First year Panhead: 1948 Harley Davidson Touring

With an extensive American history, Harley Davidson has offered a wide array of great motorcycles for more than a century. While I adore the very early American motorcycles, there are many great motorcycles from different eras like this first year Panhead. Described as being a survivor, this is a fine example of vintage American motorcycle. Wear your best Marlon Brando costume from the movie “The Wild One” and go ride this beauty to all the special events that you can. With 32 bids, this motorcycle is currently bid up to $25,401! Check it out here on eBay out of Holden, Missouri.

Nicknamed the Panhead for its pan like rocker covers, you would almost think a baker or chef coined the term. In ready to ride condition, this Touring model Harley is a nice looking ride. As with any survivor it is all about the originality and condition. Considering this bike is 70 years old, it looks very nice. There are some obvious blemishes, but as a whole this thing is gorgeous. The engine looks tight and clean with no obvious signs of leaking issues. I do have a suspicion that the pedal blocks on the kick starter have been replaced as pedal rubbers don’t tend to age gracefully, and like to break when aged.

The paint still offers a mild shine, but a polish job could bring back some luster. The paint is worn in a few spots on the tank, and on the rear fender beneath the seat. The large long spring saddle is very nice and the coke bottle grips are in nice shape as well. The paint on frame and fork is nice, and as a whole there is little surface rust to see except on the drive side covers. All of the bright work on this bike is great, and the wheels are clean and rock solid in appearance. The mileage is listed as 39,047 miles, which seems like a tremendous amount for a motorcycle. Although it is clear that someone took fantastic care of this machine and enjoyed riding in the early motorcycle heyday after the War. Motorcycles offered a great freedom to go out and see so much of the world as the solders did during War. Where would you go on this classic Harley Davidson?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    If I wanted to go full Marlon Brando — a rather elderly Marlon, I admit — I’d buy a Triumph, Brian.

    Which I probably would anyway. Only rode an H-D once, and didn’t much enjoy it. Triumph Bonnies are still at the top of my wish list (even though I think the Wild One rode a Tiger), with a BMW flat-twin a close second.

    • Peter S.R. Member

      Brando rode a Thunderbird…

      • RayT Member

        Thanks! Memories fade, you know….

  2. Suttree

    Way ahead of its time. Almost the same as a 2018 except for fuel injection, brakes and suspension.

    • Martin Sparkes

      I have a friend who is a harley mechanic. He told me it is amazing how long they kept working on a design that was terrible to begin with.

      • JunkFixer

        Uh huh, a design so terrible that a good many major manufacturers still copy it to this day.

      • mag195455

        Terrible design or terrible mechanic???

    • Dick Johnson

      ¿Que? Lots of bikes back then were far more advanced. I learned to ride on a 45 Flattie back when you could buy them for 15 bucks.

      Egan wrote, “a sign of a good design is that you can replace every part on it for years.” J&P Cycles proves that concept every day. Burn a cam bearing on your lead wing and you’ll need a second mortgage to pay the wing boutique for repairs. It happens. Burn a cam bearing on your ‘Twinkie’ (Twin Cam) and you’ll need… oh, nevermind.

      We have a multi-national garage, and
      have the parts bills to prove it. I’ll stick with stuff we can still work on. And yes, there are Harleys still in the fleet.

  3. Classic Steel

    This is a classic icon!

    They are hard to find models !

    I just hope they stick around as sales keep dropping even as they add affordable models (under 14k). No worries they still sale bagger bikes in the mid to high 30s+.💰💰💰💰

    A new Indian chief dark horse 17+ and a very cool bike 🏍 that runs and looks cool too! (My next bike upgrade)

  4. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Well, my time spent with old HFD’s and cars. “no obvious signs of leaking”. I have always said if it’s not leaking it’s empty. A knockout looking ride!

  5. 86_Vette_Convertible

    As an 18 yr old kid back in the 60’s I picked up a 48 basket case machine. Thing is, it was a Johnny Cash machine: so many different years parts but who cared – it was a bike. I was lucky, I had a friend that helped put together what I had and aided finding what I didn’t (he knew bikes and had access to a machine shop to boot). It even had some Indian parts in it before it was done. Additionally I started working at a place that made autoparts and they had a chroming tank. It was beautiful right up to the point I hit sand in a curve and ultimately wrecked it. I gave up bikes a long time ago, it was too painful, but thanking that I wore leathers and a helmet (because it looked cool at the time).

  6. Pete

    I would like to own this HD, I just would be scared to ride it with that suicide shifter. I can’t quite wrap my mind around how that would work. I guess I am just spoiled by my 07 Glide. In truth though HD cool as they are to ride and such are poorly designed. They also just flat stole stuff from Indian to improve their bikes and made them what they are today.

