Harley Davidson VIN Decoding: How to Decode Your Motorcycle’s VIN and Uncover Essential Information”

Whether you are an avid collector hunting down rare and exclusive motorcycles across the country, or simply a curious observer who spotted a captivating bike in a parking lot, delving into the intricacies of Harley-Davidson’s vehicle identification numbers (commonly known as VIN numbers) will unveil a treasure trove of information about the Harley model before your eyes. Throughout its illustrious history, Harley-Davidson has diligently imprinted its engines with distinct serial numbers, albeit lacking a consistent format until the 1920s. It was during this era that Harley-Davidson adopted a comprehensible combination of alphanumeric characters, forming a standardized system that endured until 1969, captivating enthusiasts and scholars alike.

However, as the 1970 model year dawned, Harley-Davidson embarked on a transformative journey, revamping their VIN numbers with a novel arrangement that prevailed for a concise yet noteworthy decade. This alteration marked a significant chapter in the evolution of Harley-Davidson’s identification system, enhancing its precision and fostering a deeper understanding of their motorcycles. Nonetheless, another pivotal turning point arrived in 1981, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recognizing the importance of consistent identification standards, mandated a universal adoption of a 17-digit VIN format for all vehicle manufacturers. Responding dutifully to this regulatory directive, Harley-Davidson embraced the new standard, which remains faithfully employed to this day.

By adhering to the 17-digit VIN format, Harley-Davidson has not only complied with regulatory requirements but has also empowered enthusiasts, historians, and prospective buyers with a wealth of knowledge about their motorcycles. Each digit and character in the VIN serves as a gateway to understanding the manufacturing details, specific model variations, engine specifications, and even the geographical origin of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Whether it is deciphering the manufacturing plant code, exploring the significance of the check digit, or unraveling the production sequence number, the comprehensive 17-digit VIN encapsulates a captivating narrative that enthusiasts can dive into.

Understanding the nuances of Harley-Davidson’s VIN system can unveil fascinating stories about the motorcycles themselves, as well as the company’s rich heritage. It allows aficionados to trace the lineage of a particular Harley, discern its authenticity, and even identify rare or limited-edition models. The 17-digit VIN has become a cornerstone of the Harley-Davidson experience, connecting riders and collectors to the brand’s legacy and forging a sense of belonging within the vibrant Harley community.

So, the next time you spot a striking Harley-Davidson motorcycle, be it at a rally, exhibition, or even in a nondescript parking lot, armed with the knowledge of the VIN format, you can unlock a treasure trove of information about the bike’s history, origins, and unique features. Embrace the allure of Harley-Davidson’s legacy and embark on a journey through time and craftsmanship as you decode the fascinating story encapsulated within each 17-digit VIN.

 

Locating the VIN on a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Before delving into the intricacies of deciphering these VIN numbers, let’s start by exploring where to locate them. If you happen to be examining a Harley-Davidson machine from 1969 or earlier, you’ll find that the VIN number is exclusively situated on the motor. It will be skillfully hand-stamped on the left side motor case, precisely positioned just beneath the cylinders on a distinguished raised boss. It is crucial to acknowledge that during this era, the VIN number was not imprinted on the frame of these early models. Therefore, any numbers discovered on the frame are merely casting numbers, which remained identical on every frame of the same model and year.

However, commencing from 1970, Harley-Davidson made a significant shift by relocating the official VIN location to the frame neck, and this placement has endured ever since. From 1970 to 1980, Harley-Davidson continued the practice of imprinting a corresponding VIN on the motor (with the exception of early 1979 models), ensuring a match between the motor and frame. Nonetheless, a notable change occurred in 1981 when Harley-Davidson transitioned to the new 17-digit VIN standard. As part of this transformation, they discontinued the practice of stamping a matching VIN on the motor and began utilizing a truncated version of the VIN on the motor, utilizing only 10 digits. This truncated version still facilitated the ability to match the motor to the frame.

The introduction of the 17-digit VIN standard in 1981 marked a significant milestone in Harley-Davidson’s history. It not only aligned with the evolving industry standards but also paved the way for improved traceability, accuracy, and consistency in identifying their motorcycles. By implementing this comprehensive identification system, Harley-Davidson ensured that each vehicle possessed a unique code that encompassed crucial information, such as the manufacturing plant, vehicle model, engine type, and sequential production number.

