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Bike of the Month
1942 Harley-Davidson FL
By Dave Mull
The story of this bike started like many do, a swap sheet listing of a 1942 knucklehead for a price way out of my budget. It was of a bike I had seen and heard about, a 60's chopper, peanut tank and extended superglide front end, not what I thought a 1942 FL should look like. Fast forward six months and it was still in the swap sheet.. Hmm, Maybe I should go look at it. After about 20 unreturned phone calls the owner's friend finally picked up. Still got that Knuck? Yea. I will be up to look at it. So a good friend of mine and I hit the bank for a stack of dead presidents, loaded the enclosed trailer and ventured to the city of Bishop. There it was, a 60's chopper with all the stuff it should have for that era, sissy bar, suicide clutch pedal, 15 inch car tire on a star hub, late 46-47 frame with a stretched neck, peanut tank with flames and that 6 over superglide drum brake front end. So the dance began. How much? That's a lot for just a motor and trans, the rest is just parts. After about an hour we came to a deal and we loaded my newest antique bike up. Within a few hours of getting it home we had it running and taround the block I went. It ran good!
Fast forward a few years. After talking to Dale from Dale's Wheels Through Time about how rare the 42 FL's were I decided to make it back into an old school dresser. I had a set of 41- 46 flight red knucklehead tanks, and ordered a V Twin 41-46 frame. After pulling the motor and checking the belly numbers I realized it's had a hard life. The 42 side had been in a terrific explosion from inside and welded back by someone who knew what they were doing. The right hand case is a 47 and in great shape. I decided to run the 15 inch rear wheel and 155SR-15 tire. It lowered the bike a bit but not enough to drag in the corners. I had a 40's inline springer that I had laying around so on that went. At the Hanford swap meet I was looking for a front fender and came across a servi-car front fender that was flight red. Hmm, won't the rivet counters love that? Bolted up just fine and was the correct color. A custom set of bars were fabricated by my late friend Bob Olson using a springer top tree and welding 14 inch apes to it with a panhead internal throttle. A V Twin rear fender, exhaust, and seat that made it a real joy to ride.
I have put way more than 10,000 miles on it since then. Its been to the Yosemite run, the Kanab ride, numerous Dixon meets, and a great ride for my friend, Mark Lobsinger's, 40th birthday, a ride up to Crater Lake and over to the Oregon coast with six of our pals and Mark on his 46 knucklehead. Also rode it into Mexico for the El Diablo ride early this year. Its been into Death valley at 110 degrees and in the snow of Crater lake. .
Years after buying it I was contacted by the old owners son who had a story about the bike. After his dad had passed he was sitting on the bike in the shop and started it up just to hear it run.. upon revving it up a few times somehow it dropped into gear and proceed to climb up the work bench. The throttle cable caught on the bench and full throttle was obtained.. So there he was with shorts on, the pipe burning his leg, motor racing, burning rubber, and no way to reach the key. Somehow he was able to choke it out! After getting it back on the ground and bandaging his leg he noticed a scrap of paper on the ground, it had the number 36 on it. Hummm, his dad had left a 1936 Chevy pickup to him as well as the 42 Knucklehead. It must be a sign from beyond the grave from his father, fix the 36 not the bike! So that's the story. It has been the most fun ride of any of my bikes..