Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present: Volume V: Part II of II-The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985

Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present: Volume V: Part II of II-The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985

by Donny Petersen


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In this second part of his fifth volume on Harley-Davidsons motorcycles, Donny Petersen, who studied privately with Harley-Davidson engineers, shares practical knowledge and streetwise tips on the Shovelhead motorcycle.

Donny presents what Harley-Davidson has to say through the myriad of service bulletins back in the day in everyday language. He also uses his extensive practical experience to constructively critique the official line, offers additional hard-earned information, and then shares what he does to his own bikes. He provides

• solutions to fix the Shovelhead’s teething problems;
• Harley’s responses to ongoing problematic aspects of vibration, as well as the aftermarket’s cures;
• tips on working with the Shovelhead’s carburetors and five ignitions; starter and charging systems, electrical switches, circuit breakers, and relays; and
• best practices for lubrication, as well as the progression of front forks and shocks, brakes, wheels, and tires.

Written in straightforward language, this guide offers step-by-step instructions to help all levels of enthusiasts, from novices to expert mechanics. In his usual forthright manner, Donny makes technical issues understandable, interspersing explanations with entertaining stories about the lifestyle that comes with being a Harley rider.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475973600
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/12/2013
Pages: 748
Sales rank: 400,905
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)

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Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present

Volume V: Part II of II: The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985
By Donny Petersen

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Donny Petersen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-7360-0

Chapter One

Identifying the Shovelhead Models

Vehicle identification is done with a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Each VIN is different from every other VIN. There is a unique VIN for each Harley-Davidson. A VIN shares common characteristics with other VIN's of the same genre. A VIN is necessary for warranty, safety recalls, insurance, and anti-theft enforcement.

A VIN is always in the same location on the motorcycle for easy reference. The VIN is stamped into metal on all years and has an additional virtually indestructible sticker attaching to the right frame front down tube on 1981-and-later models.

The location of the stamped-in-metal VIN on 1969-and-earlier Shovelhead as well as predecessor Big Twins is on the left engine casing just above the timing hole plug.

The location of the stamped-in-metal VIN on 1970-and-later is on the frame neck and the engine casing. These are general statements. I will get into the myriad of specifics as I progress.

A Brief H-D Serial Number (VIN) and Model History

Production figures are approximate and early numbers are especially open to question. Proper statistics were not always kept, some lost, and some destroyed in fire. Over the years, Harley-Davidson has had a myriad of experimental, prototype and one-year only motorcycles. Cataloguing Harley-Davidson over the years is a daunting task that few if any can accurately accomplish. Take, for example the early first engine, which was modified. Does this count as one or more engines? More important, is it a 1901 or a 1902 engine? Certainly, it is not a 1903 engine because of the size differential but I am sure many 1901-1902 parts were used in the first 1903 engine.

In the beginning, which we all know is the year 1903; there was no designator letter since there was only a reputed three motorcycles produced. However, the first prototype was actually built in 1902, which had a 10.2c.i (167cc) single cylinder engine.

1904 models were designated 0, 1905 was 1 and on it went to 1915, which was the number 11. To calculate the year for the years 1904 to 1915 achieves by adding the model number for that year to 1904 Therefore, the model year number 0 is for 1904 (1904 + 0 = 1904) whereas the model year number 11 is for 1915 (1904 + 11 = 1915). There is no 12, 13, 14 or 15 as model years because 1916 forgot all about this mathematical exercise and designated the year by its actual year number.

1916 is the first year that the year designator actually matched the year of production. Therefore, the digits 16 mean 1916.

The letters I, O, Q, U, are not used in the Shovelhead 1966-and-up year-letter serial numbering codes because of possible confusion with digits such as 1 or 0. I do not know the reason that the U is omitted. I am sure there is a reason somewhere but the vagaries of H-D serial numbers make almost anything possible.

The year 1941 saw first introduction of the FL nomenclature that sees continuous use to the present day with the FLHT models.