It is fascinating to observe the evolution of the VIN location and format over the years, as it mirrors Harley-Davidson’s commitment to enhancing their manufacturing processes and staying ahead of regulatory requirements. While the initial placement on the motor served its purpose during the early years, shifting the VIN to the frame neck in 1970 was a strategic decision that streamlined production and simplified identification procedures. This change also facilitated easier accessibility for inspection and identification purposes, enabling both manufacturers and authorities to verify the authenticity and ownership of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Although the practice of stamping a matching VIN on the motor ended in 1981, Harley-Davidson maintained the ability to associate the motor with the frame by utilizing a truncated version of the VIN on the motor. This approach, albeit with a reduced number of digits, still served as a means of ensuring consistency and accuracy in the matching process. It exemplifies Harley-Davidson’s dedication to maintaining the integrity of their motorcycles and providing customers with reliable and trustworthy vehicles.

In summary, understanding the location and format of the VIN numbers is crucial for any Harley-Davidson enthusiast or owner. Whether it’s tracing the history of a vintage machine or verifying the authenticity of a modern model, decoding these alphanumeric codes provides valuable insights into the motorcycle’s origins, specifications, and production details. By unraveling the secrets hidden within the VIN numbers, one can truly appreciate the legacy and craftsmanship that define Harley-Davidson motorcycles throughout their storied history.

Harley-Davidson VIN Numbers Prior to 1970

Delving into the captivating era of the 1920s, we bear witness to Harley-Davidson’s establishment of a remarkably streamlined format for their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). From the early days up until 1969, Harley-Davidson employed a combination of eight to eleven alphanumeric characters to construct their VINs, adhering to a specific arrangement:

The initial two digits held the crucial key to deciphering the production year, offering a glimpse into the historical context of each motorcycle. Following these digits, one to four letters were allocated to denote the model, encapsulating the essence of the distinctive design and characteristics of the Harley-Davidson masterpiece. Concluding this arrangement, the final four or five digits were dedicated to unveiling the production number, serving as a testament to the unique identity of each motorcycle that rolled off the assembly line.

Harley Davidson VIN Decoding: How to Decode Your Motorcycle's VIN and Uncover Essential Information"
Harley Davidson VIN Decoding: How to Decode Your Motorcycle’s VIN and Uncover Essential Information”

Unraveling the intricate layers concealed within the VIN number, we discover that the wealth of information pertaining to an individual motorcycle resides within the letters that succeed the production date. The initial letter, widely recognized as the engine code, assumes the vital role of denoting the specific type of engine that was originally installed at the esteemed Harley-Davidson factory. To delve deeper into the historical significance, let us explore a comprehensive list of Engine Codes for Harley-Davidson V-twin motors meticulously crafted by the revered manufacturer from 1920 to 1969. It is noteworthy to mention that prior to 1935, Harley-Davidson also crafted a diverse array of single-cylinder models, distinguished by engine codes A, B, and C, alongside the two horizontally opposed two-cylinder motors, emblemized by engine codes WJ and WF. Furthermore, in 1942, Harley-Davidson proudly unveiled another gem in their lineup—an extraordinary horizontally opposed two-cylinder motor designated by the remarkable letters XA.

By comprehending the intricate details encompassed within the Harley-Davidson VIN system, enthusiasts and collectors alike can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of the brand’s legacy, delving into the distinctive features that have defined the allure of these motorcycles throughout history.

1920 – 1969 V-Twin Engine Codes
Engine Code Engine Type
F 61” or 74” F-Head V-Twin
J 61” or 74” F-Head V-Twin
D 45” Side Valve V-Twin
R 45” Side Valve V-Twin
V 74” or 80” Side Valve V-Twin
W 45” Side Valve V-Twin
G 45” Side Valve V-Twin used in Servi-cars
U 74” or 80” Side Valve V-Twin
K 45” or 55” Side Valve V-Twin
E 61” Overhead Valve V-twin
F 74” Overhead Valve V-twin
X 45” or 55” Overhead Valve V-Twin

Harley-Davidson has undeniably demonstrated its expertise in motorcycle engineering by skillfully assigning unique letter designations to distinguish the various side valve motor variants. However, as the company transitioned to utilizing overhead valve motors in their big twin models, an overlap in these letter designations emerged. Consequently, it became imperative for enthusiasts and collectors alike to familiarize themselves with the specific date ranges corresponding to the different types of early overhead valve motors.

Understanding the chronology of Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles is crucial when determining the compatibility and historical significance of engine components. For instance, let’s take a closer look at the cases produced in 1947 and 1948: the 1947 EL cases were tailored to accommodate the iconic knucklehead engine, while the 1948 EL cases were specifically engineered for the revered panhead powerplant.

Delving deeper into these distinct motor types, we unveil a treasure trove of mechanical brilliance. The knucklehead, known for its distinctive shape resembling a clenched fist, emerged as a revolutionary design in the 1930s, heralding a new era of power and performance for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The knucklehead’s side valve configuration offered exceptional reliability and durability, making it a preferred choice among riders seeking robustness and dependability on the open road.

