Panhead Evolved | Custom 1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

Snapshot of the mind's eye

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

Like any other creative work, a custom bike is a snapshot of its creator's mind and skill set—a rolling photograph of what that person was thinking and how capable they were of realizing those thoughts on two wheels in the real world. Line up all the custom motorcycles they've ever built, from first to last, and you get a rolling road map of the builder's creative evolution. That first bike is usually much less polished than the most recent. This Panhead chopper is a perfect example of what I mean.

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

A few years back, Christopher Staab and Rudy Sedgewick met at the Smokeout West in Arizona. It was the start of a team effort that produced eight or nine ’60s-style choppers, the last of which sits before you on these very pages. Chris came up with the designs, and Rudy cut and welded them into reality. “He had some things he wanted to do,” Rudy says. “I threw in ideas along the way.”

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead Motor

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead Motor

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

Those first few choppers were Chris figuring out what he really wanted and how to get it. Trial and error was the name of the game, finding out what ideas did and didn't work well together. Over time, the two guys narrowed their focus down until Chris knew exactly what he hoped to build: a straight-legged home for his Panhead motor. Only, Chris didn't want to cut the frame to make it fit.

21 x 2.5-in. Honey Comb Spool Hub

21 x 2.5-in. Honey Comb Spool Hub

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

That was the real challenge here. Rudy told us: “This was the one where he sharpened what he wanted and was after. We couldn't have built this one if we hadn't built the others.” Compared to its older siblings, this chopper is a lot more put together and polished (execution-wise) than the rest. It took a while for Chris to find a frame that fit his bill, but in the end, he made it happen. The rest of the bike was made to work in and around that skeleton.
What really stands out about this chop is the sissy bar. It slides through the fender, and the top is removable while the bottom is stationary. That was pretty tricky. The guys created and used more than 20 pieces in the sissy bar alone!

Rudy Sedgewick| Bars

Rudy Sedgewick| Bars

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

From the sound of it, Chris couldn't have pulled that off with chopper number one. Maybe, but not nearly as well as he and Rudy did with this here Panhead. Line them all up and I'd bet anything that while they're obviously related, they get rougher the farther back in time you travel along the lineup. Each one, though, represents exactly what Chris was capable of doing at the time. The same holds true for any other creative work too.

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead Frame

1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead Frame

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

1953 Harley-Davidson 4-speed

1953 Harley-Davidson 4-speed

Photos: Tommy Koppingers

Specifications
Owner Christopher Staab
Builder Christopher Staab/Rudy Sedgewick
Year/Make/Model 1953/Harley-Davidson/Panhead
Fabrication Rudy Sedgewick
Engine|1953 FL
Builder Highway Choppers
Cases H-D
Cylinders H-D
Heads H-D
Rocker Boxes CCE
Cam Stock
Carb S&S Super B
Air Cleaner Chopper Dave's
Exhaust Swap-meet find
Transmission
Year/Manufacturer ’53/H-D/4-speed
Gears Stock
Clutch Primo Rivera Pro Clutch
Primary 1.5-in. belt
Primary Cover Imperial
Frame
Year/Manufacturer 1954/H-D Straight Leg
Rake Stock
Stretch None
Suspension
Manufacturer-Front 1936/H-D/VL Springer
Length Stock
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Front 21 x 2.5-in. Honey Comb Spool Hub
Builder Bob's Cycle Supply
Tire 21 x 3-in. Avon Speed Master
Rear 18 x 3-in. Star Hub
Tire 18 x 4-in. Avon MKII
Rear Brake Mechanical Drum
Finish/Paint
Colors Blue and White
Paint/Graphics Sonny Boy|
Plating/Polishing Concours Plating
Accessories
Rear Fender Wassel
Gas Tank Wassel
Handle Bars Rudy Sedgewick
Hand Controls H-D
Foot Controls H-D Forward
Foot Pegs NOS Flying Wheel
Headlight Bates
Tail Light MasterCraft
Sissy Bar Rudy Sedgewick
License Mount Rudy Sedgewick
Seat The Upholstery Shop
Hand Grips Chicago
Kicker Pedal Chicago

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