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Harley Vin#s

also check out Harley Alphabet here

Ever wonder what a Harley Vin# means?  (The numbers stamped on the frame of every Harley bike.)  Have you dazzled fellow bikers with the fact that every Harley Vin# starts with '1HD'?  Do they all actually start with '1HD'?  Well sure they do, if they were made in the United States.   Were all Harley's manufactured in the United States?  In fact, the '1' identifies the country of manufacture.  I'm not sure what the 'HD' stands for but if you study the tables below you can find out. 

Frame ID Numbers - 1981 and Later

Example: 1HD1AAK11BYO13478

The frame number is broken
down like this:

1 HD 1 AA K 1 1 B Y 013278

1  = Made in U.S.A.
HD = Harley Davidson
1  = Weight Class
     1 = Heavyweight
     4 = Lightweight
     8 = Sidecar
AA = Model Designation
K  = Engine Displacement
     K = 1340 Shovelhead
     H = 1000 Ironhead XL
     L = 1340 Evolution
     M = 883 Evolution XL
     N = 1100 Evolution XL
     P = 1200 Evolution XL
1  = Introduction Date
     1 = Regular Introduction
     2 = Mid-Year (January)
     3 = California Special
     4 = Daytona (March)
1  = Check Digit
B  = Model Year
     B = 1981     C = 1982
     D = 1983     E = 1984
     F = 1985     G = 1986
     H = 1987     J = 1988
     K = 1989     L = 1990
     M = 1991     N = 1992
     P = 1993     R = 1994
     S = 1995     T = 1996
     U = 1997

Y  = Plant of Manufacture (York, PA)
T  = Plant of Manufacture (Tomahawk, WI)
J  = Plant of Manufacture (Milwaukee, WI)

013278 = Sequential Number

FL/FX Models
AA  FLH - 80
AB  FLHP - 80 Chain
AC  FLH - 80 Shrine Chain
AD  FLH - Classic
AG  FLH - Classic w/ sidecar
AH  FLHP - 80 Belt Deluxe
AJ  FLH - 80 Heritage
AK  FLHS - 80
AL  FLH - 80 Shrine Belt
BA  FXE - 80
BB  FXEF - 80
BC  FXS - 80
BD  FXB - 80
BE  FXWG - 80
BF  FXSB - 80

FLT/FXR Police Models
DA  FLHTP - Windshield 1984 and later
DF  FLHTP - Fairing
ED  FXRP - Windshield
EF  FXRP - Fairing

FLT/FXR Models
AE  1981 FLT
AF  1981 FLTC
DA  FLT 1982 and 1983 only
DE  FLHTC w/ Sidecar
DG  FLHTC Shrine
DH  FLTC w/Sidecar
DJ  FLHTC 1986 - present
DK  FLTC Shrine
DM  FLTCU - Ultra
DN  FLTCU - Ultra w/Sidecar
DP  FLHTCU - Ultra
DR  FLHTCU - Ultra w/Sidecar
DS  FLTCU - Ultra Shrine
DT  FLHTCU - Ultra Shrine
EG  FXRS-SP  Sport Edition
FB  FLHR-I Injected
FC  FLHTCU-I Injected
FE  FLTCU-I Injected
FF  FLHTC-I Injected

Dyna Glides
GA  FXDB-D Daytona
GB  FXDB-S Sturgis

XL Models
    XLH 1000cc 1981 - 1985
    XLH 883 1986 - 1987
    XLH 883 Deluxe
    XLH 1100
    XLH 883 1988 - present
    XLH 1200
CB  XLS 1981 - 1985
CC  XLX 1981 - 1985
CD  XR-1000, 1983 - 1985
CE  XLH 883 Hugger 1987 - present
CF  XLH 883 Deluxe 1988 - present
CG  XLH 1200 Custom
CH  XLH 1200 Sport

SA  CLE Purchased w/FLH
SD  CLE Purchased w/FLH
SE  CLE Separate
SF  TLE Purchased w/FLTC/FLHTC
SG  TLE Separate
SH  CLE Purchased w/FLHX
KX  TLE Ultra

Frame ID Numbers - 1970-1980               

Motorcycle Serial Numbers

Vehicle Identification Number (V.I.N.) is located on the engine crankcase and is the same as the number located on frame steering head.

