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Completely Original: 1942 Harley-Davidson FL Knucklehead

If you’ve ever harbored any doubts about the popularity and desirability of classic motorcycles, then you need to take a look at this 1942 Harley-Davidson FL. This is an original survivor that has just received a mechanical refresh. This work was completed using many OEM parts, and the Harley now runs and rides. It is located in Du Bois, Illinois, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Now we get to the proof of how popular and desirable these classics are. There have been 34 bids submitted to this point. This has pushed the price along to an eye-watering $67,100. However, the reserve hasn’t been met.

The Harley has not received any cosmetic restoration work and wears its “original survivor” tag with pride. H-D introduced the FL in 1941. It shared its frame with several other models, but this was the sole offering with the “Knucklehead” engine at that time. The frame remained largely unchanged until 1958 when the company added a rear swingarm. This FL looks to have weathered the past 78-years remarkably well. The paint and chrome are looking tired, but I admit that I really like the look of this machine. I won’t inflict the “p” word upon you, but it has got plenty of it! It does appear to be complete, and returning it to its former glory would not be a difficult task. For people who find the physical demands of a classic car restoration to be beyond them, classic motorcycles offer an exciting alternative. However, if the next owner chooses to leave the Harley unchanged, I’m sure that there will be plenty of enthusiasts who would respect and support this decision.

This is where the real story of this Harley begins. The person who buys this classic is not going to have to spend a penny on its mechanical components. The original 74ci Knucklehead engine has been fully rebuilt. This work was completed using mainly OEM parts. The owner rebuilt the engine to factory specs, and the transmission was subjected to the same treatment. If you check out the video at the bottom of this article, you will hear that the engine sounds sweet. Every area of the FL has received attention, and everything is in excellent order. The exception is the charging system and lights. Everything is present, but none of it is functional. The owner doesn’t use the Harley regularly, but he does take it for a run on a country road occasionally to keep the fluids moving.

I have been accused of mellowing in my later years, but I don’t believe that this is true. As a young man, I was never a fan of Harley-Davidsons, but now I am. I have said this previously, but I like them now because I have grown to understand them. These are not merely a motorcycle. What a Harley represents is a lifestyle. It represents a simpler time when life moved at a more relaxed pace. Harley-Davidson recognizes that people want to buy into this laidback lifestyle and to escape from the rat race from time-to-time. That is one of the reasons why their product development has been evolutionary, not revolutionary. It also reflects the old maxim of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I suspect that the person who buys this FL Knucklehead will probably attend to its electrical issues and will then take to the wide-open road for a bit of relaxed cruising. After all, this ain’t broke, so I doubt that they’ll fix it. Would you?


  1. SMS

    First off if you have never ridden an FL or a vintage bike these are not fast, not particularly comfortable, take much more effort to ride than modern bikes, they smoke, they burn and drip oil, take a lot of maintance, and everyone of those issues can be dealt with.

    The prices these go for amaze me when thinking about what I sold my original Excelsior for 15 years ago.

    That being said working on a vintage bike is easy and satisfying. The rides with antique motorcycle groups are fantastic as everyone has a different bike.

    Don’t simply look at this as a Harley, look at it as a vintage and antique bike that is easier to find parts for. No one I know who owns one regrets getting into them, unlike owners of Jags

    Like 12
    • Stilbo

      All true…
      Your first paragraph explains why a lot of people enjoy riding an uncomfortable, leaky, noisy old motorcycle…
      I own and regularly ride my ‘40 Kucklehead, ‘46 UL, ‘49 WL, ‘60 FLH, ‘71 FLH and ‘96 FLHRP…
      The progressive differences and engineering improvements are obvious when going from 1940-1996…
      And whenever I’m into tolerating the harsh ride, noise, clunking gear shifts that go with the Old Iron I feel like I have been transported to an earlier time when alone out in the countryside..
      And a little wrenching on them now and then is great therapy and keeps me out of the bars…

      Like 12
      • SMS

        You bring up another positive about these. Working on them on a scissors lift. You can see everything and reach everything. It is truly great therapy. As for keeping one out of the bars, it is quite a sight watching a group on antique bikes trying to get them all started and leave a drinking establishment at the same time a real comedy show and worth an extra drink

        Like 10
      • Howard A Member

        In the late 70’s, I rode a ’75 GoldWing, had a dear friend with a ’65 Pan, and we rode with lots of older H-D’s. The folks with “rice grinders” would always wait until every H-D was running before we’d start ours. A chase van or pickup was mandatory,,, :)

        Like 4
      • Roy Blankenship

        My experience was similar to Howard A’s. In 1973, we had 3 guys with Panheads, one Knuckle, and a Sportster in a hardtail extended frame with a springer. I had already bought a ’73 Kawasaki Z1 when we all started riding together. It was comical to see them jumping up and down trying to get their bikes running at a gas stop. A couple of them were trying to use the “Lake Injector” which seemed to make starting trickier, the knuckle with its old Linkert would start one kick, but had a top speed of about 65. By the end of a long putt, the hardtail guys would be asking me if I wanted to trade bikes. Uh, no, that’s OK.

