Panhead Named Maggie

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Article And Photos By: Josh Elzey

Originally Published In The October 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Having completed many traditional builds, Marty Helverson always wanted to build a bike based on a VL frame. Eventually, a friend’s early 1932 frame came up for sale, and Marty wasted no time purchasing it. He shelved it with many of the other parts he had collected over the years. One thing he didn’t have readily available was time, so he waited until he had the necessary amount of time needed to modify the frame to fi t a big twin. This build would be quite a deviation from his typical style and would be intriguing and at the same time would raise a few eyebrows! In the meantime, Marty was keeping an eye out for a motor. Initially, he wanted to put a B.T. Flatty in the frame. This all changed the day his buddy Ray Hagee showed up with an ‘extra’ 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead motor in an unknown condition. This PAN had replaced the Knucklehead for H-D and also happened to be a larger version being a 74c.i. Marty knew exactly where the Pan was going to fi nd its new home! Not wanting to take any risks on the project Marty tore the motor down and began the rebuild that it surely needed. He used STD heads and a Super B carb. For the larger motor to be used, Marty needed to heavily modify the VL frame in several locations. While making those modifi cation Helverson also modifi ed the frame to accept a 1948 4-speed transmission with a custom hand ‘tank’ shifter that is topped by an old Bakelite skull and a B.T. mechanical brake. These mods involved removing the top frame brace and replacing it with a relocated tube and new top motor mount. The bottom motor mounts were relocated, the rear pedal strap was removed, and modifi cation of the rear axle plate were a few of the requirements. The motor was mounted so Marty could mock up the rest of the build such as exhaust, front end, and tins.

Marty just happened to have a set of “45” gas/oil tanks laying around that were in rough shape, which made them the perfect candidate for this build. He would need to cut them up to fi t over the motor. Marty made these into the fuel tanks using custom mounts to utilize the existing mounting points on the VL frame. The bottom of the tanks were modifi ed to fi t close to the rocker covers on the Panhead, which is noticeably on the right-hand side. Next, an oil tank was made to fi t the frame. The rear fender was made out of a 1936 Ford spare tire cover. The sissy bar was next. His brother, Steve Sordini, had found two lights of unknown origin that he decided were a good match for the bike. Steve handmade the sissy bar and mounted the lights one on top of the other. Since Steve is a  Pontiac nut, there seemed to be no other option for the headlight than a Catalina driving light which happened to be laying around. Marty grabbed a Harley-Davidson springer front end to mount the light to and mated it with the 21” spool Invader wheel. Nothing screams chopper like Invader wheels! I guess that explains why Marty had them in his pile of parts just waiting for the perfect bike to burn some rubber. Marty was getting tied up with customer’s jobs so his buddy, Ray, took the pile and made the bike a roller to help expedite the process. Ray bent some tubes to make handlebars; the bike was nearly done and ready to come apart for paint.

Helverson had some Marina Blue that was left over from a customer’s project, so he used it to paint the tins. Like many of his other builds, Marty handed the tins over to Dewayne Conner of DOA Flatliners for the fi nishing touches. At this point, Marty gave Dewayne the overall idea and waited to see what showed up. In this case, Marty wanted endless  fl ames to match the chopper’s style. The result is stunning! With them back in hand, fi nal assembly began, and the bike was fi red up just a few days later. “Well, I’m an old blues man, and I think that you understand; I’ve been singing the blues ever since the world began; Maggie, Maggie, Maggie M’Gill; Roll on, roll on, Maggie M’Gill.” – Jim Morrison. Since then, Marty has put some enjoyable miles on this blue bike rolling on to ‘Tangy Town.

Maggie Tech Sheet

Owner: Marty Helverson

City/State: Oaks PA

Builder: Owner

Year: 1948

Model: Panhead In VL Frame


Time: 6 Months


Year: 1948

Model: HD Panhead

Builder: Owner

Ignition: Points

Displacement: 74 c.i.

Pistons: H-D

Heads: STD

Carb: Super B

Cam: H-D

Air Cleaner: Velocity Stack

Exhaust: Short & Hot

Primary: Open Chain


Year: 1948

Make: H-D

Shifting: Hand


Year: 1932

Model: H-D VL

Rake: Stock

Stretch: Modifi ed to accept Panhead


Builder: Springer

Type: H-D.

Triple Trees:



Front Wheel: Spool Invader

Size: 21”

Tire: Coker

Front Brake: None

Rear Wheel: Invader

Size: 16”

Tire: Coker

Rear Brake: BT Mechanical Drum


Painter: Owner

Color: Marina Blue

Type: SHIney

Graphics: DOA Flatliners

Chroming: Very Little


Bars: Ray Hagee

Risers: None

Hand Controls: Hand Shift (Tank Shift)

Foot Controls: Clutch/Brake

Gas Tank(s): Heavily Modifi ed ‘45’

Oil Tank: Owner

Front fender: None

Rear Fender: 36 Ford Spare Tire Cover

Seat: Owner

Headlight: Pontiac

Tail light: Unknown

Speedo: None

Photographer: Joshua Elzey

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