The Knucklehead may have been one of Harley-Davidson’s crowning achievements, but the Panhead is arguably the most famous motorcycle in the manufacturer’s catalog. The new and improved Panhead engine reduced operating temperatures across the board with its redesigned rocker covers that resembled upside-down pans, giving consumers in the late ’40s a very noticeable and requested increase in power.
Following the second World War, the United States began to quickly improve the national highway system. The Panhead now provided Americans with enough power to pursue leisure and long commutes on two wheels, something that many weren’t able to do before.
Harley Davidson’s Panhead motorcycles stayed in production for 17 years through 1965, making a name for themselves as some of the most iconic motorcycles in history. They’re often seen in media; most notably, the “Captain America” chopper ridden by Peter Fonda in 1969’s Easy Rider, which featured a Panhead engine. Not only was the movie a cultural touchstone, but it made that Panhead into one of the most celebrated motorcycles of all time.
There’s not enough you can say about the platform, but there’s always a new custom Panhead to be shown off. We talked to Brendan Venturelli at Fuel Cleveland about his build of a custom 1963 Panhead chopper.
The original frame is a 1952 panhead that Venturelli got at an auction. The frame was pretty rough when he got it, but two and a half years later he has a fully formed bike.
“It’s a 1963 motor and transmission — stock bore, and it’s got a mild cam in it – other than that it’s a regular 1,200cc engine,” Venturelli says. “The frame was all bent, so I made a frame jig and after deciding I wanted to do a tall bike, I put the neck where I wanted and kind of went from there.”
Venturelli’s Panhead is the definition of clean, sleek and simple. Aside from the paintwork done by Eric Clay out of Okina, Illinois, everything that was done to the bike was completed in-house.
“I just kind of pieced together the front end,” Venturelli says. “They’re Mullins trees and VCP Cycle lowers, and then I ordered the fork tubes from Sweden because I couldn’t find anybody here that would make them.”
The Panhead also features a Morris magneto that serves at the motorcycle’s power source with no need for a battery, and it includes a LecTron carburetor. Brendan looks forward to riding the hell out this chopper soon.
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