A Panhead chopper with one-off stainless steel frame and springer forks…
The Harley-Davidson “Panhead” engine was produced from 1948-1965, earning its nickname for the signature rocker covers, which resemble a pair of pie pans. Available in 61 and 74 cubic-inch displacements, the engine is perhaps best-known for powering the “Captain America” chopper and “Billy Bike” in Easy Rider. Says Sump magazine of the original FL Panhead:
Presence: Even the blind will see you coming…
Sound: … and even the deaf will hear your approach.
Enter Bryce Schmidt, a 36 year-old machinist who started his own workshop, Schmidt Motos, about 2.5 years ago, specializing in custom fabrication and machined parts. Previously, we featured Bryce’s turbocharged Sportster 1200R, boasting a T15 turbo and monoshock chassis, which earned him an invitation to the 2019 Handbuilt Show.
Now the Kansas machinist is back with this hand-built ’57 Panhead — aptly named “The FU Pan” –which showcases some truly staggering fabrication work, including a one-off stainless steel frame and springer forks:
“I’ve always wanted to build a stainless steel frame so I just decided one day to get started.”
Of course, stainless steel is an unforgiving material to work with — not only can it warp and distort under excessive welding heat, but it tends to show just about every blemish and scratch left behind. That makes Bryce’s stainless work all the more impressive.
But the surprises don’t stop there. Bryce designed and manually machined the front cylinder, complete with exposed pushrods, — he’s got 113 hours in that single piece alone — and he also designed and fabricated the invader-style wheels. All in all, he has some 900 hours in the build.
The result is one of the most impressive choppers we’ve seen, a lightweight stainless Panhead that’s worthy of the term “hand-built,” sure to turn heads online and in the metal as soon as the show circuit opens back up.
Panhead Chopper: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m a 36 year old machinist by trade but started my own shop “Schmidt Motos” about 2-1/2 years ago. I specialize in custom fabrication and machined parts.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The engine is a 1957 Harley Panhead. The rest is all a hand-built design.
• Why was this bike built?
I built the bike for myself.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I’ve always wanted to build a stainless steel frame so I just decided one day to get started.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
One-off stainless frame and stainless springer front end. Handmade billet aluminum front cylinder with exposed pushrods, my design and fab of the invader wheels.
One-off clear Pyrex oil tank. Pretty much the entire bike is one-off handmade parts. Build time for the entire bike was a little over 900 hours.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
“The FU Pan.”
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
It feels super light, weighing in at 420lbs and being pretty low it’s super easy to handle, but the foot clutch, hand shift takes a minute to get used too.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’d say designing and manually machining the front cylinder is what I’m most proud of. I’ve got 113 hours alone from start to finish in just that single piece. I’m also pretty proud of the invader wheels too.