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Wednesday Edition

Classic 48

And A Life of Riding Choppers

By George Kohler with photos by Phil Racer, Model Dayna Trask
6/11/2010 7:08:41 AM

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Why a 1948 Panhead? Well, why a blonde, brunette or a redhead? Because when something catches your eye and you just can’t live without it, you don’t give up until it’s yours. We’ve all, “been there and done that.” It’s 1971, I’m sitting in a Winchell’s donut shop eating a dozen peanut-covered donut holes like they are popcorn, drinking my coffee and reading the motorcycle ads in the newspaper (there was no Cycle Trader then), when I spotted a 1956 Panhead basket case, complete with “clean” title, $350.


It’s 5:00pm and my partner and I make the call to the owner who agrees not to sell it until I get there, after I get off work. Forty-five minutes later, I am the proud owner of a half-dozen milk crates, a rigid frame, glide front end, two wheels and a lot of nuts and bolts.

Within nine months, it comes to life as a chopper. With a 10-inch over glide, ½-inc rake, 21-inch front wheel, pull-backs, king and queen high-back seat, tall sissy bar, suicide shift and covered in “1959 Cadillac Fire Mist” metallic blue paint.


What caught my eye in the old, “Sleazy Riders” and “Colors” magazines from the early ‘70s, was now parked in my garage, and it was mine. Over the next seven years, that old Panhead went through many changes, finally becoming a 20-inch over glide, 1 ½-inch rake, solo seat and pad, fish-tail upsweeps, short sissy bar, coffin tank, ebony black with flames, suicide-shiftin’ bad-ass scooter.


That ’56 Pan stayed by my side through seven years of Hell raisin’ outlaw club abuse…... from late night runs over Ortega Highway to doing burn-outs in a special little bar in Oildale, CA…. That bike made me who I am. But then, like all good things, it had to end.

On a cool morning in 1978, the police kick my front door in and find too many things that I had no explanation for. To avoid time in lock-up, the Pan was sold for $2,200; big money in 1978 for a chopper. But, I had nothing else worth anything. With the money the Pan brought, along with borrowing from some brothers, I hired the guy with the silver bullets and walked free. That taught me a lot about our justice system, but that’s a story for another day.


Well, fast forward to 1985, I'd been a good boy for several years, retired from the club, same job for several years but something was missing. I had an itch that needed scratched. Poof!! A 1982 Shovelhead, tobacco brown and black was in my life. I did everything to that bike that wasn’t immoral. But after eight years that love affair, like my first marriage, was starting to fade.


I got married again, and Poof!! A 1993 stone stock Evo Softail walks into my life. I did everything to that scooter that was morally acceptable also; 70,000 plus thousand hard miles, the Sturgis run in ’96, all the California runs and one bad wreck that crushed my left foot in ‘94. All that and she never left me stranded. But, like my second wife, the ’93 was lacking something. And I knew that there was something that would suit me better. I just had to make a decision.


Well, Poof!! A 2006 black and chrome (my two favorite colors) Street Glide came into my life. Mind you, I’m 56 years old, been ridin’ 37 years now and I can honestly say, that this is the sweetest ride I have ever owned. Of course, to the owner of any other brand of motorcycle, other than a Harley, it is not the surgeon’s scalpel. But, to those of us who know, it is the best damned sledge hammer ever invented.


So what does all this have to do with the 1948 Panhead you see in these pictures? Well, it just proves my point, that the bikes I have owned through the last 37 years, none really captured my heart, or my senses, like that ol’ Panhead. There was still and empty spot in my life.


The bagger was incredible…but, poof!!, it’s early 2006 I was reading Cycle Trader and there it was; a 1948 Panhead, original rigid frame, original springer front end, matching numbers and a clear H-D title. Just like I did back in 1971, I called and made an agreement with the owner. If he would hold it until 6:00pm and if it’s what he says it is, I’d be up to buy it. And if I wasn’t there by 6:01 p.m. then sell it to one of the other 50 guys who would call.


