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So, after the sell of my Triumph I'm in the market for a Shovelhead. I'm trying to educate myself on the early Harleys as I've never owned one. I'm learning about the different model designations, etc. My main interest is in what year and designations should be avoided, what to look for when inspecting a prospective purchase (chronic failure points, etc). I've done a search and found several helpful nuggets, but would like to know more...
 

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There are only a coupls of years and thats in the 80-82 shovels, The motor shafts!

And that AMF stuff has been fixed by now on the 75-78 years.

Numbers matching is nice on post 70 and a good numbers block with matching belly numbers is good on 66-69 shovels.
 

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The first year of the shovelhead was 1966 with a 74 inch engine, shortly thereafter AMF leveraged the company in 1969 and took over in early 1970. In 1978 they increased the motors to 80 cubic inches, which were the dimensions of the engine in 1981 when AMF left the scene and Vaugn Beals and Willie G. took the helm. Shovels retained their 80 c.i. size until they ceased from production halfway through 1984. They seemed to have gotten their bad rep because they were the predominent "Big Twin" of the AMF years when H.D. suffered from labor issues, bad morale and outright sabotage. The design is rock solid and the engine is still favored by a lot of racers due to the cast iron jugs. I dare say that by now most of the employee sabotaged or "Monday and Friday" engines have either been straightened out or scrapped. I defer to Roach on the motor shaft issues of the 80-82 models, I have owned neither year. I have owned a 77, a 78 and I currently own a 1984 Shovel and in my experience (30 years of Shovelhead ownership) I'd offer the following advice.

1- Find one that is as close to "stock" as you can and build it up yourself (don't buy someone elses stroked out mis-matched headache) that will take time and PATIENCE (I looked for over five years until I found my 1984 but it was worth the wait).

2- Don't believe the anti-shovel hype. I've ridden from Florida to Maine multiple times and I'm heading from Connecticut to California (via Sturgis) on my Shovel this summer and won't think twice about it.

3- Shovels require maintenance, regular torque checks and oil changes. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. Seeing you are on this board you are probably the right type of guy for a Shovel.

Before I sign off I must also warn you that your Shovelhead may not be enough. You were bitten by the Triumph bug "pre-Shovel" as was I...and I fear you may also be putting another Triumph back in your stable in the future. As for me, I'm on my fourth....a 1970 T120V that I just hacked the ass end off to weld on a hardtail.

...see no Evo, hear no Evo, RIDE NO EVO....SHOVELHEADS FOREVER!
 

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I agree with all the above info. Stay stockish if you want something reliable. Many people prefer the ratchet top transmissions, especially if you plan on going jockey shift. Inner primaries were notorious to crack, as well as the front motor mount area on the cases. Just something to watch for. Those cracks stem from improper engine and transmission installation/alignment techniques. I like to bring a meter with me and make sure the electrical system is working before I make a deal, because electrical woes can und up costing you a few unexpected dollars down the road.
 

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I'd offer the following advice.

1- Find one that is as close to "stock" as you can and build it up yourself (don't buy someone elses stroked out mis-matched headache) that will take time and PATIENCE (I looked for over five years until I found my 1984 but it was worth the wait).
So, does everyone have this opinion on stroked, after market cased shovels? Because I am currently thinking about getting one out of Utah (a friend of a friend of a friend that needs $$), for a winter/summer and possible winter again project.
 

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Old Vegas said:
So, does everyone have this opinion on stroked, after market cased shovels?
Well, you can make anything work with enough patience and know-how.

I think the point being made is that you'll have a whole lot more work and investigation to do if you start with something that has been monkeyed with extensively. Until you take it apart and blueprint the motor yourself, you have no idea what's in there and if it was done right.

There are a shitload of motor builders.

There are far fewer good motor builders.

Jason
 

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Well, you can make anything work with enough patience and know-how.

I think the point being made is that you'll have a whole lot more work and investigation to do if you start with something that has been monkeyed with extensively. Until you take it apart and blueprint the motor yourself, you have no idea what's in there and if it was done right.

There are a shitload of motor builders.

There are far fewer good motor builders.

Jason
Yeah, I got burnt on a rebuilt shovel motor, should have gone through it myself!!!
 

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You can be burned just as bad by a "rebuilt" stock motor as you can a "stroker" motor. In both cases, be cautious of what you're looking for and realize that you're going to be working on it regardless of stock or modified. If you want to make your foray into older Harleys, then as with most things, you're going to have to put in the time and effort to learn to work on them.

