Last Ridden in ’72: 1948 Harley Hydra Glide

Despite their troubles as a company adapting to modern consumer preferences, old-school Harley Davidson motorcycles still appear to be in demand based on recent eBay auctions. I feel like every week there’s another nicely-preserved vintage Harley heading for a $20K or better sale. The seller of this survivor Harley Davidson Hydra Glide is likely hoping for that kind of result, and with bidding over $15K at the moment, there’s a good chance it will happen. Still, the reserve remains unmet, so it’s not a guarantee – but this bike does look to have been well-loved for most of its life. Find it here on eBay with bids to $15,600 and located in Illinois.

The seller mentions he purchased it from the daughter of the previous owner. The woman claimed her father hung up his riding gloves in 1972 and the bike remained parked ever since. While the condition is impressive for a long-idled specimen, I think the seller is a tad optimistic about his prognosis of simply cleaning out the gas tank and throwing in a new battery. Of course, that’s not to say it won’t run again with just those fixes, but running well is another challenge entirely. Now, here’s a point of confusion: from what I can deduct, the Hydra Glide front suspension was rolled out with the new 1949 models, so the seller may be mixed up on what year bike this is. Can any of our readers confirm?

Fortunately, there’s no mistaking that this is a genuine Hydra Glide. This was a big deal for Harley when it was introduced, as the company was in an arms race of sorts with Indian. The hydraulic front fork suspension allowed the Harley to provide riders with ample suspension travel in the front while keeping the rear end firmly plated on the road. In addition, the Hydra Glide’s V-twin engine allowed the bike to reach speeds of 100 m.p.h., providing an ideal combination of ride comfort and performance. The front brakes were also larger, greatly enhancing stopping power. Overall, the bike had to have been a revelation when first introduced, and likely spooked Indian a fair amount, too.

Though the seller provides little in the way of actual commentary, looking at the Harley as it is presented in photos shows what looks like decent if not lightly-patina’d paint job and original matching hard-case saddlebags. All of the various fixtures and trim, from the lights to the foot pedals to the seat, look to be in good shape. The seller notes the previous owner told him the 473 miles on the odometer were original, but without a paper trail, there’s no real way to confirm that. The condition does look better than you’d expect for an older bike that was parked decades ago, and even with the lack of detailed info, the presentation here seems to affirm careful use and adequate storage.

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Comments

  1. SMDA

    They call Harleys “Hogs” for a reason, because they ride and handle like pigs. Low miles? Of course, it is a crummy bike. Want a real bike? Pick up a Honda or something similar. Okay, let the love begin, but be warned, I will not change my mind on this. Harleys are all about attitude, not the bike itself. I still get angry even decades later having our young children suddenly awoken from a sound sleep by some loser with loud illegal exhaust on a bike, ALWAYS a Harley rider.

    Like 9
    • grant

      Harleys are called “hogs” because in the early days one of the factory racing team members had a pet pig, which was the teams mascot. And pretty much any murdercycle is a miserable experience, but your opinion may differ. Do you need a hug?

      Like 27
      • SMDA

        No hug, but I do need the cops to once again enforce the noise laws. I know of the popular lore of the name origin, my reference is my humble (yet correct as usual) opinion.

        Like 5
    • Dave

      Do you ride? If you do, that’s great. If not, you’re missing out on a great experience.
      It would be an interesting comparison to see if more parts are available for that nice CBX we saw last week or this bike.
      I do ride, since 1984, currently riding a 2005 Sportster 1200 Roadster bought new with almost 80K miles on it and the stock mufflers and pipes.

      Like 13
      • grant

        I have, it was a Yamaha not a Harley and fun to putt around town on. But above about 40 I simply wasn’t comfortable. Rode on the back of my buddy’s Goldwing from Atlanta to Augusta a few times. It just wasn’t enjoyable to me. As I said, your opinions may vary.

    • rustyvet

      haha had a good laugh at your misguided anger. now i feel bad.
      Honda had yet to produce a motorcycle in 1948…

      Like 13
    • deak stevens

      Sounds like you could never afford a harley, don’t be mad be happy!!!