Example: 1A 13478 H7

1A = Model Designation 1A = FL-1200 6E = FXEF-80 2A = FLH-1200 7E = FLHS-1200 3A = XLH-1000 9E = SS-250 4A = XLCH-1000 2F = FXS-1200 5A = GE-750 3F = SXT-125 6A = SS-350 Sprint 4F = SS-175 7A = SX-125 6F = SS-125 8A = M65-S 7F = XLCR-1000 7B = ERS 2G = XLT-1000 8B = MSR-100 3G = FLH-80 2C = FX-1200 5G = FLT-80 3C = SX-350 Sprint 6G = FXE-80 5C = MC-65 7G = FXS-80 6C = SR-100 9G = FXWG-80 1D = LE Sidecar 1H = FXB-80 2D = X-90 2H = CLE Sidecar 3D = Z-90 3H = FLH-80 Classic 5D = SX-175 5H = FLHS-80 6D = SX-250 6H = FL-80 7D = MX-250 7H = FLH-1200 Police 9D = FXE-1200 8H = FLH-1200 Shrine 4E = XLS-1000 9H = FLH-80 Police 5E = FXEF-1200 1K = FLH-80 Shrine 13478 = Sequential Number H = Decade Code H = 1970 thru 1979 J = 1980 only 7 = Model Season 0 = 1970 1 = 1971 2 = 1972 3 = 1973 4 = 1974 5 = 1975 6 = 1976 7 = 1977 8 = 1978 9 = 1979

Crankcase Identification Numbers

Numbers located on both left and right crankcase halves.

Big Twin: Left Case - Outside, Lower Front
          Right Case - Inside, Gear case Compartment

XL Models: Left Case - Inside, Primary Compartment
           Right Case - Outside, Near Oil Pump

Stamped at Capitol Drive Facility
Used to identify engine and track production changes

Example: 1588 321 007

15 = Engine Designation
     1 = 1200cc Shovelhead
     7 = 1000cc Iron XL
     14 = 1340cc Shovelhead
     15 = 1340cc Evolution
     16 = XR-1000
     17 = 883cc Evolution XL
     18 = 1100cc Evolution XL
     19 = 1200cc Evolution XL
     20 = 1340cc Evolution, California (1988 - *)
     21 = 883cc Evolution XL, California (1988 - *)
     22 = 1200cc Evolution XL, California (1988 - *)

88 = Model Year

321 = Day of Production
      001 = Jan. 1st        182 = Jul. 1st
      032 = Feb. 1st        213 = Aug. 1st
      060 = Mar. 1st        244 = Sep. 1st
      091 = Apr. 1st        274 = Oct. 1st
      121 = May  1st        305 = Nov. 1st
      152 = Jun. 1st        335 = Dec. 1st

007 = Number That Day

This should only be used as a guide only. Even Harley-Davidson admit there are some discrepancies in their vin numbers.

and more explanation


Do the numbers match?


When you are buying a bike from someone, always, and I mean ALWAYS check the numbers on the bike against the title. They must match EXACTLY (duh!). You would be amazed at the number of bikes I have seen with a typographical error on the vin#. If you are registering in the same state as the title, it may not be too much trouble to fix, but, on an out of state title you will most certainly be in for a major battle.


