Here comes another very personal motor historical theory of mine;
Within the very heart of the late 1940’s Motor Company the congenial assembly line spun like ever before, powerful wrench wranglers with their oil stained foreheads made sure the iron made no escape. It was at the end of this very line that the world first got to see something called a Panhead.
A Panhead was a motorcycle with heads built out of aluminum and they contained not only a whole bunch of internal moving parts but also quite a few hidden oil passages. The year to be exact was 1948 and at the time no one knew that the MoCo staff since during the previous decade had formed and operated a top secret research program with one task and one task only; to spy on another Milwaukee based company, the lawnmower masters - Briggs & Stratton.
B&S are today best known for their bulletproof aluminum motors, a motor-design they first came out with in 1953, so the reasons for spying on Briggs & Stratton was pretty obvious, to gain knowledge about how to build a bulletproof aluminum motor.
In an attempt to really cover things up and to be ahead of time, but also to keep the B&S guys close, Harley-Davidson hired Briggs & Stratton to do their ignition switches and frame head locks, something that actually came out as a great deal, however as soon as the MoCo thought they had gained just about enough knowledge to get their own aluminum motor in production they went head over heels to get their new “lawnmower” motor on the market.
I even believe they rushed so bad that they had to hammer in these new aluminum motors in the previous 1947 FL/EL chassis, so I figure there’s also your explanation why the 1947 and 1948 FL/EL’s are almost down to every detail the exact same, I said almost you snob, well pretty darn close anyway.
So, the Motor Company copied a lawnmower motor that turned into the #1 icon motor of the chopper world, and all I can think of is... What if it was the other way around?
Just what would the world look like today if Briggs & Stratton had copied a Panhead for their lawnmowers, now that’s something I’d really like to know.