No brand has dominated the American motorcycle market quite like Harley-Davidson. Through brilliant engineering, stylish design, and the constant prioritization of cruising over racing, Harley-Davidson has earned an almost religious following in the United States.
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company has been in business since 1903, making it the longest-standing motorcycle company and one of only two (along with the Indian Motorcycle company) to make it through the Great Depression.
33 years after its founding, the designers at Harley drew up plans for the EL, which would later come to be known as the Knucklehead. The Knucklehead marked the beginning of an all-new era of design from the American classic, Harley-Davidson.
First in its Class
The Knucklehead had the first overhead-valve, V-Twin engine ever produced by Harley, and its design paved the way for all future models with similar designs for generation after generation to come as consumers flocked to the Knucklehead’s unprecedented power and aggression.
Aside from having Harley’s first-ever overhead-valve V-Twin, the Knucklehead had significantly improved steering capabilities and suspension specifications engineered specifically to allow the vehicle to travel at higher, more rugged speeds without rattling the bones out of its riders.
Timeline of Versions with Changes
There were five major years in the history of Harley’s EL: 1936, 1939, 1941, 1947, and 1950. Each of these years marked significant changes in design; however, as most of these changes were simply cosmetic, only two true generations of the EL are of any great importance.
- Harley-Davidson EL (1936-1941)
In 1936, the EL hit the ground with explosive force, drawing the attention of the newly enfranchised consumers. This model sported a two-cylinder engine with a 61 cubic inch (roughly 999.61cc) displacement, Linkert carburetors, and a four-speed manual transmission.
More than just something amazing to look at, famous in part for its “clenched fist” design from which it draws its nickname, the Knucklehead was a force to be reckoned with.
- Harley-Davidson EL (1949-1952)
In 1949, after more than a decade of cosmetic changes, minor tweaks, and subtle alterations, the final generation of Knuckleheads began to roll off the assembly tables. These models saw the most in-depth reworking of the design.
The engine displacement was changed to 1,208cc, horsepower was increased to 55, and the suspension was improved to further refine the legendary cruising smoothness for which Harley-Davidson has always been known.
The Knucklehead in the News
Very little new information has come to light regarding this age-old classic, however it has been featured in the National MC Museum’s online articles.
An American Icon
The Harley-Davidson LE, stagename Knucklehead, has been used in the production of dozens of classic TV shows and films. Imagine that! A classic in the classics.
As with any Harley-Davidson, finding American motorcycle fan groups for the Knucklehead is an incredibly easy task, though finding an owners group, on the other hand, might prove to be a near impossible feat of research.
The Harley-Davidson EL – Knucklehead
Though its name is reminiscent of a doofus or an idiot, the designers behind the production of the Knucklehead were anything but stupid. In fact, this legendary design proved to be as influential to the world of superbikes, motorcycles, and scooters as it was beautiful to look at.