3. EL

1936 Harley-Davidson EL

With its 1936 EL line the Motor Company introduced the Knucklehead V-Twin, often considered the grandfather of modern Harley engines due to its overhead-valve set-up. It had a displacement of 61 cubic inches, or about 1000cc.

“I’m drawn to mid to late ’30s ELs,” says Jacqui Van Ham, documenter of the classic bike scene at The Vintage Advantage. For Jacqui, the early era of Knucks hearkens to the days when motorcycling was still a Gentlemen’s Sport, before it became a symbol of rebellion and freedom.

“Great lines, vivid colors, strong fluid shapes that reference Art Deco styles,” she explains. “These bikes are beautiful pieces of Americana, what I think of when I think ‘American Motorcycle.’”

Walksler Knuckle courtesy Cyril Huze Post

Veteran moto-journalist Neale Bayly agrees. “My favorite Harley of all time is Dale Walksler’s ’36 he called the VEL, because it was a combination VL frame and EL motor,” says Bayly, host of TV’s Neale Bayly Rides. “I rode it on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a couple of days. It was incredible to ride something so old – and so difficult. Foot clutch, hand shift, brake on the left bar with an advance retard system to deal with, and no suspension or brakes worth talking about. It took a lot of attempts to make it downshift properly. Riding it was one of my finest motorcycle moments.”