Sturgis Or Bust: 1951 Harley-Davidson Project

1951 Harley-Davidson Panhead

For the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed more motorcycles on the highway. Some of them were probably headed to or from Sturgis, South Dakota. If you didn’t already know, there’s a huge motorcycle rally held there every year. It’s been going on since the thirties and with over half a million bikers in attendance, it’s bound to affect traffic. The rally may be over, but we just found the perfect project to restore and take to the event next year! This Harley was recently discovered in a barn and although it has some issues, could make a great cruiser. It’s located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina and is listed here on eBay where bidding ends tomorrow.

Numbers Changed

First, let’s talk about those issues. Besides the obvious mechanical needs, this bike has some number problems. Luckily the sale includes a clear title, but for some reason the engine has been renumbered. The seller does not know why this happened, but they do mention that the previous owner had the motorcycle for 40 years. So, perhaps someone in the family could give some explanation? I’m not a Harley expert, but perhaps one of our readers could give us a guess as to why this happened and if it even matters? The seller is hopeful that once the shifter forks are freed up, it can be made to run again.

Plush Ride

Depending on where you are located, the journey to the Black Hills can be long one. Many people have their bikes trailered in, but real men should make the voyage to motorcycle mecca on their iron stead. Vintage bikes don’t have much in the way of cushioning though, so this Harley seems like a nice compromise. This is a hard-tail, but it does have a telescopic Hydra-Glide front fork and the seat is padded with a couple of small springs to help soak up some of those bumps directed at your backside. It’s doubtful that I will ever make the trip, but if I ever do, this is the bike I’d want to roll into town on!

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Comments

  1. RoughDiamond

    My first thought is that those engines were hand stamped and someone just missed making a good impression with the first strike and then did not have the stamp lined up properly on the second strike. Before I touched this, I would contact that Dale fella at “Wheels Through Time Museum” and ask him. I would just be careful about divulging too much information. Hard to believe they produced classic bikes like this in the 1950s. Beautiful!

    • RayT Member

      Why ask him? The ad gives the definite impression that he’s the guy selling it!

  2. Righteous Bob

    Harley never had a nine (9) shaped like that one stamped on that number pad!

    • NotchNut

      I thought the same thing. I could be wrong. I have seen cars that have odd shaped numbers stamped for whatever reason. We use to see vin #s have barely visible markings on one side and the other side they would use individual punches for a letter or number to make it clearer. Mostly due to worn out stamping dies I assume.

  3. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    What a looker!

  4. Bob Hess

    Don’t recognize the bike but that wrought iron looks just like some we saw recently on American Pickers. Also notice pile of signs to the right…. Maybe call Mike Wolf at Antique Archeology.

    • Jumping g

      I’m sure they did . It’s at Wheels of time in North Carolina.

  5. z1rider

    Re: the seat springs.

    The ones you can see are engaged with the seat through the upside down u-shaped bar and are for when you have a passenger, or I suppose if you are a really big/heavy person. Riding solo you would pull the top part of that mechanism back to that clip on the rear fender just forward of the luggage rack. The seat post slides up and down in a nearly vertical tube in the frame behind the engine and has a spring (not visible) also. There is a link under the front of the seat which engages the frame between the tanks and is there to prevent the seat from rotating on the central post.

    • Joe Howell

      Thanks Z1rider, I always wondered about that setup.

  6. RoughDiamond

    @RayT-you’re correct! I did not even open the eBay link to catch that.
    @Bob Hess-good catch!
    I should have had more coffee this morning.

  7. Howard A Member

    Sturgis 2020, maybe. Probably a hodge-podge of several bikes. I think the price for this is a little out of line. I found a ’51 Hydraglide in Ohio, restored, for $15,600. http://www.2040-motos.com/_content/cars/images/54/1554/010.jpg

  8. Moose Feather

    Judging from the relative shine of the metal of and around the serial number compared to the rest of the bike, stolen & filed down at some point???

    • Bobsmyuncle

      It’s been scraped clean to provide contrast with the numbers allowing them to be clearly read this is a typical practice.

  9. Mtshootist1

    Those numbers were drilled out. The numbers used are not correct I had a 52 and the left side cracked on me. When I had it welded the welder ran a bead over half the numbers. If the engine seized it could have cracked that case they may have restamped the numbers. Sloppy job. I would up replacing the case with a new repro case. But kept the old one

  10. Bob Hess

    Details aside, that’s a great looking bike! z1rider, great information!

  11. geomechs geomechs Member

    Nice bike for sure. While I would prefer a Knucklehead over a Panhead, I still wouldn’t turn down one like this. As nice as this appears, I have little doubt that you’ll end up going right through this before it can be deemed roadworthy…

  12. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    still hard to find these old bikes this complete…..

  13. daCabbie

    Ugh…this bike needs its story proven.

