Who doesn't lose their mind in the presence of an original, pre-war Harley-Davidson Knucklehead? It's probably one of the most recognizable types of classic motorcycle engines in existence. The first Knuck arrived wedged inside a stylish all-new model back in 1936, and it was a sales hit for The Motor Company from the jump. The beautifully executed styling was pure Art Deco, with even the new instrument panel atop the tank taking on elegant curves. The bike's lines were a smooth flow from the shapely front fender to the exclamation point of a taillight. You'd gaze at the hand shifter working a four-speed gearbox and a springer, oval-tube fork set around a double-downtube cradle frame. The 61ci overhead-valve V-twin in the middle of it all just made you want to bask in the beauty.

Dan Auerbach
As the son of an antique dealer, Dan Auerbach has an acute appreciation of all things vintage—including old Harleys.Larry Niehues

In that regard, multi-platinum and Grammy Award-winning artist Dan Auerbach’s just like the rest of us…except, well, he actually owns a running Knucklehead (or two). Auerbach, who's known as one-half of The Black Keys, is probably less well known for his passion for vintage Harleys, but it seems he’s especially drawn to those that aren’t total rebuilds—the ones that retain much of the rust and grit and character of the prior owners. And two of his favorites are the V-twins with those distinctively shaped aluminum valve covers.

1937 EL model Harley-Davidson
This well-loved 1937 EL model is Auerbach’s first Harley.Wes Duenkel

The elder of the bunch is a perfectly patinaed and oil-stained 1937 EL Knucklehead with funky saddlebags, and which also happens to be Dan's first Harley. His favorite, though, is a crimson-colored 1940 EL model nicknamed "Red Devil," which sports even more well-aged metal. When you realize that Auerbach is the son of an antique dealer, his appreciation of the whole vintage aesthetic starts to make perfect sense; these bikes are perfect examples of folk art fused with the distinct sound of an era and—most likely—a very interesting ride.

Ten of his motorcycles will be on display in the exhibit "The Dan Auerbach Collection: Vintage Harley-Davidsons from 1937–1950," which just opened at Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. The press release goes on to say that "…each of the bikes in this collection reflect Auerbach's love and appreciation for a time long past. All of the bikes are in working order and are ridden often by Auerbach."

vintage harley-davidson gas tank
Much of Auerbach’s bikes retain their original time-worn character, but all are runners.Wes Duenkel
1941 Harley-Davidson EL
1941 Harley-Davidson ELWes Duenkel
1946 Harley-Davidson FL
1946 Harley-Davidson FLWes Duenkel
1946 Harley-Davidson FL
1946 Harley-Davidson FLWes Duenkel
1946 Harley-Davidson FL
1946 Harley-Davidson FLWes Duenkel
1947 Harley-Davidson EL
1947 Harley-Davidson ELWes Duenkel
1948 Harley-Davidson FL
1948 Harley-Davidson FLWes Duenkel
Harley-Davidson Black Dracula
"Black Dracula is a total custom creation based around an Ironhead Sportster engine and an old beat-up gas tank. Lane Motor Museum fabricator Michael Huby created this bike for Auerbach, and even put a replica Indian leaf springer fork on it."Wes Duenkel

The exhibit is apparently the first time Auerbach’s beloved motorcycles are being displayed to the public, and it’s a reminder of the influence of Harley-Davidson on bikes of the mid-20th century. The stylish and shapely EL may be a good fit for a rock star in his prime, but you can be sure we’ll be heading to the Lane exhibit hall too, just to lose our minds.