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Harley-Davidson, a Living Classic

Hog, Chopper, Harley, H-D, Cruiser are all names familiar to avid bikers.  No matter what you call a Harley-Davidson, we've all seen one. Love them or hate them, they're here to stay thanks to one of the most devout fan bases of any motor company in the world.   Harley-Davidson riders have created their own sub-culture which is based around love of their brand and an image of an outlaw riding lifestyle. For many, the purchase of a Harley is a ticket into the culture.  The bikes themselves are most known for being heavily customized. From mild to wild, no two Harleys are exactly alike thanks to the availability of custom parts and the ease of maintenance.  Riders embrace the individuality which directly supports the foundation of the culture and keeps the bikes flying off the showroom floor.  

The company's roots can be traced back to 1903 when the company was founded by two childhood friends, William Harley and Arthur Davidson, in a machine shop on the North end of Milwaukee - which is still the modern day headquarters.  They likely had no idea what their company would become and the loyalty it would receive. You can read up on the pages of company history and their many brushes with doom, but for today, we're going to have a look at classic Harley-Davidsons. In particular, we'll focus on the Panhead engine as it was found in several models during the late 1940's through mid 1960's.  

1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead

The Panhead, as with all Harley engine names, refers to the shape of the rocker covers. As one would expect, the Panhead engine has covers that are shaped like an upside-down roasting pan.  The overall design of the engine is typical of Harley-Davidson, two-cylinder pushrod V-Twin.  The Panhead was a basic two-valve per cylinder motor which was ultimately replaced by the Shovelhead in 1965. The motor was available in two sizes, both 61 cubic inches and 74 cubic inches at 1,000cc and 1,200cc respectively. The most popular Panheads of all time were the bikes ridden by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, which also helped fueled the culture of the fan base over the past 4 decades. Prices for Harley-Davidsons with the Panhead are all over the map depending on condition and level of customization. The motors are surprisingly reliable even now, and parts are readily available. If you've been considering a classic Harley-Davidson, consider the Panhead. It looks, and of course, sounds great.

How do you feel about Harleys?  We'd love to hear your perspective in the comment area below.

Jeff Walker

About Jeff Walker

Jeff Walker is a Classic Car Insurance Specialist and financial services professional; As the son of a Drag-Racer and auto restorer, he was born with a wrench in his hand and learned the trade at an early age. His specialty is 60’s and 70’s American Muscle but his mechanical ability has afforded him the opportunity to work on all types of cars from Alfa-Romeos to Gullwings and everything in-between. Jeff is also a motorcycle fanatic and maintains his own stable of classic & collectible bikes. He is happiest when a car or motorcycle project is underway in his garage.

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