      Like 4
      • SMDA

        From what deep vault of knowledge did you come up with that fact? Oh yes, the bottomless pit that is your brain.

        Like 1
  2. Gene Parmesan

    I don’t know how anyone can look at a seriously rad, original early Harley panhead and project their biases about motorcycles onto it. As a fellow sleep enthusiast, I totally get that people don’t want to be jarred from a deep sleep by a loud motorcycle. As an avid motorcyclist, I’ll say that most reasonable bikers (myself included) aren’t out there trying to make the neighbors mad. We’re out there to have fun, man! This is an absolute gem for any old Harley guy or gal and I would kill to have a panhead like this in my garage.

    Like 17
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Gene, I have a preference for BMW’s. But with that said, you have said an earful! I’d love to have this in my garage just because it’s a classic olde bike.
      Every ride has its own personality. Sympathy should be extended to those who don’t experience anything outside their little box.

      Like 9
  3. Jim in FL

    These will always be in demand. In the early 90s, I had a shovelhead glide (later model) similar to this that was my daily ride in Philly. Mine was stripped to bare minimum, but that was a personal preference. As to the gas and go concept of restoration, it’s probably true. The motors are pretty bulletproof. The cool thing about a motorcycle is that the weird, expensive parts don’t exist. Nothing like the oddball headlight switch that goes bad on a 72 Blazer, then costs you $250 for the part. If the trans goes bad on your bike, you just shrug, take it apart and rebuild it on the kitchen table. And there’s no plastic trim to rot, the seat is one goodwill jacket of leather and the ac never needs a recharge.

    The market will set the final price on this, but it’s an inexpensive way to get into classics. Literally every part is available. The ask is probably high, but if it’s your dream bike you won’t have a deal breaking issue like with a car you get home and find needs $2000 worth of window motors.

    I wish I could have my 86 sportster back. I was a college freshman and HD was marketing the $1995 Harley. I bought one new. 883 cubic inches, rode it all through college, summer and winter in Philly. Probably 75k on it when I sold it for the shovelhead. I don’t know for sure because the sportster was an ultimate city bike / bar hopper. I put drag bars on, deleted the speedo and turn signals and ripped as far as the 2.25 gallon tank would take me.

    You could pick up and ride a Honda of that vintage (heck I had a cb360 when I was 14). Bikes in general are durable. The Harleys just hold value better. My cousin had a Yamaha shaft drive in 5e late 80s. It was every bit as fun to ride as the Harley, but I don’t think people gave the Japanese brands the respect and preserved them like American bikes.

    Like 7
    • local_sheriff

      Jim – I do get your point and I know it’s nit-picking but that $250 Blazer oddball headlight switch you’re referring to is a $28 AC Delco piece used on most every GM vehicle 64-73…

      Like 3
      • Jim in FL

        Sorry I couldn’t come up with a more obscure part to satisfy you last night. Let me try and make my point more clearly. Usually it’s not the drive train or brakes that are difficult to restore on a car. It’s other pieces. A motorcycle is basically drivetrain and brakes, and simple ones at that. Thus motorcycles are relatively simpler than cars to restore or keep going. How about this one: literally every c4 corvette power seat track breaks eventually because of the plastic parts. So you can live with a seat that rocks, or figure $250 per seat for a refurb that will eventually break again. Relatively, a seat from a 1987 motorcycle is a pad and a piece of leather bolted to a frame. Its one of the reasons I liked playing with bikes when I was young. The components were simple and cheap.

        Like 4
  4. Howard A Member

    No need to bash this one, you wanted a road bike, and not some boulevard cruiser, this is what you bought. It took a lot of GI’s a lot of places. Couple things, I highly doubt the 400 miles claim. Those speedos were very unreliable and could have broke at 400 miles, a speedometer wasn’t necessary back then, and these didn’t have turn signals, windshield missing, and not original bags, I don’t think, but unlike those spindly prewar types, this was a real motorcycle, a timeless design pretty much followed to this day. I read, 1949 was the 1st year for the hydraulic front forks, hence the name “Hydra-Glide” for the 1950 model year. I think it’s a ’49. Something not right here, any H-D expert know for sure?