        Like 2
  2. Somer

    42 was the 1st year for good cases. Earlier ones had issues.

    Like 2
  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    Of all the old bikes, the Knucklehead has always been the most desireable for me. I just love those old rocker boxes. I really missed the boat in Casper WY when a modified version of this was for sale for $2500. Of course that was almost 40 years ago. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve doubled my efforts and SCROUNGED the money. Missed opportunities they say. This one is so far out of my budget I can’t even fathom it.

    As nice as it looked, the Knucle had its drawbacks. The crankshaft assembly, compared to the later Panhead was flimsy and the cylinders were thin. I remember one of these down in Rapid City that literally blew the rear cylinder apart. Like, the head was still there, held in place by the intake manifold and the exhaust pipe. The crumpled piston was out there in the open, in front of God and everybody. Just the bottom barrel flange, still fastened to the crankcase, and a couple of cooling fins up top, held in place by the head bolts. A few shards of the cylinder were caught in various places.

    Like 8
  4. Bob

    There are a lot of ways you could spend $67,100. I guess this is one of them.

    Like 3
  5. Johnny

    Last night I was talk to my friend and he said he was sick. I asked him what was wrong. He said I was just thinking about last year when I sold that 45 for $10,000. I didn,t think the man had the money. He asked what would I take for it and he said for some stupid reason I blurted out $10,000. The guy reached in his pocket and had it. . I remember when it happened last summer. I had pulled in and asked him where was the old Harley.He had a 45 that looked BRAND NEW AND ALL ORIGINAL. He told me what he did. I told him it was worth alot me and he said I know,but I gave the man a price and I couldn,t go back on my word. I remeber when I was in the navy back in 78. I was stationed at naval air station,Norfolk,Va. The chief askked all of us if we would be interested in buying any Harley Davidson still in the CRATE for $50 EACH. About all of us put in orders. I put in for 4 and he told us they were found in a storeage warehouse and as soon as he found out when we could receive them he would let us know. About a month went buy and he called us all together and said he knows we were all gonna be pissed,but word had came down about the Harleys. EVERYONE IN THE MILITARY WAS EXEMPTED FROM PURCHASING THE HARLEYS. We were more then pissed,but that is how they done us and its probably done the same way. Give me old machinery any day.I really like this bike

    Like 1
    • Roy Blankenship

      I have heard the story of military Harleys from different people in different states over the years, usually “packed in cosmolene”. Always some excuse or reason why they never showed up. Anyone ever received one or bought one? I would love to see a picture….

      Like 2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        The closest story I ever heard to buying a brand new WLA in the crate happened back in the late 70s when a guy was searching for other things in a surplus warehouse in Tucson (?). He came upon a stack of boxes and crates and recognized what appeared to be a NEW frame. Further investigation revealed that the entire stack of parts was for the HD 45. He made an offer and brought the stack home. It seems to me that there were enough parts to completely build 11 bikes, plus a plethora of spares for other projects. He built one bike that was featured in Easy Riders. He was obviously at the right place at the right time…

        Like 1
  6. Solosolo ken tilly UK Member

    Hi Howard. I no longer have any Harley’s but I do have a 1933 Calthorpe Ivory 500 that I’m sure would ride much like a Harley of old. I have it on auction on e bay uk for the next 10 days but if it doesn’t sell I’m thinking of putting it on BF auction. Do you think it would have any attraction for an American buyer? As for your welcome to OM, I have been aboard for a year or more but I only receive OM on a Sunday morning here in UK so by that time most of the comments have been posted and you guys have all moved on I guess, however, it’s also a great site like BF and BAT. They all have their own attractions.

  7. R.Lee

    1981 I bought my second 42′ an FL, for 900.00 bucks. Although complete the engine had been torn down because of excessive smoking. Rings and complete gasket set and I will ride that bike till the other till death do us part.

    My first was a 42 WLA. I sold that complete Military scoot for 2,200 in 84. I do not regret what life has chosen for me, as having a very serious work accident a few years ago. Now riding is few and far between. It is very hard to believe that an original bike can be worth so much.

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