Patina in Spades: 1958 Harley Davidson XLH Sportster for Sale

1958 Harley XLH Sportster R Front

I don’t generally write up Harleys, simply because I’m not that familiar with the brand. That’s probably a result of their current reliance on cutting-edge 1960’s technology and the company’s lifestyle marketing: it looks to me like they’re basically cashing in on a culture of 1%’er badassdom that you really can’t simply buy your way into. That recent commercial, where the guy on the $25,000 touring bike with $1,000 worth of branded gear and a big, smug smile ignores a call from his boss?

Yeah, you’re a real rebel, man. A True. Bad. Ass.

But the guy I saw on a bagger in Jersey City last year at Popeye’s, with his old lady in tow, a freaking 12-inch knife worn openly on his hip, and a patch that read, “Hell’s Angels Knock-Out Crew”? He might have something to say to you about that.

“Bad ass” is the kind of image you’ve got to earn.

1958 Harley XLH Sportster L Tank

So the company’s current engineering and marketing leave a bad taste in my mouth and, for the most part, their sporting heritage isn’t in the kind of roadracing and sporty street machines we cover on this site. As a result, I don’t generally know all that much about vintage Harleys, excepting rebadged Aermacchis. But my snobbish attitude does a great disservice to serious riders and racers who favor vintage American iron: I’ve seen guys banging rigid-frame, tank-shift Harleys around NJMP and that kind of thing is impressive as hell.

Besides, unrestored vintage motorcycles that look this classic and “fire right up and ride smooth as butter” are always cool.

1958 Harley XLH Sportster Dash

Introduced in 1957, the Sportster was HD’s solution when the British invasion forced The Motor Company to evolve or die. Powered by the evocatively-named “Ironhead” [three guesses as to why] overhead-valve 883cc engine, the XLH [the “H” was for “Hot”] featured a higher-compression engine and is relatively rare. On that subject: other than the recent “Twin Cam,” Harleys really do have the best-named engines. Who wouldn’t want a “Knucklehead” in their garage? Or a “Pan-Knuckle”?

Also: dual keys?! Any old Harley fans in the audience want to clarify for me the two keys in the dash and what they both do?

1958 Harley XLH Sportster R Side Engine

From the original eBay listing: 1958 Harley Davidson XLH Sportster for Sale

Here we have a 1958 XLH Sportster that is unrestored original paint. The white paint on the tank appears to be touched up at some point but all of the black paint is untouched. This is only the second year for the Sportster model and one of the most sought after ones with the one year only type plastic tank emblems and yes they are the original ones with the rivets and gaskets. This machine also has the 2 into one pipes with the rare original muffler.  Also has the original carb. with the correct air cleaner with the script on top. Rolling on its original rims and 3.50-18 Goodyear tires.  Same owner since 1960 up until this year. You just dont see many unrestored early Sportsters in this condition. This Sportster fires right up and runs and rides as smooth as butter. This bike also comes with the original tools, manual, old aftermarket signals, title battery tender, and other misc. papers.

Bidding is up to $8,500 and pretty active, with three days to go. It may look a bit rough around the edges, but the miles are relatively low and the seller claims it runs just fine. Patina isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you’re unlikely to find a Sportster as original as this one.


1958 Harley XLH Sportster L Side

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6 Responses

  1. Tad, you’re a bit optimistic with that ‘1960s technology’ label…more like 1930s, or to be generous, 1940s. It’s as if Chevy kept making the ’57 Bel Air and Nomad models exclusively with minor upgrades, because they’re cool and perfect. Well, they are actually, and the Knuck and Pan are beautiful touring machines, even if heavy and ungainly.

    Foreigners are always amazed I’ve never owned the home product, and I have to explain two things: 1. the image problem, as you described 2. the technology problem, as you described.

    That said, an original paint early Sportster is a really nice motorcycle, about on par with a period Triumph, though not as fast, and not as good-handling. But it does have unit construction, and is more robust in every department, hence the weight. I’d be happy as a clam with a WR/KRTT; for all their bass-ackwardness, H-D developed the sidevalve engine to miraculous levels of performance.

    Just be glad your publisher didn’t ask You to write a book on the history of Choppers…

  2. Jess says:

    “Cutting-edge 1960’s technology” that’s a good one! Looks like the whole room has “spades of patina” with the Business Coupe, vintage bicycle and Coca-Cola machine in the back round . I agree with you guys, not much of a Harley fan for the same reasons. However, H-D did have a shining moment when Cal Rayborn showed ’em how in the British Match Races one year. Cal didn’t even have the AMA bending the rules in H-D’s favor. For that reason I would like to have a KRTT. The only other two Harley’s I would consider are the XR-750 and XR-1000, both have some racing cred.

  3. tad says:

    I’m glad you guys got the humor of the post, since I was a little worried I’d get some hate-comments about this one. Paul, it’s funny you mention the unit construction: I almost made a comment about how the old Sportster was actually MORE advanced than the current Harley line up, but I didn’t want to lay it on too thick… And the reality is, I like old HD’s: if I were rich, I’d be emailing Zero Engineering in Japan to build me one of their steampunk bobber-creations, or having Deus recreate one of their Sportster-based bikes. Harley has some real racing history, so it’s just a shame they can’t make anything truly modern.

  4. tad says:

    The KRTT is a very cool bike. I think I posted one of those up on this site last year…

  5. Jess says:

    tad, there are a couple of Vincent Rapides on ebay. Should make an interesting post. They’re right up there in the Classic Sport Bike world.

  6. tad says:

    Thanks Jess: Rapides are something I always try to get up on the site when I can find them. I’ll take a look and write something up!