The Million-Mile 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead

A man brings his grandfather’s 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead to the Wheels Through Time Museum, and gets it running again after 40 years.

| June 2012

  • The Vincent In The Barn
    It’s every motorcyclist’s dream: The classic bike parked and forgotten, waiting to be discovered and turned loose on the road again. In “The Vincent in the Barn,” Tom Cotter has chased down 40 great stories of old bikes and the collectors who unearthed them.
    Photo courtesy Motorbooks
  • W L Klotz
    Young Joann Klotz-Miller with her father, W. L. Klotz, in the late 1940s. Joann said she was eight or nine years old when her father gave her the last ride on his prized Harley.
    Photo courtesy Klotz-Miller Family Collection
  • Harley Davidson Panhead Buried
    Before being put in hibernation, Klotz, a mechanic, most likely drained the fuel and lubricated the cylinders.
    Photo courtesy Klotz-Miller Family Collection
  • Panhead Spark Plug Cap
    The bike is 100 percent complete and includes many original parts and accessories that are often tossed in the trash during restoration.
    Photo by Matt Walksler
  • Motorcycle And Junk
    Barely visible after a half-century of resting on the front porch of his home, W. L. Klotz took his Harley-Davidson off the road when insurance in North Carolina became mandatory in 1953.
    Photo courtesy Klotz-Miller Family Collection
  • Accessory Lights
    Even though the bike was under cover on the porch, all the plated cast pieces became badly pitted. These are accessory lights mounted on the front fenders.
    Photo by Matt Walksler
  • Panhead Tank Shifter
    The bike is 100 percent complete and includes many original parts and accessories that are often tossed in the trash during restoration.
    Photo by Matt Walksler
  • Panhead Speedometer
    The bike is 100 percent complete and includes many original parts and accessories that are often tossed in the trash during restoration.
    Photo by Matt Walksler
  • 1949 Harley Davidson Panhead
    Klotz purchased the 1949 Panhead used for $346.30 in 1952. As can be seen in the photographs, the bike was fully accessorized with leather saddlebags, custom lighting, and chrome guards. After just a few hours of fiddling, Klotz’s old Harley fired up and was ridden around the parking lot of Dale Walksler’s Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Walksler said that with new tires he would consider the bike reliable enough to ride across the United States.
    Photo by Matt Walksler

  • The Vincent In The Barn
  • W L Klotz
  • Harley Davidson Panhead Buried
  • Panhead Spark Plug Cap
  • Motorcycle And Junk
  • Accessory Lights
  • Panhead Tank Shifter
  • Panhead Speedometer
  • 1949 Harley Davidson Panhead

Every motorcyclist dreams of hearing the magic phrase: “You know, I know where there’s this old bike that’s been sitting at the back of this garage for years …” With those momentous words, the hunt begins. Too often the machine revealed is a worthless Hondazukimaha pile of hopeless oxidation, but sometimes, it’s a collector’s dream: a genuine classic motorcycle. The Vincent in the Barn (Motorbooks, 2009) by Tom Cotter offers 40 stories of motorcycle-hunting dreams come true. In this excerpt is from Chapter 4, “Passion Plays,” Dale Walksler revives a 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead for a man who never got to ride this family heirloom until now. 

“Every day I meet the most incredibly interesting people at the Wheels Through Time Museum,” said curator Dale Walksler. “Some have interesting motorcycles, some have interesting motorcycle stories, and some have both.”

Walksler remembered one particularly busy Saturday when one young man, who seemed shy, was hanging around the front counter.

“I could tell he wanted to talk to me,” he said. “And because I’m always anxious to talk to anybody, I said, ‘Can I help you?’”



The young man, Lee Miller, 36, of Hickory, North Carolina, said yes, and proceeded to tell Walksler about his granddad’s Harley-Davidson.

“I’ve got some photographs,” said Miller. “The old bike has been sitting on our front porch for 40 years. It’s at our family home place outside of Granite Falls, North Carolina.”



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