Were Engines Issued New Numbers?

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Were Engines Issued New Numbers?

Postby 250_Sprint » Tue Aug 16, 2022 2:58 pm

I have an engine stamped 48 S 97xx where the 8 and the S are clearly stamped up-side down.
The case halves have matching numbers.
97xx is a late 1948 engine number if 10,000 units were sold in 1948.
The size of the font used to stamp the case appears larger than other engine stampings I have seen on two engine cases I have.
I can see remnants of smaller font numbers, under or between the current engine number.
The steering neck has a part number 47454-48.

I am guessing I have a late 1948 engine and frame where the frame was given the updated steering neck design.
My question is, does anyone have an explanation for the larger font engine stamp?
Did Harley-Davidson rebuild/refurbish engines and issue new engine case numbers late in the 1948 production run?

Any light shed would be appreciated.
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Re: Were Engines Issued New Numbers?

Postby hennesse » Tue Aug 16, 2022 5:23 pm

250_Sprint wrote:I have an engine stamped 48 S 97xx where the 8 and the S are clearly stamped up-side down.
The case halves have matching numbers.
97xx is a late 1948 engine number if 10,000 units were sold in 1948.
The size of the font used to stamp the case appears larger than other engine stampings I have seen on two engine cases I have.
I can see remnants of smaller font numbers, under or between the current engine number.
The steering neck has a part number 47454-48.

I am guessing I have a late 1948 engine and frame where the frame was given the updated steering neck design.
My question is, does anyone have an explanation for the larger font engine stamp?
Did Harley-Davidson rebuild/refurbish engines and issue new engine case numbers late in the 1948 production run?

Any light shed would be appreciated.


Harley stamped the "belly numbers" on the bottom of the cases when the cases were line-bored to make the flywheel shaft holes in perfect alignment. The numbers were the same on each case, so that matched halves stayed together. When the engine was completely assembled, the engine (serial) number was stamped on the pad on the left case.

Harley would sell replacement cases to dealers. These cases would have belly numbers, but NO serial number on the left case. The dealer would then stamp the new left case with the serial number from the damaged case. A proper repair would be to replace both cases with a new matched set, but this didn't always happen. So you might find an engine with mismatched belly numbers - only one case half has been replaced.

To my knowledge, neither Harley nor dealers ever stamped one number over top of another number - that would be misrepresentation. The size of the font was always the same. The exact shape of the letters (particularly 9's) varied slightly over the years. The numbers were stamped by hand, so there is some variation in the depth and spacing - particularly in the serial number. The belly numbers were usually pretty uniform. Perhaps they used a multi-digit "holder" to get those numbers in pretty good alignment.

The "grain" of the aluminum cases where the numbers are should match the grain on surrounding parts of the case. If the grain is different, it's most likely that the previous numbers have been "sanded" off. A lousy job of "re-graining" is easy to do, but is also easy to tell. The "pad" or boss for the serial number should be crisp, the depth of the pad should be as original, and the grain should match the surrounding area.

More info about Numbers can be found over at the harleyKmodel,com website. Some of that info is specific to K-models and Sportsters, but it's a pretty good write-up (even if I do say so myself).

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Re: Were Engines Issued New Numbers?

Postby Brent » Tue Aug 16, 2022 6:02 pm

Since matching case numbers were mentioned: Being a retired Industrial Maintenance mechanic/machinist/motorcyclist/restorer (whew) I can say "Stay away from mis-matched cases". The reason for this is it is critical for the cases to match. Line boring was mentioned.
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Re: Were Engines Issued New Numbers?

Postby Mutt » Tue Aug 16, 2022 6:07 pm

What the OP is talking about happened often of 1960 and later cases. Ive seen quite a few cases with a character or 2 in bigger font. Namely the ZERO. Bosses were unmolested, matching belly numbers, correct date codes, etc. I'll see if I have a set laying around still
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Re: Were Engines Issued New Numbers?

Postby Brent » Tue Aug 16, 2022 6:26 pm

Mutt is correct. H-D made it a point to use mis-matched numbers/letters for engine I.D. I've owned a number of various sized H-D's and noticed it a long time ago. It's actually a great way to keep someone from re-numbering a case correctly. I wonder if H-D/AMF/H-D kept the records over the years when they changed the font/size for DMV/Police identification. Any indication that causes you to question the 'numbers' will be viewed that way by any DMV. They'll want a documented reason for the inconsistency.
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