Police Bike: 1978 Harley-Davidson FLHP

By Tracey Kohman

I caught up with my friend Woody this summer and he introduced me to his bike, an early 1978 Harley-Davidson FLHP. I was happy to take the small tour and soak up the brief history lesson I was about to get. He began by explaining that “a blind man forged it out of a meteor after it crashed to the ground”…..with a smile, he continued, “I purchased this bike from the Philadelphia police department in 1987.” He pointed out that it was a rare bike because of being the final year for the side shift.

The FLH originated in 1949 as the Hydra-Glide touring model, because of its hydraulically damped telescopic forks. Then came along the Duo-Glide and Electra-Glide, both carrying the FLH title, the “P” designates that this is a police vehicle.

This particular bike is a “shovelhead” (because of the shape of the rockers), which in 1966 replaced the “panhead,” and in 1978, the manufacture year of this bike, the shovelhead engine got an upgrade to 1340cc (80ci) from the previous 1200cc (74ci). Due to it being an early year model, it was introduced with electric start, and no longer used kick start. This particular bike did however, retain the same 74 cubic inch motor, but was given  a boost in output to 60 horsepower.

A lot of time was spent restoring it. Carefully taking each piece apart and rebuilding it. Sanding it, polishing it, adding chrome. He was able to get hold of a seat pan and stain some leather for the seat, enlisting the help of a friend who makes horse saddles to recreate the seat.

To further add to the beauty of this bike, a gun belt with a quick draw holster was mounted to the seat and equipped with a .45 Vaquero revolver. An incredible final touch from an avid hobbyist.


He spoke with pride of it receiving “Best of Show” at Rolling Thunder at Sandy Hook, NJ, a popular beach town on the shore, and part of the Northeastern New Jersey Triangle: Rumson-Sandy Hook-Sea Bright, a popular motorcycle route. It has a lot of beautiful sights from the Navesink River Bridge, and bridges all over the Shrewsbury River, including exceptional homes, and incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean with several beaches. Make sure to check out the nude beach at Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area!

This beautifully restored bike has also placed 1st in the Police Bike Category, receiving a trophy, as well as four other Best of Show awards over the years.

–Technical Consultant: Justin James.