Gold Standard Panhead

Written by  Story By Geronimo Jones Photos By Jack “Golden Boy” Cofano Tuesday, 20 March 2018 12:00
Published in Bobbers
Once upon a time the gold standard was something that specifically meant currency or money as we like to call it was backed by a fixed amount of gold. Paper money could be exchanged for precious metal even although it was silver and not gold, though. Still, the gold standard even after it was dropped in the 1930s has always referred to something that has great value based on more than just paper.


   Today we have our own Harley-Davidson version of the gold standard that includes the likes of vintage engines like the Knucklehead and Panhead. Build a custom around one of these legendary mills and you’re already way ahead of the game. Yes, stuffing a nice one between your frame rails and you’ve entered the Gold Standard of the Harley world. Vintage Harley powered Old School choppers have certainly come to be the gold standard of custom motorcycles as far as I’m concerned.

 Take this beautiful hunka-hunka burning love Panhead-powered bobber as a prime example of the Gold Standard for instance. That it’s covered in a lovely gold hue only reinforces someone’s modern take of an old tradition. So much so that it looks like it could have been one of the rides in the early Jack Nicholson movie Hells Angels On Wheels. Seems to me that a lot of the bikes were built around these design standards of minimal rake front ends and minimal everything else except chrome and paint. There was always a lot of the last two involved in making a traditional chop.

  Most of all, though, they had to sound good. With the right set of pipes and good tuning, is there a better sounding chopper engine that ever existed (and I’m including you Mr. Knucklehead) whether it’s idling or on full song? In it’s own special Panhead way, it’s also a fairly practical vintage mill to be able to muck around on to your heart’s content. Of course, like any great relationship, there’s going to be some hands-on involved and that’s part of the Panhead charm. It might not run like a refrigerator, but it will run and that’s all that counts.

  I am glad that even though the owner/builder really laid on the shiny stuff on the surgically clean raw main engine castings, he kept it real using bits like the period correct air cleaner, proper tin work primary and the you-can’t-miss-‘em headers aggressively-angled upwards perfectly parallel to each other. Somehow I don’t think there’s anything inside those pipes other than air and it’s surely unobstructed Panhead combustion remnants retain their full aural sound. Maybe not music to everybody, but it’s pure symphony of the highest caliber to the rest of us.

   The tight frame retains stock dimensions making for a very agile knockabout of a bike. A heavily chromed springer cradles a classic 21-inch laced-spool wheel sporting a period-correct Avon Speedmaster II in all its ribbed gloriousness. Out back another laced rim and another Avon tire, but this is a squared-off block-tread style of rubber. Nothing really big and beefy as there really wasn’t much really big and really beefy back then when old was the new thing. Personally, I prefer this look any day. Unabashedly Old School is the only stopper onboard, a drum brake of all things. Those of you used to modern brakes might find this a little intimidating and often rightly so.

   Of course, having only a rear drum brake wouldn’t be the hardest thing to adapt to if you somehow had a chance to ride or own this lovely little bobber. There’s also the challenge of the kick starter. Somehow I bet this bike is tuned as well as it looks so let’s assume this is a fairly easy starter. Even if you’ve got a button on a bike like this everybody expects you to kick it to life. It just seems like the right thing to do.

   Tradition continues with the tasty looking minimalist bodywork that consists of only three pieces. The classic trailer-style rear fender, the horseshoe oil tank and what appears to be a peanut Mustang-style tank mounted tight and horizontally. I like it as I always think of tanks rising at an angle, but this looks tight and right to me. The gold hue chosen is a winner as it looks like it was from back in the day especially with the lack of an expected metal flake finish. White highlights on the grips, kicker pedal, shifter peg and that long, thin torturous-looking seat add some contrasting showy-highlights.

  From the bars to the sissy bar and everything in between, this bike’s a looker. Yeah, it’s maybe not the easiest or most comfortable ride you might run into, but it’d be a ride you’d never forget. Here’s to more moments to come that we’ll never forget.

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