Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator

Daily Slideshow: Craig Vetter's Liberator fairing is an impressive footnote in Harley-Davidson's history.

By Bruce Montcombroux - March 13, 2019
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator
Larger than Life Harley-Davidson FLH Liberator

Boxcar Charm

The 'Liberator' might just be the largest faring ever fitted to a Harley-Davidson. With headlights from a semi-trailer truck, creator Craig Vetter named the Liberator after the WW2 Consolidated B-24 bomber — affectionately known as the 'Flying Boxcar' for its slab-sided fuselage. With quirky, ungainly charm, the massive Vetter Liberator fairings are sought after by collectors, and cherished by owners.  

Up in Smoke

Harley-Davidson offered the Liberator from 1975 to 1978 on the FLH model. With only five-thousand produced, Liberators are rare. In 1977, production of the fairing stopped because of a fire at Vetter's Illinois plant. With all the molds destroyed and at least a year before Vetter could resume production, the Motor Company dropped the Liberator from its offerings. 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Windjammer Fame

Founded in 1966, the Vetter Fairing Company created aftermarket motorcycle fairings before they were standard factory items. Fitted to a myriad of motorcycles, Vetter's Windjammer fairings become synonymous with motorcycling in the 1970s, and even standard equipment on some brands. In 1999, Craig Vetter was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was credited by American Motorcyclist magazine as the “man who changed motorcycling.” 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Big Yes

Vetter began work on the frame-mounted Liberator in 1973, in what he hoped would be a great fairing for Harley-Davidson. Vetter recounts, “The Liberator began when I made a call to Harley-Davidson in 1973. I asked, would they like a big, frame-mounted fairing for the FLH? The answer was yes, and a 'fit-up' bike was made available.”

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Liberator Reveal

In January of 1974, Vetter revealed the Liberator to Willie G. Davidson. By 1976, the fairing was an official Harley-Davidson product. At the time, the Motor Company only offered a factory-fitted 'Batwing' fairing designed by Dean Wixom in 1965. Initially listed in 1969 as a 'windshield fairing kit,' the Batwing became a standard feature in 1971. Unlike the Liberator, the Batwing design is still in production to this day. 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Definitive FLH

Charly Perethian, a friend of Vetter, and later co-founder of the Rifle Fairing Company, test rode the first Liberator. Vetter said that he “liked the idea of making a big bomber of a fairing,” and wanted to offer the most touring protection possible. “After all, the FLH was the definitive cross-country cruiser of America, right?” 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Dual Cover

Dual headlights from a Kenworth truck grace the Liberator's behemoth facade. Vetter explained that getting the headlights, the Harley-Davidson auxiliary lights, and the turn signals, was a challenge. Concerned with aerodynamics, Vetter hoped to put a “clear, rounded cover over the front, but the laws at that time would not allow it.” 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Fan Favor

If there is a legacy for the Liberator it comes from Elvis Presley. A fan of the FLH Liberator, Elvis bought numerous models yet was only ever seen riding the black and gold Liberator that is on display at Graceland. As Vetter later said, “I had helped Elvis get his start when I bought my copy of Heartbreak Hotel in 1957. He returned the favor by buying a Liberator in 1976.” 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Fairing Bankruptcy

With worldwide distribution, the Vetter Fairing Company was one of the largest motorcycle industry manufacturers in the United States during the 1970s — only second to Harley-Davidson. After the 1977 fire, the Vetter Fairing Company was sold to bankers in 1978 and went bankrupt in 1983. Bell (Helmets), acquired the assets and continued to produce Windjammer fairings until 1987. 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

Aftermarket Support

As an automotive consultant, the Vetter story continues to this day. There are no aftermarket suppliers for his fairings, including the Liberator, but small parts are available. Impressively, Vetter still stands behind his product, even thirty years after he ceased production. If you have questions about your Vetter fairing, Carol Vetter, Craig's wife of almost fifty years, will help you out. 

>>Join the conversation about the FLH Liberator right here in the Harley-Davidson Forum!

For help with service of your bike, check out the how to section of HDForums.com.

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