Cruise In Comfort: 1978 Harley-Davidson FLHC-1200

Summer is just around the corner, and with the warmer weather comes endless opportunities for getting out and enjoying the best that nature has to offer. A classic convertible is one option to consider, but why not consider a classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle as an alternative that will provide the ultimate “wind in the hair” experience? That is the kind of experience that awaits the next potential owner of this 1978 FLHC-1200, and the addition of a sidecar makes it a more attractive proposition if you have a passenger who isn’t thrilled by the prospect of hanging on behind you on the open road. The Harley is located in Davison, Michigan, and has been listed for sale here on Barn Finds classifieds. Carefree cruising can be yours by handing the owner $12,000.

For some purists, a Harley with a sidecar would not be their first choice, but it does offer buyers the chance to live the “boots in the breeze” experience that can only come with owning a Harley, but with a touch of practicality. I would be willing to bet that there are plenty of readers out there who would love to park one of these classics in their garage, but a partner and a child make the whole concept impractical for weekend fun in the sun. That’s where this motorcycle comes into its own. It wears a layer of dust at present, but below that, it all looks really promising. When I look at the Harley as it currently stands, I want nothing more than to get it into my own workshop and to spend a couple of weekends really getting stuck into detailing the machine. It looks fine at present, but the paint looks like it would respond well to some polish, while the chrome and alloy are free of any corrosion or pitting. The upholstery on the seats looks like it is in good condition, and I believe that it would take nothing more than a bit of time and effort to have it looking as nice as it did back in 1978.

I think that for me, one of the greatest attractions of any Harley-Davidson revolved around the company’s model stability. Where many competing brands would release a neverending array of new models that followed the latest styling and engineering trends, Harley developed a concept and then allowed it to evolve slowly but steadily over time. The Shovelhead engine is a perfect example. It first saw the light of day in 1966, and it remained in production and was fitted to new offerings all the way through until 1984, although a few did find their way into 1985-models of the FLH. In this case, the engine is a 73ci twin that produces 58hp. This is sent to the road via a chain drive and a 4-speed transmission. So few ratios would seem odd today, and this was even the case back when this bike was new. However, the Shovelhead produces enormous amounts of torque, meaning that it is a flexible engine that can pull strongly from low engine revs. It has also seen this engine become one of the most desirable that the company ever produced. For the next owner of this machine, there is nothing for them to do. The owner says that the Harley runs and rides really well, meaning that it is ready to hit the road immediately.

From a purely investment perspective, a classic Harley-Davidson would seem to be a pretty shrewd purchase at the right price. In the value stakes, they can well and truly hold their own, and well-maintained examples will generally tend to increase in value and desirability as time passes. I’ve owned a few motorcycles during my life, but sadly, I can’t count a Harley-Davidson on that list. For relaxed cruising, there is probably no better bike on the planet, but they can offer some quite staggering performance if you poke them with a sharp stick. For some members of the community, the stereotypical Harley owner fits into a fairly rough-and-ready mold, but I’ve known plenty of individuals who have worn business suits to their corporate jobs during the week but thrown their leg over a Harley during the weekend to just unwind and relax. The world can be a stressful place, and a bit of healthy relaxation therapy can never go astray. That makes this a machine that is well worth considering.

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  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    I wonder if the insurance companies used to keep mortality statistics on motorcycle crashes involving sidecars, which presumably would hover around 100%. I think I’d start smoking again before I’d get into a side car!

    Like 1
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      Hi Rex I’ve been riding a sidecar rig since 2008 without a problem. Yes they take some getting used to but a sidecar that is properly aligned will cruise down the road quit nicely. My first rig was a new Ural it was ok just to slow and under powered. My current rig is a 1977 gold wing 1000cc 60 hp. I built the sidecar myself and the whole rig is on its 6th year on the road. I ride it regularly and it will do 75 mph all day long. The key is if your an experienced rider your not an experienced hack rider and you will need to take it slow until you learn how. It’s a great experience and for me it allows my multiple amputee son to come with me safely. He wears a 5 point harness while riding in the sidecar. This looks like a nice rig to start out on.

      Like 1
  2. Howard A Member

    Oh, these were dark days for H-D. “AMF” Harleys had tarnished a once mighty name. I believe “the chase van” got it’s start ( pun intended) with AMF Harleys. Asian bikes put H-D’s to shame, they were just the same old bike ( See the all new foot peg on the ’78 Harley’s) Today, the AMF Harley is a sought after unit. I don’t care for the side hack, but the bike is a sweetheart. Properly updated ( electrics, gaskets, etc) AMF “chain drive” Harley’s are nice rides. I had a ’85 FXRT( minus the “T”, eventually) and the belt drive ALWAYS made me nervous. The EVO was a lot less temperamental than the Shovel. The sidehack, and all it’s quirks, could ruin that experience. Motorcycles, like all RV’s, I feel, should be 1 person and 1 person only. No you can’t have a ride, get your own. :)

    Like 10
    • On and On On and On Member

      I’ll have to agree 100% with the 1 person only philosophy. I have ridden many bikes many miles and always solo. The reason should be obvious to any experienced rider.

      Like 2
    • Dave

      I changed the drive belt on my 2005 1200 Roadster after it snapped in the driveway at 74,000 miles. It was easy to change, compared to a Big Twin.

      • Howard A Member

        EVO’s you have to pull the tranny, I believe. A chain is so much easier and in all my riding, only dropped one chain.

      • Dusty Rider

        On the ’81 and up Sturgis belt driven models, you have to pull the inner primary and the left rear lower shock bolt to change the belt.
        My first belt lasted 40000 miles the 2nd is still going strong after 30 years, but I ride easier now.

