The Folks’s Champ: A Harley Panhead with a Merlin hand-crank starter


An invite to construct a {custom} bike for the annual Born Free present within the US is a large accolade. However the honor is usually reserved for {custom} builders which might be properly established throughout the scene—and that’s the place the Biltwell Folks’s Champ competitors is available in.

“Biltwell’s objective for the annual, democratic Folks’s Champ bike constructing competitors has been the identical since day one,” says the corporate’s founder, Invoice Bryant. “Give grassroots builders a possibility to showcase their skills, earn some cash, and achieve recognition within the {custom} motorbike constructing world.”

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Within the months working as much as Born Free, Biltwell scours each nook of the scene to unearth 12 potential {custom} builders. That quantity will get whittled down by half by public voting, earlier than the finalists collect on the legendary Prepare dinner’s Nook bar in So Cal on the eve of Born Free. The winner takes house a money prize of $10,000 and a coveted spot with the invited bikes on the present.

Final yr’s trophy went to Sean Jackson for his unbelievable 1948 Harley Panhead. As to what precisely it’s that he constructed; that’s onerous to say. Half chopper, half steampunk fantasy, it’s a extremely imaginative construct that reveals the abilities of Sean, and the crew that helped him construct it.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Based mostly in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, Sean’s day job includes working with classic bikes and motorbike elements as a part of Competitors Distributing. Many of the bikes that he offers with are even older than this Panhead—so despite the fact that he knocked it out of the park, he was means exterior his consolation zone on this mission.

The bike began as an ex-Florida 1948 Panhead that had suffered the consequences of residing so near the ocean. Sean yanked the motor out and handed it over to George Banks and Gary Ellis, who spent six months rebuilding it and cleansing it up. Gone are all indicators of the pitting that littered the casings when Sean received the bike.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
The engine is just about the one Harley Panhead half left. Nearly all the things else, save for the wheels, tires, and brakes, was fabricated from scratch.

That features the eye-popping modular body, which, regardless of appearances, principally conforms to the unique Panhead geometry. Sean designed it utilizing the 3D CAD software program SolidWorks, then manufactured it from 1/4”-thick laser-cut chrome steel plates. The inflexible ‘swingarm’ was constructed the identical means, with the axle plates raised to decrease the general trip top.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
All the chassis plates are held collectively by numerous handmade aluminum spacers, with black oxide-coated chrome steel {hardware}. As for the plates themselves, Sean painstakingly polished these by hand.

The entrance finish is {custom} too, nevertheless it follows a radically completely different design ethos. Taking inspiration from the Nineteen Thirties Harley-Davidson DAH hill climber, Sean and co. fabricated a set of crossover main hyperlink forks and buckhorn-style handlebars. (The way in which the entrance springs lengthen past the handlebar risers is a direct nod to the DAH.)

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Shifting to the wheels, Sean ordered a set of Invaders from Led Sled Customs, wrapping them in W&W Cycles Bates Baja rubber. There’s no entrance brake, however he’s made up for it by putting in two Brembo calipers on the only rear disc, bolted to a custom-made caliper mount. It sounds foolish, however there’s methodology to his insanity.

One of many grasp cylinders is activated through a mechanical linkage hooked up to the foot brake, whereas the opposite is connected to a particular twist grip on the left facet of the bars. The Panhead makes use of a foot clutch and hand shifter, so Sean makes use of this second caliper as a hill maintain. And because it and the throttle run inside cables, the cockpit is as sparse because it will get.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
A pair of handmade break up gas tanks sit up prime, with the bike’s solely switches fastidiously mounted between them. They put on a beautiful scalloped paint job, laid down by Brian O’Neal. (Sean additionally credit Kevin O’Neal and Tom Banks for his or her help and help.)

There are quite a few different particulars to absorb, from the twisted shaft on the hand shifter to the best way Sean has neatly stacked the 2 rear brake grasp cylinders subsequent to one another. A Linkert M74B carb sits on either side of the Panhead donk, linked through 3D-printed aluminum manifolds, whereas twin exhaust headers feed an intriguing underslung muffler. And if you happen to flip up the bike’s leather-based saddle, you’ll be capable to entry the crank deal with for its post-war period starter.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Sure, you learn proper. This Panhead fires up courtesy of the starter from a V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin airplane engine—the identical engine that was used within the legendary Supermarine Spitfire. Cranking it by hand engages a spool drive on the left-hand facet of the bike, revving the engine as much as round 300 rpm.

You possibly can at all times keep away from all that effort and use the Panhead’s OEM kick-start lever to wake it up as a substitute, however why be boring?

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
There’s no query that it takes an enormous creativeness and a wholesome skillset to construct a machine like this—particularly when it must be rideable, too. “To make sure the bikes are literally ‘go’ bikes and never simply ‘present’ bikes,” explains Invoice, “they need to be ridden over Ortega Freeway, which is notoriously twisty and sketchy, for a complete of about 50 miles to the venue. If a motorbike can’t make it to Prepare dinner’s beneath its personal energy (no trailer queens right here) it could nonetheless go on the platform for partiers to admire—nevertheless it received’t be eligible to say the title of the Folks’s Champ.”

For sure, Sean’s Panhead aced the trip—even when he does admit that he was initially skeptical about how properly it will carry out.

Sean Jackson Instagram | With due to Biltwell Inc.


[naaa bestseller="Powersports Accessories" max=6]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here