’50’s Retro: 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Chopper

It is believed that this 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Chopper had spent many years stored away in a barn, but it has now been revived and returned to running order. The next owner can choose whether to undertake some form of cosmetic restoration, or whether they would prefer to find themselves on a classic that seems to scream the word “survivor.” The Harley is located in Phoenix, Arizona, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. With bidding sitting at $17,600, the reserve hasn’t been met.

It would seem that the parts for this 1950s Chopper parts have been drawn from many different Harley models. The frame is of 1938 vintage, with all of the markings and casting codes clearly legible. The frame itself is in very nice condition, with no signs of any bends or fatigue in the tubes. The rear fender is also of 1938 vintage and might be original to the frame. The chrome oil tank is a 1939 model, but the vintage of the 3½ gallon fuel tank isn’t clear. That tank wears a few dings and dents, but it could certainly be repaired or restored. However, I suspect that more than a few potential owners would choose to leave it as-is, and ride the bike as a true survivor.

The engine fitted to this Harley marked the final year of new sales for the mighty Knucklehead. This 1947 model engine started life with a capacity of 990cc, but it isn’t clear whether the internals of the twin remains original. When it was new, it would have produced 40hp, with that power being sent through a 4-speed transmission to the rear wheel via the iconic belt-drive system. The owner obviously seems to know his way around a Harley, because he says that the gears in the transmission look good, indicating that he has had a bit of a look inside. As part of the revival process, the owner gave the carburetor a rebuild, and also fitted a new 12-volt coil and battery. Given how robust these engines are, I’m not in the least bit surprised to learn that once this work had been completed, the Harley kicked instantly into life. The owner says that the engine feels strong and that the bike rides well. The engine certainly sounds good, as you will be able to confirm via this YouTube video.

Different classic vehicles experience moments where they go in and out of vogue. Today’s “must-have” suddenly becomes tomorrow’s discarded item. One classic that has avoided this is the traditional, 1950s-style Harley Chopper. These are probably more popular now than they have ever been, and there are probably plenty of reasons for this. These are a simple vehicle to own and maintain, and getting out on the road on one of these provides the owner with an unrivaled feeling of freedom. In our ever more complex world, that sounds like the sort of option that would appeal to plenty of people.

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Comments

  1. Dave

    To be young and without a worry

    Like 3
  2. Stevieg

    I WANT IT!
    After watching the video, all I can say is she sounds beautiful! This is what a real Harley sounds like, not my 2018 RoadGlide lol.
    I know it is not nearly the same thing, but this bike to me embodies the spirit of my 2006 Springer. I miss that bike.
    Don’t text & drive!

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Hey Stevie, that 3rd bike down looks just like my ’85 RT after I took the fairing off. That was a nice bike too, I read, one of Willie G’s favorites.

  3. JerryDeeWrench

    To be old and be with out a worry better yet.

    Like 4
  4. Stangalang

    Very sweet scooter…I’d like to hear that twin thumper in person 🤤👍

    Like 1
  5. Mike

    Good looking bobber. Wish I had one

    Like 1
  6. Barry Traylor

    I rode a Harley with those awful ape hanger handle bars once and it was the worst handling motorcycle I ever rode.

    Like 5
  7. Howard A Member

    So, I’m assuming this could be considered the rat rod of H-D’s? Sounds nice at idle, I’m sure your neighbors will love you, but it’s a H-D with straight pipes, who cares, right? I agree on the ape hangers, your arms will go numb it 10 minutes. No air cleaner, bad sign. Love bikes, but I see no attraction here. It’s got to be miserable to ride any distance.

    Like 3
  8. Stevieg

    Ape hangers are wonderful if they are properly fitted. There actually is a science behind them & if the rider is measured properly on the bike, and then the proper size bar is attached to the bike, they can actually be beneficial, especially on long distances.
    It took me less than 10 min to get used to the apes on my Springer. Yes, it was different handling than with the beach bars, but once I was used to it, I thought it handled better. No more skre shoulders from being hunched over while riding it, too.

