In a world that ogles over the discovery of long-forgotten classic cars, vintage motorcycles often seem like the unsung heroes of the antiques market.
In a world that ogles over the discovery of long-forgotten classic cars, vintage motorcycles often seem like the unsung heroes of the antiques market. That is, until you stumble upon a treasure trove of pre-World War II Harley-Davidsons, secretly hibernating in an unassuming barn. Nicknamed Knuckleheads, these machines are roaring back to life to claim their piece of the limelight.
Captured through the lenses of YouTube channel "Backyard Barn Finds," this rustic arsenal features a squad of about ten Harley-Davidson bikes, primarily from the swinging '30s and fabulous '40s, each powered by the iconic Knucklehead engine. Named for their distinctively shaped valve covers that resemble knuckles, these engines marked a pivotal turn in Harley's engineering. They succeeded the Flathead in 1936 and ushered in modern motorcycling, laying the groundwork for the present-day Milwaukee-Eight engines.
A standout in this collection is the well-preserved 1939 Knucklehead model, swathed in a nostalgic turquoise hue. The bike boasts an impressive 90% originality—a remarkable feat for a machine clocking in at 84 years in 2023. Though it carries an aged patina, this Harley is no slouch: it's been painstakingly restored and has its Knucklehead engine revived to its former glory. Unique features, like a gearbox that puts neutral between the second and third gears, make it a highly sought-after specimen, commanding prices between $50,000 to $100,000.
But don't dismiss the 1936 Knucklehead—the inaugural year for these magnificent engines—as a lesser gem. It may have more reproduction parts, but its 50% originality makes it the holy grail among Harley enthusiasts.
Alongside these legendary bikes, the barn is also a refuge for mid-40s iterations, like the swan song 1947 model, and even a modified 1940 WLD. Defying their age, these bikes don't just sit there looking pretty; they come to life with a twist of the throttle.
Adding another layer of intrigue to the collection are a couple of vintage trikes, offsprings of Harley-Davidson’s Servi-Car lineage. Manufactured between 1937 and 1939, these trikes were Harley’s answer to the Great Depression, offering a utilitarian vehicle aimed at small businesses and police departments. They run on Harley’s older Flathead engine and stand as enduring artifacts of an era gone by.
If two-wheelers or three-wheelers aren't your thing, the barn also shelters a slice of American automotive history: think 1940 Packard, 1947 Cadillac, and a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr housing a 4.4-liter V12 engine.
In a world fascinated with the vintage, this barn of hidden treasures showcases that when it comes to the allure of the old, motorcycles shouldn't take a back seat to classic cars. The resurrected Knuckleheads are a testament to that. So the next time you hear tales of barn-found antiques, let your imagination rev up to include vintage Harleys—they might just steal the show.
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