Buying a Panhead

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Buying a Panhead


Post by BigGerman » Mon May 02, 2005 10:13 pm

Hi folks,

i am a guy from Germany, Europe. I found your page on my way thru the internet searching for information about panheads in general.
I am interested in a ´58 Panhead at my local dealer, but i am not sure if it is the right thing for me. Right now i have ´95 Evolution. But as you probably know it isn´t the ultimate kick.
My problem is that i am not a good mechanic at all. Actually i´ve got not much experience with fixing an engine. But im willing to learn.
I would be interested in your experience about panheads and if a guy like me should even think about buying a panhead!???
Im looking forward for your answers!

Thanks Ron

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by Ente » Tue May 03, 2005 9:17 am

Hi BIG...
It depends of what you meen with 'not a good mechanic', you DO NEED to be practical and average technical logical, but since you will not deal with specially hi-tech stuff, 'a good mechanic' in modern way is not necessary. And you WILL learn. But a good start is to read lots of posts here and feel what it's all about.
brds Ente/Sweden

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by panhead » Tue May 03, 2005 10:10 am

Buy some good books (like Bruce Palmer). Do you have Harley riding friends? Is your local dealer willing to help or only interested in selling?

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by dirtydistrict » Tue May 03, 2005 12:21 pm

Post by dirtydistrict
The first real step is to really love these bikes, you won't mind if there's things to learn, time to spend too; if you're not sure forget about it, you will live it as a pain. Many of members on this board won't change for nothing. There's not objective way to buy an Harley, this is most true with Panheads and old iron. When you ride a bike you belong to the few, when it's Harley davidson that's get fewer....what to say when it's about Pan, Knuck, Shovel,45's....well here you are. Hope you'll join us !

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by 57Kicker » Wed May 04, 2005 1:52 pm

I'm glad I got my '57. I knew diddley-squat and still do but I enjoy learning and I think they are pretty basic motors to run from what Ive learned.
It helps if you know some friends with pan head the great crew here on this board. They helped me ALOT!

Thanks Guys! *Beers all around* CHEERS!

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by suicideshovel65 » Wed May 04, 2005 11:03 pm

I'll have to chime in here, as someone who has just taken the plunge and bought an old Pan - perhaps without knowing entirely what I was getting into!
I hated Harleys for a long time - I rode Ducatis, Z1000s, and a whole bunch of bikes until my mate's enthusiasm to try a Harley rubbed off on me - it was one of the only styles we hadn't really ridden yet. He went for an evo (and is now back on a Z1R), but liking more classic machines I went for a rigid shovel - an old school chopper for my first Harley. I fell in love with the minimal, vintage style look (bobbers). Still hate the look of most standard harleys though, I'm afraid to say, but I am also finding it harder and harder to go back to other bikes.
My mate used to shake his head, and laugh at the occasional breakdowns I had with the shovel. He'd push the starter on his evo, while I'd be cursing, kicking my bike over in front of a line of traffic we'd just cut up. I had a blast on that bike, but I started to have a hankering at what seemed to be an even "purer" bike. At the same time a few minor changes in life priorities for me made me want to devote more time to motorbikes and less to work. I started wanting to get back to what seemed to be the "roots" of it all. So I sold the shovel, and shopped around until I found a ratty old Pan "still running", bought it, and shipped it over here. I took even more of a risk - buying it off eBay - but am basically happy with what I got.
I guess what I'm rambling on to say here is that if you are trying to find "the ultimate kick(starter)", and you are willing to learn more about your engine then IMO there is no better bike to have than a Pan. It forces you to learn. It rewards your efforts, and you can feel/see/hear the changes you make. It's not just bolting on billet and riding smooth (especially for you rigid riders).
IMO though, you have to be willing to devote either time or money to your bike to bring it to a reliable condition. Ask yourself if you have either of these in reserve.
Also, it depends on what you want the bike for - every machine has a purpose, and you have to understand that IMHO these old bikes (well most of them) don't go as fast or as hard as the new. They just have more character.
All in all though, why not go for it! You may never look back; you may decide it's not for you. At the end of the day if you decide you don't like it, you likely will have lost less on the Pan (if at all) than on the resale of the majority of any other bikes.

Thanks all round to those who have given me advice as I've been learning lately too!

