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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, I've been mulling this over for a while now and am wondering how feasible is it to build a knucklehead engine piece meal? That is...peice by peice buy a part at a time and build an engine. Complete engines seem out of reach, and I know I would get allot more out of it if I built it myself. So I guess I have two questions. First, how long will it take to scrounge together an entire engine? Like are parts so scarce that its going to take 5 years? Second, will it cost me close to what an entire engine will cost, or can I built it myself significantly cheaper? Also, I know the engines were produced for about 11 years. Are all the parts fairly compatible?All jears, snears, questions, comments welcome. Thanx!
 

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Personally, if you can cheap clear titles solid cases it would be a long project if youre looking for mostly original. And fairly pricey. If you go aftermarket itll still be pricey.

I'm not one to shoot down dreams so go for it, but keep in mind it'll be a labor of love man.
 

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Time,,well that depends on your pockets and connections ( and how hard you persue your search ) Cases with a title will set ya back right out of the gate...best bet is to look for parts and maybe find a whole one..Also they have issues,,so learn all the flaws
and things to look for when buying your parts,,
 

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I agree, cheaper to start with a complete motor even if it needs completely rebuilt.
 

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Buy a complete motor and save yourself the headache.
 

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I've a lot of experience to call on to advise. I sell at auto-jumbles (swap meets), and most of the stuff we sell, is collected as parts from garages. I've met many, many people who consider what you are thinking about. I promise you, it will be better to keep looking for a whole unit, than to buy it in pieces.

One way to start looking though, is to keep an ear open for someone who may have recently finished a project. Frequently, people have boxes of stuff they've collected over the years, which can be surplus to requirements. Often, they let it go as a "job lot", just to clear some space. In the boxes of stuff you can find a few bits of treasure, you can sell the other stuff, to help recoup your investments, and get something else you want.

It can really be a hard (and costly) slog to build one from parts, but as you said, it can be great!
 

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First off, your always better off starting with one & goin from there, but a piece at a time will take as ong as your pocket holds out.
Second, I will assume your a Lumbee indian, I just spent 2 years workin side by side with a Lumbee ironworker named Randy Locklear. Damn good hand!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the replies folks! :) I've tinkered with mostly jap bikes (xs650's and cb750's) the last 5 years, and would like something a little more of a challenge. Sounds like a complete motor, or close to complete is the way to go. What is a reasonable price for a semi-complete motor? I have one of biggest collections of HD stuff right next door, so maybe they will part with some goods. :rolleyes:

@slim55, yup I'm Lumbee...and my last name is also Locklear! Probably no relation though...plenty of Lum's with Locklear surname.
 

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Buy one of those tickets in that link :)

If its your 1st harley perhaps aim at something less ambitious (lot cheaper) for the first one. Get some build experience, make some contacts and if you do a lot yourself make a dime or two. Im thinking a late shovel or maybe even an evo (new OEM motor under $3K). Just a thought
 

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Great dream. I've thought about doing it with a panhead. After looking though, it seams like you would pay more doing it piece meal. Your best bet is to buy a complete motor or better yet by a complete bike and sell off the stuff that you don't want. If you are wanting to do a complete stock knuckle with original parts. Forget about it. You could by a house for that kind of money. Good luck!
 

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As little as 5 years ago, I would say.. yeah, you can get it done on a FAIRLY reasonable budget.. but today, you are better off saving your $$ and buying a whole bike (in the condition of your choosing).
Overseas buyers have really put a beating on parts in this country, but there are still nuggets to be found... Knuckles are neat, but if you want a cheap project.. shovels can still be had running for next to nothing.
 

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TIME 2 HERE !
you'd be WAY better off starting with a complete motor or bike! Both time and money wise...by a long shot.
 

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I have been building and riding Knuckleheads for over 40 years. I rode a '39 chopper in high school. When I started Knuckles were selling for $100 to $300 bucks depending on how good they were. They have gone nowhere but up over the years. For a long time a chopper was worth more than a stocker. Because so many were chopped the value of stock stuff skyrocketed in the last decade. My suggestion would be to buy an S&S clone engine. The right look at a fixed price. You will kill your enthusiasm far before you reach your goal at pieced together prices.
When they were cheap people only made a buck or two an hour. And we did not have to compete with Japan, Germany, Sweden , Australia, etc for the parts.
save yourself a heartbreak and buy a whole bike or a whole engine. Your sanity will thank you!
Robbie
'40. '41, '42, and '47 knuckles!
 

