Rob’s ’47 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

Life for this bike started out as a 1948 Panhead, however an identity crisis was ahead and a change was to be made. For Rob, everything that he’s wanted to do in a Harley build was going to be in this bike. The end result is a testament to Rob’s excellent skills and finer taste.

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You may recognise this beauty already. This isn’t the first time we’ve gone to have a sticky beak at the amazing machines that Rob and his good mate Sam have in their Shed, including Sam’s 1950 Panhead.  We returned again, to make sure these two were behaving themselves and also to get another, closer look at Rob’s incredible 1947 Harley-Davidson FL Knucklehead.

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Initially purchased as an unfinished restoration project, this 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead was to be given a new heart from its now new owner Rob. Having sold the ’48 Panhead motor, Rob got to work hunting down his dream engine. His search would be successful, finding a set of genuine healthy ’47 cases – the last of the Knuckle’s before the introduction of the Panhead in ‘48.  Search successful, Rob had the job of putting the bottom end together and the blueprints were given to the guys at Redgraves Motorcycles down at Hornsby.

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This build was to encapsulate everything Rob wanted in a Harley – this would be the one. Grabbing a set of original Fatbob fuel tanks, Rob narrowed and joined them together, adding some round bar as a backbone and relocating the filler cap. This would be a much more stylised and cooler version of this quasi-original tank. With his good mate Shack’o behind the brush, the pin striping and numbers would be completed across the tank.

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The next step would be modifying the stem of an original VL springer front end, which would be a long-term ambition in itself. An older styled oval shaped headlight from a long forgotten vintage car was sourced from the States. Next, Rob laced some “mud catcher” style alloy wheels with stainless steel spokes. The rear guard would be fabricated and painted to match the customised tank – tying a sleek style across the body of the machine. A brass rod was given to a local engineer who machined it before Rob set about mounting it alongside the fuel tank.

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Keen to keep experimenting in this build, a rock’n’roll foot clutch assembly was created which works fantastically. The pipes were purchased as-is with plans to chop them up, but after demoing them on the bike the sound and look was too good to change anything. This bike wasn’t just built to look pretty, but to ride. With plenty of trips with mates up and down the coast to various festivals and events, this bike needed to perform on the long haul. After a few runs with a few mates, the only improvement this immaculate machine needed was a bottle opener affixed to the handlebars.

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“I love Harleys, they’re the Hotrods of the motorcycle world. It’s in the blood. My favourite thing about this machine is even on it… yet. I’ve rebuilt a pair of original Linkert carbs, but after many different mods to the manifold I haven’t been able to get them to run properly. But fuck, they look cool just sitting on the shelf!”

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A few pieces from the archives