Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles are known for their nostalgic appearance. Prior to 1984, the majority of Harley-Davidson’s that had a rear suspension used a twin rear shock absorber setup. That would change with the introduction of the FXST Softail, which blended the classic look of a rigid frame with a hidden suspension system to provide the best combination of comfort, performance and retro style.
The 1984 FXST
The new-for-1984 FXST Softail was officially introduced in June of 1983 and featured Harley-Davidson’s new 1,340 cc Evolution engine. The FXST garnered the attention of period motorcycle magazines and riders. Sales of the new FXST quickly outpaced the other models in Harley-Davidson’s lineup, despite a relatively higher asking price of $7,999.
The FXST’s appearance was rooted in the hard-tailed choppers that were increasingly popular during the 1970s. To create the right look, the Softail utilized a rear swingarm with a triangular profile that mimicked the lines of the motorcycle’s seat rails, creating the appearance of a single-piece frame. A pair of hydraulically damped shock absorbers connect the bottom of the swingarm to the Softail’s frame, remaining unseen unless viewed from below. To further its chopper-like appearance, a horseshoe-shaped oil tank was mounted directly to the frame’s seat rails, along with tall, buck-horn handlebars and a highly stepped single-piece seat.
Identifying a First Year FXST
Although the FXST has become a staple in Harley-Davidson’s lineup, a few of the pieces and components used on the 1984 FXST serve to identify it as a first year model. The most obvious difference is the kick starter attached to the right side of the engine’s crankcase, a feature that was not included on any of Harley-Davidson’s other Evolution-engined machines. In addition, first-year models were also fitted with gold bar-and-shield fuel tank emblems and a speedometer with a maximum indicated speed of 85 mph.
The Softail Legacy
Harley-Davidson followed up the success of the FXST with a new touring-based model in 1986, dubbed the FLSTC Heritage Softail, to earn the favor of the riders that preferred long-distance riding over the chopper appearance. Taking the nostalgic appearance even further with its spring-damped front fork, Harley-Davidson released the FXSTS Softail Springer in 1988. Harley-Davidson’s Softail series continued to grow over the years, including notable models like the FXSTD Deuce and the FLSTF Fat Boy. As of 2011, Harley-Davidson offers seven Softail models.