Original Paint Shovelhead: 1975 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide

Mention the letters AMF to the modern Harley fan and you will likely get a quizzical look.  Pre-Evolution engine Harleys are basically dinosaurs to them.  Mention those same letters to a greybeard Harley rider and the look will likely come with both a frown and, later, a grin.  The reason is that the AMF era was one of frustration for many of Harley-Davidson’s faithful customers, but those three letters are a reminder of a totally different time and place.  After all these years, bikes like this 1975 FLH Electra Glide for sale here on eBay can still make an old greybeard’s heart skip a beat.  With just 18,489 miles on the odometer and original paint, this motorcycle is a rolling reminder of a starkly different time in Harley’s history. Bidding is currently at $8,600 and the reserve has not yet been reached.

Harley-Davidson has been on the ropes financially numerous times during its 119-year existence.  It was during one of those dark periods, due in no small part to the British and Japanese incursions into the American market, that the company was purchased by American Machine and Foundry.  While the venerable company could certainly have used some help in the business department, AMF roared into its first year of ownership by slashing the workforce at Harley-Davidson.  The predictable nosedive in quality and resultant dealer and customer issues put the AMF era under a cloud that nearly finished them off.  AMF threw in the towel by 1981, selling Harley-Davidson to a group of 13 executives and investors and the renaissance of the American motorcycle soon followed.

While many of the Harleys of this era suffered from quality control that could best be described as horrendous, the faithful soldiered on.  Harley executive Vaughn Beals later made the claim that the first 100 XLCR Cafe Racers off the line in 1976 needed $100,000 worth of work before they could be shipped to dealers.  While the situation surely wasn’t that bad for every bike, working on your own bike became almost mandatory.  Aftermarket companies helped by providing parts that were superior in quality to what the mother ship was punching out.  Riding a Harley made during this era was almost a badge of honor.  You really had to be a rough individualist to tolerate the problems and to get to a point that you had a motorcycle you could rely on.  Having to do things the hard way, for all its drawbacks, helped to build the uniquely rugged mystique of the American biker.

In the sea of modern Harley-Davidsons, you see at a typical biker event like a poker run, thundering up on a Shovelhead is a fantastic way to stand out.  If you want to do things differently, this 1975 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra Glide may be the bike for you.  Powered by a 1,200 cc Shovelhead V-twin engine and backed by a four-speed transmission.  The seller claims that it is his personal bike and that it screams down the road at 70 miles per hour.  “It can be driven anywhere” is a bold statement for a Harley of that era, but it appears that the seller has this bike sorted out.

As seen in the picture above, the bike has only 18,489 miles on it.  The big selling point is the original paint.  There are the usual chips and scratches from honest use, but the paint still takes a shine, and the logo and graphics are in very good shape.  We are also told that the white seat, which is the original and in excellent condition, will go with the bike.  The black seat was installed for riding and to preserve the white one.  The only other question would be why the fairing and hard saddlebags are painted white instead of the blue of the tank and fender.

All in all, this is a really nice bike for its age.  The originality is a great glimpse of just what the Harley experience was at that time, and cruising around on it would certainly take you back to 1975.  The sights over the windshield, the smells and sounds of the Shovelhead engine, and of course the vibrations all add up to an experience that provides just enough contrast to a modern Harley to make this time machine well worth the purchase price.  You have to know where you came from to understand why legacy is so important to the Harley-Davidson experience.

Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    The white saddle bags were just as the white seat, contrast. Ride one of these, my father did some horse trading and had a red one. It’s a different experience than todays road bikes. Mentioned before I have an 81 shovel in a custom frame from a FLT. Biggest difference is little more displacement and it’s a 5 speed mounted on rubber mounts. Makes the ride a lot smoother. Shovel Heads are tough old motors, quite a few years ago tells me you can drive them into a tree and the keep going, yeah sounded a little strange to me too!

