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1948 Wrecking Crew Pan

1948 Wrecking Crew Pan

If you take a look at W&W's 1948 Panhead you can hardly imagine what a long and winding life it has led so far. We’re not sure about the first 40 years of its existence, but in the 80s it joined the W&W fleet. And whatever plans we had with it, the Pan was there to serve.

The list of the many roles it has played so far is impressive. One of its earliest duties was to shake a big plastic canister of MaiTai mixture, strapped to the then installed sidecar rig. A quick run up the hill, and when back, the cocktail had been shaken and was ready for consumption.

The sidecar also got used as a transport for our hillclimber 45. At another occasion it was used to pull the W&W drag bike to the starting line. Whether it was getting the Christmas tree from the forest back to headquarters or serving as a vacationers' transport, the ’48 Pan could be relied on. For the extreme conditions, when temperatures went down to minus 40°C during the iceroad adventure in 2008 it was first choice, after being treated to an ice-grey paint job and the addition of studded tires.

Whether in stock condition, as an expedition bike or everyday workhorse, a Panhead always is ready to serve and looks great. Even more so in its current incarnation as a classic bobber.

Spec-wise, the bike is near stock condition. No matching numbers though, a couple of years back for a few horses more we transplanted a FLH engine of 1960 vintage into the venerable rigid frame. The three speed gearbox (with reverse) comes in handy when the side hack is installed. Just shift into R and reverse her out of any tight spot. The shifting is done by hand of course, and the clutch is foot-operated, just like it should be on a ’48. Front and rear there are 16“ wire spoke wheels with drum brakes, the front one upgraded to hydraulic operation for better stopping power. The stock setup is OK, if you can pace yourself, but a few reserves are always good to have, especially with that heavy sidecar.

The springer forks are period correct for the first year of Panheads, which was, yes, exactly, 1948. So our Wrecking Crew Pan is a true classic, with its rigid frame and its pan-covered engine.

Let’s take a look at the details. Behind the stock 3 ½ gallon tanks with the iconic speedometer setup we find the suspension solo seat. The simple, but effective design provides true long distance comfort even in the absence of a sprung rear wheel, making it popular among its users.

Brightening the night roads is a stock headlight. In the rear a stylish Crocker tail light illuminates the flying dust with its red glow. The fenders were tastefully bobbed in period style, meaning in the rear the movable flap was removed. In front the sides of the fender have been shaved down for a racier look.

Starting this machine is not by button, it’s by body mass and a certain knowledge of the workings of the internal combustion engine. In short, the art of the kick start. But the Bendix carb is helpful and after a few (or ideally just one) kicks the engine coughs to life and soon the famous low rumble exits the 2-1 collector with its rocket muffler. A sweet sound to even the ears of the noise-sensitive.

No wonder this '48 Pan is a tremendously popular choice in our fleet of W&W bikes. And we’re pretty sure that even now someone somewhere is racking his brain to come up with yet another quest for this here timeless two-wheeler, when it’s yet another time of THE PAN THAT CAN.