Having a 75 of my own i would recommend you either choose something 73 and down or 78 and above the years where they had the crossover shaft to make the bikes left side shift where bastard years and it makes the bike harder to order parts for and it is just a crappy design
The best bike to restore is the one you own. 77 was the first year without the cross over shaft. It was a crappy design. Thats what you get when the government makes you do it.
Don't own one yet, I am looking for a basket case with a clear title and am just looking for feedback on pros and cons of the various years. Looks like carmine has some good feedback re the crossover shaft...
The older ones don't have disc brakes. And yeah you gotta decide which side you wanna shift on. Most of us don't mind shifting on the right.
1979 is the year for odd pipes and maybe some other stuff. The parts catalog says "fits 57-85 except 79" on some stuff.
1979 is the year I would recommend if you are looking for something to completely restore as an investment, the main reason being is that it truly is different from all the other years and so many of them have been modified to get rid of that worthless frame. There were only about 120 xlch's built in '79, so if you are lucky enough to find one, that would be great. However, if you are wanting to ride on a regular basis, then I would not recommend the '79. I had one in 1980 and it just didn't seem as nimble as the other years and the ride height just wasn't comfortable for me.
My ironhead is a '76 and I love the fact it has the crossover - made building a jock shift a snap, plus it puts the shifter where I want it.