Handcrafted 1940 Stainless Steel Knucklehead: 3500+ hours of work!
Builder and fabricator Christian Newman (@ctnewman) got into motorcycles the way many of us do: a combination of dirt bikes and inspiration from his father. He started tinkering as a kid and it just grew into an obsession with all things mechanical. After spending a few years interested in cars, he obtained his first street bike from a garage sale. Turns out it was his father’s first motorcycle!
Christian has built a few motorcycles since then, including a Turbocharged Shovelhead we previously featured, but this “Stainless Steel Knucklehead” is his most ambitious project to date.
He drew heavily on his engineering background and spent hundreds of hours in design alone. There are very few purchased components on this motorcycle. This motorcycle is just built for the love of building.
“One thing to note, this bike is not chrome-plated. It is hand-crafted and hand-polished from stainless steel.”
The bike uses a 1940 Knucklehead engine — one of only 4069 produced that year. The chassis is a scratch-built stainless steel live-axle oil-in-frame design, and the original Harley gears are in a Cal Custom case with a scratch-built kicker side. The front end is also scratch-built, a stainless steel girder with damping!
“Also note that this bike utilizes very little CNC processes, nearly every piece was made by hand with manual milling equipment coupled with hours of blending.”
Below, we get the full story on the build and various highlights from the man himself.
Stainless Steel Knucklehead: In the Builder’s Words
This bike represents 3500 hours of meticulous work. I call it the 316EL. It again utilizes a Harley Davidson engine; a 1940 Knucklehead engine, one of only 4069 produced that year. The motor uses mostly original exterior parts. There have been a few modifications. Every single other piece of this bike, down to handcrafted hardware, is custom, and nearly all from stainless steel. It’s on the verge of being “too many things to list” but I’ll go over a few of the highlights.
One thing to note, this bike is not chrome-plated. It is hand-crafted and hand-polished from stainless steel. Many hours were spent sanding and buffing every intricate piece. Also note that this bike utilizes very little CNC processes, nearly every piece was made by hand with manual milling equipment coupled with hours of blending.
-The rear rotor and sprocket sit outboard of the frame (made from 316 stainless steel). This makes the overall feel of the bike very narrow. In fact, it will fit through a 14” horizontal opening.
-The girder fork is hand fabricated from 316 stainless steel. It features adjustable damping and “inside out” lower links. The handcrafted headlight is supported by polished SS brackets with internal wiring. The bars rest on risers that pierce the top clamp and fasten to the bottom clamp.
-The frame doubles as oil lines. Very few oil lines are visible. The oil-through-frame design doubles as an oil cooler.
-The transmission is a custom piece that started as an aftermarket case but the kicker assembly is a one-off design with exposed gearing and springs.
-The tail lights are handcrafted pieces using trim lenses from mid 40’s Hudson automobile. The wiring for the taillights is insulated steel cable.
-It features pivoting stainless “floorboards” that actuate the brake and clutch.
-Marble acrylic grips and fuel cap ornamentation bring a splash of white to the otherwise black and mirror design. A marble built into the hand shifter uses this theme as well.
-The 1940 engine has been (slightly) modified to run exposed rocker arms and valve springs. These parts have been made with chromed steel. Stainless steel does not possess the material properties required for these parts.
-A pair of 1940 half dollars are recessed into the frame. It also should be noted that many of the welds were made AFTER the polishing procedure, which adds a clear indication that this bike is made from stainless steel, opposed to being simply chromed.
-The front hub is of especially unique construction. It uses two different lacing patterns, one side radially laced, the other is laced with 4 cross style.
Follow the Builder @ctnewman
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By Brandon Fischer (@soulofire_)