The Beautiful Disaster / 1965 Harley-Panhead

T-Rod's Speed Shop turns a disaster into a 2 Wheeled beauty

This guy shows up at the back of my house with a panhead in the back of a truck. And he says, “I was riding it until it started running rough. Then I had to stop. Felt like it had no compression.” So I looked at the engine case, and sure enough there is a hole the size of a silver dollar, dripping oil. I say, “Dude, you cooked your motor.” He immediately wanted to know how much to fix the motor, but I wanted to know what he wanted to do with the rest of the bike; it was in such terrible shape.

"So I looked at the engine case, and sure enough there is a hole the size of a silver dollar"

We took the bike off the truck so I could get a better look at it. There were cracks through the transmission, leaking oil everywhere, and the cylinders were different heights! To make the manifold match, they put a stroker plate on the bottom of the shorter cylinder. I had honestly never seen such a mess on a V-twin engine before. The guy who owns the bike is GT, owner of the sunglass company VonZipper, and he agreed that I take the bike completely apart. So I dropped the frame off to be sandblasted and powdercoated. It was then we found out that the neck had been cut, raked, and then reworked back to stock.… But the neck had never been fully welded together—just spot-welded and Bondo’d over. Luckily, the powdercoaters gave us a heads-up before anything was done.

Back to the engine, I can build the crap out of any twin cam, evo, or shovel, but I’m a little concerned about panheads. So I took this motor and trans over to Alonzo Buergo’s shop, Quality Cycles, to have him completely go through it. We had him refurbish the cases, new lower end with new rods, pistons, and cams. He even took the heads apart and put in new valves and seats, which was a nice, quality, complete head job.

Since things were coming together nicely at this point, it was time to come up with a scheme for the bike. The owner wanted to go with flat black tanks, but I can’t build this bike all shiny and pretty with flat black paint. So I made some parts dull, brushed down some aluminum: lower legs, handlebars, hand controls. Give it some patina. The pipes we chose to have done in a silver ceramic coat, which gives it an understated look.

It’s great when a customer trusts me and lets me do what I think is right for them. I already saw what the bike would look like in my head. I can’t draw for shit, so GT trusted me with my idea. But, man, this bike sure started out as a disaster. In my 20 years, I’ve never been handed a bucket of shit to work with until this. Now it’s the only panhead I would ride. I mean, I give props to the guys who build bikes to the exact spec of their era, but it’s not what I meant this bike to be. It’s a clean, mean panhead. I know before I even make it to the corner that this thing is going to ride. Now this disaster is beautiful.


Bike Owner// GT

Shop Name// T-Rod’s Speed Shop

Shop Website//

Year/Make/Model// 1965/H-D/FLH

Fabrication// T-Rod

Build Time// 6 months

Engine// OEM

Year/Manufacturer// 1965/H-D

Type/Size// Panhead/74 in.

Builder// Quality Cycles

Cases// OEM

Cylinders// OEM

Heads// OEM

Rocker Boxes// OEM

Cams// Mild

Throttle Body// S&S

Air Cleaner //V-twin

Exhaust// Paughco


Year/Type// 1965/4-speed

Gears// H-D

Clutch// Rivera Primo

Primary Drive// Belt, Rivera Primo


Year/Type// 1965

Rake/Stretch// OEM


Manufacturer Front// OEM

Length// OEM

Triple Trees// OEM

Manufacturer Rear// OEM

Swingarm// OEM

Rear Shocks// OEM

Wheels, Tires, and Brakes


Builder/Size// Original/16 in.

Tire/Size// OEM

Calipers// GMA

Rotors// GMA


Builder/Size// Original/16 in.

Tire/Size// OEM

Caliper// OEM


Manufacturer// General Motors Chassis Paint

Colors// Single Stage Flat Black

Paint/Graphics// 8Ball Choppers

Plating/Polishing// Sport Chrome

Powdercoating// Specialized Coatings


Front Fender// OEM

Rear Fender// OEM

Gas Tank// OEM

Dash OEM

Gauges// OEM

Handlebars// OEM

Grips// CCI

Mirrors// Drag Specialties

Hand Controls// Jaybrake/Drag Specialties

Foot Controls// Late Shovel

Floorboards// None

Headlight// OEM

Taillight OEM Turn Signals// Hand

License Mount// OEM

Seat //OEM