VIN Number Location and General Information


Mid 1930's - 1961
engine number is the VIN and is located on left case. no frame number
First two numbers are the year
Letters (up to four) are the model
last numbers are the production number
1962 - 1969
engine number is the VIN and is located on left case. no frame number
First two numbers are the year
Letters (up to four) are the model
last numbers are the production number
If production number has four digits, the first number will be even if the year is even, odd if the year is odd
If production number has five digits, the first two numbers will be even if the year is even, odd if the year is odd
1970 - 1980:
Numbers on both frame and engine. From the factory, the numbers on the frame and engine matched exactly*. (There is an exception to this. See "The 1979 Exception" below). The legal vin number is on the frame. This is a little confusing and is where many people get into trouble. Contrary to what many people think, on any Harley Davidson® made from 1970 up, the title does not go with the engine. You could feasibly have mismatched numbers on the engine, (you can swap engines in your bike just like your car), and as long as the engine numbers have not been altered (read note below) or reported stolen it would be perfectly legal (although it may devalue the bike), But, the number on the title absolutely must match the frame. Example: you have a 1975 Shovelhead engine w/matching title in a custom frame with no numbers. If an educated cop checks the numbers, you are walking home. It will be confiscated on the spot. I know, I know, your ole' buddy Billy Bob has been runnin' a bike like that for years and he ain't never had no problems.......... Well guess what? I've known drug dealers, bike thieves, and prostitutes who have never been busted........sure doesn't mean what they were doin' was legal............Oh yeah, another thing relating to this, I have heard of some states ( Fl., Ca., Mi., etc. ) referred to as "frame states". As if to mean there are "engine states". or maybe "anything goes states" (admittedly, Alabama does come to mind).... No such thing. If you live in the U.S., your 1970 or later title better match your frame. But hey, You don't have to believe me..... When you're standing in the middle of the street, watching your bike swing from side to side on the back of a wrecker on it's way to the Police impound yard, just remember....... I TOLD YOU SO!
First two digits are model code
Third through seventh numbers are the production numbers (always five numbers over 10000)
last two digits are the year code
*The 1979 Exception
Oddly enough, on some 1979 bikes the engine number did not match the frame number. For only about a month, starting on production date 1/9/79 frame VIN 43000H9 and ending with production date 2/7/79 frame VIN 48199H9, the engine was numbered with a "crankcase number" instead of the VIN. This number did not match the VIN in any way. The example "crankcase number" given to me was ten digits long, and was all numbers with no letters. It did not look like any H.D. number I had ever seen. After "input was received" that the new numbering system would raise suspicion from dealers, insurance agencies, owners, cops, etc., Harley went back to the old system. Obviously, the title numbers must still match the frame.
Many thanks to Bagman for telling me about this, and sending me copies of the dealer service bulletin to verify it.
1981 and later:
17 digit vin# number on frame. abbreviated vin# on engine. Title must match the Frame number. Example: title and frame number is 1HD1BDK11BY123456. Engine # would be BDKB123456. All the things I said about 1970 - 1980 frame and engine legality apply here also.
Note On Altered Vin Numbers


It is now, and always has been, illegal to alter vehicle identification numbers in any way. An exception to this is that in the past it was fairly common for franchised dealers to renumber replacement engines. Every legitimate renumber job I have ever seen had the legible original numbers struck through with a line, and the new number stamped above or below. I have never seen, nor heard of, a dealer renumbered frame, though that doesn't necessarily mean there aren't any. (I can't think of a legitimate reason to do a frame. A 1970-up factory replacement is numbered, and a 1970-up used frame should have a title with it) I've always been very leery of bikes with a supposed dealer renumber job, and even though it may be perfectly legal, it just plain looks hokey as hell and it definitely makes the bike much harder to resale. It probably goes without saying, this really hurts the value of any bike that this has been done to.


Model year Designation All Models

1969 And Earlier

First two digits as read are the year built

1970 - 1980

Last two digits as described below are the year code
example: 9D12345H8 was made in 1978
H0 = 1970 H4 = 1974 H8 = 1978
H1 = 1971 H5 = 1975 H9 = 1979
H2 = 1972 H6 = 1976 J0 = 1980
H3 = 1973 H7 = 1977  

1981 And Later


10th digit as described below is the year code


example:1HD1BDK10DY123456 is a 1983
B = 1981 J = 1988 S = 1995
C = 1982 K = 1989 T = 1996
D = 1983 L = 1990 V = 1997
E = 1984 M = 1991 W = 1998
F = 1985 N = 1992 X = 1999
G = 1986 P = 1993 Y = 2000
H = 1987 R = 1994  

