Motorcycle: Overhead Valve Twins - FL DuoGlide, 1958 - 1964
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 15:06:49 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
FL DuoGlide, 1958 - 1964
By 1958, Harley-Davidson was already in grave difficulties as annual sales hovered around a paltry 12,000 under intense competition from European machines. To make matters worse, the start of the Japanese invasion was just one year away — though no-one knew it at the time - with the arrival of Honda into the American market.
One way in which the company responded was through increased diversification of its range — first the Model K, and then the Sportsters took different directions from the heavyweight twins. But by the late 1950s, the latter - the FL models - were woefully outdated and badly in need of a major overhaul. Instead, they got little more than a facelift.
After the HydraGlide, the DuoGlide was the logical next step. As well as real, oil-damped telescopic front suspension, the Duo floated on a swinging-arm rear end, hence the name. This was a major improvement on the face of it, even though the Model K had beaten it comfortably for the distinction of being the first Harley-Davidson twin with rear suspension. By the time it appeared in 1958, however, pretty much everything it offered had already been done - and done better - by every other major motorcycle manufacturer, with the exception of the Duo's hydraulic rear brake. Unfortunately this was little more than a gimmicky novelty, since both hubs contain tiny, ineffective single-leading shoe drums.
With major engine revisions having been implemented in 1953 and in 1956, the DuoGlide's engine might as well have been called the "Panhead Mark II". It also benefited from more generous finning than previous Pans for 1958, as well as an up-rated generator. With the 61-inch Pan long departed, all DuoGlides enjoyed 74-inch (1,207cc) power. The range offered a choice of hand or foot gear-change and Sport or Super Sport ("H") tune, making four models in all. In 1958, the hotter specification added $65 to the standard $1,255 purchase price.
Central to the machine's layout was a new "Step-down" frame with larger diameter backbone and attachment points for the twin rear shock absorbers.
These incorporated oil-damping (typical of the time, for rebound only) and their springs were enclosed in gleaming chrome-plated shrouds. The new frame necessitated many other modifications -to the oil tank, toolbox and fork yokes -although the first Duos looked rather like soft-tailed HydraGlides. If the Duo's looks weren't enough for aspiring owners, 1958 also introduced a huge expansion in the number of factory "option packs" including no fewer than nine for the new DuoGlide. These comprised accessories groups for "Chrome Finish", "Road Cruiser" and " King of the Highway", with a bewildering array of lights, luggage items and other paraphernalia. The "King of the Highway" package included front and rear nudge bars, twin rear lights and a dual exhaust system.
Unfortunately it didn't sell very well, being particularly unsuited to most export markets, although it accounted for around 40 per cent of Milwaukee's sales at home. The Duo didn't much like corners, and was woefully under-braked. Even the "H"- designated Super Sports models, with optional high-lift camshaft and higher compression pistons, weren't rapid. Vibration was intense at high engine speeds, leaving much of their potential power unused most of the time, except by the most determined riders - who would probably seek the high-rev thrills of a Triumph Thunderbird anyway. Then, as now, the DuoGlide was about a different sort of motorcycling, with its big, slow-revving engine and charismatic looks. It was indisputably a Harley, with all the attributes and vices of the breed. And it was also indisputably beautiful.
Engine: ohv V-twin
Capacity: 74cu in (1,207cc)
Weight: 575 lb (261kg)
Wheelbase: 60in (1,525mm)
Top speed: around 95mph (152kph)
This article comes from Free Vin Check, Get Vehicle History Report, Free Car History, Used Car History, Auto History, Free Vehicle History, VIN Number Check, Car History, Lemon, Check
The URL for this story is: