Steve Gilkey's 1984 Harley-Davidson XR1000


Steve Gilkey

Original Make/Model:

1984 Harley-Davidson XR1000

What is it?

This is an '84 XR1000, even though it's stamped '83. All the black ones were '84s, almost at the very end of the run. They made less than 150 of the black ones, and they were offered to Harley dealers if they would take another grey one. Not many dealers could even sell the first grey XR, so there weren't many black ones made. They were supposed to be this big sales success, but they weren't. For that nine extra horsepower over the $3,995 Sportster, the XR1000 was $7,995.

What makes it an XR?

The engine: the heads, the barrels, the rods, the flywheels, all that stuff fit this only. This stupid decal, [pointing to a metallic foil decal on the primary cover] if you buy an original one from Harley, is like 100 and something bucks, because it's the only thing they made it for. And the wheels make it an XR1000, because they have these red reliefs. And it came with double discs, which they took off the FXRSP, the Superglide Sport that they quit making. And because it's an XR it's got a tach. Sportsters didn't have a tach.

It's short rod. To fit these in this frame, they had to make up a special barrel and rod set. If you look at a Sportster jug, it comes to about here, and you run out of frame to accommodate the heads. These barrels were only ever made for these. The fins go all the way down to the spigot. The holes go all the way through it. Sportsters and such had barrels bolted to the block at the bottom with no through-bolting. The dead giveaway is the holes in the top for the through bolts.

What's with the pipes?

Funny you should ask. They were part of the speed kit. It's weird; they meant for you to race it. This was a kit that they sold you to convert the stock ones. I've got a pair of the BOTT (Battle of the Twins) pipes. I don't put them on the street; I'll show 'em to you and you'll see why. They're literally straight out. They look just like these but they're cored.

Steel intake manifolds?

They're tapered. It's a Harley, man, don't forget. These things shake. It'll foam your privates.

How's this one run compared to the stock one? (Steve also has a stock grey '83 XR1000)

A lot faster. This one has about 95 horsepower, it really does. And that stock one has about 72. This thing will make power until it shoots the pushrods right through your nuts. If you don't shut off, it doesn't ever flatten out or get weak. You can twist it to seven grand, which is pretty high for a big pushrod motor.

How long have you had it?

Two years. What happened was there was a guy who was a pilot, and he got rocked by the stock market and said he had to sell it. We agreed on a price, and I bought it. When I went down to see it, it was in Texas, and his friend picked me up at the airport. The friend said "Hey, you like XRs? I've got one with like 1,000 miles on it." So I said I'd like to have a two-fer here, if you guys will make me a deal. That's where I got the other one, the grey one.

Who did the mods?

He sent it to Branch, [Branch Flowmetrics] the motor, anyway. He got pistons, cams, 39mm Flowmetric carbs, and they went through the heads. When you bought one of these from Harley, every one of the heads went to Branch, but whoever was working that day was a porter, and they put a finish on them, but they weren't uniform. What you did, when you wanted it to run, after you bought the bike, you sent these back to Branch, and he was a good salesman, and he said "If you're going to do this, it really needs the other things too. You might want to use the cams, blah blah blah." Right after he started doing that Harley said, "Wait a minute; we're going to make that a kit." The way they did it was you got pistons, cams, Branch re-did the heads, you got a new intake, you had to do something with the pipes, carbs, and if you're really nuts, the pistons came in 10.5 and 12 [compression ratio]. People that ran 12s were drag racing. Stock is 9. This one has the 10.5 to 1s.

How's it handle?

They raced these against Honda Interceptors and stuff. They go 140 mph, and these don't. So, you had to go faster somewhere, if you're going to beat 'em, like in the turns. The frame geometry was taken off the road racing KRTT frame, but not the wall thickness. This thing is actually okay; it's better than you think. It's basically an XLS, with a motor in it.

What do you think it's worth now?

That's a good question. People always overstate.

When I got it, it was in horrible shape, dirty, unrun. The guy didn't know anything. The carbs were set so that when you opened it to full throttle, they went to quarter throttle. He told me "It's weak for some reason, but when I first got it, it was really quick. Then it just kept getting slower." It uses a barrel, all this monkey-motion. Harley wasn't exactly into bikes with two carbs. I took it down and took it apart. The cables were sitting between the spool. I fixed that and took it down the street, and WAAAAHHH! I paid him 13 [thousand], and after getting it right, it's worth maybe 15. I'm not a very good curator. If I can't ride it, I'll just sell it.