        Like 1
  3. michael streuly

    When you put a sidecar on a motorcycle the front forks needs to be changed to a set of leading link forks. Sidecars put a different set of loads the regular forks do not like.

    Like 1
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      No you don’t have to go to leading link all you need to do is add a steering damper most sidecar rigs don’t have leading link.

  4. Barry Traylor

    As this is a 1978 model you would really have to love H-D to want one. I did not start to own a H-D until after 1996 when the bikes got so much more reliable.

    • Dave

      A magazine writer once wrote that “the Shovel almost buried Harley-Davidson” .
      Evo bikes were much better both from a performance and quality standpoint. Rubber mounting the drivetrain allowed the rider to be able to enjoy the ride without vibration beating them up. It took them 20 years to get around to improving the XL line, releasing the bike from being a short trip bike to a bike you look forward to riding long distances.
      This bike was meant for the long haul, even though Pittsburgh police use them for traffic control.

      • mikethetractorguy

        Shovelheads are great bikes if you maintain them. You won’t get there as fast as a newer bike, but to me that has never been the point. I put 17,500 miles on a 1979 Electra Glide in one season. I’ve had a 1981 Electra Glide with sidecar since the mid 90s. My wife and I, along with our daughter when she was little, have a lot of good memories riding it. The worst part is the gas mileage.
        This bike is priced about right in my opinion when you factor in what factory sidecars are selling for by themselves.

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        There were a few problems with the AMF Shovelhead. The odd one had the motor shaft bore in the LH flywheel .005” out of whack. That made for some serious vibrations. My ‘81 was very good to me. It wasn’t much of a shaker and the only breakdown was the front exhaust rocker breaking where the pushrod contacted it. That was at 70K miles. About a two hour fix. I got stupid and sold it. The new owner ran it to 103K miles when he decided to do a top end. We tore it down and discovered the top ring lands had eroded necessitating replacement of the pistons. There wasn’t .002” wear on the cylinders so stock pistons and rings went in. Replaced valves and guides, and a new special high volume oil pump which still pushes 50 psi cold and 20-24 psi hot just like the original…

        Like 2
  5. tony t

    to michael streuly: 110% right, needs aleading (or trailing link) fork(s)

  6. mikethetractorguy

    Shovelheads are great bikes if you maintain them. You won’t get there as fast as a newer bike, but to me that has never been the point. I put 17,500 miles on a 1979 Electra Glide in one season. I’ve had a 1981 Electra Glide with sidecar since the mid 90s. My wife and I, along with our daughter when she was little, have a lot of good memories riding it. The worst part is the gas mileage.
    This bike is priced about right in my opinion when you factor in what factory sidecars are selling for by themselves.

    Like 1
  7. Jimbosidecar

    So much misinformation regarding sidecars here. I’m surprised.

    Like 2
    • Dusty Rider

      I think the rake was adjustable on sidecar equipped bikes back then.

    • canadainmarkseh Member

      Yes lots of miss information. I’d take a sidecar rig over a trike any day. Sidecars never really became popular in North America a lot more people ride them in Europe.

  8. Mike

    You use the sidecar to ride around your labradoodle wearing doggles for the instagram photo-ops.

    Like 1
  9. mikethetractorguy

    Dusty Rider, you are correct. Electra Glides that have/had sidecars from the factory have adjustable forks and steering dampers.

  10. geomechs geomechs Member

    Nice bike! I would love to have it. I find it interesting that they’re calling this a 74 incher. HD introduced the 80 inch Shovelhead in ‘78 and used it in the Electraglides. HD started phasing the 74 out with 1980 being the final on the Superglide only. It’s easy to tell the difference between the 74 and 80 (at least genuine HD) though. Just count the cooling fins on the jugs; the 80 has 9 while the 74 has 10.

    Like 2
  11. Stevieg

    My first bike was a 1981 Electraglide similar to this. My Dad gave it to me for my birthday about 10 years ago. It was an oil burning slug, worn out to the point where I had to replace the front spark plug every 25-30 miles. Not much fun in riding that. It finally developed a knock in the engine, I thought a rod knock. I later learned, as a service advisor at a Harley dealership, how easy of a fix that would have been. I should have kept it. Instead, I sold it and used the money from that as the down payment for my Springer.
    The guy I sold it to, a friend of a friend, is restoring it.
    This bike is missing its saddle bags. I would probably pull the batwing off the front, and remove the sidecar (I don’t like how any 3 wheeled “bike” rides, whether a trike or a sidecar bike) and ride it. Very cool old bike!

  12. mtshootist1

    I own two Harleys with harley sidecars, and one 81 goldwing with a california sidecar, (early one) I helped the handling by putting progressive springs in the front forks, and progressive shocks in the rear. I had air shocks but the sidewise motion caused the outboard shock to leak. I even have a spare harley sidecar body and fender hanging around the garage. Ieading link front ends, are probably the ultimate fork arrangement for serious sidecarists, but I don’t recall seeing harleys that have been changed over. The main thing is making sure that your neck and wheel bearings are in good shape, and neck bearings set up properly, along with appropriate counterweight on the sidecar. Alignment is key, though. I get a kick of riding one of them into a group of harley riders, because they are far and few between.

  13. Morgan

    Harley made a special triple tree specifically for sidecar use. It would allow the lower section of the trees to move forward to increase the trail, allowing for better stability. Real P/I/A if you pull the hack and try to ride solo with the trees “Kicked out”….

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