    Previous owner had it for 40 years? Did it come with a 40 year old title. Titles on bikes are easy to come by in NC, SC and TN all close to Maggie Valley.

    Do the numbers match the frame?
    Numbers used to be regularly checked in Florida (during Bike Week) … in FL if the numbers didn’t match bike could be confiscated.

    This is a great looking bike but I would need more documentation before I paid top dollar… that part of the country is full of expert collectors who looked at this bike and passed before it went to Ebay….why?

    • mtshootist1

      The Harleys went by serial number on the engine, until the 1970s. you can find casting numbers on the neck casting but they don’t relate to the actual VIN number, which was only on the engine. This one would be suspicious to any LE. I would only buy it as parts.

  14. Joe Howell

    Yep, the engine is the titled component on this motorcycle.Possibly an unnumbered factory replacement case that was stamped with the original number by the replacing dealer. I wouldn’t want to have to explain it to some eager beaver cop along the road. Numbers checking by plainclothes cops “admiring” bikes at Sturgis was common. New numbering practices on components by HD helped to make identifying stolen parts easier. Save your money on this one and buy a nice one, cheaper in the long run.

  15. T C Hunter

    If you look at that number boss it’s been filed down and restamped ! 😞 It’s been tattooed ! the numbers underneath the motor are run numbers for when they mill the motors cases together. they are match set that will have numbers in it that tell you what year that motor is those numbers underneath mean nothing as far as theft prevention number but they are reference to what year the motor was built the motor company did some very odd things back in those days the Run numbers do not definitely mean what year the bike was built and this could get into a very long story a collector will not touch that bike ! 😠 😞

    • Bobsmyuncle

      If that was filed down it would have been done right, not showing remnants of prior numbers. C’mon no one is that lazy.

      Like 1
  16. Rando

    I don’t think Dale or his folks would do anything to jeopardize his Museum. I’m sure everything is good on this bike. I’ve been there a couple of times and those are some really great people and a great museum. Very much like the folks on here. They do work with Wayne Carini and the Pickers, so it’s not a stretch that the wrought iron may be familiar. Dale had a show for a while on Velocity as well.

    The musuem advertises that everything there runs. I’m sure that is the display pieces, but they work on stuff constantly. Last visit, Dale’s son was starting things up for the visitors. My boss at the time got to ride one of the bikes around the lot.

    Cool bike. Someone got a fun project.

  17. T C Hunter

    Come on now you guys gotta be kidding if that’s not a tattoo job a bad one at that the worst I’ve ever seen go to Jay Leno’s garage and see what numbers really look like or for that matter any antique bike show you can see the definite casting of the boss the numbers are stamped on there is no way that those numbers are correct there were some double stamp numbers only from the guy on monday morning with a hangover all numbers and letters were individually stamped and that was the last process before the break left the factory in 1968 and 69 when Harley was trying to sell the factory they took everything that was rejected that didn’t pass inspection and what showed up on the third floor or maybe it was a fourth floor I don’t remember but all those bikes out and they stamped them all 1969 1970 whatever year it was to show that they had produced more motorcycles than they actually had in the story about an AMF Harley-Davidson is bogus the people that run Harley-Davidson now headband the previous employees AMF and the other company that was bidding on the purchase of the motor company named Bangor punta from Germany and they were going to scrap the factory and sell the real estate so chalk it up to AMF for saving the American motorcycle or would you like to ride a bike that said Banker Punta on the tank and you didn’t deliberately put it there

  18. T C Hunter

    Come on now you guys gotta be kidding if that’s not a tattoo job a bad one at that the worst I’ve ever seen go to Jay Leno’s garage and see what numbers really look like or for that matter any antique bike show you can see the definite casting of the boss the numbers are stamped on there is no way that those numbers are correct there were some double stamp numbers only from the guy on monday morning with a hangover all numbers and letters were individually stamped and that was the last process before the bike left the factory in 1968 and 69 when Harley was trying to sell the factory they took everything that was rejected that didn’t pass inspection and what showed up on the third floor or maybe it was a fourth floor I don’t remember but all those bikes out and they stamped them all 1969 1970 whatever year it was to show that they had produced more motorcycles than they actually had the story about an AMF Harley-Davidson is bogus the people that run Harley-Davidson now are the previous employees AMF and the other company that was bidding on the purchase of the motor company named Bangor punta from Germany and they were going to scrap the factory and sell the real estate so chalk it up to AMF for saving the American motorcycle or would you like to ride a bike that said Banker Punta on the tank and you didn’t deliberately put it there ?

  19. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Winning bid, $15,100. 20 bids.

  20. Dan Winright

    Harley didn’t stamp frames until 1965

  21. Forrest Bezanson

    A heliark welder, bar of soap,number and letter dies, hand file! Just sayin

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