In 1948, during its introduction, who would have thought that the Overhead Valve (OHV) Panhead model would still influence motorcycle styling, would remain one of the most desirable machines for custom builders’ work, and even push third-party engine manufacturers to produce upgraded Panhead-styled engines in bigger displacements than the Harley original.
In addition to its beautiful aesthetics, some may argue that The “Captain America” chopper used by Peter Fonda as well as “Billy Bike” ridden by Dennis Hopper’s character in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, both using a Panhead engine, have largely contributed to the its iconic status. Immediately popular with bikers who bought one of the Panheads produced until 1965, year after year the legend grew and this model continues to be one of the most sought after classic Harleys.
Restore and preserve one, or customize it, but only if you don’t betray its soul… When builder Bill Dodge found this 1956 Panhead, he was in shock, horrified to see it turned into a very poorly re-built chopper. So, for his client/buddy James Chase, he did what a good professional is supposed to do. To return the Pan, if not to its original appearance, to the 50’s era original spirit and to the motorcycle original persona.
First task was of course to return the Pan to its original rake and stance. Second, to proceed to a meticulous motor rebuilt with the help of Austin based DC Choppers. Then Bill preserved all oem parts still belonging to the project for which he was commissionned. When it was time to customize it, he replaced the missing ones with Harley parts from different models, making sure that they all fit the the original Panhead spirit. Of course, it implied many mods and adaptations. To this, Bill added his own personal touches and custom parts to make it a “Dodge Signature Panhead”.
The 56 Pan now rolls on a 19 x 4” front and 18 x 4.5” rear Akron set of spoke wheels that he laced himself into star hubs, and then dressed them in Firestone Champion rubber. Springer front suspension comes from a 1945 three-wheeled Harley Servi-Car. For rear fender, Bill modified and adapted a 68 Sportster model. Floorboards are original Harley models. All the custom work, including all what is missing on purpose on this correctly chopped Pan is visible to your eyes in this set of pictures. Bill told me, and insisted on the fact that it is probably one of the most simple, fun, bitchin’ Panheads he has ever rode. Owner James Chase agrees…Bling’s Cycles. (photography @ H. Roesler for C. Huze)