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Old 09-11-2019, 08:35 PM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Philly
Posts: 70
Default Getting into a 53 FL- anybody know some stuff?


I have built a ton of nosecone shovels from stock to wild strokers, and built my share of v8 motors too. I’m not scared of some iron steel and aluminum.

I’m getting into my first panhead and I’m psyched. Unfortunately only the driveline is OG but that’s ok- sky’s the limit when I don’t have a good resto candidate.

The thing is already a rider so I’m gonna shake it down till winter hits and let it tell me what it wants to be. Compared to my ‘10 roadking it feels like an ironhead but man I always wanted one and I’ll get used to its personality.

In the meantime I’m trying to learn the ins and outs of it. Like I said I’m not new, just new to slabside motors and specifically the early panheads. I got the Kirk Perry/Mark Stett mechanic and owners guide which seems like a good resource but panhead books seem like either coffee table photo essays or they’re out of print and $400 used (Palmer)

So can anybody tell me some stuff about a ‘53 pan? I know just enough to be dangerous- here’s what I know and please lemme know if I’m misinformed!

-early pre 55 don’t have left side timkins on the crank so stroking boring and big compression/cams is kinda a no-no?

-top end oiling happens inside the jugs?

-hydraulic lifters should be familiar after doing shovels- no funky guts above the pushrods?

Also this motor already has a bunch of ‘hey that’s not a real pan!’ upgrades that I am way OK with but bear mentioning- spinning 12v alternator where the genny was, STD 3 bolt exhaust with shovel intake, mallory distributor, skinny karata belt inside a tin primary with a pro-clutch, S&S oil pump. Valvetrain is unknown along with bore/stroke/cam.

Thanks for any motor info or advice on books to own. Seems like all the panheads are either big $ restorations, cool kid skinny choppers you’re supposed to ride with your knees tucked under your chin and vans sneakers on, or super righteous but now over in Japan!! Man those little Japanese dudes make american bikes look awesome like huge fire breathing monsters. I’m 6’ 3” 250lbs so the zero look is out for me...
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:49 AM   #2
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Location: Middle o' Utah
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I ran a 59 for a lot of years. Picked up a basket in Denver then moved to small town Utah to learn on my own. The bottom en was already done with an S&S 88" kit and a low compression J Andrews cam. The 53 will have some early design things to be aware of, but the key things I learned was 1) blueprint the oil pump down to perfection and put some effort into opening/ timing the breather gear. I ran the cast pump and opened up the breather and ran 50 psi top to no lower than 10-15 lbs in Death Valley. I hear all those bull-shits out there, but it can be done, and 2)use Gasgacinch on all gaskets. To this day, everyone who remembers my pan will tell you mine didn't leak! Belt drive with a breather ran up the center tube, the only leaks were trans out the main-shaft and I ran enclosed with the tin primary ( the back side was cut out a bunch just for ease of maintenance). I ran Super B back before pumps and adj mains and loved it. Started with manual advance distributor which was fine, but my biggest pain was the damn generator! Accel solid state reg helped and I could rebuild the Gen with parts in my bag but that little battery was another weakness. I got a deal on a Morris magneto and never got stranded again. There are some things to learn, but I would swear by that mag. The little battery problem I overcame by making my own with Gates Cyclone 2V D cells connected and heat-shrunk together to make a 12 volt battery that I ran for 6 years - and sold it with the battery still working! The little generator replacing alternator just came out and I got one of the first - no brushes! But the damn rotor was held to the shaft just by two nuts turned against each other! They sent me a replacement and I offered my input on the need for a key/flat section/spline to be more secure, but my loctite/locknut/peening method held for years. Bottom line - it's not a shovel or Evo and you better pack her tools, but the simplicity and common sense mechanics will always get you home. I'd trade this fresh rebuilt 86 inch, shock absorbed shovel right now for a worn out old pan ( but only if it's a hard-tail!). Build it as a rider and you'll be happy with it! Russ
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Getting into a 53 FL- anybody know some stuff?

From my experiences with pre 55 pans which went to the timken bottom end as you rightfully mentioned. There's a way to upgrade to post 55 timken but it's a lot of work, you may get away with a light stroke on roller but it cannot take the forces later ones can.

If I were you, if it's hydro lifters get some solids.. more noise but I don't trust hydros and you can't go wrong with solids, some may argue the opposite but not for me.

Internally oiled in the jugs as you mentioned, as I'm sure you know it's not the most efficient and they do tend to get hot and don't like a lot of traffic. You said it's got STD heads which means the exhaust spigots aren't an issue. It's probably got an S&S Crank as well? my friend has a 88" pan similar setup to yours. All I'd say is if you have, be wary of the timing marks, hugely different on the S&S to the OEM crank.

Other than that, pans are amazing engines, They're good fun and I had many 1000's of miles and smiles on mine!
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