    Like 3
  9. Stevieg

    Ape hangers are wonderful if they are properly fitted. There actually is a science behind them & if the rider is measured properly on the bike, and then the proper size bar is attached to the bike, they can actually be beneficial, especially on long distances.
    It took me less than 10 min to get used to the apes on my Springer. Yes, it was different handling than with the beach bars, but once I was used to it, I thought it handled better. No more skre shoulders from being hunched over while riding it, too.

    Like 2
  10. Stevieg

    Oops, I did not mean to post the last comment twice lol
    Here is my Springer with the apes. I know they look tall, but with me on the bike and my hands on the bars, my hands were straight out from my shoulders. That is actually ideal placement for the riders paws. Sure, if the paws are higher than the shoulders like you are trying to catch birds while riding your hands will go numb. That is no good. But if the hands are straight ahead of the shoulders, that can be very comfortable for long hauls.
    HowardA, I am sure you are familiar with the Hawley road viaduct. With the apes on my bike, I would go over that, when no one else is around, at 65-70 mph. The bike handled wonderfully. Sure, it was different handling than when the beach bars were on it, but it handled wonderfully once ya knew what to expect.

    Like 2
  11. Stevieg

    HowardA, Bill Davidson has an FXRT that is one of his favorite bikes, he rides it everywhere in the summer. That one next to my Roadglide is not his, but virtually a twin of his.
    Those are cool bikes. I am a fan of the evo engine!
    Bill’s RT might be his Dad’s old bike. I have a good friend that knows them well, I will have to ask him.
    I worked with my friend who knows them when I worked @ Milwaukee Harley. My friend, John, was a retiree from Harley corporate. He worked in research & development for a while & was involved with development of the V-Rod. He also performed double duty & did a bit of marketing for corporate. After retirement, he missed working on bikes so he came & worked for us as a tech.
    Anyhow, the owners of our dealership, a company called The Windy City Motor Company owned a number of dealerships in Wisconsin & Illinois. They had an annual employee rally that all employees were required to attend. Yup, these narcissists would close all of their dealerships & bring all employees together in a rented theater so we could see a presentation they put on telling us how great they are lol. It was a joke! Anyhow, the key note speaker at one of these “wonderful” events was Bill Davidson. His Dad was there too, as sort of “support”, if you want to call it that.
    During the lunch break, John & I are standing around, shooting the breeze. This was before the key note speaker spoke, and we had no idea who it was supposed to be.
    Well, Bill & his Dad, Willie G., went walking by. They saw John & stopped. Bill walks up & said “Hey Johnnie, I thought I might see you here. Why don’t you & your friend come have lunch with Dad & I. John asked what they were doing there. Bill stated he was the speaker.
    John & I accepted the offer. Our store general manager looked at us as we walked away with Willie G. & Bill Davidson. That general manager, who didn’t like me (he found a b.s. reason to relieve me of my duties a short time later) was really jealous lol.
    I loved that lunch for soooooo many different reasons lol!

    Like 2
  12. Stevieg

    HowardA, Bill Davidson has an FXRT that is one of his favorite bikes, he rides it everywhere in the summer. That one next to my Roadglide is not his, but virtually a twin of his.
    Those are cool bikes. I am a fan of the evo engine!
    Bill’s RT might be his Dad’s old bike. I have a good friend that knows them well, I will have to ask him.
    I worked with my friend who knows them when I worked @ Milwaukee Harley. My friend, John, was a retiree from Harley corporate. He worked in research & development for a while & was involved with development of the V-Rod. He also performed double duty & did a bit of marketing for corporate. After retirement, he missed working on bikes so he came & worked for us as a tech.
    Anyhow, the owners of our dealership, a company called The Windy City Motor Company owned a number of dealerships in Wisconsin & Illinois. They had an annual employee rally that all employees were required to attend. Yup, these narcissists would close all of their dealerships & bring all employees together in a rented theater so we could see a presentation they put on telling us how great they are lol. It was a joke! Anyhow, the key note speaker at one of these “wonderful” events was Bill Davidson. His Dad was there too, as sort of “support”, if you want to call it that.
    During the lunch break, John & I are standing around, shooting the breeze. This was before the key note speaker spoke, and we had no idea who it was supposed to be.
    Well, Bill & his Dad, Willie G., went walking by. They saw John & stopped. Bill walks up & said “Hey Johnnie, I thought I might see you here. Why don’t you & your friend come have lunch with Dad & I. John asked what they were doing there. Bill stated he was the speaker.
    John & I accepted the offer. Our store general manager looked at us as we walked away with Willie G. & Bill Davidson. That general manager, who didn’t like me (he found a b.s. reason to relieve me of my duties a short time later) was really jealous lol.
    I loved that lunch for soooooo many different reasons lol! I feel like the luckiest man in the world sometimes. And even though I am not an old man yet (49 years old), I feel like I have already had a full and wonderful life. I look forward to the next 49 years!

