Ride or Restore? 1947 Harley-Davidson FL Knucklehead

We’ve seen a few classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles in recent times here at Barn Finds, but this one jumped out at me. This 1947 FL Knucklehead is a largely original survivor that offers its next owner a few choices. There is no doubt that it could be a stunning machine if properly restored. However, there is no reason why it couldn’t be ridden and enjoyed as it currently stands. It seems that the current owner is an enthusiast because this isn’t the only Harley that he has in his collection. Even though it has been said that you can never have enough of a good thing, he has taken the tough decision to part with this beauty. Located in Syracuse, New York, you will find the FL listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has worked its way to $34,100, and given the ongoing desirability of these classics, I’m not surprised that the reserve isn’t met. If you feel that this is a “must-have” for you, there is a BIN option available. This has been set at $56,000.

The Harley is mostly original, and its condition is very respectable for a motorcycle of this age. It isn’t showroom fresh, but it’s never a shock when I see Harleys of this vintage that present well. Their owners tend to be very protective of their machines and also tend to preserve their originality wherever possible. That’s why I’m not surprised to see it wearing its original paint. Performing a cosmetic refresh would be an easy process, but it isn’t one that is essential. This machine would garner just as much attention and respect as-is that it would if fully restored. The steel is all straight, with no dings or dents. The chrome is showing some pitting and corrosion, but this merely adds to the overall character. The owner has performed one piece of restoration that is very sensible. The wheel hubs are original, but the wheels have been rebuilt with new rims and spokes. There is probably no single aspect of a classic motorcycle subjected to greater stress levels than the spokes. I’d rather bite the bullet and replace these than to risk a failure at some point. That can definitely ruin your day.

The Knucklehead engine first appeared in 1936, and it was fitted to new Harley-Davidsons until 1947. That makes this FL one of the last to feature this motor. With a capacity of 74ci, this classic V-Twin should be pumping out 53hp. This machine features a 4-speed transmission, which was standard Harley fare at this time. The engine and transmission are original, with everything wearing the correct date codes. The owner doesn’t indicate how well the Harley runs or rides, but the engine’s general cleanliness and the fact that he has recently fitted new Firestone tires suggest that it is roadworthy.

When you buy a classic Harley-Davidson, you are not just buying a motorcycle. You are buying into an entire lifestyle. Harley owners are generally passionate people, and as a group, they tend to be incredibly supportive of their two-wheeled brethren. These will never be a cheap investment, but history shows that values of classics like this 1947 FL Knucklehead continue to increase in the face of some of the most adverse conditions imaginable. That means that if you are looking for a solid investment proposition that will provide far more enjoyment than a Share Certificate, maybe the time is right to throw your leg over this old beauty.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Keep it clean, keep it lubricated, and drive it as is. Seems it’s been well taken care of so why not use it on weekends for shows and touring events. Lot more fun using it than spending time an money restoring it.

    Like 14
  2. PaulG

    Only a knucklehead would do anything to deviate what the seller and previous owners have done; leave this old gal as-is… just have safety in mind.
    Great find!

    Like 14
  3. Chris M.

    Ride it.

    Like 7
  4. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    If it runs, ride it as is! If it doesn’t, fix it THEN ride it as is.
    One caveat though-if you haven’t ridden a bike with a foot-operated clutch you’re in for a lesson in hands & feet coordination..just don’t make it into a “suicide clutch” arrangement.

    Like 6
  5. Dangerous Dave

    When ever the question is “ride it or restore it?”, my answer is always ride it.

    Like 7
  6. Peter J Weinzierl

    Question for everybody looking. Has any one seen the crack on the primary side case that has the numbers “12352”. Study the upper part of pic wheer the case stud goes through. That’s the side has the vin on it.

    Like 3
  7. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    @PJW-Great eye! There sure does appear to be a crack in that case directly related to the case bolt.

    Like 3
  8. banjo

    The Vintage motorcycle culture is very different from the car culture. with bikes at’s ALL about originality. Restoring this bike would likely reduce it’s value. I would all but guarantee this bike will not be restored anytime soon. With old bikes the mantra is “It’s only original once.” a ’47 Knuck’ is high on my list of want-but-never-gonna-have-it. Too rich for my blood.

