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Ride of the Week

Custom 1950 Harley-Davidson Shovelpan

The great thing about the Fuel Cleveland show is that the organizers post many of the custom bikes that will be on display on Instagram months prior to the actual event. That bodes well for the MPN team, as we were able to plan accordingly and make a concrete list of all the unique motorcycles we wanted to get the scoop on.

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One of the bikes that caught our eye is built and owned by the one and only James Brown. No, not the godfather of soul, but rather a soulful motorcycle builder and painter out of Dayton, OH. Nonetheless, we still “felt good” when were able to meet him in person at the historic Hale Farm show venue.

Brown’s Harley-Davidson is not only intriguing because of its beautiful paint job, but it’s uber cool engine layout. The bike is a “shovelpan,” as the engine is comprised of a 1950 panhead bottom end and 1968 shovelhead cylinder heads.

“I originally had a cone shovel for it, a later style shovelhead,” Brown says. “But, this popped up on Instagram, so I went and bought it about 30 minutes later since they sell fast. I wanted something clean looking, so I tore everything apart down to the crank and split the cases, and now hopefully the bike will run for another 50 or 60 years.”

That’s not an unlikely estimate, as nearly the whole bike has been redone and worked on by a multitude of different hands thanks to James’ friends and others helping out when needed.

“Everything was cut in half and the hard tail was made by me and my brother,” he says. “The motor and transmission were all rebuilt by a man in Dayton named Bob. There’s a lot of Lowbrow Customs parts and stuff from Prism Supply too. Realistically, it took about a year to build taking my time, having fun and getting help from some buddies who chipped in doing the wiring and stuff.”

The grips came from Lowbrow as well as the gas tank and rear fender. As for the frame, Brown believes it to be a ’70s-era front half and a V-twin panhead back half. The bike features mechanical brakes and dual side-swept exhaust from Paco.

As intricate as the design and styling of the paint looks, Brown said it only took about two weeks to complete – he’s a professional painter by trade.

‘I was inspired by old school bikes,” Brown says. “I wanted it to look a little vintage and that’s why it’s all silver leaf and big flake under all the candy.”


Brown’s shovelpan definitely isn’t lacking in the style department, and it has more than enough power to carry him briskly down the country roads of southwestern Ohio.

If you have a motorcycle, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or jet ski you’d like to feature in MPN’s Ride of the Week series, please email MPN Content Director Greg Jones at [email protected]

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