THE HELL RIDE
KILLER KNUCKLEBUSTER FROM NEY
The year was 1936, and Harley-Davidson™ introduced a radically new motorcycle for the time that offered overhead-valve construction. This was also the first time that Harley-Davidson™ had created a new model by adding a new top end to an existing inlet-over-exhaust or side valve design. With only one camshaft and a recirculating lubrication system, this new knucklehead offered surprising reliability. The styling was certainly not what Jeff Hill's '47 knuckle presents to us today, but indeed it was a radical for its time. Matter of fact, the '36 61E took the lead and went straight to the head of the class for American bike design.
The Grandpa Harley-Davidson™ has never let up. It is my all-time favorite motorcycle, and in my mind established the look for all Harley-Davidsons from that day forward. A side note regarding the history of the 61E: It is the motorcycle upon which world famous Joe Petrali set the Land Speed Record at 136 mph back in 1937. The photographs of Petrali racing the 1936 are as historic as the machine and the man.
This 1947 knucklehead is the motor's last year of production, with major modern tech upgrades by Jeff and crew at Hill's Performance in the extremely booming metropolis of Ney, Ohio. The engine parts were purchased and assembled over some four years of searching swap meets and Harley shops, and also the Internet by Jeff and Salina Hill.
After five years of fooling with the old knuckle, Jeff got serious last season with a visit to Tuff Cycle, and had Tank hook him up with one of his hand-built frames built to Jeff's specs: 35 degree rake, a stretch of two inches out, and the single downtube extending all the way underneath the motor. Biker™ gets an atta-boy here for putting Tank and Jeff together at our first Biker/Penthouse Sturgis Bike Show and Party.
Jeff and the crew at Hill's Performance played hell getting this machine, played hell assembling her, played more hell building her, and they ride the hell out of her. She is adequately named "The Hell Ride". Ironically, just after the paint work was completed, lead singer Zach Wild with Black Label Society introduced us to the song "Hell Ride", a very fitting tribute to this Harley.
Hill's Performance is building 20 to 25 complete machines a year these days, with a full service department as well. Jeff comes from a pretty strong roots as his daddy was huge into street rods/hot rods, and kept Jeff up to his elbows in grease and grit as a young pup. Maybe those dues-paying times snapped Jeff into the motorcycle world. The early 80's placed Jeff in a few shops with now work in the winter months, so the Hill's Performance shingle was erected along with the Ney Bar, Post Office and a convenience store on St Rt 15 between Fort Wayne , Indiana and Toledo, Ohio. Work has never been lean for Hill's Performance in the winter months. In fact, there are now three full time employees.
Ney has a generous population of 299 people. It is rumored that Jeff's name has been placed on the ballot on the Independant ticket for the office of mayor of Ney. Vote often, vote Hill for Mayor or Ney, Ohio! His political ticket states, "A campaign to research the old stagecoach whorehouse line just outside of Ney."
We like Jeff's work, as this is one of four or five of his machines that we've featured in the past few years. His chopper work, pro street look, and all around Ney, Ohio presentation fit our magazine style damn well.
Hillsperformance.com gets you to their web site for an inside look at quality machines from real quality people, or call 419-658-2658.
Be careful out there.
Magazine cover, pictures and articles are courtesy of BIKER Magazine. Used with permission.
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