1. The Model 41F is the 1941 low compression (LC) version of the 74 cubic inch (1200cc) model.

2. The more familiar 41FL is the 1941 high compression (HC) 1200cc model.

3. The FL continues from the 1941 to 1947 Knucklehead FL 1200 to the 1948 to 1965 Panhead FL 1200.

4. The FLH with higher compression and a hotter camshaft introduces in the Panhead in 1955 and continues to 1965.

5. The FL series continues with the 1966 to 1975 Shovelhead FL 1200. This gets very confusing as the reader will see constant references to the FL beyond 1975. The FL nomenclature many times refers to FL/FLH models or is used as a short form for FLH. Furthermore, there are special fleet orders from special interest groups like the Shriners, the USA military, other country militaries, and the same with national and international police departments. Some of these fleet orders will be for post-1975 FL models.

6. The Shovelhead FLH 1200 continues to 1980.

7. The Shovelhead FLH 1340 (80c.i) begins mid-year 1978 and continues to the Shovelhead's demise in 1985.

8. The 1340cc rubbermounted Shovelhead FLT begins in 1980 and continues into early-1984.

9. The 1340cc rubbermounted Shovelhead FLHT begins in 1983 and continues into early-1984.

10. The Evolution FL (FLTC, FLHTC) carries the flag until 1998.

11. The Twin Cam 88, 96, 103, and CVO 110 (FLT, FLHT) maintains the FL brand from 1999 to present day.

12. The FX, which introduces in 1971 is a highly successful sportier (F =FL; X = XL) variation of the FL that still continues over four decades later.

The modern FL really begins with the Electra Glide born in the 1965 FL, the last year of Panhead and the first electric start.

The FL family has two main branches with only one surviving today, the FL and the FLT. Both represent touring bikes. Even the FLST Softail is the touring version of this first FXST Softail Factory chopper.

The FL is the Shovelhead big brother (1200cc/1340cc) of the first overhead valve Harley-Davidsons, which are the E and EL 1000cc Knuckleheads introduced in 1936. The L as in EL or FL originally meant high compression engine pistons but later came to mean touring with a 16" front wheel.

The original meanings of Harley-Davidson lettering nomenclature can become convoluted and complex as the years progress. As letters get taken up, it also becomes apparent that perhaps they would have been better used for other later models. For example, the FLE designated a 1200cc engine with a smaller 1000cc cam and carburetor whereas the first electric start FL became the FLB or FLHB. Therefore, an E designates a milder engine in its class while a B presumably designates a bigger battery that is required for an electric start model. Don't let this stuff get you down. I personally ignore most nomenclature because it is too difficult to remember it all. I just concentrate on the basics and let H-D designers go nuts with the acronyms. In truth, I am learning some of this stuff for the first time by researching and writing this chapter even though I have been riding Harleys for over 40 years now. The B was dropped a long time ago in favor of more modern designations like C (Classic), R (Road King), and S (Sport).

The FL series are rigid mounted 4-speeds with the Big Twin engine beginning in the Knucklehead era, continuing through the Panhead Hydra Glide and Duo-Glide years until 1966 when the Shovelhead took over. The FL with high compression pistons; the 1200cc FLE with the 61c.i (1000cc) cam and carburetor; the FLF an FL with a footshift as opposed to a hand-shift; the first electric start, which was an FLB 1200cc Panhead in 1965 and the FLH an FL with high performance upgrades that got you nowhere fast came with a front fork (batwing) fairing and full windshield. Later years usually had a fairing/windshield but some models came only with a windshield like the FLHS Electra Glide Sport.

FX: the Cross between an FL and the XL

Harley-Davidson had no budget to give a young staff designer. However, the Factory realized that a new model was necessary the bridge the gap between the nimble XL Sportster and the heavy Electra Glide FL.

Willie G. created the FX line of motorcycles from nothing new. The 1200cc 1971 Super Glide FX 1200 was far off the mark as to what H-D riders wanted or expected from the Factory. It was Willie G.'s first attempt to bring H-D in line with the chopper boom of the time. In Willie's defense, with no allotted funds he began by using parts from the Sportster like the narrow front forks and skinny fender to modify the heavy FL Big Twin. His custom designed the fiberglass boat-tail rear fender reputedly from European styling suffered rejection by the customizers of the day. I just realized why the fender was fiberglass instead of stamped steel ... no money.

