The Individuals’s Champ: A Harley Panhead with a Merlin hand-crank starter


Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
An invite to construct a {custom} bike for the annual Born Free present within the US is an enormous accolade. However the honor is often reserved for {custom} builders which might be effectively established inside the scene—and that’s the place the Biltwell Individuals’s Champ competitors is available in.

“Biltwell’s purpose for the annual, democratic Individuals’s Champ bike constructing competitors has been the identical since day one,” says the corporate’s founder, Invoice Bryant. “Give grassroots builders a possibility to showcase their skills, earn some cash, and achieve recognition within the {custom} motorbike constructing world.”

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Within the months working as much as Born Free, Biltwell scours each nook of the scene to unearth 12 potential {custom} builders. That quantity will get whittled down by half via public voting, earlier than the finalists collect on the legendary Prepare dinner’s Nook bar in So Cal on the eve of Born Free. The winner takes dwelling a money prize of $10,000 and a coveted spot with the invited bikes on the present.

Final 12 months’s trophy went to Sean Jackson for his unimaginable 1948 Harley Panhead. As to what precisely it’s that he constructed; that’s exhausting to say. Half chopper, half steampunk fantasy, it’s a extremely imaginative construct that exhibits the abilities of Sean, and the crew that helped him construct it.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Primarily based in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, Sean’s day job includes working with classic bikes and motorbike elements as a part of Competitors Distributing. A lot of the bikes that he offers with are even older than this Panhead—so though he knocked it out of the park, he was method outdoors his consolation zone on this undertaking.

The bike began as an ex-Florida 1948 Panhead that had suffered the results of dwelling so near the ocean. Sean yanked the motor out and handed it over to George Banks and Gary Ellis, who spent six months rebuilding it and cleansing it up. Gone are all indicators of the pitting that littered the casings when Sean bought the bike.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
The engine is just about the one Harley Panhead half left. Nearly every thing else, save for the wheels, tires, and brakes, was fabricated from scratch.

That features the eye-popping modular body, which, regardless of appearances, principally conforms to the unique Panhead geometry. Sean designed it utilizing the 3D CAD software program SolidWorks, then manufactured it from 1/4”-thick laser-cut chrome steel plates. The inflexible ‘swingarm’ was constructed the identical method, with the axle plates raised to decrease the general journey top.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
All the chassis plates are held collectively by numerous handmade aluminum spacers, with black oxide-coated chrome steel {hardware}. As for the plates themselves, Sean painstakingly polished these by hand.

The entrance finish is {custom} too, however it follows a radically totally different design ethos. Taking inspiration from the Nineteen Thirties Harley-Davidson DAH hill climber, Sean and co. fabricated a set of crossover main hyperlink forks and buckhorn-style handlebars. (The way in which the entrance springs lengthen past the handlebar risers is a direct nod to the DAH.)

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Shifting to the wheels, Sean ordered a set of Invaders from Led Sled Customs, wrapping them in W&W Cycles Bates Baja rubber. There’s no entrance brake, however he’s made up for it by putting in two Brembo calipers on the only rear disc, bolted to a custom-made caliper mount. It sounds foolish, however there’s technique to his insanity.

One of many grasp cylinders is activated by way of a mechanical linkage hooked up to the foot brake, whereas the opposite is connected to a particular twist grip on the left aspect of the bars. The Panhead makes use of a foot clutch and hand shifter, so Sean makes use of this second caliper as a hill maintain. And because it and the throttle run inside cables, the cockpit is as sparse because it will get.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
A pair of handmade break up gas tanks sit up prime, with the bike’s solely switches rigorously mounted between them. They put on a beautiful scalloped paint job, laid down by Brian O’Neal. (Sean additionally credit Kevin O’Neal and Tom Banks for his or her help and assist.)

There are quite a few different particulars to absorb, from the twisted shaft on the hand shifter to the way in which Sean has neatly stacked the 2 rear brake grasp cylinders subsequent to one another. A Linkert M74B carb sits on all sides of the Panhead donk, linked by way of 3D-printed aluminum manifolds, whereas twin exhaust headers feed an intriguing underslung muffler. And for those who flip up the bike’s leather-based saddle, you’ll have the ability to entry the crank deal with for its post-war period starter.

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
Sure, you learn proper. This Panhead fires up courtesy of the starter from a V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin airplane engine—the identical engine that was used within the legendary Supermarine Spitfire. Cranking it by hand engages a spool drive on the left-hand aspect of the bike, revving the engine as much as round 300 rpm.

You’ll be able to all the time keep away from all that effort and use the Panhead’s OEM kick-start lever to wake it up as an alternative, however why be boring?

Harley Panhead by Sean Jackson from Biltwell People's Choice
There’s no query that it takes an enormous creativeness and a wholesome skillset to construct a machine like this—particularly when it must be rideable, too. “To make sure the bikes are literally ‘go’ bikes and never simply ‘present’ bikes,” explains Invoice, “they should be ridden over Ortega Freeway, which is notoriously twisty and sketchy, for a complete of about 50 miles to the venue. If a motorcycle can’t make it to Prepare dinner’s underneath its personal energy (no trailer queens right here) it will probably nonetheless go on the platform for partiers to admire—however it received’t be eligible to say the title of the Individuals’s Champ.”

Evidently, Sean’s Panhead aced the journey—even when he does admit that he was initially skeptical about how effectively it will carry out.

Sean Jackson Instagram | With due to Biltwell Inc.