Flagship Comparison: 1998 Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer

Harley's 1998 Heritage Springer gets nostalgic

1998 Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer
1998 Harley-Davidson Heritage SpringerFran Kuhn

Harley reached back 50 years to find the inspiration for its most nostalgic model ever. With its Springer front suspension, hardtail-like rear end, 16-inch whitewall tires, high headlight arrangement, fringed dual seat and saddlebags, split 4.2-gallon fuel tank design with dual filler caps, and dual fishtail mufflers, the FLSTS captures the flavor of a 1948 Harley 74. However, it does it with modern amenities. The bike does have a real suspension system, Harley's Softail configuration with the dampers laid horizontally out of sight beneath the bike. The front suspension includes a damper (something lacking a half-century ago), and the brakes are hydraulically actuated discs instead of the drum-style brakes of 1948.

The engine remains the same basic configuration as that Harley-Davidson panhead of 50 years ago. It is still an air-cooled, 45-degree, single-carb V-twin, using pushrods and hydraulic lifters to actuate the two valves per cylinder. However, it's now six cubic inches bigger at 80 cubic inches and has modern alloy cylinders, five speeds, electronic ignition operation, and other modern conveniences. It hasn't become too new-fangled though; there is no counterbalancer, and the engine mounts to the frame without rubber vibration dampers.

1998 Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer
Harley dug out the blueprints from the ’40s to assure authentic details for components, like the chrome-covered horn mounted high on the Springer fork’s springs and damper.Fran Kuhn

Retro touches abound. They include the front-mounted, chrome-covered horn, spotlights bracketing the headlight, chrome rails around the back of the rider’s portion of the two-piece saddle, a white fender light up front, a tombstone-style taillight/license light in the rear, plenty of fringe, and a basket-weave pattern in the upholstery. Our test machine was painted in 95th-anniversary livery, which adds a few dollars to the price and, presumably, cachet to the machine.

As Harley’s most nostalgic and—with a suggested price in excess of $17,000—most expensive cruiser, the Heritage Springer is a natural choice as its flagship. Certainly, its nostalgia and unique combination of 16-inch wheels and Springer fork give it a style and sense of elegance beyond other cruisers.

This article was originally published in the August 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.