Alphabet Soup: A Beginner's Guide to H-D Model Codes


Every one of us has heard this conversation: "I sold my '76 XL and my H and K to JR to buy PJ's K-model, but that rat bastard went MIA, so now I'm SOL. I really want to buy Steve's FLST, but if I spend another dime on motorcycles my old lady's gonna be PO'ed. Guess I'm screwed (LOL)"

When Harley-Davidson concocted their alphanumeric naming conventions last century, they never anticipated the ball of confusion their system would create. That's why common men like me use terms like knuckle, iron, pan and shovel to dodge these beloved but bewildering designations. Still, if you're going to talk the talk at next week's swap meet, you owe it to the ghosts of Harley marketing wizards past and to the salty veterans of the modern era to learn the cryptic code of The Motor Company's VIN's.

A caveat before we begin: I culled this list from the innerweb, and cross-referenced it against the best printed data I could find. It is by no means definitive or complete, and I'm sure it will be obsolete when Harley introduces new models in 2010 and beyond. If you know a dude who spits this shit like a Triple-A rightfielder spits Red Man, please ask him for further decryption before using it to drop science on motorcycle judges at the next Concours d'Elegance.

G: Servicar three wheeler, 1937 to 1972
E: Overhead valve 61 cubic inch Big Twin (separate motor and transmission)
F:  Overhead valve 74, 80 or 88 cubic inch Big Twin
FL: 80 to 88 cubic inches and a fat front tire (a.k.a. 74" 1941 to ‘82)
K: Side valve 45 and 55 cubic inch sports bike that replaced the WL in 1953, and was replaced by the Sportster in 1957
U: Side valve 74 or 80 cubic inch Big Twin
V : Side valve 74 cubic inch 1930 to ‘36. (Also 1935 to ‘36 VLH; VHS in 1980)
W : Side valve 45 cubic inch from 1937 to 1952
X: Sports and special construction. Applied to 1918-1922 opposed twin
    Sport, 1944 military opposed twin, and Sportsters 1957 to present

X: Narrow tire and sport fork
L: Wide front tire and Hydra Glide fork

D: Dyna frame with the rubber mounted motor
HT: Highway Touring frame
ST: Softail


A: Army (military) version, except GA (Servicar without tow bar)
B: Battery start (early models); Belt drive (early ‘80s); Black paint (‘95-’96 model, the Bad Boy)
C: Classic, Competition, Custom and various other meanings
Dyna: newest current Big Twin frame and engine mount design
DG: Disc Glide
E: Electric start
F: Foot shift (when the standard was hand-shift) and now "Fat Boy"G: Servicar
H: High Performance, Hand shift or Heavy Duty, depending on model and era
I: Fuel Injection
L- Big fat front tire
N: Nightster
LR: Low Rider, alhough many Low Riders don't include “LR” in the model ID
N: Nostalgia
P: Police version
R: Rubber-mounted or Race, depending on model
ST: Softail
S: Springer
S (without following T): Sports version
T: Touring
WG: Wide Glide
X: Sportster or Sportster-style narrow front fork with 21” front wheel/narrow tire

X: Sportsters; direct descendent of K series, 1952 to ‘56
XL: Started in 1957; unit construction engine/transmission
L: High compression (7.5:1 in 1957)
H: Starting in 1958; Higher-power, High-compression or Hot
C: Also added in 1958, as in XLCH, for Competition
CR: Cafe racer style, with bikini fairing
LT: Touring with bigger tank, thicker seat, hard bags



XL: Sportster 883
XL883: Sportster Hugger
XL883C: Sportster 883 Custom
XL883L: Sportster Low
XL883R: Dirt-track inspired
XL1100: Sportster 1100
XL1200: Sportster 1200
XL1200C: Sportster 1200 Custom
XL1200R: 1200 Roadster
XL1200S: Sportster 1200 Sport
XLCH: 4-Speed Sportster, Kick start
XLCR: Cafe Racer 1000
XLH: Sportster 883
XLH883: Sportster 883 Hugger
XLH883R: Sportster 883R
XLH1200: 1200
XLH1200S: Sport
XLS: 4-Speed Sportster Roadster
XLX: 4-Speed 1000cc Ironhead
XR1000: XLH with XLR Heads (not to be confused with XR750)
XL1200N: Nightster

