“The Flying Cloud” was the world's fastest clipper ship built in 1851, traveling by sea from New York to San Francisco in just 89 days and 8 hours. That record stood for over 130 years, until 1989 when it was broken.
80 years after the “The Flying Cloud” clipper ship was built, a brand new motorcycle launched from The Harley-Davidson Motor Company and deemed as the holy grail to most motorcycle enthusiasts, the Knucklehead.
Rick taking "The Flying Cloud" out of the museum"
RICK ALLEN has been collecting antique motorcycles for decades in North Carolina. You can see his extended collection at his museum/cafe called American Classic Motorcycle Museum. He owns over 50 vintage motorcycles, but his special one is the 1936 EL Knucklehead called, the "FLYING CLOUD".
"The Flying Cloud"
Originally back in 1936, a Harley dealer called Doug Creech in Charlotte ordered 2 of Harley's first OHV both in special order color ways. One was black and cream, another one was red and cream. The black and cream motorcycle went to a man called Horace Lowder and the red and cream motorcycle went to a man named Frank Bell who lived in a town called Albemarle just east of Charlotte.
This information comes from Grand National flat track racer Buck Brigance who worked for the Doug Creech dealership as one of their mechanics back in the day. He was a racer and was very curious about the potential of Harley's first OHV model. Buck test rode the red and cream Knucklehead when it came in and he said, “It was extremely fast!".
On a side note 1936 knucklehead came out of Harley-Davidson factory in 5 different paint colors. Sherwood green with silver panels and rims, dusk gray with royal buff panels and rims, teak red with black panels and red rims, venetian blue with croydon cream panels and rims, maroon with nile green panels and rims.
Frank Bell with his beloved 36 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.
Frank Bell, after purchasing the 1936 red and cream Knucklehead from Doug Creech dealership named it “The Flying Cloud" after that faithful ship because of how fast it was it rode so smooth. He rode that bike almost every day until his first child was born. After that, this bike didn't get too much action until Rick Allen acquired it.
Rick had known about this bike since who knows how long but finally in 1979, he pinpointed and found out where the “The Flying Cloud" was. Unfortunately for Rick, Frank Bell died the same year. Rick kept going back to Frank's widow to negotiate with her, but a few years later she finally gave “The Flying Cloud” to her grand child. The grand child was planning to restore the bike, including giving it a fresh paint new paint job. This sent Rick into overdrive mode.
Rick talked to the grand child for hours and hours not to restore, or repaint the bike, and to preserve the original condition because it was so rare and the history of it all. After many attempts, finally in 1983 Rick negotiated the terms to acquire “The Flying Cloud" from Frank Bell’s grandchild, preserving and keeping this rare 1936 Knucklehead with its original paint in tact and running today.
Words and photos by: Ken Nagahara
B side look.
Some slight small changes to this bike like black pipes and bars instead of chrome and different saddle bags, but overall almost exactly as Frank Bell had it and the paint is all original.
Dice on the tank shifter
Floor board extensions.
Check out that vin on the motor... 36 EL1650 dang.
Light up valve stem.
Patina, patina, patina.
17941 on the ticker.
Front fender light still in tact.
"Flying Cloud" hand painted on the cream panel.
Incredibly cool rear section.
Little flair on the seat.
Springer front end.
From 1936 and the red is still vibrant.
Rick Allen and his 1936 Knucklhead "The Flying Cloud"