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by 53rigidrider » Thu May 05, 2005 10:44 am

Once you go Panhead, nothing will ever be the same.
I sold a '93 to get my '53 precisely for the reasons everyone before me stated.
It's a passion that can't be quenched by any other motorcycle.
I love to ride my Pan down a forest highway early in the morning feeling like I'm on a time machine, enjoying my ride like thousands did before me.
There's an old Harley saying that seems to fit with Panhead riders, "If I Have To Explain, You Wouldn't Understand!"
Do it. ;D

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by haggis » Thu May 05, 2005 4:56 pm

Hi Big,
Like the other guys were saying, finally getting the Pan you want...and putting it all back together the way you want is definately a learning experience. One you should love.
Of all the motors that Harley designed the Pan has got to be without a doubt the sweetest looking.
The Mrs still cant understand what I'm doing just standing staring at it!!! Haggis.

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by Ente » Fri May 06, 2005 8:08 am

It goes for the same with me... Smile
After a couple of Evos (Sportster, Ultra and rigid with evo) I decided that it's enough of that. My dream since the Easyrider-movie was a panhead. And my latest bike, a rigid aftermarket '49-frame with Evo inside did'nt feel right... 'Stop dreamin' I told myself.... I found a guy with a pan-engine in a box, a 49 with 55-leftcase and 63-heads, and he was looking for an Evo... so we simply switch engines... And it all felt sooo right..I never been religious before but this is the closest I've been, Amen.
You know.. when I'm sad or unhappy in some way... I just walk out to my old Lady... look at her.. sit on her and just dream away.... And it allways feels better....

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by dirtydistrict » Fri May 06, 2005 10:12 am

I do the same, Ente, i had some very bad moments in my life but never get prepared to do parts with my 58, when everything falls around, my pan remain.
I hated Harleys when i was younger 'cause I only saw some kitchen-on-wheels (full option electras) until i get stuck by a picture of Lee Marvin with his Hydra on "the wild one"; It decided me to drive this bike and nothing else, i had a yamaha just to learn, then a 79 iron sportster until I found my duo in a basket case 5 years ago. Stoopid smile each time I look at her, I use it nearly every day and have a rest during winter.


Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by 52Chopper » Fri May 06, 2005 5:54 pm

Like others, I've been riding H-D's since the Shovel era, Sporty's, Softails, Dyna's, Heritage & a bagger. Just last year I bought my first pan, 52 hardtail chooped bobber on Ebay and have never looked back. I will go broke, get divorced, etc... and never sell my first pan! I am now trying to sell my 95 heavily customized (stipped, flamed, etc) Ultra (which I'm going to lose my ass on) and I'm going to look to get another newer pan 60's to restore as original.

Enjoy and live everyday with your PAN!

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by 59pan » Fri May 06, 2005 10:04 pm

Hey Big German:
I am one of the lucky guys with more than one bike. I don't have a favorite but I love them all.

99BMW R1100RT: The best sport tourer ever made
02 Yamaha FZ! : So fast and reliable it should be illegal
59 Panhead in a 52 rigid frame. Purple passion!

I didn't know didley squat about Harleys when I got my pan. I hooked up with an old timer and he showed me the way. If you convert to 12 v electrics, buy a solid state regulator, get a reliable carb, put a disc brake on the front so the pig will stop and keep it tuned, you will love it. I ride mine all the time and probably put about 4000 miles a year on it; not as many as the BMW but still alot for an antique.
After I made the reliability changes it has not stranded me once! Pay attention to it. Most of the time it will warn you well in advance before a road side failure.
Panheads are the best HD ever made IMO.
Good luck.

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by weezeo » Fri May 06, 2005 11:31 pm

There is nothing like riding a Panhead you will want to learn. You will salivated when you can't ride. I, also own 2 bikes and while both are generator bottom bikes(early) I would take the PAN with a kick only over the Shovel any day w/ kick and a button(66). And they are, like mentioned in all the posts, very easy to learn. So Bro its a no brainer buy it and you'll belong to a very priveleged group. You will get more " ;D" than any of your friends.


Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by BlackkatBone » Sat May 07, 2005 12:23 pm

I have always thought of Pans as "THE" Harley ... and next week if all goes well I should own a 49 ...
I am on Harley #5 now an XL 1200 ... and have had several BIG twins both EVOs and TC88s ...
My Yamaha XS650 will take over the Sporty slot of light cruiser ... and the other V twin my Guzzi V11 Sport is there if I feel the need for speed ...
I'm looking forward to getting the Pan, owned by the same guy for many years ... just for the astetic of it ...
So I'll most likely be here asking for your help ... and enjoying being in an elite club ...

BlackkatBone ...

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Re: Buying a Panhead


Post by DuoDave » Sat May 07, 2005 3:53 pm

Best of luck if you go ahead and buy the pan. I feel the same way as the rest of the guys here. I think this sums it up - I was chatting with a non-riding friend the other day and he mentioned that he thought sport bike riders looked ridiculous in their multicoloured one piece leather suits. Then he asked me " What do you wear when you are riding your Harley?" " A great big grin!" I replied.

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