Brendan Mier's 1949 FL Panhead
Meticulously restored Panhead is period-correct right down to the paint.
Brendan Mier and his 1949 Panhead have been together for thirty years — longer than a lot of marriages. Their match-up was through a friend who had originally found the vintage FL in a magazine ad. Mier explained “I acquired the bike from a good friend of mine in 1989, who found it in Oklahoma through a Walneck's Classic Cycle Trader magazine ad.”
Photos courtesy of Lowbrow Customs.
Mier's picture perfect Panhead was not always so pretty. It needed mechanical attention and the tins had been painted black at some point. Mier reflected on the rebuild, “The bike was in need of a restoration so I immediately disassembled it and began a two-year restoration project, driving all over the country to all the AMCA meets looking for parts to make the bike correct.”
Introduced in 1941, the FL platform was originally powered by the Knucklehead motor. In 1948, the FL received the Panhead motor. The updated engine featured self-adjusting hydraulic lifters and aluminum cylinder heads to improve cooling. Mier rebuilt his 74 cubic-inch motor to stock specifications with the original Linkert M45 carburetor and OEM J Slot air cleaner — named after the interlocking backplate cutouts.
Sixteen-inch Star Hub wheels with front and back drum brakes stop the Panhead. Harley-Davidson introduced the front brake in 1928. Prior to this, front brakes were considered dangerous given the loose road surfaces of the day. Single leading shoe drum brakes were used on Harley-Davidson motorcycles until 1972 when the disc brake was introduced — an upgrade welcomed by most riders.
Mier's Panhead rolls on a stock 1949 rigid 'wishbone' frame and a first-year 'Hydra-Glide' frontend. Unique in their naming convention, 1949 FL models did not receive the Hydra-Glide moniker, yet featured the new hydraulically-dampened forks. The term Hydra-Glide was only applied to the FL from 1950 and onward. The Hydra-Glide was produced until 1957 when it was replaced by the sprung-rear end Duo-Glide in 1958.
Once restored, the Panhead went on the Antique Motorcycle Club of America circuit. Founded in 1954, the AMCA holds annual meets where motorcycles are judged according to their original factory condition. Putting his Panhead to the test, Mier's explained, “I ended up finishing the bike and made the rounds, having it judged on the AMCA circuit and fixed all the non-correct hardware...until it was perfect.”
Black and Blue
The Panhead had been Painted Peacock Blue from the factory. Resprayed black, the original paint was too far gone for restoration. After finding a good unopened can of original paint, Mier opted for Metallic Congo Green — a stunning one-year-only color for 1949. Mier then employed John Incaudo of Incaudo’s Antique Cycle in Palatine, Illinois to paint the Panhead.
Mier's Panhead is not only unique, it is also a reminder of another era. Mier explained that when he started the restoration everything was done face-to-face, “This was in a time when eBay was non-existent and swap meets were where you went for all your parts — meeting great people and getting help from so many friends along the way.”
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