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Some Great Early Model Motorcycles By Harley Davidson

From the beginning of their very first motorcycle, Harley Davidson has continued to deliver some terrific motorcycles that have continued to fascinate and thrill consumers for many, many years.

After the introduction of the Harley’s XL Sportster in 1957, Harley Davidson developed a more sporting version known as the XLCH in 1959. The “CH” was supposedly standing for competition hot. These motorcycles were stripped-down models that were oriented toward on-road and off-road work with magneto ignition, high exhaust pipes, solo seat, smaller “peanut” tank, and lighter overall weight. It also featured the now-famous “eyebrow” headlight cover that remains a Sportster trademark.

Harley-Davidson also offered the XLH, which was a dressed-up and touring influenced version that was outsold by its sportier sibling. Power rose steadily over the next few years, which earned the fleet Sportster the nickname of “King of the Drags,” which is an unofficial title it would hold until the late 1960s. Of course, this was at a time when most of their competitors were British 650-cc twins, which spotted considerable displacement to the 883-cc Sportster and in drag racing, size does matter a great deal.

Aside from a new tank badge and paint scheme, the 1963 Harley-Davidson FL Duo-Glide did not offer many changes, which the successful formula of previous FL models did. However, Harley Davidson had tried something different for the 1961 models, when the age-old “waste spark” ignition was traded for a more modern ignition, but more complicated system employing two sets of points and coils. Unfortunately, the experiment only lasted through 1964 after which the waste-spark setup returned. This motorcycle was a fairly stripped example of the big FL, as most were fitted with saddlebags and two-passenger buddy seat and the addition to the windshield, which were all being requisites of the well-dressed touring motorcycle. The chrome trim on the fenders added a new classy touch to the Harley-Davidson FL Duo-Glide.

The 1963 Harley-Davidson Topper motorcycle was among the casualties when the very short lived scooter craze subsided and the Japanese brands began to take an ever-growing share of the American motorcycle market. It had a 165-cc two-stroke single that started with a recoil starter, which is like one on a lawn mower, this caused them to capitalize on the late-1950s popularity of scooters, which drove through a variable-ratio automatic transmission called Scootaway Drive. Up front was a simple leading-link fork, and there were small drum brakes on both wheels while beneath the hinged seat was a large storage space, but if that was not enough a luggage rack was available.

For those not content with carrying only two people and luggage, a sidecar was offered on the fully loaded models with the rig proving to be agonizingly slow. Other accessories included a passenger’s backrest and windshield, but despite carrying the revered Harley-Davidson name, the Topper did not sell particularly well in a market and quickly become dominated by Japanese machines. It was not long before the scooter craze subsided, taking the Topper as one of its early casualties.

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