Knucklehead Dan’s Smoked Bacon
Dan has thought about pretty much nothing else other than motorcycles since getting his first motorcycle age six. His blind passion for riding and working on aging V-twins has caused girlfriends to leave him over the years and the break up of his short marriage in 2010, yet he still will not give an inch. ‘Bikes come first, the bitches somewhere further down the list!’ Not exactly politically correct, but it is a credo he lives by. Dan decided to build this particular bike after blowing up the 1939 Knucklehead motor in his old chopper. This time, with the aid of long time friend, Rob Kelly, Dan built a 74-inch Knucklehead motor with an Andrews S grind camshaft around a set of stock 1946 cases. The more modern Harley-Davidson Knucklehead already benefits from better oil ways so runs cooler, but Dan and Rob have added a few twists of their own to make the engine run strong, yet remain totally reliable.
Dan has been racing motorcycles on and off since the age of ten, he is an instinctive and natural racer who feels the rhythm of the bike, so although his preference is for old iron, he still expects it to gallop. Dan has worked in motorcycle shops since leaving school aged 16, the first shop, Northern Thunder Classics, was owned by two brothers, Rob and Randy Kelly. While under the brother’s tutorage, the three of them churned out the fastest ever WR Harley to race at Daytona, through to $60,000 dollar plus pro-street bikes. Dan claims that there were more Harley motors being built out of Northern Thunder Classics, than any other Canadian shop at that time.
The shop’s success persuaded Randy that he needed a new and much bigger facility to work out of. A big workshop was located and purchased in Montreal, Quebec, and Dan went to work there for Randy along with Tom St. Pierre and Ron Diccio. For the next year or so, they did pretty much the same sort of thing as they had at the old workshop, and everyone was happy, but soon after, an arsehole of a silent business partner threw a spanner in the works and everything went sour from that point on. Randy went on to open another successful motor shop on the South Shore of Montreal, but by that time, Dan had moved back to Ontario and was once again working for the other brother, Rob Kelly.
Dan is quick to say that Rob and Randy taught him everything that he knows about Harley-Davidson engine building, and he is very grateful that they did. Over the next few years, Rob and Dan built a slew of bikes together, Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead choppers for the most part. They also rode all over the East Coast of Canada together until Dan thought it time to set forth on his own. There were no hard feelings, as Rob knew that such a move was only a matter of time. Dan opened a small shop where he took on service work and bike builds. Dan built fifteen full bikes in his first year, and his business went from strength to strength as word of mouth spread. Later on, Dan and Rob went into business together, building a new shop on a virgin piece of land.
Things however did not run smoothly, the two of them soon felt burnt out by the everyday bullshit of being in business and dealing with bikers who wanted work done without having the money to pay for it. So when a rich kid from Quebec offered them a wedge for the building they sold it without hesitation. Dan took his share of the cash along with all of the tooling and parts and moved into the workshop alongside his trailer home. From his little home workshop, Dan built a few bikes before deciding that it would be a good idea to move to Charlotte North Carolina to work for Ben Edwards of Ben’s V-Twins. Dan rode down from Canada on the Panhead that he owned at the time. He had lashed everything that he needed to the bike and just hit the road. While working for Ben, he lived with his buddy Mike Stevens. Ben’s shop was a home from home, Dan felt comfortable working there because Ben predominantly took on Knuckle and Pan rebuilds, but Ben also taught Dan to wrench on Twin Cam Harleys and decrepit Indians.
While at Sturgis the following year, Dan bumped into a guy called Negotiable Tim from Riverside California. Tim runs a swop meet kind of deal, wheeling and dealing motorcycle parts and had Dan work for him during the remainder of the rally. Dan and Tim really hit it off, so when Sturgis ended, Dan followed Tim back to California. The way Dan tells it, Tim’s place was like nothing he had ever seen before; there were motorcycle parts everywhere. Dan stayed at Tim’s place for five months before the saddle tramp gypsy in him once again had him on the road, this time heading back to Alberta Canada where he would work independently from a friend’s shop.