However, as time progressed, Harley-Davidson pushed the boundaries of innovation further by introducing the panhead engine. This remarkable overhead valve motor, first introduced in 1948, featured elegantly curved rocker covers reminiscent of an upside-down pan, hence its evocative name. The panhead’s improved valve train design enhanced performance, allowing riders to experience heightened power delivery and smoother operation, all while retaining the timeless charm and character that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are renowned for.

Thus, the astute motorcycle enthusiast must possess a keen understanding of the evolution of Harley-Davidson’s engines to decipher the nuances hidden within model designations and components. By delving into the historical context and technical details of these iconic motorcycles, one gains a profound appreciation for the legacy and craftsmanship that defines the Harley-Davidson brand.

In conclusion, while Harley-Davidson’s ingenious letter designations initially provided clarity for side valve motor variants, the transition to overhead valve motors necessitated a deeper knowledge of date ranges and their corresponding engine types. This understanding not only allows enthusiasts to accurately identify and attribute engine cases but also reveals the remarkable journey of innovation and engineering prowess that has made Harley-Davidson an enduring symbol of freedom and adventure on the open road.

 

1936 – 1984 Big Twin Motor Production Dates
Engine Production Dates
Knucklehead 1936-1947
Panhead 1948-1965
Shovelhead 1966-1984

In the world of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the engine code is not just a random assortment of letters and numbers. It holds valuable information about the motor, allowing enthusiasts to decipher its specific characteristics and performance attributes. Beyond the engine code itself, additional letters appended to it unveil further details about the motorcycle’s unique features.

These supplemental letters are not mere decorative additions; they serve a purpose in distinguishing special models and conveying insights into the engine’s performance relative to the base motor. For instance, let’s take the renowned U series motor as an example. In its standard form, this motor boasts a 74″ displacement with medium compression heads, denoted by the letter U. However, Harley-Davidson took this base motor and crafted three slightly distinct versions, each designated with its own additional letter.

The first variant, the UH, represents a larger displacement rendition of the U series, pushing the cubic inches to 80″ while retaining the medium compression heads. This modification enhances the power and torque output, catering to riders who crave a more robust riding experience. On the other hand, the UL model maintains the same 74″ displacement as the base motor but introduces high compression heads. This alteration optimizes combustion efficiency, resulting in increased horsepower and overall engine performance.

Now, let’s explore the pinnacle of this engine evolution—the ULH. Combining the best of both the UL and UH motors, the ULH embodies the epitome of Harley-Davidson’s engineering prowess. It combines the enlarged 80″ displacement with the enhanced power delivery of high compression heads, culminating in a formidable powerhouse on two wheels.

While these distinctions bring a new level of excitement and customization to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, it’s essential to note that the meanings of these letters have evolved over the years, adapting to the brand’s ever-evolving model lineup. Therefore, when examining the model designations of early panheads, it becomes evident that Harley-Davidson occasionally modified the significance of these letters to align with their contemporary offerings.

For instance, during the era spanning from 1920 to 1969, the letter F indicated a medium compression 74″ base motor, while the FL model denoted a 74″ motor with higher compression. Surprisingly, there were no sightings of a medium compression 80″ FH or a high compression 80″ FLH. Instead, the 74″ FLH emerged as a higher compression variant of the FL motor, captivating riders seeking elevated performance from their machines.

To provide a comprehensive overview of these engine designations from 1920 to 1969, the table below showcases some of the commonly employed letters and their potential associations:

Year Letter Designation

  • 1920 F Medium Compression 74″
  • 1920 FL Higher Compression 74″
  • 1920 UH Larger Displacement 80″
  • 1920 UL Medium Compression 74″ with High Compression Heads
  • 1920 ULH Combination of 80″ Displacement and High Compression Heads

As a devoted enthusiast and connoisseur of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, I find great joy in unraveling the intricacies of these engine codes and their accompanying letters. Each combination represents a testament to the brand’s commitment to providing exhilarating rides tailored to the preferences of passionate riders around the world.

Letters Used From 1920 – 1969 in Model Designations
Letter Common Designations
A Army or No Tow Bar (servicer option)
C Commercial or Canadian
D Increased Displacement or Increased Performance
E Electric Start or Traffic Combination (police option)
H Increased Displacement or Increased Performance
L High Compression
R Factory Racer

When delving into the captivating world of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, particularly those predating 1970, one cannot help but notice the intriguing complexity surrounding their production numbers and VIN codes. In fact, if you were to consult Harley’s official records, you would come across an abundance of models that are identified by letters not present in the aforementioned table. The reason behind this peculiar omission lies in the fact that Harley-Davidson did not incorporate these letters into their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs).

