Robert and Susan Shingler moved their eyes between a factory floor and an assembly line, struggling to find words.

The South Carolina couple watched with awe as second shift workers built bikes at Harley-Davidson's Springettsbury Township factory--the same way the employees had assembled the Shinglers' fifth hog and the York County plant's 4 millionth motorcycle.

"Being such Harley advocates, seeing how they're built leaves you a little speechless," said Robert Shingler, a 44-year-old Harley enthusiast who has served as a police officer in Summerville, S.C. since 1996.

The Shinglers were invited to the local factory Monday night to meet the second shift workers who in October built the couple's Road Glide Ultra in midnight pearl--a shade that looks black, but shimmers in sunlight, the owners said.

Robert and Susan Shingler of Summerfield SC meet the second shift crew at Harley-Davidson’s York Plant that built their Road Glide Ultra motorcycle.
Robert and Susan Shingler of Summerfield SC meet the second shift crew at Harley-Davidson's York Plant that built their Road Glide Ultra motorcycle. (John A. Pavoncello)

Donning a Harley-Davidson ball cap and short-sleeved, button-down shirt with the Milwaukee-based manufacturer's name stretched across the back, Robert Shingler said he had no idea what a collectible he was buying last month during the 2012 Florida State HOG (Harley Owners Group) Rally.

"All anybody told us was that it was a special bike," he said.

A few weeks passed before he learned in November that a little more than $20,000 bought him the 4 millionth bike built in York.

"This bike was a collector's item before it even hit the road," Robert Shingler said.

But an iconic status won't keep the Shinglers from riding it.

"We'll put some serious miles on this bike," he said.

There are only 170 miles on it right now, but the couple has big plans for their Road Glide Ultra. In May, they are planning a trip to Panama City, Fla.; in June, they will go to Tennessee, and in September they will go to Milwaukee for Harley's 110th anniversary.

The Shinglers put 26,000 miles on their previous Harley, a 2010 Ultra Limited. They've also owned a 2008 Ultra, a 2006 Street Glide and a 2004 Custom 1200.

"We couldn't pick a better couple to buy this bike," said Harley spokeswoman Bernadette Lauer.

After the Shinglers watched a video detailing how their bike was made -- from the rear suspension to the final inspection -- workers who built the bike shook the couple's hands and offered congratulatory remarks.

"I'm glad you got it," an assembly line worker said.

Robert Shingler diverted the glory back to him.

"Thank you," he said. "I know this is as special for me as it is for you."

Harley's York operations churned out its first bike in 1973, said General Manager Ed Magee.

It took 20 years to build 1 million bikes, 8 more years to build 2 million bikes. And 11 years later 4 million have been built in the county, he said.

Magee smiled as he led the Shinglers to the first leg of the assembly line to watch other bikes slowly move along the same path as their Road Glide Ultra.

Looking at a Harley slogan hanging above the factory floor--"Exporting freedom, every day"--Robert Shingler finally found words to describe the moment:

"Talking to people who built our bike is amazing. These workers have so much pride. Some of them even signed their names beneath the fenders. It's like having them out there, riding with you."