“Harley-Davidson Softail Springer Classic”
Making It Your Own
One of the best parts of motorcycling for some riders is to customize their rides, so that it becomes an extension of their personality, reflecting individual tastes. So rather than simply review a bike here in this week’s column, we’ve opted to take a look at the “Make it Your Own” process through a recounting of personal experience in customizing a Harley-Davidson Softail Springer Classic.
Reviewing bikes of all types, I had reviewed Harley-Davidson’s FLSTSC Softail Springer Classic, titling the column “The Future Meets the Past” and I concluded it by stating “Add fishtail exhaust tips, swap out the seat for a Deluxe saddle and you’re on your way back top the future. Now, if there were a way to add retooled heads and rocker covers to resemble the ’48 Panhead that served as the bike’s initial inspiration, along with a floating single seat, it would suit me even more.”
The bike that was tested, was a 2005 fuel injected model finished in Lava Red Sunglo metallic over Vivid Black. The “horseshoe” oil tank was done in black, sporting the Motor Company’s vintage patent label for nostalgic emphasis. The bike’s base sticker was $18,070, while the “out-the-door” total came to $21,356.58 (only $367.45 more than the Softail Deluxe – another retro model that was tested earlier).
Perhaps the biggest problem with reviewing Harley-Davidson motorcycles and living only four blocks from the dealership at the time, was that there was a tendency to hang out there more frequently than most, which exposes one to some pretty cool iron on a regular basis. Both the Softail Deluxe (affectionately dubbed the “Fat Girl”) and the Harley-Davidson Softail Springer Classic made their public debut at the famed Sturgis Rally in 2004. At the time, the strongest gravitational pull was toward the Softail Springer Classic, due to its greater overall nostalgic flavor and appeal.
The urge had been present for quite some time to acquire a genuine classic Harley, but given the sage advice regarding the reality of reduced dependability and reliability, higher upkeep costs and extra maintenance, sacrificed comfort level (let’s face it, pushing a button is much easier and far less strenuous than kick-starting an ancient relic) and puddles of oil on the garage floor, the decision was made to go in another direction- that of making a new bike look like an older one, while enjoying the benefits of modern mechanical technology and reliability.
As it turned out, there just happened to be a carbureted, Softail Springer Classic finished in all black that had been sitting on the showroom floor of the dealership for nearly six months, and nobody but yours truly had shown any interest. It seemed that most potential buyers tended to shy away from springer front ends in general, while also preferring fuel-injected motors over those that were carbureted. Increased exposure during repeated visits, served to intensify my interest (make that lust) in the bike – it need a good home. Upon receiving a letter from the Motor Company as a HOG member offering to add a bonus of $1,000 in parts and accessories for the purchase of any new Softail model before the end of the month, there was no turning back. The purchase was to be made – but how to justify the purchase of yet another Harley, since a Hsrley-Davidson Police Road King had been purchased and modified the year prior. No problemo – the “SALE” psychology always used by the significant other was employed – you know, the old “Honey, guess how much money I just saved” routine.
First things first though, a deal was negotiated for the neglected model on display for too long, then a seat swap with a Deluxe model was made (a $350 value) and parts were ordered to enhance the bike’s potential “Old School” flavor and look. The latter was accomplished by sitting down and consulting with the dealership’s in-house customizing guru, picking his brain and taking advantage of his expertise during more than one lengthy session, selecting parts that would blend harmoniously to give the new/old ride that just right vintage, collectible look.
Teardrop shaped mirrors were chosen to match the front axle covers that had been picked out, along with nostalgic handlebar grips and floor boards for both rider and passenger. A classic derby cover and round air cleaner was added, as well as a unique solid fuel tank cap for the left side to match the right, with edge LED fuel level indicators. Next was a vintage horn and extended directional light bezels.
At the time of the bike’s first service, it was decided to install aftermarket reproduction Knucklehead rocker covers to replace the stock units. To further address the Old School look of the bike, Flash Gordon (or classic Fish Tail) slip-on exhaust pipes and a crab modification. The shop mechanic had already installed a couple of Panhead rocker cover conversions, so he was chosen to perform the overall surgery. It turned out that the Knucklehead kit was far from a bolt-on project, and required both internal and external grinding along with shimming the rear of the fuel tank to insure a proper fit and clearance. The exhaust necessitated shortening and the addition of spacers for the desired effect, and since there is no stock mount available for the vintage horn, the shop service manager fabricated a custom unit. The dealership actually surrendered the rocker covers which he had originally ordered for one of the bikes in his collection and also fond reproduction FL stainless front and rear fender trim pieces which will be a future project to obtain the correct contour to match the new bike’s fenders.
The mechanicals for the bike remain essentially the same except for the carb mods – it is powered by a 1450cc (88 chi)) air-cooled Twin Cam 88B pushrod-operated OHV, V-Twin connected to a five-speed sequential manual gearbox. The rear wheel receives power via a final belt drive. There’s a much better throttle response with the carb tuning, and the exhaust note is definitely much sweeter. At 3,000 rpm, the motor delivers a satisfying 86 pound feet of torque. Further tweaking will of course yield even more.
The iconic Tombstone taillight was already in place on the rear fender, making a vital contribution to the bike’s heritage look. Wheels are standard 16-inch chrome lace types, shod with fat, blackwall Harley-Davidson Series tires by Dunlop.
Bottom-line, she isn’t really a vintage 88-inch Knucklehead, though there are those who believe that it is, while still others have mistaken it for a restored vintage collectible. The key here is, that I “Made it my Own” with the help of friends and experts – okay, and a few extra dollars too, but you can’t take it with you. After all, Harleys (all bikes actually) are about personalization, so get to it.
On The Fast Lane Car’s rating scale of:
• Buy It.
• Rent It
• Lease It.
• Forget It.
Buy any bike that appeals to you, then customize it to suit your taste and to display your creativity. The basic premise is to “Make it Your Own”.
Base Price $18,500 new. Price when finished: $22,500 * est – (the more you do yourself, the less you’re likely to spend.
The bike’s mechanicals are essentially stock. It is powered by a 1450cc (88 ci)) air-cooled Twin Cam 88B pushrod-operated OHV, V-Twin connected to a five-speed sequential manual gearbox. The rear wheel receives power via a final belt drive.
Review by Arv Voss, Auto Impressions