For instance, let us consider the fascinating year of 1957. While Harley-Davidson indeed manufactured an FLHF and an FLF during that time, the motorcycles would have been stamped as FLH and FL respectively, with the letter F (symbolizing footshift) omitted from the VIN. This intriguing practice extended beyond the F, as there were other letters that were intentionally excluded as well. One such example is the letter S, representing sidecar, which Harley-Davidson opted not to include in their VIN system. Similarly, the letter B, signifying electric start, was also omitted, adding another layer of enigma to the mix.

As we delve deeper into the Harley-Davidson mystique, we come across yet another intriguing facet: the production numbers. Unsurprisingly, Harley-Davidson introduced their own unique twists to this aspect as well. Prior to the year 1961, the production number always commenced at 1000. This means that the very first EL panhead motorcycle rolling off the assembly line in 1948 would have been bestowed with the distinguished VIN number of 48EL1001, rather than the seemingly logical 48EL0001. Such idiosyncrasies only served to enhance the allure and mystique surrounding these legendary machines.

In their perpetual quest for innovation, Harley-Davidson decided to further tinker with the production number system between the years 1962 and 1969. During this period, they introduced a captivating alteration: the first digit of the production number would be even for even model years and odd for odd model years when it came to four-digit production numbers. Going a step further, for production numbers consisting of five digits, the first two numbers would be odd during odd model years, and conversely, the first two numbers would be even during even model years. This intricate methodology employed by Harley-Davidson showcased their unwavering commitment to embracing uniqueness and setting themselves apart from conventional practices.

These intricacies and nuances inherent in Harley-Davidson’s production numbers and VIN codes serve as a testament to the rich heritage and unparalleled craftsmanship that defines the brand. Each motorcycle tells a captivating story, and deciphering its alphanumeric code unveils a tapestry of history and innovation. It is through these extraordinary details that the world of Harley-Davidson continues to capture the hearts and minds of enthusiasts and historians alike, forever solidifying its status as an iconic symbol of freedom, power, and individuality.

Harley-Davidson VIN Numbers from 1970-1980

In a pivotal move that reverberated throughout the motorcycle industry, Harley-Davidson, the iconic American manufacturer, made a momentous decision in 1970. This decision involved a significant alteration to their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) system, transitioning from its prior configuration to a 9-digit amalgamation comprising both letters and numbers. This revamped arrangement aimed to enhance precision and provide a comprehensive snapshot of vital information pertaining to each motorcycle produced.

The new VIN structure implemented by Harley-Davidson boasted an intricate composition, ingeniously designed to encapsulate key details about the motorcycle in question. This intricate composition consisted of three distinct segments, each carrying its own significance and purpose, embodying the meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail for which Harley-Davidson is renowned.

The initial two digits of the revised VIN system took on the role of designating the model code. These digits served as a unique identifier, enabling enthusiasts and aficionados to discern the specific Harley-Davidson model in question at a glance. This insightful piece of information offered a gateway into the realm of Harley-Davidson’s diverse range, which included iconic models such as the Electra Glide, Fat Boy, and Sportster, among many others.

Building upon this foundation, the subsequent five digits held the responsibility of unveiling the production number, further unraveling the motorcycle’s chronology within the manufacturing timeline. Each motorcycle that rolled off the assembly line received its own distinct production number, meticulously assigned to encapsulate the order in which it was manufactured. This digit sequence formed a unique fingerprint, bestowing individuality upon each Harley-Davidson machine while simultaneously allowing enthusiasts to delve into the manufacturing history, tracing the footsteps of these legendary bikes.

Completing the 9-digit VIN configuration with a resounding flourish, the last two digits of the system assumed the vital role of specifying the year code. This seemingly modest duo concealed a wealth of information, shedding light on the year of manufacture, enabling enthusiasts to discern the vintage and contextualize the motorcycle within the broader historical narrative of Harley-Davidson. These year codes acted as a bridge between the past and the present, underscoring the timeless appeal and enduring legacy of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

By implementing this innovative 9-digit VIN system, Harley-Davidson showcased their unwavering commitment to precision, craftsmanship, and heritage. It exemplified their dedication to providing riders and enthusiasts with a comprehensive understanding of each motorcycle’s model, production number, and year of manufacture. This audacious move solidified Harley-Davidson’s position as a pioneer within the motorcycle industry, underscoring their status as a brand synonymous with excellence, individuality, and the open road.

In 1970 Harley decided to change the VIN number to a 9-digit combination of letters and numbers with the following arrangement:

  • the first 2 digits specified the model code
  • the next 5 digits specified the production number
  • the last two digits specified the year code

Figure 2. 1975 Harley-Davidson FXE VIN number on frame.

Figure 3. 1975 Harley-Davidson FXE VIN number on engine.

