There are many features associated with a Harley Davidson which although no longer used, are considered vital in understanding and appreciating a well made high-quality motorcycle. One such feature is the Knucklehead engine.
The Knucklehead was one of Harley Davidson’s first designed V-twin engines. It received its fitting and memorable nickname from the rounded, fist-like rocker boxes which, from certain angles, appeared to resemble the bent knuckles of a closed hand or fist. Though the original production design was labeled the 61 OHV, this engine was never referred to as any name other than “knucklehead” in its ten years of production.
To all serious bikers, whether chopper owners or stock configuration fans, the name Harley Davidson is known for quality, durability and reliability. Whenever an individual begins designing, building or upgrading any motorcycle, the majority will turn to a Harley Davidson power train due to the company’s century old commitment to excellence. Some bikers also feel that their bikes enter a higher class of prestige when powered by one of the company’s many perfected and mastered engines.
In 1936 Harley Davidson unveiled their newest manufactured engine, and the knucklehead marked the beginning of a new era for both the company and its riders. Before the introduction of the knucklehead, Harley Davidson motorcycles were powered by engines with single over-head valves. The knucklehead was the first engine used by the company which included v-twin valves. The knucklehead models which were produced between the years of 1936 and 1940 displaced 61 cubic inches. This was increased in 1941 when a 74 cubic inch displacement was added.
Many Harley owners awaited the availability of the knucklehead anxiously. The knucklehead predecessor, the flatheads, supplied very limited power and only offered between 30 and 35 horsepower. Many bikers rejoiced when it become known that the new and improved knucklehead would supply their bikes with up to 40 horses, making their bikes noticeably more powerful.
However, it was not only the added power that made the knucklehead a noticeable improvement. The knucklehead engine also introduced Harley Davidson’s new oil recirculating system. For years Harley riders had been dealing with the inconvenient and unsightly “total loss” set-up of previous models and were thrilled with the newly improved system regardless of its tendency to leak and lead to wasted fuel.
Though the Knucklehead was far from perfect it did show that Harley Davidson, as a company, was committed to improving their product and was eager to offer its riders some resolve by producing and redesigning both their engines and fuel system. It was developments such as these that have made Harley Davidson the reputable company they are today.