Arizona

16-17 January 2014

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Lot 1

1952 Harley-Davidson FL Sport Solo

  • Chassis no. 52EL24401
  • Engine no. 52EL24401

Sold for $38,500


55 bhp, 74 cu. in. OHV air-cooled V-twin, fixed-jet Linkert M-54 1.5-inch carburetor, four-speed hand shifter, front telescopic hydraulic forks and rigid rear, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 59.5 in.

  • Two miles on a Jim Beck restoration
  • Rare hand shifter
  • Matching engine and frame numbers


Harley-Davidson comprehensively updated the old Knucklehead engine with hydraulically adjusted valves in 1948, creating the much more modern Panhead engine. They elected to let customers get accustomed to that and then waited a year to make more changes.



With the Panhead proven successful, Harley-Davidson reinvented their bike as a showcase around it. The look of the new 1949 E- and F-series models was anchored by huge telescopic hydraulic forks and a completely new front end. Unofficially, these Hydra-Glide forks soon lent their name to the whole line; time would show that these would be the most classic of the Panheads, and they would be the inspiration for countless other motorcycles over the next 60 years, including Harley-Davidson’s own Heritage Softail.



The first major update since the 1949 redesign came in 1952, when the optional hand clutch/foot shift arrangement was added to compete with European motorcycles that used the configuration almost exclusively. By 1953, the foot shifter outsold the hand shifter by a two-to-one margin. In general, Big Twin sales were in a steep decline, as they were off by 20% over the already down year of 1951 and only 5,554 FLs were moving off of the showroom floors. Of those, it is safe to assume that a minority retained the hand shifter, and there are a total of only 162 FLs from 1952 in the Panhead Register.



This highly collectible and easy-riding bike has had a meticulous restoration from renowned FL specialist James Beck. Since its restoration was performed, the FL was test driven for only two miles and then put on display as a show bike example. The Persian Red over white paint is lustrous, and the vast expanses of exposed metal are burnished to a deep glow. Even though it is used as a show bike, Harley-Davidson built the Panhead for the highway, and with preparation, one could see its Hydra-Glide forks work up front, living up to their name, gliding over the road, and proudly informing the world that this is a real American motorcycle.



Even more than its low production numbers, it is the retro period styling that makes a Panhead collectible today, and features such as the unique and distinctive hand shifter only add to this Panhead’s collectability. Even today, when one thinks of Harley-Davidson, the classic style of the FL Hydra-Glide comes to mind.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more