    • Dave Mazz

      Pete;

      I know that today, the TV bike shows like to refer to “suicide shifters”, because the producers think it sounds “cool” but it’s a relatively new, and essentially bogus term. Back in the day, a shift lever next to the tank was called a “side shift” or a “hand shift”, and these are still the proper terms today. The “suicide” term was applied to the clutch. “Suicide clutches” wouldn’t stay disengaged when your foot came off the pedal, they would “snap” into full engagement, just as a car clutch does. The first bike I owned was a H-D knucklehead with a “suicide clutch” and after a few rides it’s operation became second nature. You just have to remember, when coming to a stop, put out your right foot to balance the bike and keep your left foot on the clutch pedal until you’ve shifted into neutral. Bottom line, don’t let a *side shift* bike mystify you. If you have the chance to ride one, do it!! I bet you will “master” shifting by hand and clutching by foot in no time at all.

      Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        My 45 trike had a suicide clutch. But the arrangement differed from the 2-wheeler. The shifter was on the right and the throttle was on the left. Of course the spark advance was on the right. I have no idea why the switch. Maybe the designer worked for Indian.

  7. michael h streuly

    Just a piece of S**T harley air compressor. Nothing to see here move along.

  8. Mike

    Carefully clean every part, get mechanically perfect and ride as-is. Don’t even think of restoring it. Would prefer a solo seat though.

  9. Rube Goldberg Member

    1st, I like H-D’s, had a FXRT that was the nicest bike I had,( of dozens), even though, I never really felt 100% comfortable with the belt drive. These, however, I really didn’t care for. It’s like comparing a new car to a classic, they were rough around the edges to drive. But, if you were an American, especially, living in Milwaukee, this is what you HAD to buy, despite European bikes were far superior. It was this type of bike, that pushed many, including me, to find other bikes, as these kept coming down the line with little change. ( New for H-D 1974, different hand grip) I had a friend with a ’65 Panhead, while I had my 1st GoldWing, and after driving the Pan, I couldn’t wait to get back on my GW, it was not a pleasant experience. Today, if I was to buy another bike, it would undoubtedly be a newer Harley. They are very dependable ( although, I’d probably convert it to a chain, just because I’ll never trust a belt) and other bikes have turned into these freakin’ spaceships, and H-D, and I never thought I’d say this, has really stayed the same, and now I embrace that. Must be getting old.

    • mag195455

      I cannot imagine Harley Davidson still has belt drive after all these years, so unreliable. European motorcycles are far superior!!!!

      • Rube Goldberg Member

        I guess it’s my personal paranoia about belts. It’s not like you see Harley’s with broken belts at the side, fact is, one rarely, if ever sees a broken belt. If, however, it DOES need replacement, it’s a big deal, requires transmission removal, something that will end your day pretty quick. Harley’s of this vintage, were notorious for break downs, mostly ignition and carb issues, both eliminated on newer H-D’s. If one of these didn’t pop by the 2nd kick, oh, oh might be here awhile. ( and we all took turns kicking Al’s panhead) Years ago, on a putt, someone always drove the “chase van”.

  10. Robert White

    Kawasaki is the least likely to break down. HD is the most probable to break down.

    Touring should not be problematic.

    RW

    • On and On On and On Member

      The picture is art Robert, thank you. Never had a Kawasaki break down. Never had a BMW break down. The only reason I never had a Harley break down? Cause I never bought one. Martins post above says a lot. Popularity doesn’t always relate. I used to tell my Harley riding buddies that someone had to have a dependable bike to pick up parts for them. Why didn’t BMW build a v-twin? Potato-potato-potato.

    • mag195455

      Robert White, have you ever road any motorcycle? You sound like one of them Forum riders!

      • Robert White

        Yes, I started with a Honda 50cc Trail, then Triumph 500 Tiger, and then BSA 650 Thunderbolt. I completely rebuilt the Thunderbolt to factory spec .060 over and new pistons & barrels, plus the head, guides, and valves were ground. I had to sell the Thunderbolt otherwise I would still have it. I have also ridden Honda Ascot single, and Kawasaki Ninja 1000, Suzuki Katana 1000, Triumph 750 Bonny, Bultaco Trials, Suzuki 500, and Honda 350. Never road a HD yet which is a drag, and I’m getting too old to start driving again. Just sold a new half hat Shoei helmet that I had left over from the old days, and I sold my vintage Bristol leather jacket too.

        If I had my druthers I would have an old HD war bike with a side car because I’m pushing 60 and it would be a good grocery & beer getter.

        I would like a Vincent too so if anyone is giving one away let me know.