    Like 2
  2. Howard A Member

    Well, let’s not paint such a dismal picture. In the 70’s, growing up in Milwaukee, I knew many folks that worked at Harley, and they were just as passionate about their work as ever. Trouble was, just about every bike maker hopped on the “4 cylinder” bandwagon, and suddenly, the poor Electra-Glide was this old fashioned, clunker that nobody wanted. Jay Leno made the joke, “All new hand grip for 1975″, and that was about it. We must remember, while it may have been a down era for HD, without AMF, we might have lost HD altogether. This is probably one of the best”old school” HDs you can get, and are highly sought after today. Funny, when I had my ’75 GoldWing, basically eliminating the Electra-Glide, I couldn’t have carded less about this bike. Today, you couldn’t GIVE me a GW, and I’d love to have this.
    Tell you what, Harley better come up with something soon, can’t rely on the past forever, like AMF did. Most people that want a HD, already have one, however, it seems many folks are getting away from these Asian marvels, for a simple HD again.
    I’ve got to say this, showing the mentality of some HD riders. A trailer, presumably carrying some Harleys,( not riding them) had a saying on the back door, it said, “Freedom ain’t quiet”,, I thought that was the dumbest saying,,

    Like 12
    • Terrry

      There are a lot of Harley “riders” who trailer their bikes to Sturgis. And that includes the newer ones.The bike featured here is for real riders, not posers.

      Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        We called them “Pedestrians” who owned “Rubberglides.”

        Like 1
      • moosie moosie

        @ GEOMECHS,,,,,,,,,,, Terry,,,,,,,,,, We often referred to them as “sidewalk commandos”, and then in recent years , the “ROLLEX GANG”, all brand new bikes, full leathers, full coverage helmets, gauntlets, the whole bit. We’d see them at fuel stops, middle of the summer, bright sunshine, 95 degrees out and hot but they never unzipped or took off gloves, helmets, only thing they had in their hands were their cell phones. BUT,,,, at least the ROLLEX GUYS were out there riding & not posing as buster badass’ on a street corner.

        Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Yes, you cannot forget those “Darth Vader” helmets. When I rode through places where skid lids were mandatory I always had my beanie. I almost put a little propeller on top…

        Like 1
  3. MattR Member

    Any of these still around probably have been gone through, and one this original was cared for. I had a Kentucky blue tag, 1978 FLH rat-bike. James gaskets and blue loctite went along ways.

    Like 5
  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    Wow! This bike could come to my place! I miss my Shovelhead. I ran across a pristine ‘78 FLH at a bike meet a few years back. Left a card under the seat strap but never got a call. Never sell your Harley; It will haunt you for the rest of your life.

    I’ve heard a lot of derogatory comments about HD over the years but I rode them and the guys I hung out with rode them. Once you got the few little bugs out of the way they were every bit as reliable as those perpetually boring rice burners. Unless you took out the bottom end, or gutted a transmission you were back in the saddle. I remember a guy from Tacoma, riding his next to new GW through Kalispell, blew a timing belt. That wiped out his engine, and his vacation. I rode with a bunch of guys from Salinas as we headed out of Sturgis. Halfway through WY a piece broke off the rear exhaust valve on a guy’s bike. Made a helluva racket. He lost a day and a half but he fixed it and was on his way. My friend’s Sportster wasn’t so lucky; his bottom end went out and his bike came home in the back of the pickup so there can be extreme cases on both sides.

    For those who think HD is going out of style look at what the Japanese are copying. One guy actually accused one of the builders and got a classic response: “We’re not copying Harley Davidson; we’re copying American styling. Duh! How can you get more American than Harley Davidson?

    Like 9
  5. Rob

    A colleague of mine had/has a ’74 (I don’t recall the exact model). He had all the seals on the engine replaced and upon its return, it jettisoned several quarts of oil on his garage floor when he fired it up the first time. Despite an unbroken record as a totally unreliable bike, he kept it for sentimental value, and bought a newer (early 2000s) H-D that could actually be ridden without creating an environmental catastrophe every time he turned the key. Mention the letters A, M and F around him these days and he growls like a junkyard dog.

    Like 2
    • George

      The oil puking is a common occurrence with shovels when the bike sits. Oil makes its way past the oil pump check valve and fills the crankcase. It’s not that big a deal.