While at Johnny’s shop, Dan built a bike for a guy that was hiding out in Mexico, and although it was the depths of winter in Canada, Dan agreed to take the bike to Mexico for the handover. With a fat roll of money in his pocket, Dan turned about and drove straight back to Eastern Ontario where he built himself a Knucklehead chopper in two weeks flat. The chop’s maiden voyage was to the Carolinas where Dan spent the summer wrenching wherever he could find work, and partying like a maniac. When August came around Dan rode the 2000 miles from Charlotte to Sturgis in less than three days. If you think that Dan’s life his kind of hectic, you should know that somewhere amongst all of this, Dan met a girl and fell in love, he moved to Milwaukee and married the girl. They moved to California and Dan once again set up shop and was busier than hell. The wife lasted two months before leaving him. Dan stayed put for once, and built some motors and a bike for Negotiable Tim and a Knucklehead chopper for Jesse James. Yes, that Jesse James! Dan also worked with his best buddy Tattoo Ed restoring Knucklehead and Panhead motors, Ed has something of a reputation as one of the top restorers in Southern California, so it did Dan’s Curriculum Vitae no harm at all working alongside such a talent.
Where could Dan go from here? Simple, follow Jesse James to Austin Texas! It was a logical move as Dan had been doing work here and there for Jesse for some time. Dan never thought that he would live in Texas, but oddly, it is the first place outside of Canada that has felt right. Warm weather, no helmet law to worry about, and a new lady called Felice have sweetened the deal. Dan is taking on 1936 to present projects, and his new little workshop is overloaded with orders. I wish him luck with his new endeavour but wonder if the itch of hitting the road will come faster than Felice burning a dusty retreat? Time will tell.
As for this bike, Dan, who is known as Bacon to his friends, has cobbled together his dream team of parts. The 1946 Knucklehead V-Twin motor has been twinned with a completely rebuilt Harley-Davidson Panhead transmission that is running FL gears, these have been slotted into a 1956 Panhead frame. It has a 1.5-inch belt drive from Belt Drives Ltd, a jockey shift, a stock Harley mechanical brake on the rear, and a 35mm Harley front end from a Shovelhead for handling. The bike runs excellently, and as soon as it was finished, Dan met up with ace photographer Josh Kurplus outside of Chicago Illinois for the long ride to Sturgis South Dakota, where I met them. As I photographed his bike, Dan told me that other than some heavy rain and strong winds he had no problems at all with the trip, testament indeed to the man’s wrenching talents.
Should you want a bike built, or any motor or transmission work done, Dan can be contacted at email@example.com
Owner name Dan ‘Bacon’ Carr
Owner e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
Owners mailing address 3503 S. Lamar Austin TX 78704
Builder Dan Carr
Make Harley Davidson
Time taken to build 3 weeks
Motor 1946 Knucklehead
Builder Dan Carr / Rob Kelly
Pistons Cast pistons
Crankshaft Harley-Davidson 74 CI
Connecting rods Harley-Davidson XA rods
Cases 1946 Harley-Davidson
Lifters Harley-Davidson with Eastern rollers
Camshaft Andrews S grind
Airfilter Velocity stack
Exhaust Dan Carr
Transmission make/type 1958 Harley-Davidson Panhead 4 speed
Speed/gears Harley-Davidson FL gears four-speed
Clutch OEM style police clutch
Primary BDL 1.5-inch belt drive
Final drive 26 front 51 on the rear
Frame 1956 Harley-Davidson Panhead straight leg frame
Rake Stock H-D
Rear fender British
Gas tank Harley-Davidson Sportster
Oil tank Harley-Davidson Knucklehead
Forward controls Mid controls by Dan Carr
Hand controls Throttle
Front end Harley-Davidson 35 mm
Triple trees Harley-Davidson (stock)
Length 4-inch over
Front wheel JRS Cycle Products
Front tyre make/size Avon Speed Master 21-inch
Front brake None
Rear wheel Harley-Davidson 18-inch star hub
Rear tyre make/size 18-inch Firestone
Rear brake Harley-Davidson Knucklehead mechanical
Finish/colour Black and red
Painter Theoret Auto Body
Polisher Dan Carr
Chrome by Jack @ Deco chrome