This Experimental '70s Bike Marked Harley-Davidson's Debut in Factory Customs

Even diehard Harley-Davidson devotees would likely admit that the 1970s were a tumultuous time for the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer. However, the decade did produce some of the company's most legendary bikes, including the Sportster and the XLCR. During the '70s, Harley-Davidson's leadership was more open to experimentation, aiming to attract buyers who preferred smaller bikes without sacrificing power.

This experimental approach led to the creation of Harley-Davidson's first factory custom build, the 1971 FX 1200 Super Glide. Designed to combine the power of HD's celebrated big-twin builds with the handling and maneuverability of smaller bikes like the Sportster, the '71 FX 1200 Super Glide initially seemed up to the task. It featured a slim frame and a potent four-stroke V-twin engine that delivered 65 horsepower.

Despite the design team's success in producing a sleek and powerful machine, the FX 1200 Super Glide, affectionately dubbed the "Night Train" and adorned in a red, white, and blue "Sparkling America" livery, didn't instantly connect with fans. Ultimately, the FX 1200 Super Glide proved to be a short-lived factory custom concept.

Nevertheless, the '71 FX 1200 Super Glide was an influential build for Harley-Davidson. The concept of marrying big-twin power with cruiser-class size and maneuverability was solid, but the bike's overall look, particularly the infamous "boat-tail" rear end from the era's Sportster builds, was a point of contention.

Harley's style team soon redesigned the Super Glide's divisive back end. Despite the FX 1200 Super Glide not flying off the showroom floor, it remains significant as it opened Harley-Davidson to the world of factory custom offerings. The FX line of bikes birthed from the factory custom 1200 Super Glide eventually led to the development of Harley-Davidson favorites like the Low Rider, Wide Glide, the Deuce, and the Softail series.

Since the "Night Train" took to the streets, Harley-Davidson has celebrated the legacy of the FX 1200 Super Glide. In 2002, the company even produced a Hallmark Keepsake ornament commemorating its release. The bikes are well-regarded in the vintage motorcycle market, with Hagerty estimating that a '71 FX 1200 Super Glide in good condition could fetch as much as $16,800 on resale.