    Like 8
  5. local_sheriff

    It’s correct that the Hydra Glide was new for the ’49 model year. With that said,if this one was first registered prior to Dec 31st 1948, it’s more than likely that its title documents would state it’s a ’48. That’s more common practice than we like to think, as MODEL year designation rarely follows ACTUAL year.

    I’ve said it several times before here on BF; if you plan to do a lot of riding then buy a much newer swing arm bike. Much cheaper and much better ride. I’m more of a car guy than a biker, however I do own a ’52 FLH that I ride occasionally when the temp is right and I wanna eat some flies. It is what it is – a heavy bicycle with a massive V-twin. However it’s a sweet machine for occasional low speed back road cruising if you’re able to appreciate old-school tech and a great conversation piece where ever I take it

    Like 6
  6. ken tillyUK

    Way back in the nineteen nineties I was a vehicle examiner in South Africa and was instructed by the GOVERNMENT of the time, to not fail a Harley Davidson even if the decibel reading was over the 94 limit for all vehicles, because that’s how they came out of the factory! Needless to say that I never passed a Harley because I would tell the owner before he paid for the test, that I would fail it on it’s exhaust noise so he had better take it somewhere else for it’s test. To me there can’t be different rules for the same product because it has a different name. I have owned 7 Harleys, from a ’39 750cc up to an ’81 Low Rider, and disliked all of them, but I did make sure that they complied with the laws of the land even before I became an examiner. As for this one only having done 473 miles between 1948 and when it was last ridden in 1972, that works out to be approx. 20 miles per year which, in is in one word, Hogwash.

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Sorry Ken, in the good ol’ USA, it’s “loud pipes save lives”, although, I’ll admit, at 2 am, it’s annoying. I believe Harley has the sound patented. I’m not sure what you disliked about all the H-D’s, I love all motorcycles, and not being partial growing up in Milwaukee, (ok, maybe a little), but to me, Harley is the best bike made. I’ve had many bikes, but my ’85 FXRT was the nicest bike I had. I’d buy another low-rider in a minute, if I could.

      Like 6
      • luke arnott Member

        Brough Superiors were the best bike made – look at the prices they fetch!

        Like 1
      • SMDA

        Sorry Howard, but loud pipes may save lives, but how many? Has that ever been studied? Is it not all drivers responsibility to look out for themselves and people around them? Maybe if you have a quiet machine YOU would be more aware of your surroundings, so perhaps, “Quiet Pipes save lives” Besides, no one asked you to go on a public road and make yourself a target.. You took that on all by yourself. If you are so concerned about your safety, drive a Mac Truck. Bikers get all whiny about how they are involved in all these life changing accidents. I have two ideas here, self responsibility, and HELMETS.

        Like 2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Come on, let’s not get all bent out of shape over loud pipes. I actually believe it to some extent. You get a Harley with loud pipes and everyone looks at it. They hear it; then they see it; then MOST of them will avoid it. Of course there are those total ignoramous types that will hear you, see you and still turn right into you and then tell the policeman that he/she did NOT see the motorcycle. That’s where I support the ‘Kill a biker; go to jail’ campaign. Myself, when I’m on two wheels I treat EVERY cage jockey as if he hasn’t seen me.

        Like 5
      • Tony T

        <> Hogwash … don’t hear ’em ’til they are past. . “I’d rather have a sister in a whorehouse than a brother on a Harley.”

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hmmm, can’t say that I’ve had a sister in a whorehouse but I’ve been in one a couple of times years back. My brother rides a Harley; so do about 15 cousins. I’ve got a lot of miles under my backside on a Harley, and a Norton, and a BSA, and a couple of Honda’s. We’re all still alive and kicking. And, oh yes, I’ve got a well worn T-shirt that gives reference to the sister in a whorehouse but it seems to that bike name was different…

        Like 2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Luke Arnott, the Brough Superior was a great bike. I understand that Lawrence of Arabia owned five of them. I would love to have one for myself but I would need Jay Leno’s bankroll.