One might think that the FX Super Glide came from the F in FL and the X was taken from the XL, but officially the FX represented Factory Experimental. Harley-Davidson marketed the initial FX as the "All-American Freedom Machine." Patriotism could not rescue this design. No matter how far off the mark the first FX was, successive ones gained much deserved popularity even though H-D made another styling no-no by adapting a Sprint gasoline tank instead of the popular 3-gallon Fatbobs. I must say that Harley riders of the day had no idea this gas tank was from a Sprint. I never knew until researching this book. As it was, customizers and riders including me were replacing this tank with Fatbobs or Sportster gas tanks. I think inconsequential mass-rebellion was just around the corner if this quiet secret had become known. Inconsequential is because we forgave H-D for any-and-all transgressions.

In any case, Willie G.'s initial design rightfully became a huge success in following years as the design modified into American cool. The very popular FXS Low Rider and FXB Sturgis models were direct descendants as is the rubbermount FXR Super Glide II and current FXD Dyna Glide models. Let us not forget the immensely popular 1980 FXWG Wide Glide. Willie G. is responsible for a whole line of Harley-Davidson's that bridge the Sportster with the Big Twin highway models. This man deserves every accolade he is showered with.

The FLT series began in 1980 as a rubbermounted powertrain 5-speed progression from the FL 4-speed rigid mount. The original FLT Tour Glide has dual headlights and a frame mounted fairing/windshield. This is a progressive bike for its time but H-D traditionalist hated it because it looked so ... well ... Japanese. In truth the frame mounted fairings are more aerodynamic than batwing fairings allowing the bike to handle much better at speed. The T is an acronym for a three-point (3) rubber mounting system. H-D nomenclature can get really overworked and take on new meanings over time. The T in FLT or FLHT signifies that these models and their many derivatives is a rubbermounted version of the original Shovelhead Electra Glide the FL or FLH. However, the T is an acronym for three as in a triangular rubber mounting system. Present day, the FLT/FLHT series of touring bikes are not triangularly mounted but have quad mounts.

The H in FLHT once stood for High Compression to distinguish the FL from the FLH but the H now has use in differentiating a frame mounted fairing (FLT) from a fork-mount fairing (FLHT). H-D model designations are perplexing indeed.

The Second F

As we know any model nomenclature beginning with the letter F indicates the modernization of the Big Twin in 1941 with a 1200cc (74c.i) engine that progresses over the years to 80c.i, 88c.i, 96c.i, 103c.i and finally 110c.i.

However, there was also a progression from hand-shift/foot clutch FL's to footshift/ hand clutch models. Therefore, an FLF or FLHF indicated a footshift/hand clutch model from the footshift's inception in 1952 to the early seventies when the second F letter designation fell by the wayside.

Here I go again, the second F changes meaning in 1979 to indicate a Fat Bob. The FXEF is the FX electric start with Fat Bob gas tanks. It also has a footshift/hand clutch since FX models never had a hand-shift/foot clutch mechanism. Furthermore, the handshift/foot clutch obsoletes after early-1979 FL/FLH production.

Electra Glide in Blue, Baretta and Life Imitating Art

The Electra Glide Shovelhead with Hi-Fi Blue paint was romanticized in the October 1973 movie starring Robert Blake as a motorcycle cop (he's a good cop on a big bike on a bad road). Blake gains a promotion to Homicide to solve a mysterious murder. In, perhaps his most famous role, Blake portrays Baretta, a private investigator in a very popular TV series of the same name.

In later years, Robert Blake has his own problems, standing accused of murder. Acquitted of the murder, Blake was found guilty under civil law in the wrongful death of his former wife.

In any case, the early Electra Glide FLHB resurfaces decades later as the 5-speed rubber mounted FLHT with the definitive model, the 2009 6-speed FLHTCUSE Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide. Both bikes are surely the King of the Highway in their respective eras. However, the technology separating them is monumental.

The Letter S

The letter S may indicate a variety of models over the years.

The first modern use of an S indicates the use of a sidecar. This is logical but what follows confuses. Therefore, the Panhead FLS is an FL Hydra Glide (hydraulic front end) sidecar model.

However, the nostalgic FLHS, introducing in 1977 is the FLH Sport. It initially has no fairing or saddlebags. However, the saddlebags soon return to the FLHS as the riding (touring) public wants more comfort with storage.

Then, in 1984 a version of the FX begins use of the letter S to indicate an FXST where the S indicates Softail but the T does not stand for Touring or rubber mounting. Presumably the T now means tail as in rear fork. The Softail styling approximates a rigid frame but has a soft tail or a rear fork with a hidden shock mechanism.