Model Designation for Sportster®

1970 - 1980 Sportster®
First two digits are the model code
example: 4A12345H1 is a XLCH
3A = XL or XLH 4A = XLCH 4E =- XLS
2G = XLT 4D = XLA 7F = XLCR

1981 - 1985 Sportster®
5th and 6th digits are the model code
example: 1HD1CDHY15B123456 is a XR1000
CA = XLH CB = XLS CC = XLX CD = XR1000

1986 - 1987 Sportster®
5th, 6th and 7th digits are the model code
example:1HD1CAN15GY123456 is a XLH1100
CAM = XLH883 or XLH883 Deluxe CAN = XLH1100 CEM = XLH883 Hugger

1988 - 1996 Sportster®
5th, 6th, and 7th digit is the model code
example: 1HD1CAP15LY123456 is a XLH1200
CAM = XLH883 CFM = XLH883 Deluxe
CAP = XLH1200 CGP = 1200 Custom
CEM = XLH883 Hugger CHP = 1200 Sport

Four Speed Big Twin Model Designation

1970 - 1980 4 speed big twin
First two digits are the model code
example: 5E12345H9 is a FXEF 1200
1A = FL or FLP 1200 2F = FXS 1200 5H = FLHS - 80 7H = FLH 1200 Police
1H = FXB - 80 2H = CLE - 80 6E = FXEF - 80 8H = FLH 1200 Shrine
1K = FLH - 80 shrine 3G = FLH - 80 6G = FXE - 80 9D = FXE 1200
2A = FLH 1200 3H = FLH - 80 Classic 6H = FL - 80 9G = FXWG - 80
2C = FX 1200 5E = FXEF 1200 7G = FXS - 80 9H = FLH - 80 Police

1981 - 1985 Four Speed BigTwin
5th and 6th digits are the model code
example: 1HD1BFK11BY123456 is a FXSB - 80
AA = FLH - 80 AL = FLH - 80 BE = FXWG - 80
AB = 80 police chain BA = FXE - 80 BF = FXSB - 80
AC = FLH - 80 Shrine chain BB = FXEF - 80 BH = FXST
AH = FLHP - 80 Police Belt BC = FXS - 80 BG = FXDG - 80
AK = FLHS - 80 BD = FXB - 80 BK = FXSTC

Five Speed Big Twin Model Designation

1980 Five Speed Big Twin
First two digits are the model code
example: 5G12345J0 is a FLT
5G = FLT

1981 5 Speed Big Twin
5th and 6th digits are the model code
example: 1HD1AEK11CY123456 is a FLT

1982 - 2000 Five Speed Big Twin
5th and 6th digits are the model code
example: 1HD1BHK11GY123456 is a FXST
BN = FLSTN EA = FXR FH = FLHP-I Police  
BS = FXSTD ED = FXRP Police windshield FM = FLHTP-I Police  
BT = FXSTB EF = FXRP Police Fairing FN = FLHPE (Japan)  
DA = FLT 82 - 83 EG = FXRS-SP FP = FLTR  
DA = FLHTP Police Windshield EH = FXRD FR = FLHRC-I  
DC = FLHT EK = FXRP Police C.H.P. FT = FLHPE-I (California)  
DE = FLHTC W/sidecar EM = FXLR Conv GB = FXDB-S  
DF = FLHTP Police Fairing FA = FLHS GC = FXDC  

and another explanation here....post 1970

Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. Every bike should have one, and they are the source of all knowledge — or leastways, after 1970 they are. Before then, frames weren’t stamped, and the title to the vehicle passed with the motor. These early bikes were identified by a numeric year code, an alphabetical model designation and the serial number but information on that is thin on the ground so with apologies to Flathead, Knucklehead and Panhead riders we’ll skip straight to the seventies. Those with post 1970 bikes, get a pen and paper, go to the shed and write down the VIN number from your frame — generally on the right hand frame downtube beneath the headstock

1970-1980: Format: xx12345yy where xx is the model designation and yy is the year of manufacture. You might expect the model designations to be rational, sequential or sensible, but you’d be disappointed.