 

1970 – 1980 Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model Model Code Model
1A FL/FLP-1200 3D Z-90 2G XLT-1000
2A FLH -1200 4D XLA 3G FLH-80
3A XL – XLH-1000 5D SX-175 5G FLT-80
4A XLCH-1000 6D SX-250 6G FXE-80
5A GE-750 7D MX-250 7G FXS-80
6A SS-350 Sprint 9D FXE – 1200 9G FXWG-80
7A SX-125 4E XLS-1000 1H FXB-80
8A M65-S 5E FXEF-1200 2H CLE-80 Sidecar
7B ERS 6E FXEF-80 3H FLH-80 Classic
8B MSR-100 7E FLHS-1200 5H FLHS-80
2C FX -1200 9E SS-250 6H FL-80
3C SX-350 Sprint 2F FXS – 1200 7H FLH-1200 Police
5C MC-65 3F SXT-125 8H FLH-1200 Shrine
6C SR-100 4F SS-175 9H FLH-80 Police
1D LE Sidecar 6F SS-125 1K FLH-80 Shrine
2D X-90 7F XLCR-1000
1970-1980 Year Codes
Year Code Production Year
H0 1970
H1 1971
H2 1972
H3 1973
H4 1974
H5 1975
H6 1976
H7 1977
H8 1978
H9 1979
J0 1980

Beginning in 1981, Harley-Davidson introduced a revolutionary 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) format in accordance with the regulations set forth by the esteemed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This new system aimed to provide a comprehensive identification code for each Harley-Davidson motorcycle, facilitating accurate tracking and ensuring compliance with safety standards.

To implement this standardized format, Harley-Davidson employed a dual-stamping approach. The complete 17-digit VIN code was prominently inscribed on the frame neck, while a condensed 10-digit version was skillfully engraved onto the engine. This meticulous attention to detail exemplifies Harley-Davidson’s commitment to precision craftsmanship and adherence to regulatory requirements.

The 17-digit VIN code utilized a structured arrangement, with each digit holding a specific significance in decoding the motorcycle’s unique information. Allow me to delve into the intricate details of this coding scheme, shedding light on the various components that constitute the Harley-Davidson VIN.

The first three digits in the VIN corresponded to the World Manufacturer ID (WMID). This numerical sequence allowed experts, aficionados, and regulatory bodies to identify the specific manufacturer or origin of the motorcycle, thereby adding a layer of transparency and traceability to the production process.

Moving on, the fourth digit of the VIN denoted the Weight Class ID. This crucial digit provided insights into the weight category to which the motorcycle belonged, ensuring that it conformed to the established weight specifications outlined by the NHTSA. Such meticulous categorization guarantees that each Harley-Davidson motorcycle meets the safety requirements applicable to its weight class, thus promoting rider security on the roads.

The fifth and sixth characters in the VIN served as the Model Code, effectively differentiating the diverse range of Harley-Davidson models available in the market. This aspect highlights the brand’s dedication to offering a wide array of motorcycles tailored to suit the unique preferences and riding styles of their esteemed customers.

Continuing our journey through the VIN code, the seventh character was designated as the Engine Code. This alphanumeric identifier encapsulated vital information about the heart of the motorcycle, the engine. By analyzing this digit, experts could discern the specific engine type or model installed in the respective Harley-Davidson motorcycle, further enhancing the understanding of its technical specifications.

The eighth character assumed the role of the Introduction Period identifier, serving as a valuable timestamp. This digit indicated the period during which the motorcycle was initially introduced to the market, providing valuable insights into its production timeline and allowing enthusiasts to track the evolution of Harley-Davidson models over time.

Next, the ninth character held the responsibility of the VIN Check Digit. Employing a mathematical algorithm, this digit acted as a validation code, ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the entire 17-digit VIN. Its presence within the code bolstered the reliability of the identification process and minimized the possibility of errors or inconsistencies.

The tenth character took on the role of the Model Year Code, succinctly capturing the year of manufacture for the respective Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This crucial element facilitated quick identification of the vehicle’s vintage, helping both enthusiasts and regulatory bodies keep track of the lifespan and historical context of each motorcycle.

The eleventh character in the VIN was assigned as the Assembly Plant Code, signifying the specific location where the motorcycle was meticulously crafted. This information allowed Harley-Davidson enthusiasts to connect with the brand’s rich heritage and associate the motorcycle with its production origins.

Finally, the last six characters of the 17-digit VIN comprehensively represented the Production Number. This unique numerical sequence served as a distinctive identifier for each motorcycle produced by Harley-Davidson. This aspect not only emphasized the brand’s commitment to individuality and exclusivity but also provided a means to track the total production volume, offering valuable insights into the popularity and demand for specific models.

