Head of Iron, Heart of Gold
The Second World war had been over for a while, when Americans, or rather the Milwaukee Gentlemen became aware of an invasion that was taking place right under their noses. English bikes like Triumphs, Nortons, BSAs and Matchless were running circles around the lumbering behemoths churned out by the Milwaukee factory. Some even made it into the movies and to stardom in films like The Wild One.
Growing numbers of America's rebellious youth switched to the sporty European brands, or later, to the ... Japanese newcomers. The Company's reaction resembled a Big Twin at idle: unimpressed. Harleys had dominated several racing series for decades, but, in spite of being the number one American motorcycle manufacturer, getting a competitive road bike ready for production quickly proved to be a challenge.
Well, they took their time, but in 1952 the rather revolutionary 750 cc side-valve K-model hit the U.S. showrooms to an excited public reaction. It had, as seen on the 1948 125 cc single, engine and gearbox all in one casing. Plus a potentially fast hydraulically damped swingarm frame. And a foot shifter to boot, blimey! The subsequently introduced 900cc flathead KH was the foundation for the even more powerful XL models with their OHV cast iron heads, introduced in 1957 and named appropriately “Sportster". The first American, if not global superbike was born. Up to this day the Sportster is being sold under the same name and still going strong.
What today is sometimes belittled by „experts“ as a girls' or beginners' bike was, and still is a real handful. Even today, with the 60th anniversary of its introduction coming up fast it is a first rate basis for hot customs.
If you’re lucky enough to own one of these beauties today, and something breaks or is worn out, you soon discover that parts for pre-1985 models are extremely hard to find.
Of course there are swap meets, there’s a few well stocked collectors, and there’s the Internet, but let’s be honest: the part you’re needing badly is either not there at all, the auction will run for another 12 days or the shipping costs are prohibitively high.
Good, then, that at W&W we have some serious F.O.I.s (Friends of Ironheads). For obvious practical reasons we wanted to make the parts supply somewhat less nerve-wracking for all.That’s why we give an overview here to what is on offer from our warehouse for XL models from the beginnings through 1984. We can't show all the parts in our program in this space, so please use the OEM parts number in our search box. The list of parts is constantly growing, and suggestions are always welcome.