My Last Harley Three Life Times Ago... 51 Panhead, 57 tanks, shovel top

end and otherwise stockish.

Check Out This Barn Find Panhead!!!

Read and weep!!! Only $300 and I haulder away!!!!

         Well as you can see from the picture above I did not have a lot to go on. It did not take me long though to figure out it was an early 54 model. I based that on the direction of the weld on the brake pedal. The early 54's were welded by a guy named Earl. He was left handed so the welds direction went opposite to most. Mid 54 Earl got shot trying to steal his neighbors sheep and the new guy Harley hired was right handed again like all the others were. So now that I knew the year I only had to gather up the rest of the parts and I was off.

My New 1954 Panhead Project.....

by roy mackey

June 3, 2018

     OK..... me and panheads go way back.... well not so much go way back but I did build and date the one above for six years once a long time ago. 1951 panhead, mostly original with shovel top end, Super "B" carb, Andrews cam lightened flywheels, 57 tanks, foot clutch and hand shift. It was true love even though she was a lot of maintenance and expensive. She even tried to kill me and almost did but I landed on the right side of the fine line. After some intensive care for ten days and a few months of recovery we were back at it.

     As it turned out she fared a lot better than I did so it took surprisingly little to get her back in the game. Since I did all the work on her myself including her make-up it only took a couple of grand give or take and she was back. Mind you that was years ago. Back when two grand actually bought you something. 

     Eventually though times changed as I got caught up in chasing carrots and racing rats. Towards the end we never rode much. The budget was tight and I was too focused on that carrot I was about to catch. Thus I decided to cut her loose. Besides she had some baggage that I was having a hard time dealing with. Last I heard she was heading over to Holland to make someone some big money.

     Well finally years later I let the carrot go and a second later I realized I missed her so decided to build another. Of course I knew this was not going to be easy. Hell back then those old bikes were everywhere. I heard there was on in Calgary and someone said there was another one in Vancouver. Now cripes you are lucky if you even hear about one any more. Just the same I never let that get me down. Though I knew if I would have actually caught that "golden carrot" it would have been a lot easier finding one. Anyway as it was luck was on my side!!!! After hardly any looking at all, maybe a year or so I stumbled onto the "barn find" above. The score of a life time as "barn finds" are almost impossible to dig up. Luck was on my side though.

     So after finally scoring this "barn find" above I was off to the races. I knew the year now so just had to start digging. 
     Now I should add that originally I was going to just buy a motorcycle but finally realized that I had to buy a panhead instead. To those that have built, maintained and ridden a vintage Harley it is a whole different game than just a motorcycle. I decided it had to be a Hydra Glide... 49 to 57. partly because that is what I have the most experience with. Not to mention they have never built a sweeter looking bike in the history of mankind. 

     The original plan was to build it as a 'surviver" so to speak. Though after some digging around on eBuy, I realized that was going to be fruitless and mind bendingly expensive. Cheap poorly made reproduction parts made back in the 80's, all rusted and cracked were being listed as barn find original factory parts!!! Man therez  crime wave let me tell you. Hell reproduction parts back then were so poorly made it was beyond belief!! Half the parts I got I had to ship them back as they were unusable. Now all that same rusty junk is being sold as original parts!!! 

     Thus I opted to change my plans and check out how the reproduction parts were now. There were a lot of them... in fact everything you would need. Well what a fun surprise that was. So far all the parts I have bought have been not only good but absolutely beautiful!!! Apparently there is a reason for that but I won't get into that here.

     Now I do know picky restorer types would probably crack a large frown but that's fine. Each to his own as I am that way when it comes to vintage power tools. Now even though I am a total fan of real vintage and do have a massive collection of vintage power tools I was not that fussy here. Partly because money was more abundant for me than time! To spend years digging up parts from the "pond" only to then have to beg them out of the bleeding fingers of the owner seemed like a lot of work for someone as lazy assed as myself. Even though that is a whole fun process in itself it was not the one I was looking for at this time. I have done that for years. Hell a buddy and I were full on antique car part pickers forty years ago before anyone even knew what picking was!!! Time we were 17 we had about three acres of model A, T and other pre 48 ford crap! He is still in that game while I turned to a life of crime in the art business. So anyway once I had that nailed down it was time to start buying parts!!!