He said, “Okay.” (Telling him the story about my old ’56 rigid basket case didn’t hurt any either.)


Well, the rest is history. After two years, many late nights, and a lot of dreaming, what had caught my eye 37 years ago, and forever stole my heart, had come back into my life and was now a reality.


If I die tomorrow, I’d die happy and content. My search is over for my one true love. Not just in motorcycles, but also in women. Yes, I am on wife number three. But this one, for the past 8 years, rides her own scooter, that I built to her specifications. And she can tell you the differences between a ’37 Knuckle and a ’48 Pan. Why hell, she even knows what a Linkert is. I am truly a lucky guy. And by the way, she’s a blonde!


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Regular Stuff

Owner:George Kohler
City/State:Yorba Linda, Ca.

Builder: Owner
City/state: Same
Welding: Owner
Machining: Phil’s Speed Shop -- Orange, Ca. & Owner



Year: ‘48
Make: Harley-Davidson
Model: EL, Panhead, FIRST YEAR!!
Displacement: 74 cu. In.
Builder or( Rebuilder): Phil’s Speed Shop—Orange, Ca.
Cases: Stock
Case finish: Garnet bead blast
Barrels: Cast Iron, FLH
Bore: .010 over
Pistons: Weisco 9:1 compression
Barrel finish: Satin black heat paint
Lower end: Stock , Balanced
Stroke: Stock, Eccel 3 hole crank pin
Rods: Stock
Heads: ’65 Pan w/ outside oiler, custom roller rockers
Head finish: Garnet bead blast
Valves and springs: Rowe “black coated” valves, S&S valve springs, Rowe Teflon seals & Rowe cast iron valve guides
Pushrods: Andrews Aluminum
Cams: Leinweber “ L3S “
Lifters: + .005 Solids, S&S oil pump
Carburetion: S&S Super ‘E’
Air cleaner: S&S teardrop
Exhaust: Paugho up-sweeps, with 32” fish tail extensions
Mufflers: If it’s too loud, your too old!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Other: Hand made rubber mounts for up-sweeps



Year: ‘48
Make: Stock
Gear configuration: Andrews close ratio set
Final drive: Chain
Primary: diamond cover W/ Primo belt & 5 stud clutch hub
Clutch: Barnett “Kevlar”



Year: ‘48
Make: Stock H.D.
Style or Model: Rigid, Wishbone
Stretch: Why ruin a good thing?
Rake: Wouldn’t dare cut her
Modifications: Lot’s of Prep before powder paint


Front End

Make: Stock H.D., w/ Original casting #’s
Model: Springer
Year: Last year for the springer, ’48
Length: Perfect
Mods: Lots of metal prep before chrome


Sheet metal

Tanks: 5 Gallon Fat Bob’s W/ Pingel high flow petcock
Fenders: Hinged “48, rear only
Oil tank: H.D. Horseshoe



Sheet metal: Powder paint, hand wet sanded then clear coated
Base coat: ‘Pepper Red’
Graphics: Not her style
Frame: ’48 Pan
Molding: Not her style either
Base coat: Gloss black
Type: Powder paint
Graphics or art:
Special effects:



Make: Wheel Work’s, Spoke
Size: 21”
Brake calipers: In ’48?
Brake rotor(s): Just wouldn’t look right
Tire: Dunlop 300x21 w/ Harley- Davidson Lettering


Make: Wheel Work’s, Spoke
Size: 16”
Brake calipers
Brake rotor: She’s got a chrome drum
Pulley: Nope, Sprocket & chain
Tire Dunlop 5.10x16 w/ Harley- Davidson Lettering



