Chris Graves' 1959 Harley-Davidson Stroker Panhead
My friend Dusty Ciborski inadvertently inspired me to build this bike without foot pegs. The first time I saw Dusty’s panhead, I thought it was so rad but it was also kind of ridiculous that he didn’t have any foot pegs! Haha, but I was proven wrong.
Once I started riding with him I realized that he could handle that thing just fine… and so he clearly didn’t actually need foot pegs. He just rests his right foot on the oil pump and it all works out.
There aren’t really any rules for these things when you think about it. Yeah from a style standpoint, some recipes are perhaps safer than others. But really, if you have a weird idea… just do it. If it works, that’s all that really matters. My rule has always been “if it can go at least 75 miles per hour and at least 75 miles per tank, then it’s a motorcycle.” As long as you can do that, the rest is up to you.
- Owner: Chris Graves
- Year/Make/Model: 1959 H-D Stroker Panhead
- Fabrication: Quite a bit
- Build time: 4 months of very little sleep
- Year/Type/Size: 1959 H-D, 91 in^3
- Carburetor: Super E
- Exhaust: Graves
- Air Cleaner: Graves modified
- Type / Brand: Genuine Denver’s Springer. Do yourself a favor and call Mondo at Denver’s. He actually answers the phone and returns your calls.
- Front Size: 21” spool
- Rear Size: 18” modified NOS Sportster wheel
- Paint by: Darryl DeKeyser (@darrylrotten). Busted his ass like there’s no tomorrow. I think he worked 26 hours straight on the frame.
- Plating/Polishing: Terry down in Racine did most of the polishing. Cheater Carl Urbaniak is the man and hooked up all the chrome.
- Powder Coating: Did some stuff in my basement
- Biltwell Torker Grips and a "$7 eBay mirror."
- Front Fender: Oh, nah it’s just my face that blocks the rain.
- Rear Fender: Lowbrow Customs Manta Ray 4-3/4" steel fender - great fenders FYI
- Gas Tank: Lowbrow Customs Frisco Mount P-Nut Tank - great tanks FYI.I just modified this one to have hidden mounts and moved the filler bung forward about an inch.
- Handlebars: Graves- 304 SS
- Grips: Biltwell Grips (thanks to Majik Mike)
- Mirrors: Machined a mount for a $7 ebay mirror
- Hand Controls: N/A
- Foot Controls: Pangea Speed ARC clutch
- Headlight: My buddy Majik Mike gave it to me. Can’t remember who makes it but it’s bright as hell.
- Taillight: I made the housings from 304SS and integrated them into the sissy bar. The LED clusters were just off-the-shelf units.
- Turn Signals: what…..?
- License Mount: Graves- made from 304SS and tucked in right next to the wheel.
- Seat: Adam at Pierce Street Seats wrapped it. He had it done in like 3 days!
Custom & Special Details or Accessories:
A lot of pieces of the frame are stainless parts that were made on the lathe. Ignition is a Morris G5 mag. I made a custom crossover tube and shaft for the rear brake, the sissy bar mounts to the fender with a single ¾” bolt. There are a lot of little handmade details on this bike.
This motor sounds so cool. Kind of like a top fuel dragster. The crank is a 4-3/4” stroke. That’s a lot of strokes! I’m really happy with this engine. I used an Andrews number 7 cam and this motor thumps real good.
This bike was actually built where I work today. It’s such a trip. Being that this bike was built in 1959, it was put together right here at Harley-Davidson Motor Company on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. This was before AMF bought the company and opened the York, PA assembly plant. There’s a ton of history here at Juneau avenue. And there’s so much history in every one of these old bikes. At this point, most of them have been taken apart multiple times and you never really know what you’ll find. You just have to look for some clues…
I was talking to Andy Carter from Pangea Speed the other day and he told me he likes to stick little ‘time capsules’ inside of frame tubes and other parts that he builds. It was cracking me up so bad, haha. He said he’ll stick a bunch of porn pics in there and write little messages, and usually there’s a dick drawn somewhere. I was dying haha. But he has a point. It’s so neat all the history some of the older bikes have.
They’re objects that will survive for generations and can be rebuilt time and time again. I think Andy figures people will find these little surprises like 50 years from now and will just laugh their asses off… just like I did when he told me about it. I’ve never found anything like that before, but hopefully I’ll cut a frame apart one day and just find the motherload.
Words by: Chris Graves
Photos by: Ken Carvajal
Chris Morehouse's 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead Land Speed Racer
The whole process started as a group of friends who wanted to go to the race to spectate, turns out I'm not a spectator I needed to race. Somehow I then conned my dad into financing the whole thing. Back in December of 2015 I took a pro-street style Panhead that was super ugly and robbed the motor and tranny from it. From there it was on. I immediately started working with Doug and Kelly Haifley on the chassis design with an emphasis on still keeping a vintage styling. The motor went to the East Coast for an entire rebuild. There was a lot of effort that went into building this bike from family and friends.
