The Million-Mile 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead

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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.
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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.
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Before being put in hibernation, Klotz, a mechanic, most likely drained the fuel and lubricated the cylinders.
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The bike is 100 percent complete and includes many original parts and accessories that are often tossed in the trash during restoration.
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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.
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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.
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The bike is 100 percent complete and includes many original parts and accessories that are often tossed in the trash during restoration.
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The bike is 100 percent complete and includes many original parts and accessories that are often tossed in the trash during restoration.
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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.

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.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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