        Like 1
      • Stevieg

        I realize this is an old thread, and I am late to the party, but SMDA seems to gave a really bad attitude regarding Harley riders.
        Like Howard A., I am a Milwaukeean, born and raised here. I am also a gear head, both cars and motorcycles. I love Harleys in particular, but I appreciate all 2 wheeled vehicles…and 4 wheeled too.
        Last year, I left work (at a Harley dealership) & was going for a ride before heading home. I made it less than a mile from work when a young chick texting ran a stop sign & collided with me. I went from 40 mph to 0 in an instant. I was bot wearing a helmet, but somehow my head didn’t touch pavement. I have no idea how that happened lol.
        My bike was totaled, just received the check from the insurance company 4 days ago.
        I got up & walked away from the accident, no broken bones.
        My bike had loud pipes, and while riding it I couldn’t hear it because the noise was behind me. So you saying that the noise is a distraction to the rider is false. Obviously you don’t have real experience on a motorcycle, or you would know that.
        I walked away because I am an educated rider. If you are going to collide with something or someone while riding a motorcycle, lay the bike down. That is rule #1. Luckily, I remembered that when this incident occurred. I was aware of my surroundings, and I acted appropriately for the situation. That is why I am still here, able to post this.
        Please be a little more open minded to others. Maybe you commented to a Harley rider about how loud his bike is & now he rides past your house, revving his bike on purpose, trying to wake you. With the attitude you are showing here on this site, that’s what I would do if you were my neighbor.
        I had a neighbor complain to me about my bike, but she did it in a very nice way. I, after my conversation with her, used to push my bike down the alley so to not disturb her. She was nice. You are just crotchety lol. Try kindness. It will serve you, and everyone else, a lot better.

    • deak stevens

      Took you 7 bike to figure you did’nt like it,kind of slow, oh thats how south africans are SLOW!!!

      Like 4
      • ken tillyUK

        Not slow, QUICK!! Because I sold them to people like you who were prepared to spend their money on junk!

  7. ken tilly

    Hi Howard. I think it was the amount of vibration on the older bikes and vibration and oil leaks that nearly killed me on the Low Rider. I was caning the bike on a breakfast run with the Fireblades etc. but when I hit the brakes at the freeway glide off the bike went into a slide, went straight through a stop st, across the intersection and back onto the freeway via the on ramp. When I did manage to stop the bike using the front brake I discovered that the engine had opened up and released oil onto the rear tyre! My Harley friend explained to me that the previous owner had not tightened the screws with an impact driver so expect it to leak oil! That was enough and it was sold 3 days later.

    Like 1
  8. John S.

    What a bunch of panty waste comments… This forum is for people who appreciate older machines, not a soap box for whiners! If you don’t like old Harleys, why did you click on this subject? Get a life! The sad part is that a change has taken place in the motorcycle world. Radios, electric starters, cup holders A.B.S. brakes, hand warmers, etc. are testimony to who needs them. I see a lot of lawyers, dentists, pencil (key-board) pushing “bike-er wanna be’s in their costumes that they save for when it’s time to be a “bike-er”; All the latest HD fashion apparel that says HARLEY DAVIDSON on it; hat, dew rag, gloves, shirts, pants, wallets, boots, and fake attitudes that cry out “LOOK AT MMEEE!!!”. Pathetic! This Pan-head is an amazing example of an antique machine. The Harleys have always been a mechanic’s bike. They have soul. The folks who complained about the fact that they needed to be maintained, didn’t know how, so they blamed it on the machine. So why don’t you haters go back to your Hondas, BMWs and what-ever sissy mobile you don’t have to do anything to but push a button & plug in your “device” and ride away!