      Like 6
      • Derek

        Most old bikes’re fine if they’re used regularly.

        When I was working on Harleys, I had a first service – free at 500 miles – to do on a springer softail. It had done 350-odd miles in 3 years – and also needed an MOT test because of its age. Around the same time, I encountered a Ducati owner who’d bought his bike one week and booked it in for its first service the week after, having taken a holiday and been out for a long-distance play.

        Like 1
  6. Mike

    Had a b&w ’70 Electra Glide 30 years ago. A neighbor up the street from my parent’s house found out that I rode and really put the pressure on me to buy it. He was retiring and was going to RV the country and needed to sell everything. So, I went from a little 125 Honda to this monster 1200cc bike. Scared the crap out of me especially with the drum brakes. Had to buy a beat up 600cc bike to take the test to get a license endorsement for big bikes. No way was I going to pass with the Harley. Traded it in around 1996 for a new Triumph and of course, I wish I didn’t sell it. Rode like a tractor and got so many thumbs up.

    Like 6
  7. George Mattar

    Junk new. Junk today. All these dinosaur bikes do well is make noise.

    Like 4
    • Phil B

      Like you.

      Like 11
    • Howard A Member

      At 1st, your comment made me see red, but, opinions are like rear ends, everybody has one, especially me. Then, my late mom kicked in, and I really feel sorry for people like you. I don’t mean to single you out, you DO seem to be even crabbier than me, I never hear a good word from you. I know it’s kind of hard to tell these days, but this is still America, and very few things describe America better than Harley Davidson. Chevy, baseball and Green Bay Packers right up there too. Whether you ride a bike or not, it’s well known, NOTHING says USA like a Harley. Perhaps I’m a bit partial coming from my hometown,, and I love ALL motorcycles, wherever they come from, but to call an HD junk, it just isn’t so. Aim your sights at Ford, but not HD, please.

      Like 4
      • Jay E. Member

        Howard, I would disagree just a bit. No sound says America like the Whop-Whop of a Huey, the Pop-Pop of a John Deere and the Potato- Potato of a Harley. All are distinctive American two beat sounds that are as distinctive as they are similar! I’ve had them all and my heart belongs to the Huey though.

        Like 3
      • moosie moosie

        Jay E. Thank you for the smile you put on my face when you mentioned the sound of a “Huey”, Way back when I had this really nice Corvette. So to keep it safely in the garage during winter time in N.Y. a very good friend gave me an old ’70 Plymouth Satellite wagon . It was clapped out with rust but the floors were solid and the heater worked excellent. Its issue was its burnt exhaust valve and a rotted head pipe on the 318, other than that it ran perfectly, coasting at a low speed it sounded exactly like a Huey, all my cohorts referred to it as Moose’s Helicopter.

        Like 2
    • moosie moosie

      You sir need help !

      Like 1
  8. Jay E. Member

    Everything in the rear view mirror was just a blur. You needed to ride an old Harley to understand that statement.

    Like 13
  9. Nationalminer84

    So many misconceptions about AMF Harley Davidson. They saved them. Period. The Evolution? They designed and engineered it. They built them the modern York Plant. They get trashed for the Italian Two Strokes- those were in place before they bought the company. They were trying to be a full line manufacturer. The old gasket technology they used caused many of the issues people associate with Harleys. AMF treated the workers like shit and pushed production leading to strikes, disgruntled workers, and simple mistakes due to the pace of the work. Add in the Japanese coming with superior technology and parts quality at a lower price it was a dark time. The company after the buyout gets all kinds of credit for being “independent” but they were given the evo. They were given the new plant. And most importantly given a tariff by the Reagan Administration on imported bikes. Hardly “soaring alone” I’m sure this bike is worth every penny. The aftermarket has made high quality replacement parts for years for these. If it’s in the states condition it must have these installed. Beautiful Bike!