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Deals can still be had on Knuckles , i found mine as a oem Frame , Engine, Trans , Exhaust and Tins all Oem , For a steal yes I go to every meet , work in a shop and hustle parts and connections any chance i get but bottom line put the time in and you can find it
 

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Re: Can I [reasonably] build my own knucklehead?

the answer to this question is a resounding YES
and it starts with you understanding that thinking you can not do it is what will stop you from trying

Keep in mind that unless you have a machine shop and experience using the equipment there are going to be a LOT of holes in your process that can only be filled by a hybrid of three options.

Option 1) spend a fuck load of cashish (probably close to a new motor) on specialty tools (e.g JIMS pullers/pushers/compressors/reamers/etc)

Option 2) pay a machine shop to do the machining (bottom end work, flywheels, rods, cylinder piston fit/hone, breather bore repair, head work) put it together yourself

Option 3) find some real skilled good friends

It's completely reasonable for you to want to build your own knuck engine. And if you really like knuckleheads and it's in your heart you will do it.

The inherent problem in modern society is there are less and less people available to teach the arcane art of antique Harley motor rebuilding, we have to work long hours with short pay just to get enough money to feed/cloth/house ourselves, and if you happen to be one of the lucky ones you've found yourself a nice garage to actually put big and completely necessary tools and equipment.

I've been up against my Panhead for nearly 2 years now and am finally starting to see my dream pieced together. It is an intangible experience. I am married to the project and for the rest of my earthly existence my Panhead will only be my Panhead and there will never be another like it.

It all depends on what you want and what's in your heart.
After all... you can pretty much, with the right amount of money, buy whatever you want
 

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Pusher comes through with the pic response that is spot on.

Lumbee - you CAN do it. It will take time but you realize that, and it will take money. But if you cut out as much of the overhead, make the investment in equipment, and befriend/utilize a machine shop, then you will be well on your way. The biggest cost on some of these vintage (real vintage pre-1950) stuff is that, as Pusher states, the trained and skilled labor knowledgable in these "dead arts" are not common and around every corner. In Southern California there are a handful of people who can handle, understand, and competently build these bikes from the ground up. I find myself fortunate for that availability (even though I'm in the UK now I'll always be a So. Cal kid,) but almost everywhere else in the US, with the exception of NY I'd say, there is a fraction of available mechs/builders/fabbers/skilled hands that can wholly deal with a full nut and bolt build up.

Do the research on who you can use for help, make friends, buy tools, and start on the dream. It was said earlier - doing a perfect restore will cost the same as some houses - yikes. But I also think that's for paying someone to do the labor/parts/sourcing on everything and just delivering a bike to you. You can definitely save with elbow grease, research and patience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@benny and pusher...

Thanx for the encouragement. I understand this would be a labor of love. I got all the time in the world...and I'm not looking to have something like this built by next spring. If it takes 10 years..then so be it...it will be that much sweeter when its done! I can stay busy with jap projects on the mean time.

I'm pretty lucky on the machine shop front. I'm an employee at my local tech college, and they have a fully stocked machine shop. I also know my way around a lathe and mill. When I first got into chopping in 05 I took machine shop classes at night at my local tech school (different city). I would never call myself a machinist (to much respect for the craft) but I have enough basic knowledge that I can usually get done what I need to, or can learn from someone who is willing to show me.

I must admit I am a cheap bastard, so cost might scare me away. If I had to throw a number out there...if I thought I was in over 5K in the motor alone, that may border on ridiculous. How far off base am I? :eek:
 

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I must admit I am a cheap bastard, so cost might scare me away. If I had to throw a number out there...if I thought I was in over 5K in the motor alone, that may border on ridiculous. How far off base am I? :eek:
I think it'd be closer to 10k than 5k. Unless you have some very generous and connected friends. And you build it right.

Jason
 
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