1957 Panhead Revival

In 1958 Harley-Davidson took a leap into the modern era with the Duo-Glide, a new frame featuring a rear suspension. The 1957 FLH Panhead was one the last models to have the rigid frame. To compensate for the rough ride Harley offered a spring style seat to provide comfort for the rider. The Panhead was first introduced in 1948 with a 61 and 74 cubic inch version. The name "Panhead" referred to the shape of the pressed aluminum valve covers looking like a pan. 


This 1957 Panhead has sat atop the front door at Classic Harley-Davidson since 2007 with other classics like the 2003 anniversary edition V-Rod. Two brothers had fought in the Korean War and when they came home they bought matching Harley's and matching hot rods. Some time after one of the brothers passed away a family member had sold off both the motorcycles and the hot rods.

The last time the Panhead was burning asphalt was 1999. The previous owner made many upgrades to this bike including the rear lights, seat, and much more. It seems like he got every available accessory for the motorcycle that Harley-Davidson offered and more! 

Our Master Technician Steve has taken on the duty of reviving this Classic and get it back up and running for the 2023 spring riding season. Steve has been working on motorcycles since the age of 18. He really enjoys restoring and riding older motorcycles so this is right up his alley!


Steve is working diligently getting this Panhead back into running order. He's pulled the carburetor and the air cleaner to ensure that they are cleaned up and in working order. 

Talking with Steve he said he was "cleaning as he goes" while working on the bike. As he was taking off the drive train he actually found a cast pliers that must have been dropped by a former tech. Looks like there is quite a bit to get cleaned up in the drivetrain. 

While cleaning everything up it looks like some parts will need to be ordered to get the Panhead up and running. While we wait for the parts Steve is replacing the rear tire of the bike. Since the Panhead is a rigid frame, the only way to get the rear tire off is to fold the rear fender up. The rear folding fender was designed and built this way by Harley-Davidson. 

If you were to get your front fork oil changed today it would take 1-2 hours and you would be able to move on to the next thing. Changing the fork oil on this motorcycle is roughly a 12 hour process. To replace the front fork oil it calls for two funnels to be placed at the top of the forks and allow the oil to drip through the pinhole overnight. While the oil drips in the front wheel was taken off and is being prepped for a new tire.

While parts are on order and we are waiting for them to be shipped it's time to clean. Steve has taken apart the seat to prep and clean all of the original parts.

Steve has taken off the fuel tank and control panel for cleaning and refurbishing. It was found that gasoline had begun peeling the paint off of the inner side of the fuel tank. In hopes of finding the original paint job our dynamic detailers begun the tedious task of chipping away the paint to see if they could get it back to original. After a bit of scraping the detailers found a primer coat which we thought may have been original. They sanded the paint down, in a small area that isn't seen, and found that under the primer layer was bare metal. SO, we are unsure of the original color as of now.

While parts are on order the new tires arrived! Steve let me know that it is very difficult to find two matching tires but we have found a matching pair. These tires really make the bike look great. The oil tank was also refilled. The dynamic detailing team now have the motorcycle trying to shine up the engine. 

At this point she's hooked up to an IV Bag. While the tank is getting repaired and parts still on order Steve has run a direct line to see if the bike will start. He informed me that the bike did start but will not continue to run. He plans to take out the carb again to give it another once over and will be tinkering with some more things to see if that will allow the bike to keep running. 

Steve has taken off all of the tins as well as the tank and painted parts. These will be resurfaced and repainted. The current paint has bubbled and flaked beyond repair.

Steve has prepped the tank by resealing the inside of it in preparation of paint. The tins and tank will be repainted by a local business who specializes in restoration painting, State of the Art Design out of Myerstown, PA. We have found the original paint codes for the bike from Harley-Davidson. The blue will be Skyline Blue and the white will be Birch White. The images below are of the tank curing as well as examples by State of the Art Design! 

Check out State of the Art Design HERE!

Now that the tins and tank are on their way to get painted Steve has the time to get the Panhead on our state of the art Dyno. Steve said the bike fired up with one kick! 




We received this shot from our painters! They have soda blasted all of the parts to get them back down to bare metal making it easier for them to paint. 

It was a collective effort but we found the original paint colors and codes for the bike. This '57 was originally painted as Skyline Blue and Birch White two tone. With the codes, original colors, and a freshly sanded set of tins the paint team will be working hard to restore and paint these to look original but with weathering. We can't wait to see how these come out!



It's time for the parts to get primed. The painters have sent us a quick time-lapse of them blending and creating the primer for the tins as well as the final primer color!