Flash in the Pan | Custom Harley-Davidson Panhead

Alleyway Custom’s 1954–1965 FLH

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

Photos: James Arbogast

In early 2006, Mike Wilson got a phone call about one of the deals you just can’t pass up. It was a quick cash exchange for what most people wait a lifetime for: a matching belly number, real-deal OEM Panhead.
In the summer of 2014, I was in the process of moving our shop to a third location. It was an old hot-rod and custom car hobby shop Mike Wilson and I used to share together almost 15 years ago. Sitting in the corner of the shop was Mike’s Panhead. It was obvious a restoration was in order.

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

Photos: James Arbogast

Even though the bike had some strange modifications, the bike had a great foundation. The frame was an original stock wishbone ’48–’54 frame, and while the front end had been modified with longer fork tubes, it was verified to be ’49–’54 as well. A decision was made to transform the bike back into something a little more correct to the bulk year of parts we had to work with. The year we chose was 1954. The only difference would be that it would have the 1965 motor and transmission that someone had oddly enough slid in this frame many years ago.

Beck Grips

Beck Grips

Photos: James Arbogast

The previous owner had made some strange decisions. While the front wheel had a correct 16-inch rim, the rear was a 15. A quick remedy for this was stock set of 16 x 3-inch rims leftover from a previous restoration. We decided to have the rims and hubs powdercoated black and re-lace them with stainless spokes. That started the mind-set of powdercoating all of the old OEM parts black instead of re-chroming.
We replaced the old 3-inch open belt primary that was on the running bike with a modern BDL 1-1/2-inch belt primary and competitor clutch and tucked it in a set of stock primary tins. Overall, it gives the bike a nice balance and a stock “built for abuse” utilitarian look.
We had a set of pristine original ’59 tanks that had been passed up over the past few builds. A good set of original tanks is hard to beat, so we figured we’d run them. Finishing off the sheet metal, the fenders were given the ’54 trim treatment as well as the fork covers with stainless three-bar trim.

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

Photos: James Arbogast

The front end was rebuilt and brought back to stock length with the proper stock risers. A modern twist internal throttle was adapted to make things look proper and streamlined. Like most all of our custom restorations, the motor and transmission were completely disassembled and given a once-over, this time by Wayne Loftain.

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

1954–1965 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

Photos: James Arbogast

Since leather is one of our specialties at Alleyway, we went with one of our signature stock cowhide-covered OEM seats. We enlisted the help of our friend Scott over at Godfrey Vintage Cycles to help pull off an idea I had been kicking around. I always felt the skirts on our OEM seats were missing a little something. Mike drew up a quick script design, and we had Scott whip up some oval castings for the sides that we recessed into the skirts. I had also wanted to design some custom aluminum floorboard inserts, so we had Scott run a few sets of those as well.
With custom restorations, vintage cloth wiring and asphalt loom is the only way to go. In order to simplify things and eliminate any confusion, the wiring harnesses were routed to factory specs. In addition to that we custom design and build each harness so that the wire colors are individually color-coded with designated tracers, indicating the direction from each accessory they are coming from or going to for ease in tracking down any potential upgrades or issues in the future.

1965 Harley-Davidson Panhead 74 in.

1965 Harley-Davidson Panhead 74 in.

Photos: James Arbogast

We really wanted the paint color to mimic an old 1940s Ford blue. Upon first assembly it just looked too plain. A decision was made to pull it apart and add a little bit more of a ’40s twist to it with a lacquer-looking Battleship Gray and black pinstripe theme.
Another one of our signatures is custom hardware, and we added a stainless-steel ball-milled nut and bolt application throughout all areas of the bike that are not torque applicable. The hardware gives the bike a ridiculous amount of detail.
Overall, the bike came out beautifully, and Mike couldn’t be happier. You can’t go wrong with the look of a timeless classic, even if it does take one piece at a time.

Hydra Glide Front End

Hydra Glide Front End

Photos: James Arbogast

1965 Harley-Davidson Panhead 74 in.

1965 Harley-Davidson Panhead 74 in.

Photos: James Arbogast

Specefications
General
Owner Mike Wilson
Shop Alleyway Kustoms
Shop Phone (904) 237-4898
Website alleywaykustoms.com
Year/Make/Model 1954–1965/Harley-Davidson/FLH Panhead
Fabrication Alleyway Kustoms
Build Time 5 months
Engine
Year/Type/Size 1965/Panhead/74 in.
Builder Wayne Loftain
Cases H-D
Cylinders H-D
Heads H-D
Rocker Boxes H-D
Cams Stock
Carburetor Harold’s
Air Cleaner H-D
Exhaust 2-into-1
Transmission
Year/Type 1965/H-D
Gears Stock
Clutch BDL
Primary Drive BDL
Frame Stock
Year/Type 1948–’54
Rake/Stretch None
Suspension
Front End Hydra Glide
Length Stock
Triple Trees 1949–1952
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Front
Builder/Size Alleyway Kustoms/16 x 3
Tire/Size 16 in.
Brakes Stock drum
Rear
Builder/Size Alleyway Kustoms/16 x 3
Tire/Size 16 in.
Brakes Stock drum
Finish/Paint
Manufacturer Kemperle
Colors Dark Royal Blue
Paint/Graphics Battleship Gray and black striping
Plating/Polishing Polishing by Benji Weisenfeld
Powdercoating Atlantic Powdercoating, Jacksonville, FL
Accessories
Front Fender Stock w/ 54 trim
Rear Fender Stock w/ 54 trim
Gas Tank 1959
Dash H-D
Gauges H-D
Handlebars Two-piece modified
Grips Beck
Hand Controls H-D
Foot Controls H-D
Floorboards Stock w/ cast-aluminum inserts
Headlight H-D
Taillight Tombstone
Turn Signals None
License Mount mount
Seat OEM-style pogo w/ cast badges in skirt by Alleyway Kustoms

Get the all the latest issue of Hot Bike magazine! Subscribe directly from us.