best designed pan engines?

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spinedoc

best designed pan engines?

#1

Post by spinedoc » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:49 pm

Are any years of panheads better than others, as far as reliability, parts breakage, etc. I was told that up to 54 they were weaker than the 55 and up models. I am looking at a 50 and a 55 model and was curious. Thanks.



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#2

Post by Panacea » Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:42 pm

If you leave the displacement at 61 or 74" the early pans are fine IMO. For a stroker your better off with the heavier cases. My 49 was 74" and I had way more fun thrashing with no wories than now with my 84" stroker, I worry about the cases grenadeing. I think the peace of mind is worth more than the extra power.

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#3

Post by FlatHeadSix » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:46 am

This thread could get real interesting!

here's my take on the evolution (not to be confused with EVO engines) of the panhead engines. The only weak spot in the first generation pans was the way they lifted the valves. If you replace the hydraulic push rods with solids they are just as reliable as any other pan. As far as the later pans go I don't think the cases were any tougher, they just had different bearings, which may, or may not, have been better.

I actually de-tuned my '49 by installing a set of low compression (7.5:1) pistons. My logic was to help it burn today's 87 octane pump fuel without pinging. I don't pull a sidecar and I don't care if I'm the first one away from the light when it turns green. It runs fine and it has plenty of power for the way I drive it.

If you want to smoke your back tire or run it in NHRA competition then you don't want a stock a pan. If you just want something to ride and enjoy then any pan will do just fine as long as its right, and tight, and up to spec.

John, which one is better?, my '49 or your '55? Stand back, here it comes......! :D

waymon85

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#4

Post by waymon85 » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:58 am

I think they switched over to a stronger Timken bearing in the case around that 53 or 54. I have also herd that the outside oiler set up is better than when they ran the oil thru the cylinders. I guess the oil got pretty damn hot by the time it got to the top end. But, I think any engine is only as reliable as its owner. Hope this helps.

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#5

Post by Jack_Hester » Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:58 am

My opinion. If the engine/transmission is well built (I prefer stock specs), they are all fine machines. I like the '54 and earlier engines for ease in building. I wouldn't hesitate to take any year model on a cross-country trip, if I was comfortable with the condition of the build. They were designed to last. And they have. In many forms. But, the ones that give the least trouble are the ones that are respected by their owner.

Jack

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#6

Post by john HD » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:20 am

John, which one is better?, my '49 or your '55? Stand back, here it comes......!
well of course my '55 is better because it is red! :lol:

seriously, they are all good if maintained properly and will give years of service.

some say '58 and up are the best, others say '55 and up are better.

and yet, my one friend who owns a HD dealership in central wisconsin says " if they were so great they would still be making them!"

john

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#7

Post by Cotten » Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:06 pm

My take on it was that there were gradual improvements in design and materials through '64.

Then things got weird. Really really weird.

So my vote for the best designed Pan motor (and chassis) would be the last DuoGlide.

....Cotten

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#8

Post by steve_wood » Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:23 pm

Gotta agree with Cotten. The one variant I would add is that if you love the look of the hard tail frame (like I do), then you would probably favor the 55 to 57 Pans. The 56 was the first with the Timken bearing and it has the cool two-tone paint slash on the tanks and metal badges whereas the 57 had a somewhat subdued (although still two-tone) paint job and plastic badges.

So my vote (totally unbiased by the fact that I own a 56) would have to be 1956 FLH.

Bring on the flames !! :)

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#9

Post by fourthgear » Thu Apr 03, 2008 2:45 pm

As above , as long as she is well maintained and was re-built correctly( most are now a days ) , you should have no problems with any year . If you got bad legs or hips , the last year of Pan's (1965 ) are for you , gotta love that electric leg, but I'm also not biased , I own a tapered shaft and an electric leg model.

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#10

Post by panz4ever » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:39 pm

My take on it was that there were gradual improvements in design and materials through '64.

Then things got weird. Really really weird.


Yes Cotton, that was my pops almost exact words. He couldnt believe that MoCo would add an electric start in 65, and ruin the looks of a fine machine. And when they changed the top end in 66 he figured the end of the world was next...

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#11

Post by Cotten » Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:56 am

Just for the record, I still have two '65s.

I bought my first (my first HD of any year) in '75, and I still have it, although it is scattered at this time.
Although it was only a decade old, and a "revolutionary" design for HD, everyone admonished me for spending upon a 'dinosaur' when I could have bought a new sportster for a few dollars more.

Nowadays, a ten-year-old machine is still practically new. Most of us have t-shirts that are older.

If only I had started out on a '64,... or earlier, I may never have invested in any other machine; Nor found myself making a bad career choice after learning the lessons it taught me.

Uh,...Nevermind.

....Cotten

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#12

Post by panz4ever » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:46 pm

Bought my 65 pan in 1970 becuase it was the first pan I saw that I could afford. Still riding it today.

Bought my 49 EL basket/ptoject some 30 years later becuase I liked the overall look of the bike and motor as a package....simplicity meets form and function.

HeadHog rebuilt the heads, T&O the flywheels and rods. Mid summer I should be able to start a reassembly. Gotta say that looking at it in pieces there is not a lot of moving parts. Makes it easy to maintain. The only thing I am not doing is installing the hydraulic lifters, going w/ solids. Other than that I think the 49 will hold up as well as my 65 and will be a very solid rider.

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#13

Post by 51Hog » Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:04 pm

john HD wrote:
John, which one is better?, my '49 or your '55? Stand back, here it comes......!
well of course my '55 is better because it is red! :lol:


john
Don't think so John-----
My 51 is better cause it's Blue----AND my dog is bigger than your dog----LOL :-)
:lol: :D

I like all of the old Lo tech Iron. If you treat it like it was meant to be treated, and maintain it, It will last. Abuse it too much and you will walk.
Keep the rpms where they should be (Your ear should let you know) , and it will be all good.

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#14

Post by john HD » Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:09 am

spinedoc,

as you can see they all are pretty good if it comes down to color!

john :D

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#15

Post by caschnd1 » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:48 am

My '49 just keeps going and going. The only major mods are to the heads (ported, larger valves, new seats and dual plugged) and I'm running new (Evo) generation lifter blocks and lifters. I've put about 40K miles on this motor. I did have to pull the heads last summer to replace the exhaust spigots. Didn't go any farther then R&R'ing the heads. As others have said, these motors are as good as the builder and the maintainer. Mine is ridden everyday and has behaved perfectly for almost 4 years.

-Craig

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