By meticulously structuring the 17-digit VIN code, Harley-Davidson demonstrated their unwavering commitment to precision, safety, and the overall rider experience. This comprehensive identification system not only facilitates efficient tracking and compliance with regulatory standards but also serves as a testament to the brand’s heritage, innovation, and attention to detail.


Harley-Davidson VIN Numbers 1981 – Present

Since its introduction in 1981, Harley-Davidson has implemented a meticulously crafted 17-digit VIN number format, as directed by the esteemed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This standardized coding system not only ensured compliance but also provided a wealth of valuable information for each Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Delving into the intricacies of this alphanumeric code reveals a treasure trove of details, allowing enthusiasts and experts alike to unravel the captivating story behind every bike.

The complete 17-digit VIN code is masterfully etched onto the frame neck, showcasing the manufacturer’s dedication to precision and quality. Additionally, a condensed 10-digit version is thoughtfully imprinted on the engine, further solidifying Harley-Davidson’s commitment to comprehensive identification. With the following arrangement, the 17-digit VIN seamlessly weaves together various essential elements:

The first three digits serve as the world manufacturer ID, encapsulating the distinctive origins of each motorcycle.
The fourth digit imparts the weight class ID, providing insights into the bike’s intended purpose and capabilities.
Characters five and six collectively disclose the model code, painting a vivid picture of the specific Harley-Davidson model in question.
The seventh character represents the engine code, unravelling the heart and soul of the motorcycle’s powerful performance.
A harmonious eighth character signifies the introduction period, unravelling the timeline of when the magnificent machine made its grand entrance.
The ninth character takes the form of a VIN check digit, standing as a guardian of integrity and accuracy within the code.
The tenth character exudes the model year code, an essential piece of information that captures the spirit of the era in which the bike was born.
The eleventh character reveals the assembly plant code, shedding light on the place where the motorcycle was meticulously crafted and brought to life.
The grand finale resides in the final six characters, intricately unveiling the unique production number assigned to each motorcycle, ensuring its distinctiveness and individuality.
A remarkable example of this remarkable coding system can be observed in Figure 4, showcasing the distinguished 1996 Harley-Davidson XL1200C. The VIN number, elegantly engraved on the frame, stands as a testament to the rich heritage and enduring legacy of Harley-Davidson. Similarly, Figure 5 showcases the same awe-inspiring machine, with its iconic VIN number gracing the motor, symbolizing the harmonious marriage between form and function.

While the 17-digit VIN may initially appear cryptic, it possesses the power to unlock a wealth of knowledge. By referencing the comprehensive tables below, enthusiasts and experts can effortlessly decipher the intricacies of any Harley-Davidson motorcycle manufactured from 1981 to the present day. Each digit, each character, carries with it a captivating story waiting to be discovered and shared, further solidifying Harley-Davidson’s position as an unrivaled beacon of excellence and craftsmanship in the world of motorcycles.

The 17-digit VIN uses the following arrangement:

  • the first 3 digits specified the world manufacturer ID
  • the fourth digit specified the weight class ID
  • the fifth the sixth characters specified the model code
  • the seventh character specified the engine code
  • the eighth character specified the introduction period
  • the ninth character specified the VIN check digit
  • the tenth character specified the model year code
  • the eleventh character specified the assembly plant code
  • the final 6 characters specified the production number

Figure 4. 1996 Harley-Davidson XL1200C VIN number on frame.

Figure 5. 1996 Harley-Davidson XL1200C VIN number on motor.

17-digits contains a lot of information, but using the tables below, you can work out all the details of any Harley-Davidson motorcycle built from 1981 until present day.

