The renowned Knucklehead engine might just be the one powerplant in Harley-Davidson’s lineup that will never be forgotten. It was produced from 1936 to 1947, and despite being out of production for 75 years and succeeded by the Panhead and Shovelhead, the Knucklehead still maintains a loyal fanbase who build astounding machines around it.
The engines were available in 61cc and 74cc at the time, making them very reliable, but lacking some power in regard to engines that would be released later. This year at AIMExpo, we were able to check out a custom Harley-Davidson Knucklehead that featured a 103cc engine. And while it might not have been a completely faithful reproduction, the modern additions make it a comfortable and reliable ride while still retaining that classic Harley look.
The bike in question is owned by a man named Stu Cantera, but we were able to get the scoop on it via his friend James Simonelli. We met Simonelli at the Tucker Powersports booth, as he’s the manager of one of their V-twin brands, Twin Power. Twin Power supplies aftermarket parts and accessories for American V-Twin bikes, everything from yesterday’s old school to tomorrow’s classic. It’s easy to see why a vintage Knucklehead was on display front and center at their booth.
“It’s S&S based with S&S cylinder heads and cases,” Simonelli told us. “It’s got the generator-style right-hand case, and the cool thing is that it’s got a more modern ’70-and-later left-hand case, which allows it to have an alternator charging system.”
Much of the motorcycle was altered to create a more user-friendly experience, including a three-inch open-belt drive and a modern five-speed soft tail transmission. JayBrake billet forward controls and Hawg Halters four-piston billet calipers add even more modern convivences to the package.
“Everybody wants to ride an old Knuckle, but obviously it’s a chore to keep an old bike running,” Simonelli says. “This one has a modern charging system, electric start, and a modern clutch, so it’s got a cool factor and a convenience factor.
“The custom exhaust is a one-off piece. Those pipes were hand-welded, ground and plated, and the guy did an amazing job on them. If you look at them, they’re practically seamless.”
Aesthetically, the bike isn’t lacking in that regard either. A rigid frame allows for a tight ride and travel, thanks to a lot of stretch and rake. The 180mm tires on the back and attractive 60-spoke wheels make it a sight when in movement.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the sleek, yet subtle paint job. What might look like a clean, yet basic black paint job transforms when you get closer. Ghosted-in details on the gas tank and front fender draw your attention and make for a more intricate piece upon second view.
If you have a motorcycle, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or jet ski you’d like to feature in MPN’s Ride of the Week series, please email MPN Content Director Greg Jones at [email protected]