    Like 4
  10. Derek

    Never had one, but have had a shot of a similarly-aged Sportster – it was like riding two pogo sticks held together with bungees! Not for me…

    Like 1
    • Terrry

      I’ve been a Sportster owner for over 20 years, and you’re not wrong about the early ones-actually they’re a jack hammer held together with bungees they vibrated so bad..but yet, talk about fun to ride as long as you’re not doing a day-trip. My current 2002 1200 is quite comfortable, I could ride that one all day.

  11. Mike

    Say what you will about AMF Harleys, but the truth of the matter is that AMF not only conceptualized the shovel head motor but also laid the foundation for the Evo motor.
    I actually still own a 76 Bicentennial Electra Glide that reads 140K miles on the clock. Julie and I have been everywhere usually averaging 1000 miles + every weekend with my second wife, Janet.
    Basically still stock but with an engine rebuild in 2008 just before my insurance company told me to stop riding her.
    “You know what you have and how are you going to replace it if it gets wrecked or stolen? Just restore it and park it in your living room and insure it with a comprehensive policy for $350K.”
    All of which I did.
    Now this isn’t a bicentennial edition, but it’s a great bike.
    Mine’s never had the transmission out, I’ve only changed the clutch pack once and the original clutches are still good, I just put Barnett clutches in, and, in case you were wondering, I bought her in 1981. I’m the second owner and Julie was a Shriner Parade Bike before I purchased.

    Like 7
  12. moosie moosie

    Beautiful Electra-Glide, I hope it sells for as much as the seller wants, my experience with the AMF Harleys started with my ’72 XLCH, I loved it, it was fast, it was loud it was brand new & it was all mine, but it had a bad habit of breaking trap-doors, and kickers, my right inside thigh still aches when I think of how many times it ratcheted thru. But a dab of some red loc-tite solved all the lost parts, one time the mirror glass actually came undone and flew thru the air like a Frisbee. After that I had to ride last in line. I sold it to a very energetic guy when he saw the cigarette lighter in place of the hi beam light while it was in a friends shop to repair the kicker one more time, I bought a low mile ’75 900 Kaw, talk about fast, it gave me a new definition of the word. But it was a boring ride, nothing to loc-tite, no screws, nuts, or bolts to replace, just check the oil (never leaked any, never needed any), gas it up and ride, very smooth. But I missed the hypnotic idle of a Harley and when they came out with the FXS Low Rider in ’77 I decided I needed that bike only problem was the dealer was sold out of ’em, I had to wait until ’78 to get one. I rode it stock for a year & then committed the mortal sin of chroming out the thing, swing arm, rocker boxes, primary cover, cam/point cover, oil tank, front lower legs after I machined the amber reflector boss off , drilled a 3 rotors, & painted it Black it was mine and thats what I wanted to do. I rode it like that for many years until I was forced to move, got diagnosed with M.S. so ‘Ole Blackie sat. I asked my nephew if he could babysit it for me which he gladly accepted. He cleaned it up fixed a major oil leak and now rides it with a smile on his face, he cant believe the waves and smiles he gets from people when he rides , its 44 years old, paint & chrome is 43 years old, I wish I was able to ride it .

    Like 9
    • chrlsful

      I wish U were 2.
      Diesel pickup’s a nice 2nd?

  13. moosie moosie

    1 more picture of Blackie. And my second adventure with AMF,,,,,,,,, do you realize what that could mean instead of American Machine & Foundry ?

    Like 7
    • MattR Member

      Nice ride moosie.

      Like 1
      • moosie moosie

        Thank you MattR, lots and lots of memories on that bike, mostly ALL good. Its a good thing it cant talk.

        Like 1
  14. Big C

    I had an ’80 FLH. 100c.i S&S with a D carb. Open pipes. Went like a stink and set off car alarms. Stuff fell off, it puked oil and I loved it. But, not as much as I like my Twin Cam…

  15. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Jul 11, 2022 , 8:58PM
    Winning bid:
    US $11,000.00
    [ 29 bids ]

    • moosie moosie

      11K, That seems like not enough money, I guess the seller is happy or at least I hope he is.

      Like 2
      • Terrry

        The buyer got a good deal. I might have “waved the paddle” at 12.

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