Harley-Davidson 1946 Model EL

After World War II there was a shortage of chrome parts which is why the 1946 Model EL was painted to help give the same bright effect as chrome plating.

1946 Model EL

The Harley-Davidson 1946 Model EL’s Big Twin valve tappet guides were painted silver to help give the same bright effect as chrome plating, and wheel rims were given a coat of black paint or a color matching the bike’s tins as well.

Photo courtesy Motorbooks

Content Tools

Historical and technical profiles written by Harley-Davidson expert Dain Gingerelli and masterful motorcycle photography by David Blattel come together in Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle (Motorbooks, 2011). The result is a breathtaking review of over 100 stunning Harley-Davidson greatest hits from the early 1900s to today. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 2, “Setting the World Standard: The Knuckleheads.” 

1946 Model EL 

One way to tell a properly restored 1946 Harley-Davidson is by the amount of chrome parts that it has—or better yet, doesn’t have. With World War II still fresh in people’s minds, materials and resources remained hard-to-find. Among those scarce items was chromium for plating motorcycle parts, so Harley-Davidson relied on paint to give their new motorcycles some shine. For instance, the Big Twin’s valve tappet guides were painted silver to help give the same bright effect as chrome plating, and wheel rims were given a coat of black paint or a color matching the bike’s tins as well. But none of that really mattered to customers who were eager to just have a brand new motorcycle. And by year’s end 2,098 customers were treated to new EL Knuckleheads. The FL remained the biggest seller, though, with 3,986 on record as being built and sold. The war was over. It was time to ride!

Specifications

Engine Displacement: 61 cubic inches
Transmission: 4-speed
Wheelbase: 59.5 inches
Number Produced: 2,098

Lore

• The steering head angle on the 1946 EL was repositioned to 30 degrees for improved handling.
• The new steering head angle didn’t work as well as the previous dimensions.

More examples of Harley-Davidson innovation from Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson 1915 Model 11-F
Harley-Davidson 1933 Model VLD
Harley-Davidson 1940 Model UL 
Harley-Davidson 1964 Model FL
Harley-Davidson 1966 FLH Electra-Glide 

Main Article: Finding Form: Early Harley-Davidson Innovation 

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Art of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, published by Motorbooks, 2011.