1972 Harley FX Midnight Express: The Original Factory Custom
Harley’s original Factory Experimental is an underrated bike that ushered in an entirely new kind of motorcycle.
Prior to the early ’70s, Harley-Davidson offered essentially two different kinds of V-Twin motorcycles: the small twin and the big twin. But the legendary motorcycle maker was well aware of the emerging custom bike phenomenon sweeping the nation. This prompted Harley to build their own “custom” factory bike they dubbed the “FX,” short for Factory Experimental.
The FX, which debuted in 1971, used a mashup of parts from other Harleys. It sported the frame, rear suspension, and drivetrain from the FLH Electra Glide, combined with telescopic forks, headlight, and brakes from the XLH Sportster. Harley’s factory custom also featured a boattail rear fender and buckhorn handlebars.
Harley offered their new FX with “Sparkling America” red, white, and blue decals as a $40 option. The unique scheme pays homage to the brand’s AMA racing efforts. When combined with a black paint job, the option was referred to as the Midnight Express. But as timely and incredibly cool as these factory customs came off, they weren’t very popular with consumers at the time. Most simply didn’t care for the boattail, prompting Harley to offer a more conventional rear fender later on.
Combine that with the fact that many didn’t even know the Midnight Express option existed (including Harley dealers), and you’ve got the makings of a fairly rare motorcycle. This numbers matching example we ran across on eBay is one of the first we’ve seen in quite some time, in fact. And it comes with that elusive boattail. Though the bike currently sports a conventional rear fender and 1973 model front fender.
The FX eventually grew on the public and sold quite well. But it was the original model that paid the dues necessary for that success. These bikes simply paved the way for factory customs as we know them. And for that, the FX and the Midnight Express certainly deserve more credit.