Worth The Wait

Article And Photos By: Daniel Venditto

Originally Published In The August 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Feature 4a

As with many things I discovered today, I came across Matt Pontano’s ’61 Pan Head on the internet, Instagram to be more specific. Immediately, I could tell that this was a build with a lot of thought put into it. It was not the “what’s the coolest thing right now” idea, but the “I’m going to do this the right way” mentality. Matt is from Williamstown, NJ, a small town about a half hour outside of Philadelphia. He works as a foreman/ machine operator and pipeline welder. Matt has been into bikes since he was about 5 years old. He started with BMX and dirt bikes. When he was growing up his interest in Harley’s came from watching his dad and friends wrenching on their mildly chopped bikes. Just over a year ago, Matt was looking for a project and found a guy in Kentucky that had a basket case Panhead. The guy had only a little knowledge of how to reassemble it. Over two months of messaging back and forth, Matt made a trade deal for a 66 XLCH Sportster that he had built the previous year. Although Matt wasn’t specifically looking for a Panhead, he knew that he wanted something a little different from what everyone else was riding.

Matt did most of the work himself, with the exception of the leather work on the seat and the fine tuning he had done at a buddy’s shop. He did all of the frame modifications, body work and paint. He also made all of the controls, the seat, sissy bar, and all of the brackets. When he bought the bike, it really was a basket case, all the way down to the split flywheels. The only things he purchased were the engine, transmission, and back wheel. The entire bike was built around a basic stock ’61 FLH with the exception of it being .40 over. He swapped out the swing arm frame for a 57 straight leg that had been chopped up and was almost worthless. He fixed up the bad welds and cracks and gave it his own touch in the neck area. Most of the tabs had already been removed but were poorly done, so every area on the frame needed some attention. Once that was complete, it was on to making the seat, sissy bar and mid controls. Everything was made from stainless and was polished once it was finished. He ditched the factory wide glide and went with a shaved 39mm narrow glide and a 21” spool which goes well with the overall look of the bike.

Feature 4b

His favorite part of the bike is the neck area of the frame. Whoever chopped the frame did an awful job. It was missing pieces, supports, and twisted badly. Once he got it straight, he added a nice curved gusset and finished the window they had originally cut out. He then molded the area with as little body filler as possible. He’s really happy with the outcome and believes it adds an extra flair to the finished product. This was only his second full build and he was actually working on another one for a friend at the same time. As for challenges while working on the bike, Matt sites juggling shop time with work and family life. Both he and his fiancé work long hours and have two children, a 2-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. Only getting a few hours a week to get some bike work done was tough. His favorite part of the bike is the neck area of the frame. Whoever chopped the frame did an awful job. It was missing pieces, supports, and twisted badly. Once he got it straight, he added a nice curved gusset and finished the window they had originally cut out. He then molded the area with as little body filler as possible. He’s really happy with the outcome and believes it adds an extra flair to the finished product. This was only his second full build and he was actually working on another one for a friend at the same time. As for challenges while working on the bike, Matt sites juggling shop time with work and family life. Both he and his fiancé work long hours and have two children, a 2-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. Only getting a few hours a week to get some bike work done was tough.

For this project, he says his younger brother was the most helpful. He believes that they think alike, which is key in a project like this. When Matt would get frustrated and walk away, his brother was always there for him. Another family member that was a huge inspiration for Matt was his father. Growing up, his dad always encouraged him to take his time and do it right. Clearly, that was the motto for this build. Matt found a number of resources for completing this bike. Everything he needed to put the engine back together was found at a well-known, local establishment called Nick’s Custom Cycles. I haven’t been to this place yet, but heard it’s well worth the trip. Matt is fortunate enough to live only a mile away from the shop. The tank, fender and tail light came from Lowbrow Customs. The bars are from Pangea Speed and the leather on the seat was done by Mike Lippincott in Philadelphia. The final tune on the bike was done by Tommy Bright of Dark Side Chops and Rods. So far, his best ride on the bike was the very first time Jessica, his fiancé, took a ride with him. It was bike weekend in Wildwood and the weather was the worst. Because she’s a trooper, Jessica braved the rain and cold with no complaints. Matt said that when she is on the bike with him he feels invincible. Clearly, her patience and loyalty means a lot to Matt. Plans for updates on the Pan include a switch to a slightly longer fork tube, about 4” over stock. Matt intends to send all the pieces he made from stainless to get chromed. As for other projects he’s got going on; he’s building an Ironhead for a friend and starting to collect some parts for a Flathead of his own. After about 8 months of working nights and weekends, he got the bike to the point where I was able to photograph it. It took months of trying to line up our schedules, but we finally met up to shoot it at the Pumpkin Run in southern Jersey. It was well worth the wait and I wasn’t the only one that thought so. As I shot the bike, there was quite a line of people stopping by to check it out and to compliment Matt on his work. He’d like to thank his brother for being his right hand man, his dad for the lifelong lessons that helped him build this bike and his two kids and soon-to-be wife for all of the patience and support.

Feature 4c

Worth The Wait Tech Sheet

Owner: Matt Pontano

City/State: Williamstown, NJ

Year: 1961

Model: Panhead

Value: It’s Just A Motorcycle

Time:

ENGINE

Year: 1961

Model: Panhead FLH

Builder: Matt Pontano

Ignition: Mallory

Displacement: 74”

Pistons: Wiseco

Heads: OEM

Carb: S&S Super E

Cam: OEM

Exhaust: Shotgun

Primary: BDL

TRANSMISSION

Year: 1961

Make: Harley-Davidson

Shifting: 4 Speed, Foot Shift

Frame

Year: 1956

Make: Harley-Davidson

Rake: Stock

Stretch: Stock

Forks

Type: 39mm, Shaved Lowers

Builder: Matt Pontano

Extension: Stock

Triple trees: Shaved Stock Narrow Glide

WHEELS

Front Wheel: Spoke Wheel, Spool Hub

Size: 21”

Front Tire: Avon Speedmaster

Front brake: None

Rear Wheel: Spoke Wheel, Spool Hub

Size: 16”

Rear Tire: Dunlop

Rear brake: OEM Drum

PAINT

Painter: Matt Pontano

Color: Blue

Type: High Flake Metallic

ACCESSORIES

Bars: Pangea Speed

Hand Controls: Emgo

Fuel tank: Cleveland Cyclewerks

Front Fender: None

Rear Fender: Lowbrow Manta Ray

Sissy bar: Matt Pontano

Seat: Matt Pontano/Mike Lippincott

Foot Controls: OEM

Oil tank: OEM Horseshoe

Headlight: 4” Bates

Taillight: None

Chargin system: Cycle Electric

Photographer: Daniel Venditto

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Want more information on advertising with Cycle Source in Print or On-line? Email us and we’ll send you info today!

[bestwebsoft_contact_form]