Following a 12 model-year run of the first overhead valve Big Twin FL that we now call the Knucklehead, for 1948 the fully enclosed, hydraulic lifter overhead valve Big Twin FL arrived at dealerships. Though World War II had just ended, apparently engineers had been at work ready to offer an updated machine that even had aluminum cylinder heads. A carryover element, 1948 was final year of the springer fork on the Big Twin with the exception of sidecar equipped machines. This one year only design, the ’48 Pan, is highly sought after.

The “springer fork” went away in 1949 and the new hydraulic fork model was dubbed the Hydra-Glide.  Harley finally introduced the clean, sleek hydraulic fork with, in just the first year, gloss black-painted lowers. Later, after ten model seasons, in 1958 rear suspension was added, and the big twin became the Duo-Glide but the big sprung seat, a tradition for comfort, was retained. The new Panhead was available in 74 and 61 cubic inch versions, the F and E models and combined about 13,000 were sold in 1948.

Colors for 1948 included Azure Blue, Flight Red and Black. This 48 Pan is painted a brilliant metallic green. It’s also equipped with many factory and aftermarket accessories including wheel trim rings, double whitewalls and matching green kicker pedal and grips. Take a look at the photos and see how many add-ons you can find.

This classic 1948 FL is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum from the Jill & John Parham Collection. It’s one of over 60 Harleys, street, racing and custom from Strap Tanks to CVOs you will get to see when you visit the Museum. There is also a remarkable collection of Harley-Davidson memorabilia, signage and advertising graphics, even full size early original billboard art.

    • Engine: Air-Cooled, Overhead Valve, 45 Degree V-Twin
    • Bore & Stroke: 3.44″ x 4.00″
    • Displacement: 74 Cubic Inches / 1208 cc’s
    • Compression Ratio: 7:1
    • Carburetion: 1.3” Schebler
    • Horsepower: 50HP
    • Primary: Duplex Chain
    • Transmission: 4-Speed, Hand Shift
    • Clutch: Dry, Foot Operated
    • Final Drive: Roller Chain
    • Brakes: Drum Front & Rear
    • Electrics: 6 Volt Battery, Coil & Points
    • Frame: Steel / Double Down Tubes
    • Fork: Leading Link
    • Rear: Rigid, Sprung Seat
    • Wheels/Tires: 5.00 x 16 / 5.00 x 16 Inches
    • Wheelbase: 59.5 Inches
    • Weight: 565 Pounds
    • Top Speed: 90 mph

Due to the location of this motorcycle in the Museum – Gallery photos were shot in place.

3 replies
  1. Steven
    Steven says:

    That distinguished old gal has some fine jewelry ! What’s the knobby 3 sided trailer hitch looking thing just above the kicker lever return spring ?
    Hope to visit the museum some day !

  2. Donald Duane Jones
    Donald Duane Jones says:

    Owned a stock 1954 Panhead years ago. (Ride a 2021 FLHRXS today) Just wanted to say thanks for the article and photos, they really brought back some memories.


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