Foot controls: Stock Mech. Brake pedal. Clutch pedal is shifting pedal and bracket assembly from a late panhead modified.
Finish: Chrome
Master cylinder: No juice on this baby
Brake lines: Steel rod’s and clevises
Handlebar controls: Throttle
Finish: Chrome
Clutch Cable: Steel rod
Brake Lines solid steel rods, mechanical rear brake
Shifting: Suicide, W/ ratchet top trans lid
Kickstand: Sure



Ignition: E-2000 Electronic, inside stock dist. And Rev-Tek wires
Ignition switch: Stock
Coils: Rev-tech high output
Charging: Generator W/ built in regulator
Wiring: Phil’s speed shop Orange, Ca.
Harness: Hidden
Headlight: 7” Round, halogen bulb
Taillight: Original Delco-Remy “Tombstone”
Electrical accessories: Horn
Switches: Head light and horn mini switches mounted in coil cover
Battery: 12-Volt Mini


What’s Left

Seat: K- model Sportster solo
Mirror(s): Round 3”
Gas caps: Stock, nothing fancy.
Handlebars: 24” apes
Grips: Stock H.D., Late Panhead
Pegs: H.D. floorboards
Oil filter: custom spin on, w/ Filter Magnet
Oil cooler: ’59 Cadillac power steering
Oil lines: Stock chrome steel
Fuel filter: Of course!
Fuel Lines: cloth covered rubber
Throttle cables: Long
Fasteners: Hex, Button head & socket head


Comments: I wanted to re-create the look, feel and attitude of a time in life gone by. A much simpler and un-cluttered time. Remember, LESS IS MORE !!!. No remote controlled air ride suspension, No billet wheels, No flush mount LED lighting and No Ostrich skin Gel seats. Hell, you didn’t even need a computer to re-adjust your fuel mixture when you changed pipes. You simply re- jetted. Suicide shift, Diamond primarys, Mechanical drum brakes, Rigid frames, Solo seats, Ape hangers and Springer front ends have all earned themselves a special place not only in the history of motorcycling, but also, in our hearts. Like Bi- planes, old Duesenberg’s and Ed “BIG DADDY” Roth…they’re just cool man !!!!!!!!!!


Credits: I want to thank the following wizards for the magic they performed to make my dream a reality!

Phil@ Phil’s Speed Shop-Orange, Ca.

Mike and Joe@ Nu-Tec Powder Coating-Anaheim, Ca.

Dave and Gary@ Wheel Works-Garden Grove, Ca. Dennis Webb@ Webb Designs- Anaheim, Ca.

Ken Thurm@ Kendon Industries- Anaheim, Ca.

Andy and Joe@ The Balance Shop- Santa Ana, Ca.


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Reader Comments

Wife #2 clearly left an impression with her Moto "Some like It Hot, I Like It Red"....I'm sure you remember.. wonder if the current wife realizes, the bike was built with the one that left in mind..Little Fuzz On The brain ya might say.. too bad you never met the kid. He's into real horsepower and killin 'em on the rodeo circuit. Takes after the smart wife's side I guess...she knew what was lackin' was a real man by her side.

Austin, TX
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Editor Response Oh so many wives...
Very, Very Nice ! That will be my next build, Somewhat,

Jeffrey Thomas Burks
Bullhead City , Arizona 86429
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Editor Response There is nothing like a '48.
Hi there, my name is Dayna and I am the model used in this article. I can't believe after all these years and I've never even seen it! A friend of mine told me they googled my name and this came up.

So I was wondering, is there any way I can get a copy I this issue? I know it's a few years old and it's a long shot but I just had to ask. I am a mother of 2 now and I would love to be able to show my girls one day...and my wonderful hubby. Please let me know if there is any way possible for me to see this mag. Thanks guys!

Best Regards,
Dayna (Trask) Derry

Dayna Trask
Canyon Lake, CA
Friday, April 6, 2012
Editor Response I'll see what I can find out. If it's possible, it's yours.
One of those few moments where a machine gives the man a woody quicker than the girl. ;) This is an amazong bike!

Tucson, AZ
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Editor Response And she wasn't bad, either.

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