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Panhead Dreaming

  • Motorcycles
  •  | 
Swap Meets & Lady Luck
Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio
Things are always interesting with Sean Shaffer or “Peep” as his friends call him. I knew Sean had this bike for some time, but it wasn’t ready to ride until this year. Now he’s out on it all of the time, riding it wherever he can. You might have even seen it parked outside of the Fuel Cleveland show in late July where he impressively kick started the beast by hand before losing his oil cap down a storm drain. He had to be lowered into the hole upside down to get it back.
His 1949 Harley-Davidson panhead fits his personality perfectly. The old motorcycle was built from aged, weird parts acquired over time, even before he had the bike to put them on. As he explains, certain pieces just fit right and can make the entire bike look more intriguing.
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
How’d you end up with such a crazy old bike?
Peep:I bought it off of my dad after he made a deal for it. He has always been a horse trader, making trades and coming up with stuff. He doesn’t have something more than a few weeks. He’s had tons of shit—bikes, cars, everything from Mercedes kit cars to monster trucks. About five years ago, he was barhopping one night and finds this guy that had a panhead since the 1980s but refused to sell. My dad drank a few with him and was driving a 1949 Hudson. He made a deal to trade the Hudson, they shook on it, and we picked it up the next day. It was in the guy’s kitchen, and we had to push it out the side door of the house. It didn’t run at the time, but my dad knew I was into bikes and pumped about it. The engine is a 1949 but the frame is a 1958 Duo Glide with a Hydra Glide front end.
What was your vision for the bike?
PS: It was all stock, so I wanted to get rid of a lot of the weight. I was into the Japanese style, and I already knew where it was going. I ditched what I didn’t need and made it as simple as possible. It started with the tires. I saw this old photo of Sonny Barger, and he has this huge fat front tire. I knew that’s what i wanted. It took me forever to finish with having kids and going through different changes. I couldn’t put the bike as my first priority, and it seemed to always be on the back burner.
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
What attracts you to the Japanese style?
PS: I don’t know how they do it. Their ideas are wild. I always watch this one video of a chopper run in Japan. It’s all the dudes in the jail pants. Some are part of a bike club, and you can pick apart every bike and how unique and different they are from each other. And they’re usually all original Harley-Davidson parts.
Where did the old fuel tank come from?
PS: The tank is from my friend, Tony Provenzano, who had it just sitting on a shelf collecting dust after his ex-girlfriend’s dad gave it to him. When I put it on the bike, it just pulled everything together. There’s 1970s coins pressed into it, so I’m guessing that’s the era it was from.
How did you manage all of these unique parts and pieces?
PS: Lady Luck. It was luck that I got the bike and luck that I ran into some of these parts. I didn’t want to overdo it—there’s a fine line. On a lot of those crazy Japanese builds, you can find one single part that just makes the bike. The rear wheel covers, for example, are an old Harley accessory from the ‘50s. It’s hard to find a matching set, but I randomly found these at a printing shop who had no idea what they were. A lot of pieces were from swap meets, like the right side original Harley grip, the 1930s tail light, and the Nissan car backup light I used for the headlight. I take my time at swap meets, and if I found one thing I’d be happy. I didn’t just throw things together. It’s stuff I held onto over time that I always wanted to use.
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Panhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
  • Featured in Issue 006
  • 1949 HARLEY-DAVIDSON PANHEAD
  • Built by SEAN “PEEP” SHAFFER
  • instagram.com/hipstler57
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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