February 7, 2011

Harley Panhead & Harley Sidecar Classic 1955 Motorcycle

I thought it might be fun to share one of my classic Harley motorcycles here with you. This is my “birthday bike” as I was born in 1955 and this is a 1955 Harley Panhead with matching 1955 Harley sidecar.

My 1955 Harley Panhead and matching 1955 Harley sidecar

I found this solo bike in Daytona about 15 years ago during the Bike Week festivities. The seller was used to his modern motorcycles and had a hard time starting it, so he decided to sell it and ran a classified in the Daytona newspaper. I looked over the old Pan and we eventually agreed a price. I arranged to get some cash and pay him for it before anyone else got the deal before me. We took it to the old Klassix Auto Museum my friend used to run outside Daytona Beach. In the back shop of the museum I cleaned up and detailed the bike, flushed the tanks, cleaned the carburetor and generally tuned the bike up.

In riding the old Panhead around Daytona I felt it handled poorly and realized it had an adjustable tripletree for sidecars and the owner had it raked out even though it was a solo motorcycle. I got the old Harley Panhead back up on the jack and “deraked” the front end. It immediately handled much better. Other than cleaning, sorting and tuning the bike I pretty much left it as is and just rode the Harley Panhead solo for a few years. I upgraded to a 12 volt electrical system and followed the progress in an article or two of American Iron Magazine and it seemed pretty popular with our readers.

Pretty girls can't resist sidecars

Over the years I was lucky enough to find a genuine 1955 Harley sidecar (the date is code stamped on the frame) and hook it up to my matching 1955 Harley Panhead. I also began to pimp it out by adding era correct nicknacks and accessories to the bike. These included the front fender bars on top and on the back of the fender, the chrome dish on the front wheel, genuine 1955 era turn signals – front and rear, a halo over the speedometer dash, halo gas caps, cheese slicer on the rear fender and more. I also had the classic Harley pin striped and lettered.

The windshield is a new one from National Cycle, and the leather seat and saddlebags were made for me by the folks at Heathers Leathers. The leather work might not be correct or accurate but I like them and the work great. 

I removed the sidecar from the Panhead in 2003 and rode my old Harley Panhead motorcycle from our magazine offices in Stamford, CT to Milwaukee for Harley’s 100th anniversary celebration. He had about 100 bikes ride out with us and everyone seemed to love watching and hearing me ride by on this classic Panhead. A lot of the riders later told me they had never actually seen a Harley Panhead on the road before.

Too heavy to push when out of gas, thank goodness for other Panhead riders

I’d like to say I ride this classic Harley a lot but haven’t lately. The reason being it takes up so much room I can’t fit it in my overstuffed garage. I leave it in secure, locked storage near the magazine offices. So it is an effort to get it out of storage.

 But when I do get it out I very much enjoy riding the sidecar rig. The bike usually starts easily and runs strong. Plus the sidecar is set up right to track pretty straight and true on the road.

Speedo and dash of my "pimped out" 1955 Harley Panhead

While this 1955 Harley Panhead sidecar rig might not be an AMCA high point bike, it is mostly correct and original and I like it just as it sits. With all the snow these day I am thinking of clearing some space in the garage and getting her out of storage and back on the road.

You can visit a couple of free motorcyle forums to discuss motorcycle sidecar issues at American Iron Magazine forum (for newer Harley sidecars) and at Classic American Iron forum (for older ones).

Filed under Buzz Kanter Classic Motorcycle Blog by Buzz Kanter

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