I've been burned by a "rebuilt" 74" and I've been blessed by an stroker that was underestimated when it was sold to me.
 

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1- Find one that is as close to "stock" as you can and build it up yourself (don't buy someone elses stroked out mis-matched headache) that will take time and PATIENCE (I looked for over five years until I found my 1984 but it was worth the wait).
I agree with Big John. Buy something as close to stock, that hasn't be bastardized. You can then build it as you please.
 

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^^^I have been playing around with Ironheads for a couple of years now, but I am still very much new to old HD wrenching world Hopefully I won't have to do anything major to my knucklehead for a long time to come. So I am not sure about stepping up to this project but it seems to be a good deal.
 

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I agree with what's been posted.
A stock 74 can be reliable ang long lasting.
A stroker hot rod can be fun.
Having both is possible but rare.

I think the cone Shovel's weak link is the charging system,
mainly (IMO) due to 1. Mickey Mouse stator to reg connector
(intermittent connection leads to failure of both parts).
and 2. Electric starter - with 60 weight oil, it takes a lot of juice to crank the thing over on cold days and this really drains the battery.
No shit, the Shovel I have now is running the same battery (H-D AGM) and stator that was in it when I bought it in 2003. I replaced the regulator several years ago with a Cycle Electric unit, cut off the connector and soldered the wires together. And mine is kick only.

 

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I love my Shovel. It's a stock 74" (1975) motor and 4 speed trans. If you take your time looking you can still pick them up at a very reasonable price. Mine is obviously an AMF era bike and I'm proud of that. Most people who have negitive things to say about them have never actually owned one or for that matter may have never even seen one. As far as reliability goes mine is 36 years old and the cases have never been apart. I'd get on it today and wouldn't be afraid to ride it anywhere. The only thing I changed on mine was the carb. It had a Kehnin butterfly that I never could get tuned right so I put a CV on and it was the best single thing I ever did. The bike runs like a dream and it improved my MPG. For most people looking at one I'd point out that it can't be compared to a modern bike; its 74" power plant isn't going to rocket down the road like a twin cam, it's got a solid mount motor and you'll definately be "in touch" with your scoot. It has a 4 speed transmission that has a good "positive engagement" when you shift and over all the bike requires a regular maintenance schedule. But since you're on here and you've owned an old Trump you're aware of the same sort of things and obviously have come to accept and love old bikes for what they are. I paid $4700 for mine and put in some garage hours, but really not that much needed to be done. When I go to the local watering hole and see all the newest, shinniest, bedazzled bikes lined up I wouldnt trade mine for any of theirs. Take your time, fing a good one and you'll never regret it.

 

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I bought a rolling basket '81 FXWG. I have completely taken it apart. My frame is freshly powdercoated, and I had a buddy go through my trans, as in taken all the way apart and put back together, and he is also doing my motor. Cases split, the whole deal. I don't want to leave anything to chance. My friend has been working on them for 40 years and knows in and outs I just don't know. I will get it back rolling, with engine and trans in place, and we will finish it together. All new wiring, the whole bit. I'm planning on it lasting me a LONG time. I love the early Wide Glides and have wanted one since I was a kid. I have big plans with a lot of miles in store for it. Good luck finding what you want.
 

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I've got an 81 FLH and just bought a 84 FXWG. You need to figure any shovel out there has been gone thru quite a few times - I figure a top end every 25 - 30K miles. My 81 has an S&S 89" stroker and has been bullet proof - but I don't over-rev it, or run it hard. As said, these bikes need maintenance to be reliable. I'd ride my 81 across the country in a second. I will say, once you own one, you'll know it front to back pretty quickly, which will give you the knowledge to keep it going. As said, any AMF issues have, for the most part, been long corrected. I used to run the 50 - 60w oil, but after the last rebuild have gone to 20-50w and have been pretty happy. Starts easier and doesn't make a lot of racket and hasn't burned any oil. Really helps to find a local machinist that works on these old bikes, because there are a lot of old tricks on setting them up. Oh yea, and a nice thing is they don't take a lot of special tools - you'll need to weld up a clutch hub lock tool (a plate with a rod welded to it) and a clutch hub socket (large socket, cut in half with a pipe welded between the two ends). Other than that, nothing really special.
Good luck - and keep that old iron running.
Dog
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