    Like 16
    • ken tillyUK

      In answer to your diatribe about panty wasters, it takes one to know one. I appreciate older machines as I have owned 52 of them from a 1915 Belt drive BSA 557cc up to a 1982 Yamaha XS 1.1 and wrenched on them all as that’s half the joy of owning old bikes and cars. I have raced a couple of Nortons and practiced on a Matchless G45 so I do know a thing or two about bikes. As for having a life, I have had 80+ years of life and still ride an ex American Honda Rebel 450cc and a British 1933 Calthorpe Ivory 500cc that I built from rust and has just been registered for the road. I also don’t have one piece of advertising apparel, other than my leather jacket that I bought in 1956, so please don’t lump me with your “biker-wanna-bees.” Nobody says we are haters, just that we have options to choose which make of bike we wish to ride and in my case a Harley isn’t one of them.

      Like 2
    • 3210

      A Harley rider that I know describes most modern riders as Rubbers: Rich Urban Bikers.

      Like 2
  9. mtshootist1

    that bike has been upgraded with later parts, taillights, turn signals, bags, etc. At least to a early sixties period mods. Still has the tank shift though, and rocker clutch. My first Harley was a 52 Hydraglide, in 1971 and I quickly learned that you better learn how to wrench on them, which I gleefully did, because the reward of cruising on the old girl was worth every moment, I was 19 when I bought her for four hundred bucks running, and I still own six Harleys, but no panheads, unfortunately. Old Harleys have an intrinsic value that defies monetary value.

    Like 4
  10. geomechs geomechs Member

    I sure wouldn’t kick this one away from my place. I’d maybe remove the modern saddlebags and use them on something newer. I like ALL Harley Davidson engines although I do admit to being partial to the Knucklehead. A Pan is righteous too, as is the Shovelhead, the Flathead, the Blockhead, and all the other heads out there. I had a ’45 Flathead and an ’80 Shovelhead. I would give almost anything to have them both back in my stable. And this one could keep them both company.

    A Harley is a perpetual maintenance project but when maintained they do last a long time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I might add that my cousin owns at least 20 Beemers (along with a couple of Ducatis, a Triumph and a BSA) and they require maintenance too. And they ALL mark their spot. As far as loud exhaust goes, it seems that very few cage jockeys can SEE a motorcycle, so they might as well HEAR it. Once up to speed the noise falls behind you for those back there to enjoy.

    Like 4
    • Dave

      They don’t hear loud motorcycles, either. They don’t hear police cars, fire trucks, or ambulances. Windows rolled up, streaming video on their phones, equals tough times for anyone in their way. I read a story today about an accident involving a Tesla. Seems the driver had it on Autopilot and was busy playing a video game on their phone.

      Funny how vintage Harleys and Pintos just bring out the haters.

      Like 6
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        I’ll give you that, Dave. Some cage jockeys are completely oblivious to everything around them. That’s why I treat them as if they haven’t seen me. But when I’m a cage jockey I try to be on the lookout for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. I remember in my hometown most prosperous households ran a GM Suburban. I swear that those Burbs couldn’t run unless the housewives who piloted them balanced a cup of coffee, a cigarette, a cellphone, and had at least three kids on board. I remember pulling up to a 4-Way Stop and I actually burst out laughing because there were THREE Burbs at the signs, all being driven by women, who were equipped with the aforementioned accessories…

        Like 5
  11. Art

    It’s a really nice old motorcycle. I would love to have it, but the saddlebags are from a later model FL. I believe the type of bags that are on this bike are from 1964 on. This bike, I believe should have leather bags.

  12. deak stevens

    Smda i used to drive cross country, i seen more people get killed in mack trucks than on motorcycles.

    Like 2
    • SMDA

      Tell that to Geo, he thinks cyclists are sitting ducks just waiting for the undertaker. I think getting on a cycle would be the last thing on a persons mind if they were so frightened for their own safety.