    Like 4
  9. hemidavey

    I’ d ride and enjoy, fix only as needed. I really use my cars so cant justify the value here. I could by 5 really nice used Harleys for 56k, one for each of my friends if I had any …

    Like 1
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      You would have friends If you bought 5 really nice Harleys for them..😁
      But those kind of friends aren’t always worth having.

  10. Super Glide

    I would go through the motor, bring it up to stock specs. That would include
    rings, pistons, all needed head work, general re-gasket the motor, refresh the transmission, brakes and service the charging system. I would also clean the chrome, what’s left of it. The goal would be a safe and reasonably reliable Knuck.

    Just changing the oils, points and new chain would still leave you with a bike
    with hidden problems. Knucks didn’t have hydraulic lifters, so unadjusted tight valves can become burned and or broken taking major engine parts wit them. Gas tanks can be rusted and or gummed as with the rest of the fuel system. Old engine oil has to be removed before regular operation otherwise we’re talking quick bearing failure. When you try to continually kick and engine that won’t start, you’ll turn old un-oiled parts into junk.

    This bike can be a fun old bike after a complete inspection and repair.
    The Navy calls it a Service Life Extension Program. It’s how old warships remain in front line service.

    Like 2
  11. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Once had a 49, this one is a whole lot better than what I had. Mine was a basket case when I got it, kind of like a Johnny Cash item – one piece at a time. It had parts from so many different bikes, it was a tale in itself. Should have had a pan head, but in fact had a knucklehead engine with it. Took a long time and many owed debts to turn 5 boxes into one bike.
    This one looks so much better than what I started with. I’d go through it, replace what’s needed then enjoy it, assuming I felt safe enough to take it on the street.

    Like 1
  12. Howard A Member

    As usual, I sure am in the minority here, I think it looks like a POS, sorry, motorcycles, to me, are like dogs, they are a direct reflection of the owner. It tells me people just don’t care what it looks like, just gimme the $30g’s. We(I) all grumble how the patina fad is silly, yet, when it comes to vintage bikes, this is acceptable? You want to be seen on a relic like this? Spiff it out, man, make it look nice, wassamatter with all you? With all the junky looking vehicles that come through here, I think some of you forgot what nice paint and chrome look like.

    Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      “Cracked case” and point, ( little humor there) I’d be dang proud to ride to a gathering on this, no? Come on, am I really the last man standing here? Geomechs, help!!
      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/313774299030593072/

      Like 2
    • dougie Member

      Howard. Yes a very slim minority. BTW -as we vintage riders and wrenchers say – “chrome won’t get you home”. Medorry Christmas!

  13. Peter J Weinzierl

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have that!!! Its beautiful. Just stating that the engine would have to come apart in order to repair that correctly. Just don’t think you’re going to get it and ride it immediately-well, maybe for the first 10 minutes after you get it home. Then the fun begins!!

  14. chrlsful

    & all of it IS fun for me.

    I think the ‘buffed out’ is a fashion statement, the ‘original only once’ more of the enthusiasts’ comment (provenance, even if in engineer’s boots & bearded/jean jacket nowa vest). I got both kinda friends and we can still all ride together…

    Just like the autos – I hop in (if it drives) take it home (ona trailer?) go over it and get it to run safely and use, use, use. Do diligence ay start B4 purchase, it certainly duz after. A few wks in (or as necessary) after dailyin it IT tells ME. After (3 mo? 6 mo?, 1 yr?) I begin a plan (budget of X & $). By the end of that 6 mo I know the vehicle (on line & buddy research, my onw assessment). I have come to understand these specific vehicles and this one in articular, I have researched each component (after 30 – 90 yrs of hwys who knows what an OP might have done). I know capabilities and typical performance (MPGs and pep) mods. I tend more toward the resto than the rest0mod so like enhancements that are stealth. I make a plan, carry it thru to the end w/o any change. If I have to change some thing or idea in the middle/toward 1 end or the other – it means I didn’t do that research well enuff. Doing so creates the hack jobs we so often see today… Sale price may or may not B profitable (only need labor & 3Xprt’s prices). I buy what I am passionate abt. Shoot to drive it free (well, my labor and wholesale prts, overhead comes out of the sale).

  15. Kenn

    Some JD on the case and you’re good to go. I had a 1945 Harley 45 in 1957. Wish I had kept it. It was numbers matching, low original miles too, so a bargain at any price asked here it seems.

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