    Like 2
  13. Rob H

    17 large for a beat up parts bin special? No thanks.

    Like 2
  14. Howard A Member

    Good copy on the double posts. That happens a lot in the wee hours of the morn. The comments get delayed while BF’s corporate in the Cayman Islands reviews them, I imagine. :) I hated the fairing on my RT, and was kind of a pain taking it off, because everything was painted, and I wanted chrome. All said and done, I should have just bought a FXR in the 1st place. Some smokin’ deals out here, a 20 year old Dyna, still a beautiful bike, was listed on CL for $6 grand. Aside from these relics, that will always have a following among the hoi-paloi, there’s just too many H-D’s out there today. It’s no fun trying to sell a modern one. Good time to buy one, tho. Not sure how H-D is going to get out of that predicament. They closed a KC plant, and the tranny plant on Capitol dr. has been vacant for years.

    • Stevieg

      The transmission plant on Capitol drive is now research & development, far from vacant. There is a plant on Pilgrim road in Menomonee Falls, right off Hwy 45, where they build engines and transmissions together.
      My uncle Ron, who you might remember from Marshall, has a REALLY nice 1998 Wide Glide for sale, built evo engine, for sale for $5,500 (in case you know anyone looking for a sweetheart cruiser). Maybe I can post that here for him as an exclusive. Not advertising it yet, just word of mouth.
      Josh, if I just stepped on your toes, I apologize. It wasn’t meant that way, and I promise I will put the bike up here as an exclusive in the spring. It won’t sell here this time of year anyhow lol.

  15. 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    Apes are awesome, as have said many times before,please dont knock something you haven’t tried,experienced. No, i dont mean when your buddy let you take his down the street! Apes, if properly installed, are very comfortable ride,unless you just slap on the square shaped flatblack ones to look like every other dummy who wants to be a reality TV guy. I have them on all 5 of my shovels😁

    Like 5
  16. Jaker76

    Apes are to each his own. I don’t like em but a buddy has em and fits him perfect. The “iconic” belt drive was not a stock item on this era Harley!!! And as someone else said, lot of green for a parts bin bike altho if the frame is in great shape someone with a 37 motor probably love to have it!!!! Riding it would be the test tho if it rode and felt right be a good buy for the right person!

  17. mtshootist1

    One comment, don’t know if anyone caught it, but that “iconic” belt drive never existed until the eighties. There was no such thing on a harley except the very early ones, that had a leather belt, and those ended in 1913. As I was typing this, I see that Jaker 76 caught it as well.

    Like 2
  18. Jay E.

    Those long, small diameter pipes are going to get HOT. Yipes!

    Like 1
  19. mtshootist1

    another thing, that front end is an early sportster front end with the thin tubes, mechanical brakes, kind of winky for the heavier 74 big twin.

    Like 1
  20. mtshootist1

    just would like to compliment the barnfinds guys for putting old bikes in, I never was much of an old car guy, but motorcycles are my thing, the discussions when you post these old harley articles really generate a wide range of discussion, all of which I identify with. Thanks again

    Like 1

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