We were race ready by July of 2016 but without a race motor. The motor builder was dragging his feet. I really wanted to test the chassis at El Mirage before Bonneville, so we pulled a stock Panhead motor out of one of my other bikes and headed for El Mirage. The bet between myself and my rookie team in the dry lake bed was we would not break 100 mph. We ended up hitting 114 mph on the first pass, and 120 mph on the second. With so much success at El Mirage and our stock motor, it made us feel pretty cocky heading into Bonneville. On the contrary though Bonneville 2016 was very humbling. We were riddled with fuel problems, broken parts and broken spirits. We left with a 135 mph speed on a 142 mph record. Fast forward to Bonneville 2018, new team, rider position changed, head, cam and motor changes we were able to get the job done with two records. One in fuel and another one in gas es. The vintage gas record is now 141.518 mph and the vintage fuel is now 142.032 mph! The whole build can be tracked on my instagram at @pinche_49_
This father and son project was a true team effort, thanks to Jeff Larson, Emily Clark, Scott Ross, Mark Lieber, Ed Bular, Doug (I'll be your Doug), Rod Adams, and John Morehouse.
- Owner: John Morehouse (Father)
- Year/Make/Model: 1949 Harley-Davidson
- Fabrication: Haifley Brothers
- Build Time: 8 Months
- Year/Type/Size: 1949 Panhead 90 cubic inches
- Carburetor: S&S super B
- Exhaust: RPM
- Air Cleaner: S&S
- Year/Type: Custom, Haifley Brothers
- Rake/Stretch:2 inches rear, 2 inches down tubes, 34 degree rake.
- Type / Brand: Harley-Davidson, 39 mm
Front Size: 21 (Bobs Cycles)
Rear Size: 19 (Bobs Cycles)
- Front Fender: N/A
- Rear Fender: Harley-Davidson
- Gas Tank: Harley-Davidson
- Handlebars: Clip ons
- Grips: Lowbrow Customs Pursuit Grips
- Mirrors: N/A
- Hand Controls: Brembo
- Foot Controls: Custom
- Headlight: N/A
- Taillight: N/A
- Turn Signals: N/A
- License Mount: N/A
- Seat: Haifley Brothers
Chris and John Morehouse
Photo by Mikey Revolt and Jennifer Farris
Marty Helverson's "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.
- 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.
- Type / Brand: Harley Davidson springer stock length.
- Marina blue paint leftover from a Chevy truck restoration in owner’s shop.
- Paint by: Marty Helverson
- Plating/Polishing: None.
- Powder Coating: 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 the 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.
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 warehouses/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 LEDs. 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 ic “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. 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
Sam Merrell's 1950 Harley-Davidson Panhead Chopper
I started to become obsessed with 60s builds and how over 50 years ago guys were creating something that still inspires people today. I took a lot of inspiration from the likes of Droopy and Sonny on this bike, guys that started it all and we have to thank for choppers.
I wanted to create something smaller and tighter, something that sat low and had that “tough” look. 16/19 wheel set up was something that was done way back then and to me was key to getting that stance. Custom, high mid mounts, short wheel base and pre unit style bars gave me that stocky look I wanted.
A good friend who sadly passed away knew this motor from a long time back and who had owned it. We had a running joke about a rooster that he had, we didn’t see eye to eye and from that he named me 'Rooster', hence the rooster's claw. I wanted this bike to show everything he taught me and how much he impacted on me. We all miss you Lloyd.
Photos by: Tim Caraco
- Owner: Sam Merrell
- Year/Make/Model: 1950 Harley Davidson EL
- Fabrication: Sam Merrell
- Year/Type/Size: 1950 Panhead
- Carburetor: Linkert M74B
- Exhaust: Upsweeps with slash cut mufflers
- Air Cleaner: HD Bird Deflector
- Year/Type: 1950 Stock Wishbone
- Rake/Stretch: Stock
- Type / Brand: Harley Davidson VL
- Front Size: 19"
- Rear Size: 16"
- Paint by: Sam Merrell
- Plating/Polishing: Sam Merrell
- Front Fender: N/A
- Rear Fender: Cut Down and re shaped FLH
- Gas Tank: Wassell
- Handlebars: Regatta Garage
- Grips: Pre-Unit Style
- Mirrors: N/A
- Hand Controls: N/A
- Foot Controls: Blackboard Al Lee Style
- Headlight: Bates
- Taillight: Old hot-rod
- Turn Signals: N/A
- License Mount: Sissy Bar
- Seat: Bates Solo and Pad
Custom & Special Details or Accessories:
- Stainless Mid peg mounts
- Headlight Bracket
- Tank Details
- Cut down and machined risers to work in VL rear legs