Big Twins
1A FL-1200 or FLP-1200
1H FXB-80
1K FLH-80
2A FLH-1200
2C FX-1200
2F FXS-1200
3G FLH-80
3H FLH-80 Classic
5E FXEF-1200
5H FLHS-80
6E FXEF-80
6G FXE-80
6H FL-80
7G FXS-80
7H FLH-1200 (police edition)
8H FLH-1200 (Shrine edition)
9D FXE-1200
9H FLH-80 (police edition)
Year of manufacture
The last two letters in the VIN identified the year of manufacture, and are very simple to understand:
H0 1970
H1 1971
H2 1972
H3 1973
H4 1974
H5 1975
H6 1976
H7 1977
H8 1978
H9 1979
J0 1980



Standards may be soul less, but they sure can simplify things and from 1981 things get easier. The standard format now becomes:

1 HD 1 XX E S C Y F 123456

It starts off easy enough:

1 means American (up to 2000)
  1 US Domestic Market (2001-on)
5 International Market (2001-on)
HD Harley Davidson
1 Weight Class
  1 Heavyweight
4 Lightweight
8 Sidecar
XX Model Designation (see table)
E Engine Type / Displacement
  K 1340 Shovelhead
H 1000 Ironhead XL
L 1340 Evolution
M 883 Evolution XL
N 1100 Evolution XL
P 1200 Evolution XL
R 1340 Evo (EFI)
V Twin Cam 88 (Carburetted)
W Twin Cam 88 (EFI)
X Twin Cam 88B (Carburetted)
Y Twin Cam 88B (EFI)
Z Revolution 1130cc
S Introduction Date
  1 Regular Introduction
2 Mid-Year (January)
3 California Special
4 Daytona (March) to 2000
4 Anniversary Model (2003)
1 Check Digit
Y Model Year
  B 1981
C 1982
D 1983
E 1984
F 1985
G 1986
H 1987
J 1988
K 1989
L 1990
M 1991
N 1992
P 1993
R 1994
S 1995
T 1996
V 1997
W 1998
X 1999
Y 2000
1 2001
2 2002

3 2003
F Which factory built it
  J Milwaukee
K Kansas
T Tomahawk
Y York
123456 Serial Number

Easy isn’t it? Oh yes, model designations. Ah!