FX: Superglide, kickstart
FXB: Sturgis Belt (’80-‘82)
FXD: Dyna Super Glide
FXDB: Street Bob (Sturgis 1991)
FXDC: Dyna Super Glide Custom
FXDG: Dyna Glide/Sturgis
FXDL: Dyna Low Rider
FXDS-CON: Dyna Convertible
FXDWG: Dyna Wide Glide
FXDX: Dyna Super Glide Sport
FXDXT: Superglide T-Sport
FXE: Superglide Electric Start
FXDF: Fat Bob
FXLR: FX Lower Rider/Evolution
FXR: Rubber Mount Super Glide
FXRDG: Disc Glide
FXRP: Police or Pursuit
FXRS-CON: FXR Sport Convertible
FXRS-SP: Low Rider Sport Edition
FXRT: FXR Touring
FXS: Low Rider/Shovelhead
FXSB: Low Rider Belt

FXCW: Rocker
FXCWC : Rocker C
FXST: Softail Standard
FXSTB: Night Train
FXSTBI: Night Train EFI
FXSTC: Softail Custom
FXSTD: Softail Deuce
FXSTS: Springer Softail
FXWG: Wide Glide
FLST: Heritage Softail
FLSTC: Heritage Classic
FLSTF: Fat Boy
FLSTFI: 15th anniversary Fat Boy
FLSTN: Nostalgia and 2005 Softail Deluxe
FLSTS: Heritage Springer
FLSTSB: Cross Bones
FLSTSC: Springer Softail Classic

FL: 4-Speed Dresser
FLH: 4-Speed Electra Glide
FLHRS: Road King Custom
FLHPI: Road King police model
FLHR: Road King
FLHRCI: Road King Classic
FLHS: Electra Glide Sport
FLHT: Electra Glide Standard
FLHTC: Electra Glide Classic
FLHTCSE: Screamin Eagle Electra Glide
FLHTPI: Electra glide police model
FLHTCUI: Ultra Classic Electra Glide
FLHTCUSE: Screamin Eagle Ultra Classic
FLT: Rubber Mount Dresser
FLTC: Rubber Mount Dresser Classic
FLTCU: Rubber Mount Dresser Classic Ultra
FLTR: Road Glide
FLTRI: Road Glide EFI
FLTRSEI: Screamin Eagle Road Glide  

VRSCA: First model of the V-ROD family
VRSC: Racing Street Custom
VRSC-CVO: 1250cc
VRSCB: Same as VRSCA except: adjustable tubular handlebars, minimal instrumentation, black painted frame, calipers, hand controls, shock springs and engine highlights
VRSCD: Night Rod
VRSCR: Roadster-inspired street rod

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Commented on 8-11-2009 At 11:54 am

McGoo, thanks for this! i still struggle reading codes, this is a great piece of info

Commented on 8-11-2009 At 12:25 pm

very nice post, never quite understood. couldn't help but notice XL1200N was left off. nightster

Commented on 8-11-2009 At 12:54 pm


Commented on 8-11-2009 At 02:19 pm

definitive gospel speak.

Commented on 8-11-2009 At 02:34 pm

nice work, McGoo! where'd u get the list from? ur BFF? ROFL

Commented on 8-11-2009 At 03:20 pm

this site breaks down the vin # a bit further, worth a bookmark

Commented on 8-11-2009 At 08:17 pm

Good info, but Harley has broken their own rules with many of their new bikes:

FLHX, FXDF, FLSTF, just to name a few.

Commented on 8-12-2009 At 02:25 am

Only slightly less confused!

no really, good stuff this.

Commented on 8-12-2009 At 02:08 pm


THANKS. great info

Commented on 8-12-2009 At 02:29 pm

Ahhhhh, yeah, good stuff, always good stuff, ahhh, I think I'll stick with knuck, flat, pan, shovel, sporty, and evo! Now, where's the Indian guy to follow up on the competition's designations? With a few beers, I think me 'n the bro's can come up with a great board game to consume the snowy months. "Forever Two Wheels Trivia" (Pardon me DMC)

Commented on 8-12-2009 At 04:54 pm

They has to make it as confusing as possible-huh

Commented on 8-13-2009 At 09:31 am

Yeah, I think I'd rather call 'em by the engine type all of this letter code stuff is B.S.

Commented on 8-19-2009 At 06:42 pm

Great info, Thanks!

Commented on 8-21-2009 At 09:50 am

FXSTS and FLSTS are both softail springers that use the FX and FL letter combination but don't have the Sport fork or Hydra Glide fork. the FLSTS uses a fat frontire just like the other FLs and the FXSTS uses a 21" skinny front tire like the other FXs. But since Harley started with the CVO line, wheel size and frontend barely play a roll in the letter sequence it seems. And I'm still not quite sure where the 19" wheel is categorized, if it is at all.

Commented on 3-17-2010 At 03:50 pm

The A B C's of H-D's cool!

Commented on 3-2-2012 At 01:10 pm

very helpfull cool article

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