Saturday, March 20, 2010

Willie G.'s Factory Custom Attempt

I went to the South Texas Motorcycle Show this morning mostly to get out of the house. I am genuinely interested in all bikes but really partial to Brit Iron. I was under no illusions that this was going to be a pure Harley fest but I was disappointed to see that it was all new stuff. Nothing vintage. Well except for this bike that was for sale.

1971 H-D FX Superglide

Motorsports history is replete with well-intentioned designs gone awry and the 1971 FX Superglide undoubtedly falls into that category. The bike was concieved by Willie G. Davidson in an attempt to  capitalize on the customization craze. It's a cross between the chassis of the FLH Electraglide and the smaller forks of the XLH Sportster.The design was then topped off with the boattail of the sportster. The result was not particularly well-received. I am sure many felt like I did upon seeing it- a little nauseated. It really looks ungainly with this massive fiberglass blob at the rear with puny looking forks. The bike lacks balance and is devoid of the iconic lines associated with Harley-Davidson.

H-D's attempt at a factory custom highlights a common mistake made by many corporations and that is deviating away from what one does best. Certainly, evolution is important but that can be achieved within the successful historical context of the organization. A good example is Porsche or Ducati. You can't be everything to everyone. You have to stay true to yourself. Besides, leave the customizing to the customizers.


  1. In 1970, the only V-Twin Harleys you could buy (unless you were a racer) were the full dresser Electra Glide, and the Sportster. True, the 1971 Super Glide's fiberglass tail piece (although different from the Sportster's tail piece) was unloved by most. Still, the Super Glide filled Harley's huge gap between the dresser and the Sporty, and quickly lead to dozens of wildly successful variants (Low Rider,Sturgis, Fat Bob, Softails, Dynas, etc. etc.). Millions of units have been sold (at high margins) to people who do not have the time or talent to create their own Harley custom. So, one could argue that the Super Glide WAS a huge success (by 1972, anyway). Many believe the FX- series to be the models that saved the Motor Company from extinction. There are countless companies worldwide that would LOVE to make such a "mistake" by "deviating away from what they do best".