     Well after a little math I realized that it was going to get expensive... 35k Canadian give or take a few k. That got kind of depressing until I finally realized that it was only going to cost me $350...... one hundred times!!! That made it hugely easier to comprehend! Hell If I even gave up my daily sugar laden, milk and caramel sauce with sprinkles and whipped cream, cinnamon dust coffee that alone would pay for half the bike over ten years!!! Cut off net flix and a few other consumer bait shit and it would be a piece of cake.

     So that was the plan. First was to ditch my mini storage lockers... storing all my steel art and other vintage tool crap. Huge monthly savings there. That got the ball going from then if it didn't make total sense or money it went on craigslist and was later turned into more Harley parts.


      This post below is just to document how it is unfolding....


My Bible

     So to begin with I turned to the beast and after a lot of digging figured out JP Cycles was a good place to start. That was my first good move. Those bastards are incredible!!! They ship fast, pack stuff well, and have what I consider to be crazy cheap prices! Being a gold card member banked me some extra coin also. To date I have bought virtually everything I need short of the motor and some clutch parts from them. Every part I get has impressed the hell out of me. Now sure, looking nice and being good are two different things. But back in the 80's when I built my last panhead they not only looked like shit they lasted like shit also. It was pretty sad to say the very least. Nostalgia Cycle ring a nightmarish bell....  : ) Actually they were pretty good I found. There catalog was handy as hell with lots of drawings of where the part was actually supposed to go. This of course was all long before the beast that knows everything.   

      Now I would have been further along but I got impatient after a year and sidestepped to buy a customized 2006 Sissytail one of those FLSTD's below to tide me over. It's a wonderful computer to have on the road, sheze dependable and like my iphone I never have to even think about it. Partly because I can't as it is too many complicated parts and needs to be plugged into "mom" back at the factory every so often in order to keep running. Now don't get me wrong here I love it... but... well... you know... the pursuit of comfort and ease often kills the experience..... Cars are a prime example as they get so quiet comfortable and smooth they are turning into sensory deprivation chambers. Hell you no longer even need to drive them!!!

     One nice thing about panheads is they only have one sensor and it parks it's sorry ass on the seat and runs the throttle and other vitals things required to make it move forward. If it breaks?.... well often a stick and a wire will get you home with no need to take it back to "mom" at the factory. Something I am sure in the age of disposable the factory doesn't like much.

2006 Sissy Tail

You gotta know a box this big from a motorcycle parts store has got to be fun!!!

A genuine early 54 V-Twin reproduction frame!!!

     After buying a lot of smaller parts I decided to bite the bullet, take a chance and buy the frame. Shipped to Canuckada, mob fees at the border in turned out to be around $3600. Cheaper and easier than finding an original. Got it from via eBay. They were great to deal with and very patient with all my whining!!! They shipped it fast and were very reasonable with the shipping. I do plan to buy another one of these frames from them sometime soon.

     From what I can tell so far it is pretty sweet. Fingers crossed of course but everything seems to line up so far. Not sure a real restorer would like this frame or not but I am impressed.... touch wood. It is a wishbone frame which apparently they used in early 54 before going to the straight leg frame on through to 57.

     I will be starting the paint on this in the next week or year depending on time and distractions.

My Last Harley... three lifetimes ago....

     Here is my last pig I built two lifetimes ago. Harley's are like boats they will last forever if you have enough money. Though it was really true love she had some baggage so I finally let her go.

I pretty well did all the work myself short of the engine rebuild. That was done by a real specialist who was working at Calgary Harley Davidson. He obviously knew how to rebuild panhead engines. It did have shovel top end, cam and S&S carb and apparently the flywheels had been lightened. Tons of torque and could run 80mph all day and often did. Rarely more than two kicks the whole six years I had it. 

     Here is the bike when I first got it.... a little rough....  As you can see a little more to work with than the one I have now... but hey common sense and I never had much in common.

8 months later with a lot of new parts, payola, pain and paint....  

Then did another strip down to the bare frame for some more tweaks.