Funky Panhead Part 4, New Frontend Installed

I spent a lot of money and time rebuilding an old 41mm wide glide for my 1969 Panhead build. It was one of those crazy builds, fulla twists and turns, but the glide haunted me.

It wasn’t long enough. I would have liked it to be 2-over for a better stance for a rider 6’5” tall. I squeaked another inch out of it with spacers over the springs. Of course, it rode like shit. I adjusted it, but it still rode badly. Maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t like that excuse. This bastard rode hard even with the wide, soft, cop solo seat.

Then the glide actually broke down. I lost the mechanical brake springs. They broke on the way to a Seal Beach car show. I limped home never daring to use the front brake for fear it would lock up and send me flying over the bars. I wanted to run a vintage mechanical brake set-up for the old look. In the past I was always able to make mechanical brakes work fine.

Finally, I started to notice how the lower aluminum leg jerked on the brake side. It needed new bushings. I reached out to Larry Settle, of Settle Motorcycle Repair in Harbor City. He knew of an old guy who rebuilt lower legs, but he might have retired. That was going to be my next move, tear the front end apart and ship it out, to have the lower legs rebuilt. Plus, they leaked. That also bothered me.

Then I got a call from the masterminds at Paughco. They recently developed a new springer configuration, because so many overseas manufactures stole their classic, flat side design. They came up with a solid, round-leg springer sort of in keeping with the early springers, before the VL or the big twin taper-leg springers. I love the Paughco taper-leg springers. They are classic. This one is distinctive in its simplicity.

There are several benefits of Pauchco’s 50-years of building springers. They are contained in the tree construction, the bends of the legs and the rockers. These front ends are meant to be ridden long and hard.

They also make a stock length front end and a 3-over, which I went for, when I made the deal to trade my glide for a new Early-styled round-leg Paughco springer. We made the clandestine swap at the recent David Mann Chopperfest, behind one of the old WWII buildings, so Dave Hansen wouldn’t see us and tax us for making deals without his approval.

I also attacked the rear of the bike with an old buddy seat, spring system to give the rear some suspension. It was a leap of faith that worked out like crazy, but I will get to that.

I requested the front end without chrome or powder, because of my patina effort. I painted the bare parts with a light coat of Rust-oleum primer and then a coat or two of Rust-oleum satin black. No matter how many times I’ve looked at that word in my long lifetime, I can never remember how to spell Rust-oleum.

Then I lashed the front end with some bicycle chain and smoothed and dinged the edges of the top triple tree. Paughco designed a new top tree to allow their risers, to be installed in the rear legs with1/2-fine thread studs or bolt common risers to the 3.5-inch center-to- center glide-like holes. I decided to go with the rear legs and cut the heads off ½-inch fine stainless bolts and made studs out of them.

I screwed 1-inch of the studs into the rear legs and had an inch for the Paughco classic brass risers. I used stud-green Loctite in the legs and ran a nut down to hold them firmly into place overnight. I removed the nut when I installed the brass risers.

I installed the bottom bearing over the small dust shield against the bottom tree. I found a piece of thick 1/8-inch wall, 1.25 O.D. tubing and used it as a tool to drive the Timken bearing over the raised bearing surface on the solid neck stem. I also fed as much grease into the bearing as possible. For some odd reason, I had to clearance the dust shields to make them fit over the solid Paughco stem.

Back to the grease. I’m still using a large tin can of military bearing grease. I’ve had it since the ‘60s. About five years ago, someone gave me a new full can. I’ll bet I never get to it in my lifetime.

I was recently given some cool CMD Extreme Pressure lube tubes. We used it on Frankie’s FXR neck bearings, but in the heat, it started to drip and run down the leg of the front end, annoying. The old Navy bearing grease is the shit.

Okay, so I slipped the neck shaft with the lower greased bearing into place against the greased race in the neck cup and spun on the crown nut against the top bearing and upper dust shield, after it was clearance. Here’s another benefit of classic Paughco construction. A lot of frontend manufacturers dodge using a threaded nut between the top tree and the neck bearing.

It comes in so handy while installing a front end. It holds it in place to allow you to position the top tree comfortably. It also allows you to adjust the bearing tension. Then you can install the top tree and the top nut and tightened the hell out of it without messing with your bearing adjustment.

The Paughco front end comes with the rockers mounted and in place. No adjustment necessary. They are lubed and ready to rock.

I removed the solid brass, 4-inch Paughco dogbone risers from my old stainless-steel bars and was careful to install them on the stainless studs watching for the studs to turn or not. I tightened them down and adjusted the rubber mounted dogbone to align with the bars. Then I installed the bars once more.

I grabbed one of James old Dyna front wheels and used it to mockup the front end. Steve Massicote from Paughco recommended a left ‘88- ‘99 single-piston H-D Softail caliper on an 11.5-inch rotor with a 2-inch center hole to fit a pre-’99 Harley hub. He shipped a solid aluminum hub to Black Bike wheels.

Black Bike Wheels has helped me out a couple of times. I remember taking a dinged steel rim spoked, 21-inch wheel to them. The technician popped the unit in a vice, smacked it with a soft hammer and it was golden. They also built the 23-inch wheels on my flat-sided tank, factory racer. Amazing wheels.

They expanded and moved to Van Nuys, California. They now manufacture any-sized spoked wheels for any make or model motorcycle. They build their own hubs, rims, and spokes. They can lace and true anything and powder, polish or chrome any of their products.

In this case, we are going with a used, dull, aluminum, 19-inch rim and unpolished stainless rim, for the patina look. So, there’s some old and some new to this beast. I will add an old pre-’99 factory rotor to a Paughco aluminum hub, which we might black out, or Paughco was going to send me a hub cap, I could flat black and add a little rust.

We’re getting close, but I had to take it out on the road and see how it handled with the sprung seat. I took the seat bar out, because it was going to smack the fender. I added a straight piece of steel to the center and it gave me an additional 2 inches of travel. I’m still going to do something to protect the fender.

Okay, so this puppy hasn’t run in a couple of months but fired right to life. I maneuvered around the shop and into the street for a test run. What an amazing difference. The turning radius was way better and it blasted around the rough streets without an issue. What an amazing difference in ride and handling.


Don’t get me wrong. You can’t beat a glide for top end runs and the twisties, but for a classic cruiser, this puppy now hit the spot.

Hang on for the wheel and disc brake install.


Funky Panhead Sources:


Biker’s Choice


JIMS Machine



Accurate Engineering

Bennett’s Performance


Departure Bike Works

Spectro Oils

Chopper Dave

Black Bike Wheels

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