Lowbrow Spotlight: Marty Helverson's "Maggie" 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead

Owner: Marty Helverson (@martyhelverson)
Year/Make/Model: 1948 Harley Davidson panhead in a VL frame.
Fabrication: VL frame modified to fit pan motor, custom oil tank, cut up WL gas/oil tanks used for fuel tanks.
Build Time: 1 year.

Year/Type/Size: 1948 Harley Davidson panhead.
Carburetor: S&S E.
Exhaust: Made from scraps.
Air Cleaner: Center of Buick hubcap.

Year/Type: 1932 Harley Davidson VL frame.
Rake/Stretch: None.

Front End:
Type / Brand: Harley Davidson springer stock length.


Front Size: 21” spool invader.

Rear Size: 16” invader.

Marina blue paint leftover from a Chevy truck restoration in owner’s shop.
Paint by: Marty Helverson
Plating/Polishing: None.
Powdercoating: None.
Hand Pinstriping: DeWayne Connot of D.O.A. Flatliners (@doaflatliners).

Front Fender: None.
Rear Fender: 1936 Ford spare tire cover.
Gas Tank: Harley-Davidson WL gas and oil tanks heavily modified to fit VL frame and sit close to motor.  Top of tanks have custom mounts to attach to VL frame.  Bottoms of tanks notched to clear panhead rocker boxes.
Handlebars: Hand bent tubing attached to Harley-Davidson springer top clamp.
Grips: Blue metal flake.
Mirrors: None.
Hand Controls: Hand shift (tank shift).
Foot Controls: Foot clutch, foot rear brake.
Headlight: Pontiac driving light.
Taillight: 2 lights of unknown origin.
Turn Signals: None.
License Mount: Swingable license plate made from the gas door of a 1969 Firebird.
Seat: Hand made pan and hand tooled seat taken from a bike Marty built years ago, not certain who completed the tooling.

“Maggie” 1948 Harley Davidson Panhead

My bud Marty Helverson owns a logistics company in Oaks, PA, about 25 miles outside of Philadelphia. He also runs a sheet metal fab company and restoration shop out of the same building, a large section of a huge complex. On a recent cold Saturday, Marty had me over to the shop to shoot “Maggie”, a 1948 Panhead.

Marty started this build a few years ago at the infamous Oley swap in Oley, PA. His friend had a Harley VL frame at his booth and Marty bought it thinking that he could put a big twin flathead in it and call it a day. Much like many of us have experienced, his purchase sat in the shop for a few months, staring at him while he worked on other projects and customer builds. His buddy Ray Hagee (@hrhagee330) ended up with a panhead motor for a project that never worked out, so it also ended up in Marty’s shop. I imagine this kind of thing could happen a lot at Marty’s place. It’s one of the largest warehouse/shops I’ve seen, with killer light, high ceilings and plenty of room to spread out. Anyway, the Panhead sat there long enough to motivate Marty to modify the VL frame for the motor and a 4 speed. He had a set of badly rusted, beat up WL tanks, so he cut them up to fit tightly over the pan. He made custom mounts to use the VL frame mounts and notched the bottom of the tanks to cover the rocker pans. The oil tank was made by bending some steel to fit inside of the frame rails and look like a big twin oil tank. Marty used a ‘36 Ford spare tire ring as a rear fender… it's badass! He says that is his go-to fender, he has rings hanging all over his shop. His brother, Steve Sordini, brought him a Pontiac driving light and two small, unknown origin round lights. Steve took a Harley springer out of Marty’s parts room, mounted it to the frame and made a mount for the Pontiac light. He also bent up the sissy bar and mounted the two round lights. Ray helped out again by bending some tubing and welding it to a Harley springer top clamp. Note, Marty was sure to point out that Ray is the one who convinced him to run the blue metal flake hand grips, a decision he’s still not convinced was right.

From the start, "Maggie" was intended to have wire wheels, but a swap meet trip changed that when he came across the 21” spool and 16” invader wheels. Marty made all of the foot controls and linkages. The exhaust was made from scraps and he used a Billy Beer can for a heat shield. Marty did all of the wiring himself and his bud Larry Buck converted the tail lights to LED’s. The stand-out paint was left over from a Chevy pickup that he restored for a customer. After he painted the tins, he handed them over to DeWayne Connot, of D.O.A. Flatliners, who Marty says is the number one hand painting striper in the world. He told DeWayne that he wanted two things, endless lines and flames. Besides that, DeWayne could do whatever he liked with the design and paint. Marty is confident that DeWayne’s work speaks for itself.

As far as how Maggie got her name, on the drive to drop off the tins at D.O.A, The Door’s classic “Maggie M’Gill” came on the radio. When Marty handed off the tins, he told DeWayne that her name was "Maggie". DeWayne hand painted her name on the spare tire ring fender.  For the bike’s first trip was to The Race of Gentlemen weekend in Wildwood, NJ.  Ray and Marty were there to race their 45. "Maggie" was a huge hit and ran like a top. The first time I saw "Maggie" was at the 2017 Keystone Collective where it got a ton of attention.

Huge thanks to Marty for taking a Saturday and let me shoot these pics in his rad shop!  Great job with this build.

Words & Photos by: Dan Venditto

3 thoughts on “Lowbrow Spotlight: Marty Helverson's "Maggie" 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead”

  • terrance keene April 3, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Amazing bike. I realy like the dual paint style and the shifter mechanics are sick! Not going to leave out the amazing job on the gas tank, what a great idea that was well done. The whole bike is spot on.

  • Nice Job! Really digging the paint job and the single loop VL frame along with other stuff that I will spare... Looks like alot of work went into this build and I like the way it turned out.

  • Marty Helverson May 2, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    thank you

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