A Chance to Build a 1960's Style Custom Harley Chopper
Hi! I’m Ben and this is my 1963 Panhead - a custom chopper build of mine! It started when I was asked by the Born Free Show operators, Mike Davis and Grant Peterson, if I’d like to be an invited builder for their show. I was elated and terrified at the same time! It’s not everyday that you’ll get a chance to build something and have that many eyes on it judging every part of your process!
Building a bike can be tough as it is…but on a timeline can it be even more challenging. I decided that I’d take my inspiration from the show bikes of the 1960’s. I’ve always loved the low, small, and sometimes barely functional aesthetic of that era.
Ben and his 1963 Panhead Chopper
A Panhead Completely Rebuilt From The Ground Up
I started with a 1963 Panhead motor and Transmission.
I had it completely rebuilt from the ground up by my buddy Jeff Montgomery. I had him polish the transmission cases, the engine cases, heads, and chrome the cylinders. We also added a vintage Joe Hunt Magneto to polish. Then I picked up an original wishbone frame. It wasn’t in the best of conditions, but I knew Dalton at Split Image Kustoms would get me sorted. I also knew that he’s a master at building front ends. So when I had settled in my mind that I wanted a short 60s style girder, I knew he’d be the one to build it for me.
Mock up stages before paint.
Once I got the frame and front end back from Dalton, I laced up a starhub to a polished Borrani high shouldered 18 inch rim for the rear and obtained a polished a 21 inch WM0 high shouldered rim to match for the front. The 21 is laced to a vintage Hallcraft spool hub. Avon tires for both rims (18 x 3.00 and 21 x 2.75).
Odds and ends for building a Panhead chopper
Lowbrow Customs Manta 4-3/4" Ray Fender.
Now that I had a roller I could start fabricating the little odds and ends for the bike. The one thing I knew would be PERFECT for this build was the Lowbrow Custom Smooth 4 3/4" Manta Ray rear fender. So I bought one of those immediately along with the fender I got the 120 Piece Pro-Builder’s Steel Bung and Tab Assortment. That assortment is an ABSOLUTE life/time saver. With the fender mounted to the frame using I-Beam style struts (and the rear fender mounting kit from Lowbrow).
It was time to start on a tank.
I took a Narrow Axed Alien tank and began to start axing it more! After I sectioned and narrowed the tank, I welded it all up and mounted it to the frame using hidden mounts in the tunnel of the tank.
Grab the best looking foot pegs
Classing it up with these foot pegs.
When it came to foot pegs, I went to Dayten Casting. He makes the best looking pegs in my opinion and he’s a good friend so why not support the ones you love <3!
I decided to make mid control brake and clutch levers using 5/8 rod. I welded stock FX Harley footpads on to the 5/8 rod to give it a stock Harley feel. It was fun calculating the bends perfectly so that the end up in the right spot and look the way I had envisioned in my head.
Next up was the oil tank.
I knew I wanted to do something small and since I was using a magneto I wouldn’t need a battery compartment. The tank has nice peaks on the sides of it and I knew I’d have the custom chopper frame molded to match…so going off that I decided to make the oil bag a teardrop shape. Starting from a piece of sheet metal…I created the shape using a concrete bollard post in a Toys R’ Us parking lot. I remember driving by that post earlier in the week and the diameter of it just seemed perfect for my oil tank! I used fittings and pieces from a Stock Harley oil tank to again keep that original Stock Harley Feel.
Pipes were next up!
I made some simple upsweep pipes and cut the slash cuts pointing down. Next I made the kicker pedal. I bet by now you could guess with what shape I decided to go with….A tear drop shape to match the oilbag. The sharp edges of the tear drop and the tank and molding on the frame became a theme to this Harley Panhead chopper. So when It was time to fabricate the hand shifter…you guessed it…I gave it a sharp edge on the shaft.
Finished chopper build: "Blue Crush Boog", painted in blue with green pearls
Ben and Mark in front of the fresh paint job on the "Blue Crush Boog".
Once all fabrication was done, I gave the frame, tank, and fender to Mark from Paint By Chaka. He executed flawlessly with the molding and color. Blue with green pearls give the bike so much depth in the sun. I decided to call this bike “Blue Crush Boog”.
1963 Harley-Davidson Panhead built by Ben "The Boog" Zales.
All in all, building this Panhead chopper has been such a challenging and great learning experience. I’ve never attempted to build such a high quality show bike before and it proved to be quite rewarding! Special thanks to Michael from Evil Spirit Engineering, Chris from RPM Attack, Wil Thomas, Jamal Hollis and Chase from HWY.
Words and photos by: Ben "The Boog" Zales
Some Highlights of Ben's custom 1960's style Panhead Chopper
All the right lines.
- Owner: Ben The Boog
- Year/Make/Model: 1963 Harley Davidson Panhead
- Fabrication: Ben The Boog/Dalton Walker (front end)
- Build Time: 5 Months
- Year/Type/Size: 1963 Panhead 74”
- Carburetor: Linkert M74
- Exhaust: Custom
- Air Cleaner: Dayten Casting Bird Deflector
Harley wishbone frame getting paint.
- Year/Type: Stock Harley Wishbone Frame
- Rake/Stretch: Stock Rake with no Stretch
This custom girder front end was built by Dalton Walker.
- Type / Brand: Girder / SIK Dalton
Rear wheel is clad in an 18" Avon AM7 Safety Mileage Mark II Tire
- Front Size: 21"
- Rear Size: 18"
Just one of the nicest blues out there...
- Paint by: Paint By Chaka
- Plating/Polishing: Astro Plating
- Powdercoating: N/A
Check out that tail light!
- Front Fender: N/A
- Rear Fender: Lowbrow Customs Manta Ray Smooth Fender
- Gas Tank: Ben The Boog Custom
- Handlebars: Drag
- Grips: Vintage
- Mirrors: N/A
- Hand Controls: N/A
- Foot Controls: Ben The Boog Brake & Clutch / Dayten Casting Footpegs
- Headlight: Vintage
- Taillight: Vintage
- Turn Signals: Ben The Boog
- License Mount: Ben The Boog
- Seat: Ben The Boog
Full Side & Detail Shots of this Custom Harley Panhead Chopper
B-Side... I guess! Lol this bike is gorgeous all around!
Back alleys never looked so good.
Seat with not much padding but lots of cool points.
Custom built, one-off chopper horseshoe oil tank.
Just looks good from every angle.
Another look at those sick foot pegs.
For a little extra sketch lets add a jockey shift.
1963 Harley-Davidson Panhead