Model Designations
Post 1980 FX 4-Speed Models
  BA FXE Super Glide
BC FXS Low Rider
BD FXB Sturgis
BE FXWG Wide Glide
BF FXSB Belt Drive Low Rider
BG FXDG Disc Glide
FxST Softail Models
  BB FXSTDI Softail Deuce (EFI)
BH FXST Softail
BJ FLST/FLSTC Heritage Softail
BK FXSTC Softail Custom
BL FXSTS Springer Softail
BN FLSTN Nostalgia
BR FLSTS Heritage Springer Softail
BT FXSTB Night Train
BV FXSTI Softail (EFI)
BW FLSTCI Heritage Softail (EFI)
BY FLSTSI Heritage Springer (EFI)
BZ FXSTSI Springer Softail (EFI)
JA FXSTBI Night Train (EFI)
JB FXSTDI Softail Deuce (EFI)
PF FXSTDSE Screamin’ Eagle Deuce
FXR 5-Speed Models
  EA FXR Super Glide
EB FXRS Low Rider
EC FXRT Sport Glide
ED FXRP Pursuit Glide (Police)
EE FXRDG Disc Glide
EF FXRP Pursuit Glide (Police)
EG FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport
EH FXRD Sport Glide
EJ FXRC Low Glide
EK FXRP C.H.P (Police)
EL FXLR Low Rider Custom
EM FXRS-Conv Low Rider Convertible
FXD Dyna Models
  GA FXDB Sturgis (1991)
GB FXDB Daytona (1992)
GC FXDC Dyna Custom
GD FXDL Dyna Low Rider
GE FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
GG FXDS-CONV Dyna Convertible
GH FXD Dyna Super Glide
GJ FXDX Dyna Super Glide Sport
GL FXDXT Dyna Super Glide T-Sport
VR Based Models
Post 1980 FL 4-Speed Models
  AA FLH Electra Glide
AB FLHP Electra Glide Police (chain)
AC FLH Electra Glide Shrine (chain)
AD FLH Electra Glide Classic
AG FLH Electra Glide Classic (s/car)
AH FLHP Electra Glide Deluxe (belt)
AJ FLH Electra Glide Heritage
AK FLHS Electra Glide Sport
AL FLH Electra Glide Shrine (belt)
5-speed FL Models
  AE FLT Tour Glide
AF FLTC Tour Glide Classic
DA FLT 1982/83 only Tour Glide
DA FLHTP ’84-on Electra Glide Police
DB FLTC Road Glide Classic
DC FLHT Electra Glide Standard
DD FLHTC Electra Glide Classic
DE FLHTC (s/car)
DF FLHTP Electra Glide Police
DG FLHTC Electra Glide Classic Shrine
DH FLTC Tour Glide Classic (s/car)
DJ FLHTC ’86-on Electra Glide Classic
DK FLTC Road Glide Classic Shrine
DM FLTCU Road Glide Ultra
DN FLTCU Road Glide Ultra w/Sidecar
DP FLHTCU Electra Glide Ultra
DR FLHTCU Electra Glide Ultra (s/car)
DS FLTCU Road Glide Ultra Shrine
DT FLHTCU Electra Glide Ultra Shrine
FA FLHS Electra Glide Sport
FC FLHTCUI Electra Glide Ultra EFI
FD FLHR Road King
FE FLTCUI Road Glide Ultra EFI
FF FLHTCI Electra Glide Classic EFI
FL FLHTCUI Shrine Electra Ultra EFI
FP FLTR Road Glide
FR FLHRCI Road King Classic
Post 1980 Sportsters
  CA XLH standard model
CB XLS Roadster
CD XR-1000
CE XLH 883 Hugger
CF XLH 883 Deluxe
CG XLH 1200 Custom
CH XLH 1200 Sport
CJ XLH 883 Custom (XL53C)

There will be those of you who, seeing the listing above, would have been able to put a name to every single model listed. I had to show off and write the names next to them because there’s nobody else here to prove I didn’t cheat — but I didn’t need to cheat because for all their apparent complexity, they follow a very well established pattern — which is what the timeline was trying to demonstrate before it got complicated.

If the truth is told, I did need to look up the FXRD to be sure, because the one I thought it was turned out to be the FXRDG.

The alphabet soup of the first half of the 20th Century settled down with the arrival of the Sportster and with the notable exception of the two-strokes, Aermacchi’s and Servicars, it all comes down to knowing what an F-series and an X-series bike is. And you do know if you think about it.

Hurtling through the early years, and in no way attempting to be detailed because we’ve already done that elsewhere, A, B and C models are singles, Ds were the first V-twins and Es came to represent a 1000cc V-twin in the modern age. When the litre engine grew to 1200cc it became the F-series because it ran alongside the E for a number of years. So anything beginning with an F is a big twin and has been since the 1200 Panhead was launched. It can trace its ancestry back to the 1936 Knucklehead E-series, and there is more than a passing resemblance today.

A second series of model designations came to represent the ‘lightweights’, which is weird because the sequence started with the letter U, and the U-series was anything but lightweight: the first 1340cc model was a U and it was a big, solid sidevalve. What it was, was a new sequence for the flatheads when they came out — putting clear blue water between them and the F-head Js. The U begat the V, which begat the W, the ubiquitous 45, which became the baby of the v-twin range by the time it was replaced by the … X?

No, the K.

The flathead K soldiered on for half a dozen years from 1952, introduced the bottom-end for the Sportster that is immediately recognisable today and that became the X. Anything beginning with an X is a Sportster and has been since 1957.

In both those cases the L can be assumed, although it first came along to identify the high-compression option.

