Born To Rebuild | 1941 Harley Davidson Knucklehead

Hank's Pre-War Knucklehead

Born To Rebuild | 1941 Harley Davidson Knucklehead - Hot Bike Magazine

The drum brakes of the past don't work quite as well as today's brakes, but they get the job done.

The old H-D gauges were simplistic and classic even back in the day.

Carl Olsen from Carl's Cycle Supply had a paint chip from the one-year-only '41 Knucklehead color that he sent Hank to be color-matched by Scott Hultquist of Riff Raff Customs.

"When this bike was being built, no detail could be overlooked no matter how small. Everything had to be perfect."

Hank Fisher is meticulous when it comes to restoring old iron. He has an eye for detail. Actually, he's obsessed with detail and knows what it takes to really restore a true work of art to its original state. His '41 Knucklehead says it all.

"I liked the fact that the 1941 had a lot of old-style parts and was the first year of the 74ci motor. The '41 had 'short-ribbed' cases, many of which broke due to [it being a] bigger-inch motor," Hank explained.

After Hank put the word out that he was in dire need of a '41 Knucklehead, one of his outlaw biker buddies said he knew of one in Seattle, ironically sitting in an old barn. "It had the basic parts that I needed; matching original motor cases and heads, the correct frame, frontend, transmission, fuel tanks, and fenders, but it was a rolling basket case. Everything needed serious restoration and total rebuilding," Hank recalled.

A deal was struck and Hank became the proud owner of the Knuckle barn find. The next challenge was gathering all of the period-correct parts to do the build. "I started by doing all of the serious research. This includes the correct finish (cad plating, Parkerizing, chroming). Then you have to figure out what the correct parts are for this year bike. When all of the research is done, then you start your search for the parts which is its own challenge," Hank said.

Finding the "one year only" parts was the most challenging part of the build according to Hank. The type of taillight spans from 1939-1941 only, the front brake perch is a 1941-only part, and the front fork rockers, front and rear hubs, the '9' bolt horn, and the Linkert M-25 carb are all very rare, extremely-hard-to-get-your-hands-on parts, Hank said. Also very rare is the original restored 1941 seat with dealer-matched shift knob.

Just to give you an idea of how meticulous Hank's attention to detail is, he had to find period-correct hardware otherwise it wouldn't have been truly original. "I build these bikes back to 100 percent original, or as close as humanly possible. This means that every nut, bolt, and washer must be correct. The hardware on pre-'42 Harleys was made in-house at Harley-Davidson and is very difficult to find. Once you have all of the hardware, it then has to be Parkerized, which is a flat black oxide [treatment], like a gun barrel, or Cadmium plated, which is a silver-colored protective plating," Hank said.

After Hank found everything he needed, there was one final hiccup. To get true colors correct without a sample can really pose a problem. Especially when in 1941, Cruiser Green was a one-year-only color. "It was six months before I even found a correct paint chip of the color, which was finally given to me by Carl, from Carl's Cycle Supply in South Dakota. He had an old 1941 Cruiser Green gas tank that was rotten except for the section under the dash. He sent me a section of this tank and that's when the work started.

When the paint chip arrived, Hank employed his good buddy, Scott Hultquist, owner of Riff Raff Customs, to color-match it to as close as he could. "Scott then started hand-tinting the paint and doing spray-outs for the next three weeks until he got it perfect. It's a very rare color that looks different depending on the light. It was well worth all of the effort," Hank remembered.

Being a member of the Fort Sutter Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA), Hank never misses the Fort Sutter Chapter meets, especially in Dixon, California, which is where we encountered Hank with this bike along with tons of other antique and vintage treasures. Stay tuned for upcoming Fort Sutter Chapter events (amcafortsutter.org) or other AMCA events across the country (antiquemotorcycle.org). The AMCA meets allows all the old-iron enthusiasts to get together and show off what they've been up to and just appreciate each other's fine efforts. It's all about the details.

"When this bike was being built, no detail could be overlooked no matter how small. Everything had to be perfect. Even the wiring that you will never see, inside of the switches and taillight, is perfect. I never take shortcuts with a restoration," Hank said. "Never."

SPECIFICATIONS
BIKE OWNER Hank Fisher
SHOP NAME Black Star Vintage
SHOP PHONE N/A
SHOP WEBSITE N/A
YEAR/MAKE/MODEL '41/Harley-Davidson/
FABRICATION Hank Fisher, Black Star Vintage
ASSEMBLY Hank Fisher, Black Star Vintage
BUILD TIME Seven months
ENGINE
YEAR/MANUFACTURER '41/H-D
TYPE/SIZE Knucklehead/74ci
BUILDER Chino's in Fremont, California
CASES H-D, short-ribbed, matching belly numbers
CYLINDERS H-D
HEADS H-D
ROCKER BOXES H-D
EFI
AIR CLEANER H-D
EXHAUST Carl's Cycle supply and original H-D
TRANSMISSION
YEAR/MANUFACTURER/TYPE '41/H-D
CASE H-D
CLUTCH H-D, first year of the wide clutch
PRIMARY DRIVE H-D
FRAME
YEAR/MANUFACTURER '41/H-D straightened and repaired by Tim Scott
RAKE Stock
STRETCH N/A
SUSPENSION
MANUFACTURER FRONT Original "inline" Harley Springer
LENGTH Stock
TRIPLE TREES H-D
MANUFACTURER REAR H-D
SWINGARM H-D FL
WHEELS, TIRES, AND BRAKES
MANUFACTURER FRONT/TYPE H-D/40-spoke
SIZE-HEIGHT/WIDTH 16x5
TIRE/SIZE Firestone four-ply/16 inches
CALIPER N/A
ROTOR Drum
MANUFACTURER REAR/TYPE H-D/40-spoke
SIZE-HEIGHT/WIDTH 16x5
TIRE/SIZE Firestone four-ply/16 inches
CALIPER N/A
ROTOR Drum
FINISH/PAINT
COLOR Cruiser Green, original '41 color
PAINTER Scott Hultquist, Riff Raff Customs
GRAPHICS N/A
ACCESSORIES
REAR FENDER Original '41 Harley-Davidson
FENDER STRUTS Original '41 Harley-Davidson
GAS TANK & CAP Original '41 Harley-Davidson
OIL TANK Original '41 Harley Davidson
HANDLEBARS Tom Faber, Inline Springer "Standard"
HAND CONTROLS Original '41 Harley-Davidson
FOOTPEGS Parkerized, original floorboards
HEADLIGHT Original "Guide" cycleray
TAILLIGHT Original '39-41 "Boattail"
SEAT Heather's Leathers, North Carolina