        Bob

        Like 1
  11. sluggo

    1948 was the first year of the “hydra glide” which was the teledraulic forks, and they were very problematic, (Leakers and seals blow) so odd this has a springer, either its not a 48, or someone replaced the forks.
    I have a friend now 93 and he bought a 48 and went back asked for his 47 back, thought the 48 was junk. He then rode it to Oregon with a side car and his wife 6 months preggo to go to work at the saw mill in southern Oregon,

    • mag195455

      !948 and 1949 had springer frontends with sidecars mounted!

  12. Bob v

    1948 was the 1st year pan and the last year springer.

  13. geomechs geomechs Member

    Over the years I heard a lot of negative trash about Harley but through it all HD has come through and continued with a good product. I had a 45 flathead and an 80 Shovelhead and they both did the job they were designed to do. Lots of guys with marvels from across the Pacific talked HD down but most of them ended up riding HD. I might add that I’ve seen a lot of copying from Japan. They say copying is the best form of flattery. If I had a choice of this bike or a brand new Gold Wing, it would be a no-brainer; I’d take this one in a hearbeat. The Japanese can copy the styling but they can NOT copy the soul….

    • Robert White

      Six Sigma manufacturing makes Kawasaki & all Japanese manufacturing reliable. HD does not follow 6 Sigma manufacturing quality control. Kawasaki is reliable, and HD is designed for parts replacement so they make money downstream on parts.

      Bob

    • sluggo

      This argument has been recycled over and over about HD and the asian knock offs, Little can be added that is new on this topic.
      Other than some millennials and hipsters building weird customs out of them, virtually the BULK of the Asian Cruiser bikes get parted out and most scrapped as there is a long list of challenges to keep them running past a certain point. With only a few exceptions there just is not much out there for rebuild kits, Let alone people willing to work on them so, While I strongly prefer classic British bikes I have had a number of Harleys and while the vintage are cool and fun to look at, Most of the vintage ones are either customs are collector bikes. NOBODY buys a pan, knuck or shovel to go to work or daily rider. Most asian bikes have long since been recycled into the scrap metal business or soon will be

  14. RD Bauer

    It’s really amazing that such “unreliable” and “S**T” motorcycles are still being ridden 50,60,70,80 and even 90 years after they were manufactured.

    When PROPERLY maintained and ridden.

    Generally speaking…. The longevity of vehicles is most often dependent on the intelligence of those that own and operate them….

    Again: The longevity of vehicles is most often dependent on the intelligence of those that own and operate them….

    PS: I own, ride and maintain vintage motorcycles from three continents Including the USA and I happen to like them all.

  15. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended: Mar 04, 2018 , 7:57PM
    Current bid:US $26,500.00
    Reserve not met
    [ 36 bids ]

  16. WIHD55

    “The mileage is listed as 39,047 miles, which seems like a tremendous amount for a motorcycle” ??? Barely broke in! I have several in the garage right now all over 50K that I bought new. Plus a few over 40K, over 40 years old, that I originally got with low miles. High mileage bikes are not rare, just well maintained ;-]

    • sluggo

      39K for a 1948 Bike??? Speedo probably broke in 1950!,, My friend Frank Forster who owned Competition Motors in Portland was a Norton then Kawasaki dealer, Last I heard Frank has over 300,000 miles on his Norton commando, I know others as well with very high mileage, One of the BSAOC of Nor Cal has an extensive collection of all kinds of bikes (Don Danmeirer) and did a presentation/discussion at our museum (NW Vintage car & Motorcycle museum) about long distance touring on his BSA with his wife Shirley riding on the back. Has ridden across the US multiple times, Around Australia, NZ, Did the Alps twice, all over Europe, UK and Isle of man, (We all asked, Does Shirley have a sister???).
      Vintage Bikes CAN do high mileage with a mechanically sympathetic and competent owner. The Norton International Owners rally will be in Washington State in July, I expect to see many owners there who ride to the rally from across the US and we always get some from the UK, Australia and NZ although they usually borrow or buy a bike while in the US.

  17. Suttree

    A friend bought a new Harley bagger in 1991 and in 2006 it still looked like new. He bought a brand new engine for it. With 1,000 mile oil changes his old engine had 130,000 miles on it and ran great. It was just tired. I don’t know anybody who has put more miles on a bike. He rode it all the time and the oil changes were frequent.

  18. Randy W Click

    I run an open belt on a 57 Panhead & can change it on the road in 1/2 an hour without removing gearbox. I’ve rebuilt the bottom 6 times & the top end 12 since 1968. I made 5 trips from San Diego,CA to Miami,FL. in 2014/2015. There are better bikes for sure but better vintage bikes ,I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t ride my 1970 Triumph Trophy across any one state but then I’m getting old. Early English bikes are a gas though.

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