1981 and up World Manufacturer IDs
World Manufacturer ID Definition
1HD Manufactured for sale within the United States
5HD Manufactured for sale outside of the United States
932 Manufactured in and for sale only in Brazil
MEG Manufactured in and for sale only in India
1981 and up Weight Class IDs
Weight Class ID Definition
1 Heavyweight (≥ 901 cc)
4 Lightweight (≤ 900 cc)
8 Sidecar
1981 and up FL Touring Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model Model Code Model
AA FLH DJ FLHTC FR FLHRCI, FLHRC
AB FLHP DK FLTC Shrine FS FLTRI
AC FLH DM FLTCU – Ultra FT FLHPEI
AD FLH – Classic DN FLTCU – Ultra FW FLHR Shrine
AE FLT DP FLHTC KA FLHX
AF FLTC DS FLTCU – Ultra Shrine KB FLHX
AH FLHP – Deluxe DT FLHTCU – Ultra Shrine KE FLHTK
AJ FLH – Heritage FA FLHRS, FLHS KG FLTRU
AK FLHS FB FLHRI, FLHR KH FLTRX
AL FLH – Shrine FC FLHTCUI, FLHTCU KX SIDECAR TLE ULTRA
DA FLT, FLHTP FD FLHR MA FLHTCUTG – Trike
DB FLTC FE FLTCUI MB Trike
DC FLHT FF FLHTCI, FLHTC PF FLSTDSE
DD FLHT FG FLHTCUI PG FLHRSEI2
DE FLHTC FH FLHPI PR FLHTCUSE7 – CVO
DF FLHTP FL FLHTCUI, FLHTCU PY FLSTSE3 – CVO
DG FLHTC Shrine FM FLHTPI PZ FLHXSE – CVO
DH FLTC FP FLTR MC FLRT
1981 and up FX/FL Dyna Glide Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model Model Code Model
BA FXE EK FXRP – C.H.P. GM FXDI
BB FXEF, FXSTDI EL FXLR GN FXDL
BC FXS EM FXRS – CON GP FXDWG
BD FXB ES FXR GR FXDXI
BE FXWG ET FXR GT FXDC
BF FXSB EV FXR GV FXDC
BG FXDG GA FXDB-D Daytona GX TL
EA FXR GB FXDB-S Sturgis GY FXDF
EB FXRS GC FXDC GZ FLD
EC FXRT GD FXDL PB FXDWG
ED FXRP – Windshield GE FXDWG PE FXDWG3
EE FXRDG GG FXDS-CON PS FXDSE
EF FXRP – Fairing GH FXD PX FSDFSE
EG FXRS-SP Sport Edition GJ FXDX VA FXDBP
EH FXRD GK FXDP
EJ FXRC GL FXDXT
1981 and up FL/FX Softail Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model Model Code Model
BH FXST BX FLSTF JL FXSTC
BJ FLST, FLSTC BY FLSTC JM FLSTSB
BK FXSTC BZ FXSTSI JN FLSTFB
BL FXSTS JA FXSTB JP FXS
BM FLSTF JB FXSTDI JR FLS
BN FLSTN JD FLSTN PF FXSTDSE
BP FXSTSB JE FLST PH FXSTDSE
BR FLSTS JF FLSTI PL FLSTFSE
BS FXSTD JG FLSTF PN FLSTFSE
BT FXSTB JH FLSTC PT FXSTSSE
BV FXST JJ FXCW PY FLSTSE
BW FLSTC JK FXCWC JT FLSTFBS
1981 and up Sportster Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model Model Code Model
CA XLH CN XL883 CZ XL1200N
CB XLS CM XL883L LA XR1200
CC XLX CP XL883C LC XL1200X
CD XR-1000 CR XL883L LD XR1200X
CE XL 883H CS XL883R LE XL883N
CF XL 883 Deluxe CT XL1200C LF XL1200V
CG XL 1200C CV XL1200R LH XL1200CP
CH XL 1200S CW XL1200L LJ XL1200CA
CJ XL 883C CX XL1200L LK XL1200CB
CK XL 883R CY XL50


1981 and up V-Rod Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model Model Code Model
HA VRSCA HF VRSCA HP VRSCF
HC VRSCR HH VRSCDX
HD VRSCD HJ VRSCX
1981 and up Street Model Codes
Model Code Model Model Code Model
NA XG500 NB XG750
1981 and up Engine Codes
Engine Code Engine Engine Code Engine
A 1130 Revolution (100 CV) R 1340 Evolution Fuel Injected
B 1450 Fuel Injected Counter Balanced S 500 Single (Armstrong Military)
C 1550 V Twin Cam 88 Carburetor, 130B
D 1550 EFI W Twin Cam 88 Fuel Injected
E 1690 EFI Y Twin Cam 88 Counter Balanced – Carb
F 1690 Balanced-EFI Z 1130 Revolution
G 1246 Revolution EFI 1 1450 EFI
H 1246 (2001-2009), 1000 Ironhead XL 2 883 ESPFI
J 1246 3 1200 ESPFI
K 1340 Shovelhead 4 1584 ESPFI
L 1340 Evolution 5 1584 ESPFI, Twin Cam 96B
M 883 Evolution XL, Twin Cam 103 6 1200
N 1100 Evolution XL 8 1800 ESPFI
P 1200 Evolution XL 9 1800 ESPFI H 1250 ESPFI
A 500cc Liquid Cooled Revolution X B 749cc Liquid Cooled Revolution X
1981 and up Introduction Periods
Normal Introduction Mid-Year or Special Introduction
Introduction Code Introduction Date Introduction Code Introduction Date
1 Domestic (Normal) 2, 4 Domestic (Mid-Year)
3 California (Normal) 5, 6 California (Mid-Year)
A Canada (Normal) B Canada (Mid-Year)
C International (Normal) D International (Mid-Year)
E Japan (Normal) F Japan (Mid-Year)
G Australia (Normal) H Australia (Mid-Year)
J Brazil (Normal) K Brazil (Mid-Year)
L Asia Pacific (Normal) M Asia Pacific (Mid-Year)
N India (Normal) P India (Mid-Year)

In between the Introduction Period Code and the Model Year Code there is a single digit check number used to detect invalid VINs. The number that appears varies and is based on a mathematical formula that the U.S. Department of Transportation developed.

