1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464
Lot 137
1938 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead
US$ 50,000 - 60,000
£ 36,000 - 44,000

Lot Details
1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464 1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead' Engine no. 38EL3464
1938 Harley-Davidson 61ci EL 'Knucklehead'
Engine no. 38EL3464
• Matching numbers example
• 'Barn find' condition
• 5 miles covered since engine rebuild

Without question one of the most handsome and readily recognizable motorcycle power units of all time, the Harley-Davidson 61ci overhead-valve v-twin - known as the 'Knucklehead' after its distinctively shaped rocker boxes - arrived powering a stylish all-new motorcycle in 1936. A twin-loop frame was deemed necessary to handle the 61ci's increased power (37bhp in 'E' and 40bhp in high-compression 'EL' forms) while the front suspension too was beefed up, the forks switching to oval tubing in place of the previous forged I-beams. Teething problems associated with the earliest examples had been sorted out by 1937 and the Milwaukee factory quickly set about establishing the EL's performance credentials, Joe Petrali setting a new speed record of 136mph at Daytona Beach in March of that year, while Fred Ham later averaged 76mph for 24 hours at the Muroc Dry Lake in California to set a new best mark. (The Muroc Dry Lake, in Kern County, California is named after some early settlers, Ralph and Clifford Corum – their last name spelled backwards!).

Progressively improved, the ohv Harley became available in 74ci (FL) form from 1941, remaining a cornerstone of the Milwaukee range through the 'Panhead' and later 'Shovelhead' versions until superseded by the Evolution-engined bikes in the 1980s. You'd be right in thinking the EL and FLs are the archetypal Harley type we all picture when we hear the word.

Last registered in 1960, the previous owner stored it in a California barn – dry and protected from critters - shortly thereafter it was purchased by the vendor from the son, now well into his seventies, needing an engine, transmission, carburetor (Linkert), and speedometer re-build, and little bit of wiring help. Instantly the seller determined that it would suffer from a traditional restoration, or even just a re-paint. 'Original bikes in this kind of condition are rare and don't need spoiling'. Specialists Jerry Ballard of Forest Hill, California undertook the rebuild of the big components, John Bordas, the speedometer. The bike has but five miles of break-in on the rebuilt Knucklehead.

From the very beginning the Harley and Davidson boys sought to build a rugged motorcycle, for indeed the times were rugged... This Knucklehead is a prime example of how Harley 'does rugged'. Now 80 years old, let's hope for the next 80 years – two generations, or more – this Knucklehead will continue to provide motorcycling pleasure.

Footnotes

  • As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.
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