Harley-Davidson 1964 Model FL

Electric start motors appeared for the first time on the 1964 Model FL.

1964 Model FL

With the push of a single button FL owners could sit back and enjoy as their engines fired to life with the new electric starter motor.

Photo courtesy Motorbooks

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Historical and technical profiles written by Harley-Davidson expert Dain Gingerelli and masterful motorcycle photography by David Blattel come together in Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle (Motorbooks, 2011). The result is a breathtaking review of over 100 stunning Harley-Davidson greatest hits from the early 1900s to today. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 3, “Big Twins: The Panheads.” 

1964 Model FL 

While nearly 6,000 new FL customers still faced the ordeal of having to kick-start their big engines in 1964, Harley-Davidson engineers were secretively putting the finishing touches on a new electric starter motor for the venerable panhead. The following year the 17-year-old engine design was updated with what soon became affectionately known as the “electric leg”—better known as the electric starter motor. With the push of a single button FL owners could sit back and enjoy as their engines fired to life. The time-honored ritual of kicking an engine through so that the proper cylinder was near top dead center for the kick-through, was a thing of the past. A flick of the thumb was all that was needed in 1965, and the new model would be called the Electra-Glide. In the meantime, customers who bought 1964 Duo-glides had to rely on the kick pedal, a strong leg, and a little savvy to know just how to wake up that slumbering engine in the morning.


Engine Displacement: 74 cubic inches
Horsepower: 54 horsepower at 5,400 rpm
Top speed: 100 mph
Wheelbase: 60 inches


• Records show that an equal number of 1964 FL and FLH models were sold—2,725 each.
• By comparison, only 25 Topper scooters were produced that year.

More examples of Harley-Davidson innovation from Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson 1915 Model 11-F
Harley-Davidson 1933 Model VLD
Harley-Davidson 1940 Model UL
Harley-Davidson 1946 Model EL 
Harley-Davidson 1966 FLH Electra Glide 

Main Article: Finding Form: Early Harley-Davidson Innovation 

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, published by Motorbooks, 2011.