Bringing us up to date, anything post-war that begins with a V will be a waterhog, born from the VR race bike though it remains to be seen whether its racing "R" will stay in place. That R as a second letter is from a rich heritage stretching back beyond the KR that most of us have heard of, and most associate with the XR — a racing X-series … well, nearly: the details are different but there is an obvious common ancestry. As far as I know there hasn’t been a factory FR.

So you’ve got an FL and an XL. The former a big twin with separate gearbox and destined to cover miles with ease, and the latter a livelier, sportier, unit-construction lightweight to keep the post-WW2 British parallel twins at bay.

And then Willie G happens along and puts a pair of XL forks into an FL and creates an FX, because FXL would have been cumbersome.

Intentionally or otherwise, an FL is now deemed to be a big twin with traditional big twin forks — ie heavy heavyweight — and an FX is a big twin with XL forks and is a custom — ie light heavyweight. The XL continues as the lightweight.

Having adopted the L as an integral part of the series moniker, a new letter was needed to denote the sportier option, and H for high-compression (or highway, depending on who you believe) was added for the flagships, before eventually also becoming absorbed when low-compression options dropped out of popularity. Big twins went from Fs to FL/FXs to FLHs — the FX wasn’t given a choice of compressions so it never got the H — while Sportsters went from XLs to XLHs with a C dropped in to denote a more competition-oriented version: the XLCH.

After that you can add letters to identify models. An FXE was an FX with an electric leg, an FXS was the first Low Rider. An FXE/F was an electric start FX with Fat Bob tanks, called the Fat Bob, the all-black and belted Sturgis was an FXB — although whether B was for belt or black is a moot point — and the FXWG was the first Wide Glide.

Next up, throw a frame into the equation. This was first done with the touring frame, the rubberglide 5-speed FLT, which served to differentiate it from the 4-speed FLH.

It wasn’t immediately seen as such because FLT also identified the Tour Glide model with its frame-mounted fairing. It got a bit messy with the FLHT, which was an Electra in a Tour Glide chassis, but we’re used to that now. An Electra is still an FLH though.

Having already used R for racing models, we can only speculate that Harley were trying to move up a gear in creating the FXR — the 5-speed street/custom range, which are still held in the highest esteem for their European handling traits, but of course it is just as feasible that they readapted R to mean Road. The FXST was next, with ST denoting Softail and as if to prove an earlier point, when the Heritage Softail was introduced off the back of the Softail Custom, complete with heavyweight forks, it became the FLST. Latterly we have the FXD, with the D denoting the Dyna chassis.

There are a few exceptions to the rules. The Dyna chassis was introduced in 1991 but there was an FXDG in the early eighties, but rather than being an FXDG it was an FXDG: the Disc Glide. A Low Rider, originally an FXS, is now an FXDL rather than an FXDS but that’s probably because S denotes sport to most people today, while the original factory custom was probably using S to denote special. They are generally straightforward though, and having identified the model from the VIN, you can take an educated guess at the rest — and even make them up.

Personally I want an FLDR, which I reckon would be a Dyna Road King, and I’ve seen something approaching an FLSTD which looked absolutely stunning but you’ll have to guess at that until we can get pictures. In Sportster terms, an XRCR would keep me on the streets for hours at a time, picking on poor defenseless Sportsbikes.

I’ll leave you with a quick final table to give a rough idea — and it isn’t meant to be definitive — of the logic behind it:

A Army (WLA)
B Black, Belt (FXB/FXDB Sturgis) or Beige and Blue (FXDB Daytona)
C Canadian Army (WLC), Competition (XLCH) or Custom (FXDC)
Classic (FLSTC)
E Electric Start (FXE)
G Glide
H High Compression
I Injection
L High compression (FL)
N Notalgia (FLSTN)
P Police (FLHP/FXRP)
R Racing (KR/XR/VR), Road (FXR, FLHR)
S Special (FXS), Sport (FXRS), Springer (FXSTS/FLSTS), Street (XLS/VRSCA)
T Tour Glide (FLT), Touring Frame (FLHT), Touring (XLT)
X Sport (FXDX), Basic (XLX)


Too easy to understand, perhaps, because they changed it to an alphabetic character and buried it deep within the VIN from 1981 onwards.

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