What Is a Shovelhead Engine?


Quick Answer

A Shovelhead engine is a V-twin engine made by the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company. It was a remodeled version of Harley-Davidson’s Panhead engine and provided greater power and acceleration. Built in 1965, the engine was in operation from 1966 to 1985.

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Full Answer

Harley-Davidson introduced the Shovelhead engine in response to consumer demands for greater horsepower. The engine got its name “Shovelhead” from the appearance of its rocker box covers that resembled the heads of coal shovels. The Shovelhead engine featured rocker arm and rocker boxes in place of covers, which pivoted on the shafts. The engine was originally designed for outboard engines but failed to function well in wet and humid conditions.

The Shovelhead engine powered the Harley Davidson FLH Electra-Glide motorcycle, which featured an electric starter. The Shovelhead engine’s heavy weight attracted several consumer complaints. The weight prevented the engine to deliver its full acceleration and power in certain motorcycle models in the sixties. The engine also caused steering problems at top speeds.

In the 1970s, Harley-Davidson made some modifications in the engine parts to resolve these issues while adhering to government regulations related to top speeds. However, the Shovelhead engine did not meet consumer expectations and continued to decline in popularity. In 1984, Harley-Davidson stopped the production of the Shovelhead engines.

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