Three H-D Identification Systems

There are 3-categories of serial numbers or VINs (Vehicle Identification Numbers) used during the Shovelhead years; 1966 to 1985.

1. 1962 to 1969; example, 66FL10221 (1966 FL 1200cc). I hearken back to 1962 since this is when the Shovelhead 1966 to 1969 serial number system originates from.

2. 1970 to 1980; examples, 2F12469H7 (1977 FXS Low Rider 1200cc), 9G71623J0 (1980 FXWG 1340cc Wide Glide, and 3G 67143H9 (1979 FLH 1340cc).

3. 1981 to 1985; example, 1HD1ADK23BY110000 (1981 {B}, FLH-80 Classic {AD}, mid-year production {2}). This type of serial number is still in use today.

The reader can see that the VIN becomes more sophisticated with more information over time.

The 1962 to 1969 H-D VIN Identification System

Raised numbers are casting numbers to identify parts. They only describe a certain part for a certain year or year's usage. There is only one serial number with no duplicates. However, there can easily be a hundred thousand parts with the same casting number.

Nineteen sixty-two marks the first use of frame numbers as well as lower fork-crown and transmission numbers. The frame numbers usually locate on the left side of the rounded frame neck without benefit of a boss.

This numbering system is weak in that the numbers are much smaller than the engine VIN numbers and stamped lightly. Many times a coat of paint will obstruct them partially or completely. This means scraping paint to observe the identification numbers. In the hardcore world of yesteryear, H-D riders would not tolerate someone else defiling their motorcycle and it was literally fighting time if someone attempted such a sacrilegious act.

No bikes from this 1962 to 1969 era are registered by the frame number like all bikes from 1970-to-present. The pre-1970 Shovelheads, Panheads, and Knuckleheads are registered by their VIN number on the left engine casing. Later bikes are registered by their frame number.

The numbers on the frame, transmission and most times either underneath the fork crown or on the fork stop appendage are the same format, usually with four digits preceded by a letter.

These stamped numbers were originally for warranty purposes to associate this number on the three parts with the original engine VIN number. However, these numbers soon became investigative tools for law enforcement bike theft recovery.

There is a problem. The 1958 to 1961 Duo Glide Big Twin frames, fork crowns and transmissions have no such numbering system. However, the parts are identical with their serial numbered 1962 to 1964 counterparts although, the frame has a small cast-in marking on a rear down leg that wild distinguish the early frame from the later numbered one. Few know about this even though it is not a reliable indicator. Furthermore, I am sure many frames from 1962 to 1969 are missing the frame number through human error or negligence.

It was up to the early chopper riders to demonstrate to a suspicious policeman that these parts were indeed 1958 to 1961, which did not have warranty numbers like the 1962 and later bikes. In Toronto, where I live, there is an anti-tampering law that is reverse onus. This means that any serial number that had been tampered with made the bike illegal as in stolen. It did not help matters that Harley-Davidson as well as dealers, many times ground off old numbers and legitimately stamped new ones in for warranty or replacement purposes. The reverse onus part of the law makes it the bike owner's responsibility to prove the serial or warranty numbers are legitimate. I lived through this era with many choppers and it was a real problem, especially when the policeman made assumptions about me because of my long greasy hair and beard.


Excerpted from Donny's Unauthorized Technical Guide to Harley-Davidson, 1936 to Present by Donny Petersen Copyright © 2013 by Donny Petersen. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


1974 Shovelhead 1200cc FXE Super Glide Picture....................xxi
1967 Shovelhead 1200cc FLHFB Electra Glide Picture....................xxiii
Chapter I: Identifying the Shovelhead Models....................1
Chapter II: Shovelhead Specifications, Maintenance, and Troubleshooting....................29
Chapter III: Shovelhead Vibration....................107
Chapter IV: Shovelhead Fuel Delivery....................153
Chapter V: Shovelhead Engine Lubrication....................265
Chapter VI: Shovelhead Electrics....................401
Chapter VII: Front Forks and Shocks....................585
Chapter VIII: Brakes....................603
Chapter IX: Wheels....................637
Chapter X: Tires....................649
Chapter XI: Sundry Squeaks, Specifications, and Such....................661
Chapter XII: Why is the Shovelhead Better?....................701
Author Biography....................713
Contents Part I of The Shovelhead: 1966 to 1985....................715

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