Bike of the Month
1946 Harley-Davidson FL
By Mark Lobsinger
How I Got a 1946 Knucklehead
To start, here’s a picture of me on my 1946 Harley Davidson FL knucklehead……….well, sort of. My 1946 knucklehead actually started with a 1949 panhead. A few years back, my friend Napa Dave (Comstock AMCA member from Independence, CA) told me to swing by and check out a Harley 45” motor for sale, here in Carson City. The owner’s name was Louis, and I believe a few of you know him. Anyhow, I walked into his garage, and there on the floor was a Harley G-motor (servi-car). I looked at it for about 3 seconds before I saw what looked like a knucklehead motor in the back of the garage, peeking out from behind some shelving and a snow blower. Needless to say, I spent the rest of my time there inquiring about the knucklehead situation rather than asking questions about the 45” motor (sorry Dave). Louis had a complete 1946 motor, frame, and transmission buried along with some other “chopperized” parts. He indicated that he acquired the stuff years before, but really didn’t have any plans to sell it. I left that day without a knucklehead or a flathead motor.
Fast-forward a couple years-ish. I had just finished this 1949 FL bobber and was starting to put a few miles on it. I was really enjoying riding the pan, but had thoughts of selling it in order to fund a possible knucklehead project. I have another 1949 FL so I knew I wouldn’t feel too bad about letting this one go. I decided to text Louis and see if he still had his knucklehead, and if it was for sale yet. I think our text conversation went something like this:
Mark: “Hey Louis, Mark here. I’m friends with Napa Dave down in Lone Pine. I came by a couple years back to check out that 45” motor. Any chance you still have that knucklehead basketcase? If so, is it for sale?”
I took that as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, and didn’t lose any sleep over it. Besides, I was really enjoying riding the new ‘49. A few months passed until one day I ran into Louis at the grocery store. We naturally started talking about motorcycles and I told him I had finished the panhead bobber, but was thinking about selling it in order to fund a knuck. He said that he would love to have another panhead one day. He bought one right out of high school for $400 and rode it around for a few summer months before getting his Vietnam draft notice. According to him, all of his buddies were heading over to Vietnam and not coming home, so he decided to sell the panhead for $500 and at least enjoy the money. I told him I’d ride over and let him check out the pan.
To make a long story short-er, we eventually struck a deal on a trade. I think both Louis and I were equally excited. I was feeling really good about the situation until my wife saw the pile of old rusty oily parts sitting in the garage where my nice panhead used to sit. I think I quoted a forest for the treesor diamond in the roughidiom, but I think she confused “idiom” for “idiot.”
Fast-forward a year and a half or so, and I had the 1946 up and running in a semi-bobbed version. I was running black panhead tanks and speedometer, a 21” front wheel, and a small solo sprung seat. I had plans on making it more stock, but had not yet acquired the tanks, front fender, correct speedo, etc. yet. I threw it together with what I had. I asked my 3-year old son what we should name the knucklehead and his first response was “Reggie.” I got harassed pretty good when I told my riding buds I was riding Reggie, but they eased up when I told them the story. I rode this version on a few long rides, most notably a 10-day camping backroad journey through Northern Nevada, Oregon, and Northern California.
This past spring I finally got a stock set of tanks, a front fender, and a pogo seat in order to get it to where it is now. The left side tank is an OEM ‘41-’46 tank but the right is a side valve tank that I modified to clear the motor. I grafted in the bottom from a panhead tank. It turned out really well and you’d really have to know your pan/knuck tanks in order to tell. I also painted the tanks patinastyle to match the rest of the bike. It’s super hard to fake natural patina, but I really like the way they turned out.
The most exciting part of my bike so far has been the addition of a sidecar. I’m friends with this Greek who has an antique thing or two. One day, while we were in his garage eating gyro’s and drinking Budweisers, I mentioned I was looking for a sidecar to putt my kids around in. Just so happens that he had one, and we struck a deal. I built the seat frame for it and had a friend upholster it with some nice leather that fellow Comstock AMCA member Kelly Hogan donated. It turned out great, and my kids love riding in it.
I’ve put around 5,000 miles on Reggieso far, and plan on riding it a whole lot more. One of the coolest trips I did was taking my boy down to the Born Free Show this summer. We trailered the bike down to Southern California and then rode into the show, through about 15 miles of twisty canyon road. Riding in on the first day we hit a rain storm and a swarm of bees doing about 60mph. He loved it. When we pulled in they told us to park in the invited guest corral right up front. We had a great time, and I think he’ll remember it forever. I know I that I will.