Two-Wheeled Therapy - A custom 1953 Harley-Davidson FLH Panhead

A V-twin for some twins helps fight cancer

Anybody who has ever battled cancer or had a loved with cancer knows what a horrible and crippling disease it is.

Anybody who has ever battled cancer or had a loved with cancer knows what a horrible and crippling disease it is.The person fighting has to endure months—many times years—of emotional and physical stress beyond what the human body and mind were meant to endure. The roller coaster of highs and lows is also shared, to a different degree, with loved ones and family who surround them. It’s well known that twins have a special bond only they recognize and can explain, so when Parker Blanchard’s twin brother, Hayden, began to battle cancer it was no surprise that no expense was spared for his 1953 Panhead built by Dago’s Speed Shop in Whittier, California.

Rene Astengo, owner of Dago’s Speed Shop, was called upon by Parker to help lift his brother’s spirits. We sat down with Rene to find out how this custom Pan began.

How did you come in on this project? Rene Astengo: Hayden had asked to build a bike about a year ago. At that time I just didn’t have the time to do it. Sometime around July, Parker got ahold of me and asked if I would be interested in putting something together for Hayden as a surprise. I told him what Hayden and I had already talked about in terms of style. There was no way to get a ground-up build that I was proud of done by Christmas time. If they really wanted to do something, I said maybe we could find something that was more done and redo it or finish it. That’s when I found this bike from Jose. He had this bike, and it fit what we needed it to do. Obviously they are twins, so there’s a bond there already.

they are twins, so there’s a bond there already.

That was a big part of it, feeling the love those two guys had for each other. It was real contagious. It made me want to do the project even more and go above and beyond what they called for. I told them basically I’m going to give you something that they didn’t know they wanted.

Even from Atlanta they were into the lowrider bikes? RA: They definitely got some style. They have a Merc and ’54 Chevy and know what time it is. It kind of fit their bill. I told them this type of bike no one else in Georgia is going to have.

What shape was it in when you started? RA: When I got it was pretty much a restored motorcycle, not 100 percent period correct with Harley-Davidson parts, so I didn’t feel too bad about blowing it apart and changing it up.

I didn’t feel too bad about blowing it apart and changing it up.

It was clean. I think it only had about 250 miles on the whole restoration.

How much did you change? RA: Basically the stance, wheels, color, exhaust, and a lot more chrome. Nothing was really shiny on it. I basically made it more custom than stock.

What was Hayden’s reaction when he saw the bike? RA: Originally we had anticipated getting the bike down by Christmas and having it shipped out there, but it just turned into a longer project. So I said let’s save it so it’s still a big surprise and a big deal if he’s healthy enough fly out. They were going to Santa Barbara anyway to see a doctor, so I said why not unveil it at the Grand National Roadster Show.

What was his reaction? RA: If it wasn’t for Scott, the owner of Hot Rods and Hobbies, none of this would have happened. I had entered too late to get a spot in the motorcycle section. Luckily, Scott saved the day by getting me a spot in his booth so we could make it happen. Obviously the first word out of Hayden’s mouth was, “What?” I think when I first told him it was his bike, it went over his head thinking I was saying this bike we could have built for him. I had to say again that it was his bike. It was pretty incredible.It was a very emotional time.

It was a very emotional time.

Has Hayden been able to ride it? RA: At the moment I don’t think he has been able to ride it. He had gone to Austria to get some treatments not too long after the bike arrived there, and they had some complications. I think he’s been in and out of the hospital. We are all just waiting for him to get healthy so he can start enjoying it.

Anybody you want to thank for helping with the project? RA: Jose Gonzales, Casey Johnson, Sonny Boy, and Scott Bonowski.

UPDATE: Unfortunately Hayden passed away shortly after the article hit the newsstands. Rest in Peace Hayden Blanchard.

Bike Owner Hayden Blanchard, Atlanta, GA
Shop Name Dago’s Speed Shop
Shop Website
Year/Make/Model 1953/H-D/FLH
Fabrication Rene Astengo/Dago’s Speed Shop
Build Time Four months
Year/Type/Size 1953/Panhead
Builder Smokey
Cases H-D
Cylinders H-D
Heads H-D
Rocker Boxes H-D
Cams Andrews
Air Cleaner H-D
Exhaust Dago’s Speed Shop
Year/Type 1953/four-speed
Gears Andrews
Clutch H-D
Primary Drive H-D
Year/Type 1954
Rake/Stretch Stock
Front End H-D Wide Glide
Length 2 in. under
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Builder/Size Buchanan’s spoke and rim/21x1.6 in.
Tire/Size 3x21
Drum H-D
Builder/Size Buchanan’s spoke and rim/16x3 in.
Tire/Size Goodyear Super Eagle 5x16 in.
Drum H-D
Colors Mary Jane Green
Paint/Graphics Casey Johnson/Headcase Kustom Art
Plating/Polishing MMF East Los Angeles
Front Fender H-D
Rear Fender H-D
Gas Tank H-D
Dash H-D
Gauges H-D
Handlebars H-D
Grips H-D
Hand Controls H-D
Foot Controls H-D
Floorboards H-D
Headlight H-D
Taillight H-D
Turn Signals H-D
License Mount H-D
Seat Dago’s Speed Shop
Exhaust Fishtails