Two-Tone Pan

Written by  Story By Johnny Pants Photos By Jack “Outside Is None Of My Business” Cofano Friday, 08 September 2017 15:03
Published in Bobbers
    If it wasn’t for the splash of red fencing behind this grab-me-by-my-heartstrings Panhead bobber, it could be a long lost shot in black and white from the days when film ruled the photo world and the only computers were in a huge defense building. We’ve had a strong run of Harley-Davidson Panhead customs recently and by the looks of what Jack Cofano shot at the recent Smoke Out 18, you’d think that there might be more of them today than when they were first built. I dig old B&W photos of old Harleys and this build and the setting almost make it appear that somebody figured out how to roll back time.


   When I think about it, they actually did figure out how to roll back time with a Panhead bobber so traditional in style and finish that you gotta love it for exactly what it is sitting in front of you. It’s built the way I remember the rare radical builds I ran into when gasoline and Harleys were first invented I think, well, at least it seems that way. And, none of those builds ever looked as good as this garage-built Panhead does. Maybe garages have just gotten better-equipped than the old days. 

   As usual, I have no idea who owns or built this heavy metal Panhead per the typical Smoke Out attitude of this being somebody’s personal ride they probably built with a little help from friends. And, it’s how they got there. It’s still a motorcycle to them first and foremost rather than just something to look at. It was designed and built with the thought of a traditional bike cause that’s just what the owner likes and if you want to refer to it as Old School the owner wouldn’t care either way. It’s just how he likes ‘em. 

   The bike in profile really shows its FL roots with a stock frame and swingarm. Personally, I’ve always loved the shrouded FL rear shocks as they have a look all their Harley-Davidson own. I don’t find them or rear suspension in general unattractive as many do and actually prefer the looks of a bike like this to a rigid. There, I’ve said it and it feels good. Cap off the front with a chromed vintage H-D springer and I’m in Panhead Heaven. The front and rear suspension are important style points on this build as much as suspension. 

  Up front there’s the quintessential chopper front wheel if there ever was one. A small spool hub laced to a 21-inch chromed steel rim with not a piece of brake kit in sight looks about right for a traditional build cause it’s a Old School recipe used successfully over and over again. It might be familiar, but it never gets tiring. 

  Out back there’s a bit of cool trickery going on. When I first saw the rear wheel I thought it as a solid wheel like a Fat Boy or something, but then I noticed a few cheeky spokes behind the brake rotor and, lo and behold, it’s a sort of hubcap arrangement over both sides of spokes. Very interesting and probably some old FL trick from back in the day that I was unaware of. Every day I get more unaware of things I once knew, but that’s the way it goes.

See, there I go drifting off unaware I’m doing it. 

   The Panhead engine just looks glorious in all its natural Panhead splendor. Nothing’s overdone, there’s no anodizing or billet anywhere. It’s all perfectly Panhead pretty in its raw aluminum block, black cylinders and finned and ribbed bits polished or with good real chrome and not the stuff that looks so deep it’s like peering into another dimension in metal. To me it looks factory fresh and that’s about as good as it’s gonna get. 

   A tiny round air cleaner does its best to keep the bad stuff out and let some good air in and that’s all they’re really supposed to do. No hours on a CNC machine here, probably just a big hydraulic press and a bit of steel involved along with a chrome bath. The exhaust just couldn’t be nicer in my opinion. The way it snakes down under the engine and near the kicker to shoot back low into a stylized fishtail opening is simply lovely. It looks mean, purposeful, period-correct and certainly has to make the Panhead sound great. 

   A big change from traditional H-D engine architecture is the thin (really) open-belt primary that doesn’t look out of place. If there was a four-inch belt of here, it would look out of place. Belt drive had a real place in vintage motorcycles so maybe the new thin belt drives just have a hint of real nostalgia to me even if it’s technically wrong. I love it. It’s all about a strong, but quiet attitude and that’s what the whole build is about. Besides, there’s a proper chain final drive so it cancels out just right for me. 

   The Wassell-style tank sits with a bit of Frisco style and looks athletically sporty like it’s ready to go and do some hooligan stuff. In the rear, the simple tire-hugging fender is cut and mounted perfectly. A thin curved rod with nicely crafted mounting lugs delicately holds the rear fender in place. The only other bit of bodywork is the oil tank that looks more like something off a Shovelhead than a Pan, but I’m no expert. Whatever it’s from, it looks fine in all its factory goodness here. 

   The set of traditional bend apes couldn’t look any nicer and I can’t imagine anything else from Z-bars to beach bars looking any better. Sometimes you just gotta have them apes and I even like the mirror too. A lightly sprung solo leather saddle that’s pretty slim to fit the frame sits in what looks like a comfy position relative to the bars and forward controls. The whole bike makes me want to jump on and go right after someone kick starts it for me. It just looks rideably inviting like every Indian Larry bike I ever saw. 

   One thing I think that really makes this bike, though, is the paintjob. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “Big deal. It’s just silver paint.” And you would be right. No one tried to go out of their way with lace, panels or a multitude of colors and techniques. It was painted silver and most of the real Old School bikes I ran into when they were New School were a single color. It seemed by the time the owner/builder got to paint, they just wanted to ride and not wait for a paintjob they didn’t obviously care about anyway. They just wanted it to look good, not necessarily like a work of art. 

  Put black, silver and chrome together and that’s about as Old School as you can get. It looks like a living rendition of an old black and white photograph from the ‘60s. Maybe it’s because I prefer to see the custom motorcycle world when it was black and white. B&W images from that time look more 1930s to me than 1960 now. They have a grainy quality about them that is the quality and so does this stunning Panhead bobber. I’m not stuck in nostalgia and neither is this bike, but I think we’d both enjoy it together. I bet you would too.

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