1947 Harley Knucklehead Classic Bagger

I called Joe Carfora on the phone the other day to talk about this wonderful 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead bagger and was blown away by the history and story he shared with me.

It seems that in 1952, his dad, Albert J. Carfora Jr., visited his local Indian dealer, Soli Indian Motorcycle Agency in New Haven, Connecticut, and fell in love with a 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead he just could not live without. It was an ex-Connecticut State Police motorcycle and had an asking price of $375. A deal was struck on the used motorcycle, and Albert was the proud new owner. As with all young men of the period, he wanted to customize it a bit to make it his own. A set of 1947 Dodge hub caps were modified to make his wheel covers, a 1950 Buick Bull’s-Eye hood ornament became his front fender mount, a buddy seat was added for a friend to ride along, and a set of Buco bags were added to hold his gear. The great American freedom machine provided Albert with good service until that fateful day in 1955 when he sold it in order to finance a ring for his future wife.

Since then, Albert has owned other Harleys, including his current 1995 Road King and 2004 Fat Boy. Even so, many times he regetted selling the bike, but for Albert, family came first.
Fast forward to 2005 when Albert was 18 months away from celebrating his 75th birthday. His son Joe, thankful for all that his father had done for him in life, decided to build a 1947 Knucklehead as a tribute to his father for his birthday. The Knucklehead would be built to the exact specifications of his dad’s old bike. Joe took out the old family scrapbook and studied the photos carefully to determine what he needed to be able to recreate it down to the smallest detail. He began his search on eBay where he located a 1947 engine that would be the core of his restoration project. Steve Bokuta of S&M Motorcycles in North Haven, Connecticut, did a complete rebuild on the power plant and the project was off and running.

Dennis D’Angelo was the ultimate assembly guy, and Joe was most thankful to him for piecing everything together while he searched far and wide for all the needed parts to complete the bike. Steve Barber of The 74 Shop is responsible for the four-speed transmission, Charlie Smith of C&S Cycles in Winsor Locks, Connecticut, helped locate the original springer and a host of other parts. A usable, original frame was elusive, so Joe went with a V-Twin Manufacturing exact reproduction frame from my good buddy Ted Doering. These frames are perfect in all details and V-Twin Manufacturing is responsible for resurrecting many old Harleys thanks to the company’s foresight and efforts.

Michael Paquette of Worsham County Leathers created the Buco saddlebags and seat, which look stunning and are period correct; the sheet metal was sourced on eBay and Jay Festilli of Naugatuck, Connecticut, laid down the black paint in his garage. New England Chrome of Hartford, Connecticut, rechromed all the needed parts back to stock finishes. Dennis D’Angelo rebuilt the hubs, respoked the wheels, and graced them with a set of Crocker 500 x 16 tires.

Bob Donath of Wallingford, Connecticut, had the Dodge wheel covers and sold them to Joe for next to nothing after he heard about what Joe was doing to honor his dad. Alfred’s childhood friend Mickey Fiorentino pinstriped the bike, adding Happy 75th Birthday to the oil tank. Nice to have a friend in the trade!

The challenge throughout the build was keeping it secret from his dad while at the same time getting enough information from him about the particulars so that the bike was
correct in every detail. It was hard to pull off, but Joe was determined to do it. The final question was how would Joe present the bike to Albert in a way that would have the greatest impact? A plan was devised. The local Hamden Police Department had an annual car show in conjunction with the Conn Classic’s Chevy Club so Joe thought giving it to him there would be just the place. The bike was brought in and placed in front of the DJ’s booth. Joe stocked the crowd with many of his dad’s old friends and riding partners from the Elm City Motorcycle Club of New Haven (an AMA charter club in its day).

Joe and his parents walked by the DJ stand where Albert’s old friend Tony Torello was standing. Albert saw the bike and was taken aback because it looked so much like his old bike. Tony said, “Junior, that is your bike. Joey built it for your 75th birthday!” The tears flowed, the back slapping commenced, and Albert was weak in the knees and overcome with emotion. The DJ made an announcement and everyone clapped and cheered. What a moment and what a gift from a son to a father.

Although he still rides a Harley most days, Albert told Joe to ride it out since he was so overcome with joy, his legs were still shaking! Once outside the gates, they stopped at a local hotel and Albert took over, handling the foot clutch and handshift without missing a beat.

Wow, I’m going to save this story and share it with my son when he’s older in hopes he’d like to do for his dear old dad what Joe did for his!
Outstanding job to all and congratulations to Joe for this amazing tribute to a father he so loves and cherishes. AIMB

by Jim Babchak, photos by Bob Feather, staff for Motorcycle Bagger and American Iron Magazine. If you like classic Harleys visit Classic American Iron Magazine.


  1. John Michael Cronin says:

    Wow! My First born, Tiffany spent many hours as a child back in the early 80’s trying to help her “DADO” , (as she’d call me) cleaning the shop @ 714 Orange Ave in West Haven, putting stuff away and just spending time with me. She’d love waxing any shining up the pretty things as she’d refer to them. She’d get a kick out of the dinging bell as I’d pump the 110 octane “leaded” purple jet fuel called CAM2 by Sunoco. bACK IN HE EARLY 80’s selling for 3.50 per gallon. I had bought the shop a few years earlier from quite the character who’s n ame was Romeo Soli of Romeo’s Triumph Deaslership. Actually had breakfast with himabout 3 summers ago down in the plaza at the end of Campbell Ave. and Captain Thomas Blvd. He’d just buried his 3rd wife and was blind and deaf in one year which he attributes to racing the dirt track up at Laconia on aBSA 500 single cylinder desert racer. I’ve left a couple of messages but to no avail….Think he’d be 100 this year. He was a tough old dude but was very good to me a nd treated me like the son he never had. Had a great time during theowership of that shop and have many stories I think of often….. Hope your Pop’s enjoiying the Indian/Ironhorse. John Michael Cronin aka JUG “johnnyultraglide”


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