      Like 2
  13. bhowe Member

    Lots of vitriol on here. Not my kind of bike, but if you like it, go for it. What I do find annoying is that not all, but too many of the guys in the “loud pipes” crowd for some reason feel compelled to constantly blip the throttle, revving and revving at each and every traffic light. Won’t these harleys idle or something? Will they stop running if you don’t constantly keep the throttle moving? If you like this bike, enjoy looking and reading about it, and consider buying it.

    If you don’t care for it, move on. To each his own.

    Like 2
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Yes, some guys do get carried away don’t they? I had shorties on my Shovelhead and they made a fair bit of noise but I refrained from twisting the throttle until I had to move. I never minded the loud pipes others had but I do admit to getting annoyed by those who went out of their way to let everyone know that they had a loud exhaust system…

      Like 3
    • mtshootist1

      this may come as a shock, but blipping the throttle on the older Harleys helps keep oil pressure up when sitting in traffic, also keeping the bike from dying of vapor lock when you do finally take off surrounded by cages. A panhead like this one, only has about 3 psi when warmed up, and oil starvation at low idle plays hell with the main bearings in the lower end.

      Like 3
      • local_sheriff

        What you’re saying here as actually very true. On a Panhead at operating temperature it’s not unusual to experience a flickering oil lamp at idle. That’s normal behaviour on even rebuilt engines and does not indicate a malfunctioning lube system or pressure switch. These engines should not be allowed to idle extensively

        Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        I never gave it much thought. My Shovelhead consistently got just under 30 psi (hot) at cruising speed and would idle at around 8 psi. I never checked my 45; the oil light went out as soon as the engine was started and stayed out. The Generator light would come on at an idle but went out as soon as you revved it up, which is what it’s supposed to do…

      • mtshootist1

        the low oil pressure on the old pans was why a lot of guys switched to a chimney oil pump off the shovelheads, Although last fall, I was riding my 87 Softtail back up the hill, and had the oil pressure light come on, which had never happened before, so I stopped and checked the oil tank , yep full of oil, and hot, still was on, so I went ahead and rode it a little ways, shut it down, then got to the slope where I could coast into the garage. Turned out that the plastic gear in the conenose had stripped some teeth off, didn’t hurt the engine, as far as we could determine, so new gear and screen, and back on the road, that was the first time on an EVO that I had ever had that happen, and I’ve owned four of them, and still own three. go figure…

    • Stevieg

      On modern Harley products, some people will install the loud pipes but then not retune their bikes for the new exhaust. The bikes will then run poorly & they will have to blip the throttle to keep them running. The good news about this is that they also eventually fry their engines, burning holes in pistons. I say that is a good thing because it gives people like me job security and also because these people often quit riding. Their bike deserve better owners!
      The others that do that are just schmucks. My bike that got totaled a year ago had really loud pipes. I never revved it up unnecessarily. I’d rather burn the gas while my knees are in the breeze.

  14. Hollywood Collier

    I just gotta say…..if we all liked the same thing?? She sure would be sore!!!

    Like 1
  15. chrlsful

    keep it on the machines’n not the people, eh?

    Like alot about them. Wouldn’t mind a late 60s XLCH basket case to rehab. Drive that when tired of the ’78 KZ750 (2 cyl) opposites – mine is named ‘the maintenance free one’. Just gotta figure which for a shaft drive…

    Like 1
    • mtshootist1

      Chris, I finished my wife’s 69 XLH a year or so ago, took me a long time to build out of boxes of parts, a major pain in the rear.And then there was the little stuff that was missing, Ebay became my best friend, and part owner of my bank account. Oh, and did I mention that the early sportys shift on the opposite side as your Kaw, takes some getting used to. I think I spent enough money that I could have bought three 883 Sportsters that were running.

  16. Bhowe Member

    Well I have to say I learned something here. I’m mostly referring to the guys that have newer machines and sit and rev them way more than necessary to keep oil pressure up.

    That being said, I prefer to ride bikes that don’t starve for oil or vapor lock at idle. Sounds like a major design flaw. If your bike is has these flaws then why not keep quieter pipes on them?

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