper delivery sidecar (ex. 1929 MN)
/N: Nostalgia (ex. 1993 FLSTN)
/O: Open-body commercial sidecar (ex. 1926 MO)
/P: Police model
Q (1920): Two-passenger sidecar chassis (dating from 1918)
R (1932): SV 45-inch twin
/R: Rubber-mount FX model (ex. 1982 FXR Super Glide)
/R: Pseudo-racing model (ex. 1983 XR-1000)
/R: Racing model (ex. 1952 KR)
S (1926): OHV 21-inch, for racing purposes
S (1948): TS 125 single
/S: Sport (ex. 1978 FXS and XLS)
/S: Sidecar use (ex. 1936 ES)
T (1921): Twin-cylinder racer
/T: TS 165 single (ex. 1953 ST)
/T: Touring (ex. 1977 XLT, 1980)
U (1937): SV 74-inch twin
V (1930): SV 74-inch twin
V (1994): DOHC 61-inch twin, for Superbike racing
W (1920): SV 36-inch flat twin (dating from 1919)
W (1937): SV 45-inch twin
/WG: Wide Glide (ex. 1980 FXWG)
X (1957): OHV 55-inch twin (usually used with L; i.e. XL)
Y: Only letter never used
Z (1973): TS 90CC single, Aermacchi
Here are some models styles to go by.
XLH Sportster 883
XLH Sportster 883 Hugger
XLH Sportster 1200
XL 1200C 1200 Custom
XL 1200S 1200 Sport
FXD Dyna Super Glide
FXDL Dyna Low Rider
FXDS-CONV Dyna Convertible
FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
FLSTS Heritage Springer Softail
FXSTSB Bad Boy
FLSTF Fat Boy
FXSTS Springer Softail
FXSTC Softail Custom
FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic
FLHR/FLHRI Road King / Road King Fuel Injected
FLHT Electra Glide Standard
FLHTC/FLHTCI Electra Glide Classic / Electra Glide Classic
FLHTCUI Ultra Classic Electra Glide Fuel Injected
All the learned readers can now berate me for my inaccuracies and omissions, such as racing models, sidecars, package trucks, etc.
I also left out most of the Aermacchi model designations, or this would have been far more complicated than necessary. Nor did I include all alphabets in all models; there are just too many.