Priorities

Article & Photos By: Joshua Elzey

Originally Published In The November 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

When Leigh Walker was 7-years old his dad died in a tragic car accident. However, Leigh had fond memories of sitting on his father’s bike and riding around the block. These early memories became the foundation for Leigh’s passion. The biggest influence for the 40’s to 70’s choppers he would come to build came from a friend of his dads by the name of Billy Wilder. After Leigh’s dad died he continued to experience the biker culture at parties/cookouts and especially at Billy’s who had the coolest Panhead chopper Leigh had ever seen. Billy taught Leigh things like how a bike should sit, how the pipes should be tucked in close, and how a chopper needs to flow from the front to the back starting with the lean of the bars from the front end. “Keep it simple and clean…and leave the people trying to figure out what you did.”- Billy would tell him. In 1989 Leigh purchased a bike from an old timer, Dave Connolly. Dave had a bunch of restored Panheads and he taught Leigh how to work on Harley’s. Leigh told him if he ever thought about selling the 1963 FL to call him; 1963 was the year he was born. Well, a year later the call came for him to take a real look so they could work something out. When Leigh got to Dave’s the bike was in boxes. He first restored it right down to the 6V electrical system simply because he had most of the parts and he rode it like that for years, but stock really wasn’t him…

Leigh went through a bit of a rough patch and had to put the bike on the back burner for quite a while. Finally, when he was starting to get settled and before Leigh did any work on his very rough house he turned the little one stall garage into a workshop. After setting up his machinist tools there was a little bit of money left so bought a frame for the bike – priorities! He purchased a stripped down rigid looped tail frame from Chassis Design Company. They stretched the rear of the frame 4 inches (not the front) so Leigh could fab up a battery box behind the tranny and then mount a spin on oil filter above the battery. This keeps the bike streamlined and uncluttered. When the battery is mounted low it helps lower the center of gravity a bit and improves handling. The neck was set at 30 degrees for quick cornering and Leigh added the necessary mounts and gussets required. The rear struts Leigh made were sent to Atlantic Coast Plating. The rest of the build was accomplished by going through the scrap pile or from donor stuff. All the wiring was routed through the frame and under the seat where the circuit breakers are located. The high beam and horn switch were mounted on the frame next to the seat to clean up the handlebars. The 39mm front end was obtained at a swap meet for $50 bucks. He cut off all the mounts, polished it, and turned down the lower legs. Leigh then shortened the tubes 2 inches and rebuilt them. The 18 inch apes were scored for a $10 swap meet special and he made the riser.

The Panhead motor is still 74 inches with stock Harley flywheels, Andrews B grind cam, Jim’s tappets, and heads that have hardened seats. Leigh picked up an S&S Super B carb with a single pull throttle on eBay. He rebuilt it with new throttle shaft bushings and the S&S intake was ported to match the heads. Leigh then polished the cam cover and went with the custom Cycle Engineering rocker covers. The tranny is a stock original 1963 4 speed with Andrews gears. The rear fender came from 7 Metal West and was modified slightly. The fuel tank started out as a sportster which he narrowed and moved the filler to the top. Leigh decided to cut the bottom out of the tank and filled the front to use as much gas as possible. This required moving the petcock back 4 inches. Leigh also fabricated a hidden front mount to give the appearance of a floating tank and then made a simple tab to mount on the backbone. The original Parnelli Jones wheel spinner gas cap was given to him by his good friend Glenn Sauer from Sauers garage. Glenn said he had to do something with it so after boring out a center section with the lathe a clocked adapter with a hidden vent was made so it would tighten at the correct position. Once the bike was all together again he called Tom McNeil from Bonehead Designs to go over some paint options. Leigh wanted Kandy Brandywine paint with freehand pin striping. He knew Tom had a natural talent and could pull this off. While they discussed the style he wanted, Tom promptly started drawing on the tank and asked ‘Like this?, leaving Leigh shaking his head as Tom went on and matched the other side perfectly.

The seat was a hammered out seat pan covered by AllNu upholstery with a tuck and roll sitting over a 16 inch. Avon MK2 rubber complimented the front 21 X 1.85. He used an Avon Speedmaster that gave the overall look and stance of a proper chopper. The rear foot pegs are original Anderson’s. The forward controls had no backing plates and arms although they came with a master cylinder so he made the rest of the parts on the Bridgeport. Stopping power is a 4 piston GMA and the caliper mount and linkage were custom made. The exhaust was fabbed using multiple scrap pieces. This bike has been with him through some of the worst and best times of his life. It became almost a form of therapy and made all the bullshit of life seem to disappear. There is something about building a bike with your own two hands and then taking off on it that never grows old. Leigh built this bike to ride not to just sit, wash, and wax it in the driveway. So for now it will stay the way it is. But as all chopper guys know; the riders are never finished with the project but the ongoing result is always to keep it simple and clean…

Priorities Tech Sheet

Owner: Leigh Walker

City/State: Concord, NH

Builder: Owner

Year: 1963

Model: Panhead

Value: Priceless

Time: Riders Are Never Finished

ENGINE

Year: 1963

Model: Panhead

Builder: Owner

Ignition: Electronic

Displacement: 74”

Pistons: Stock

Heads: Harley-Davidson

Carb: S&S Super B

Cam: Andrews B Grind

Air Cleaner: S&S

Exhaust: Owner

Primary: Primo Belt Drive

TRANSMISSION

Year: 1963

Make: Harley-Davidson

Shifting: 4 Speed

FRAME

Builder: Chassis Design Co/Owner

Make: Rigid

Rake: 30°

Stretch: 4” In Rear

Forks

Builder: Owner

Type: 39mm

Extension: 2” Under

Triple trees: Harley-Davidson/Owner

WHEELS

Front Wheel:

Size: 21”

Tire: Avon Speedmaster

Front brake: None

Rear Wheel:

Size: 16”

Tire: Avon MKII

Rear Brake: GMA

PAINT

Painter: Bonehead Designs

Color: Candy Brandywine

Type: Lacquer

Graphics: Tom McNeil

Chroming: Atlantic Coast Plating

ACCESSORIES

Bars: 18” Apes Speed

Risers: Owner

Hand controls: Stock

Gas Tank(s): Owner

Front fender: None

Rear Fender: 7 Metal West

Seat: Allno Upholstery

Foot controls: Owner

Oil Tank: Chassis Design Co

Headlight: Bates Style

Tail light: Model A

Speedo: What For?

Photographer: Joshua Elzey

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