1981 and up Model Year Codes
Year Code Year Year Code Year Year Code Year Year Code Year
A 2010 J 1988, 2018 T 1996 4 2004
B 1981, 2011 K 1989, 2019 V 1997 5 2005
C 1982, 2012 L 1990, 2020 W 1998 6 2006
D 1983, 2013 M 1991 X 1999 7 2007
E 1984, 2014 N 1992 Y 2000 8 2008
F 1985, 2015 P 1993 1 2001 9 2009
G 1986, 2016 R 1994 2 2002
H 1987, 2017 S 1995 3 2003

 


1981 and up Assembly Plant Codes
Plant Code Plant Location
Y, B York, PA
T Tomahawk, WI
J Milwaukee, WI
K Kansas City, MO
D Manaus, Brazil
E Buell East Troy
N Haryana, India (Bawal District Rewari)

Finally, you are left with 6-digits that indicate the production number of the motorcycle.

Conclusion

It is truly remarkable to contemplate the extensive history of Harley-Davidson spanning over a century of operation, during which the esteemed motorcycle manufacturer has utilized a mere three Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) standards. This streamlined approach to VIN numbers undeniably simplifies the process of deciphering vital information about any Harley-Davidson model one encounters. As you peruse this article, which serves as a comprehensive and convenient reference, you will undoubtedly gain valuable insights into the fundamental details of virtually any Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

However, it is important to bear in mind that despite the comprehensive nature of this article, Harley-Davidson has introduced numerous prototypes and unique one-off models throughout its illustrious history. Consequently, it is plausible that certain rare machines may not be covered within the confines of this guide. Therefore, should you happen upon an unconventional VIN number, exercising due diligence and conducting thorough research is strongly advised prior to making a purchase. While it is conceivable that such an enigmatic VIN could signify the discovery of an exceptionally rare motorcycle, it is more probable that the VIN has been altered subsequent to its departure from the factory. Such tampering can potentially result in legal complications and predicaments in the future.

Harley-Davidson’s commitment to maintaining a limited number of VIN standards throughout its extensive tenure is a testament to the brand’s steadfast dedication to simplicity, consistency, and reliability. This unwavering approach ensures that enthusiasts and collectors alike can readily navigate the intricacies of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, fostering a sense of camaraderie and knowledge-sharing within the vibrant community.

The first of the three VIN standards employed by Harley-Davidson emerged during the early years of its establishment, cementing the foundation for future identification practices. This initial system, known as the “pre-1981 VIN standard,” encompassed motorcycles manufactured prior to 1981 and consisted of a sequence of characters that provided valuable information about the model, engine displacement, and manufacturing year. By familiarizing oneself with the nuances of this vintage identification method, aficionados can immerse themselves in the rich heritage of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and better comprehend the evolution of the brand.

As the years progressed and technological advancements emerged, Harley-Davidson embraced a second VIN standard, known as the “1981-2000 VIN standard,” which endured for two decades. This revised system introduced a more comprehensive set of alphanumeric codes, accommodating the evolving needs of a rapidly expanding lineup of motorcycles. The inclusion of additional information such as the country of origin, assembly plant, and unique serial number enhanced the accuracy and specificity of each VIN, facilitating precise identification and documentation.

In a testament to Harley-Davidson’s commitment to continuous improvement and adaptation, the turn of the millennium ushered in a new era with the adoption of the third and current VIN standard, known as the “2001-present VIN standard.” This modernized system reflects the dynamic nature of the brand, incorporating technological advancements and regulatory requirements of the 21st century. The VIN structure now includes a wider array of characters, offering increased granularity and enabling enthusiasts to glean valuable insights into a motorcycle’s manufacturing details, engine specifications, and model variations.

As a seasoned Harley-Davidson expert, I urge all enthusiasts to approach the world of vintage motorcycles with caution and an astute eye. While this article serves as a comprehensive guide, it is imperative to acknowledge the existence of prototypes and limited-edition models that might elude its coverage. These exclusive machines often bear unique VIN numbers that demand diligent investigation to ascertain their authenticity and provenance.

In conclusion, the legacy of Harley-Davidson is indelibly imprinted within the three distinct VIN number standards that have accompanied its journey through time.

 

By acquainting oneself with these identification systems and their associated intricacies, one can navigate the realm of Harley-Davidson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *