October 29, 2009
Harley Panhead Motorcycles – Why So Popular Today?
It wasn’t so long ago that you could buy a running Harley Panhead motorcycle for a few thousand dollars. Most Harley Panheads were considered “just an old motorcycle” that leaked oil, didn’t handle so great and tended to run poorly. But then again the bikes Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper rode in the movie Easy Rider were ex-police Harley Panhead motorcycles that were stripped and converted to choppers.
So what is it about Panheads that have now brought them back into such popularity?
They range from stunningly restored first year 1948, rigid frame springer models like this beautiful red one, to choppers and bobbers and hot rods.
Over the years I have owned and enjoyed a number of Harley Panhead motorcycles.
Most of my Pans were original or close to original, but one was a handcrafted hot rod Panhead. While it is still a work in progress, I’d like to share a few photos of it here. Notice the dual Linkert carburetors mounted, side-by-side on the left side of the engine? Harley designed the Panheads with a single Linkert carburetor on the right side. On my particular dual-carb Pan the stock Harley Panhead heads were modified with the intakes going into each separate head from the left. Once we finished building this custom Harley Panhead I decided it was too red. While I like the design in general I am planning on making some cosmetic changes inlcuding painting over some of the red with black (like the oil bag and possibly wheel rims) and swapping out the red grips and jockey shift knob.
Another Panhead I own and love is my “dirty bike” 1948 blue Harley Panhead we built and followed in American Iron Magazine as the “Crustoration” – a project we did at Wheels Through Time. While ti looks like we dragged it out of a barn and somehow got it to run, don’t be fooled by the dirt and funk, this is a well sorted out and strong running old Harley!
In fact. I took this photo of my old Harley Panhead in Milwaukee after riding it around Milwaukee as part of Harley’s 105th anniversary celebrations.