John Zamora

Scratch's Garage Knucklehead Restoration

No aftermarket parts were harmed restoring this Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

We first met Scratch back in 2014 when he rode up to our studio on his 1946 Harley-Davidson FL Knucklehead called Jessie. Let me repeat: He rode into our studio. See, Scratch has owned that bike since his 20s and has been riding it ever since.

Scratch 1940 Knucklehead Right View

When we heard that he had a 1940 Knucklehead he had restored to showroom condition, we jumped at the chance to see it.

John Zamora

In a world full of weekend warriors and internet tough guys, Scratch is the real-deal rider who not only appreciates these old bikes but can accurately bring one back from the dead.

Hot Bike: What did this restoration start like?

Scratch: I’ve been building bikes off and on my whole life, not as business. I got serious about restoring bikes after I was done with the touring business. I’ve been hard at it five to six years now.

It’s nice if you are going to start a restoration that you start with a complete bike. Unfortunately, in the case of this Knucklehead I only had the motor that came with a title. I literally had to go out and find all the parts, including the frame, handlebars, sheet metal, everything one piece at a time. A lot of these parts were one year only because it was a transitional year between the early bikes and what would become known as the later ’41–’47 Knuckleheads. The good part is sometimes when you go the long way around you end up with a nicer end product.

Scratch 1940 Knucklehead Closer Look

The pieces of the puzzle all come together in this beautiful Knucklehead restoration.

John Zamora

HB: Who owns it?

Scratch: I don’t want to piss everyone off, but it’s going to Australia [laughs]. This was a friend of mine that I met while I was a tour guide on Route 66 while I had a group of Norwegians. One night in Missouri, in the room next to me, there was a bike there and a guy came out and I met him. He ended up staying with our tour group all the way to California, and we later became friends. Now I’ve known him for a number of years, and he was really in love with my Jessie and asked if I could build him a bike as well. So that’s what started all this.

Scratch 1940 Knucklehead Build

Scratch's patient in various stages of reconstruction.

John Zamora

HB: How difficult was this restoration?

Scratch: Each time I do a different year, I learn new things. A lot of bikes are one year only. For example, this frame. I bought what was presented as a ’40 frame and I thought that it was. I found later that it wasn’t after I had restored it. Right about the rear head, there was extra clearance because the next year an FL was coming out. I managed to find the correct ’40 frame. It’s super hard to find. We are drying up on parts around here or they are stashed. A lot of people are sitting on stashes they don’t want to sell. I’ve had parts come from as far as Japan and Australia. This bike has almost zero aftermarket parts and is almost entirely OEM or NOS parts.

Scratch Restoring 1940 Knucklehead

Scratch hard at work in his lab.

John Zamora

HB: Are you happy with the final outcome?

Scratch: It runs and looks like a brand-new bike. The first time out being judged by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America it scored 97 points out of 100. I’ll be judged again this week, and I hope to have corrected nearly everything to bring it up as high as I can.

HB: What does the owner think? Is he going to ride it?

Scratch: He’s only seen photos. He hasn’t seen it until after the article comes out. It’s almost too nice. You don’t want to get a ding or a dent or have a bird crap on it. I think he’ll be proud enough to ride it around.

Scratch rides 97-Point 1940 Knucklehead FL

How many of us can say we've gotten to ride an authentic Knucklehead, let alone one we brought back from the grave?

John Zamora

HB: What do you prefer: restorations or customs?

Scratch: I like the freedom of the non-restorations because I can get to be creative and do things my own way. But it’s a challenge with the restorations because you have to be exact. Everything has to be just right. I just like to bring something back from the dead. One more back on the road now that we didn’t have before.

1940 Knucklehead FL Close Up

Up close and personal, this Knucklehead holds up to scrutiny.

John Zamora

Owner Scratch
Shop Scratch’s Garage
Year/Make/Model 1940/Harley-Davidson/EL 61 OHV Sport Solo
Fabrication Scratch’s Garage
Build Time 18 months
Year/Type/Size 1940/H-D/61 in.
Builder Scratch’s Garage
Cases Genuine H-D
Cylinders Genuine H-D
Heads Genuine H-D
Cams Genuine H-D
Carburetor M-25 Linkert
Air Cleaner 6-in. round type
Exhaust Early “fishtail” type
Year/Type 1940/H-D
Gears 4-speed
Clutch Four-bolt type
Primary Drive Chain
Year/Type 1940/H-D
Rake/Stretch 25º
Front End Genuine H-D Springer
Length Stock
Swingarm Rigid
Rear Shocks Rigid
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Builder/Size Kelsey Hayes/16 in.
Tire/Size Avon/5.00-16
Brakes Mechanical H-D
Builder/Size Kelsey Hayes/16 in.
Tire/Size Avon/5.00-16
Brakes Mechanical H-D
Colors Squadron Grey w/ Bittersweet Stripe
Paint/Graphics Rock & Roll Custom Paint Works, Orange, California
Front Fender Fender Light
Rear Fender Genuine H-D
Gas Tank Genuine H-D
Dash Genuine H-D
Gauges Genuine H-D
Handlebars “Hollywood” handlebars
Grips Genuine H-D
Hand Controls Genuine H-D
Foot Controls Genuine H-D tank shift
Floorboards Genuine H-D
Headlight Genuine H-D
Taillight Genuine H-D
Seat Solo seat w/ spring yoke