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updated: 5/25/2014 7:13 AM

Small details matter when restoring 1941 Harley-Davidson

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  • 1941 Harley-Davidson "Knucklehead"

      1941 Harley-Davidson "Knucklehead"
    Photos Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • John Incaudo of Palatine has learned a lot about motorcycles over the years as he's restored his 1941 Harley-Davidson "Knucklehead."

      John Incaudo of Palatine has learned a lot about motorcycles over the years as he's restored his 1941 Harley-Davidson "Knucklehead."

  • Incaudo scoured swap meets and pored over parts manuals in his quest for originality.

      Incaudo scoured swap meets and pored over parts manuals in his quest for originality.

  • When Incaudo originally purchased the Harley in 1991, it had red paint.

      When Incaudo originally purchased the Harley in 1991, it had red paint.
    Courtesy of John Incaudo

  • The bike is painted in factory-correct Squadron Grey and Black.

      The bike is painted in factory-correct Squadron Grey and Black.

  • Many enthusiasts desire a vintage Harley-Davidson with the "knucklehead" engine.

      Many enthusiasts desire a vintage Harley-Davidson with the "knucklehead" engine.

 
 

When you get right down to it, hardware is an integral part of our rolling machines. Simple nuts, bolts and original parts may seem trivial, but it's small elements like these that get John Incaudo excited.

Incaudo has restored his 1941 Harley-Davidson motorcycle four times and he's now at a level where those tiny details are significant. It wasn't always that way.

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The Palatine resident purchased his motorcycle in 1991. It was located at a rural farmhouse near Rockton.

"It was unrestored and in decent, running condition," Incaudo said. "Vintage Harley-Davidsons are such cool bikes. There was no other way to go."

He brought the bike back to his garage and began its initial overhaul. Everything was taken down to the bare frame and sandblasted. Any dented bodywork was straightened and smoothed. The wheel hubs, transmission and 1,000-cubic-centimeter 'knucklehead' engine were rebuilt.

As the project came together, the enthusiast took inspiration from what was around him. "I was very 'green' and didn't know what I wanted. I looked at various pictures in magazines and calendars for how the final product should look."

The result was a gleaming show bike. "It had lots of chrome. It was very 1950s in nature with its two-tone red and white paint."

The second overhaul in 1994 delivered a similar outcome. "This time it was blue and white and still very flashy."

As his experience and knowledge grew, his desire deepened to have the Harley just as it rolled out of the Milwaukee factory in 1941. He got closer to that goal in 1998 with a third overhaul.

"I had a much better handle on what I was doing. It was virtually 90-percent correct when I was through."

The missing 10 percent came over the next decade and arrived in 2012. The seasoned veteran repainted his machine in H-D factory-correct '41 paint colors: Squadron Grey and Black. "I went through antique paint chips to find just the right shade."

The colors were right but another major obstacle had to be cleared. It was the result of those early years transforming the Harley. "I had taken some of the original hardware and chrome-plated it. That kind of a process can't be undone."

The shiny coating may look fabulous, but covers up the very hard-to-find, original components. In the factory, bolts were "parkerized." Parkerizing is a process of applying a phosphate coating to steel for better corrosion prevention. The final result has a matte gray finish.

"Modern bolts are readily available but don't have the same look and feel."

Incaudo has been diligent and is proud to say he's been able to track down all the right pieces, thanks to numerous yellowed Harley-Davidson manuals and countless hours scanning swap meets.

"The bike is finally done. It's 100-percent identical in every way to how it rolled out of the factory."

While the years have delivered a learning curve to the two-wheeled enthusiast, it's also provided numerous opportunities to explore winding roads. Incaudo has ridden the bike to the major motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, many times.

"I always take the back roads, covering 300 miles a day and stopping in and visiting little towns along the way. There's nothing else like it."

• Send comments, suggestions to auto@dailyherald.com.

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