Ken Carvahal’s 1962 Panhead

If I were to paint you a portrait of a guy who has been a project manager in a financial institution for over 20 years, chances are the image of a man with scratched and greasy hands, up in the wee hours of the morning, heating metal to make a sissy bar or installing a Panhead engine in a custom rigid frame would not come to mind. Yet this describes Ken Carvajal, whom I met last year during Fuel Cleveland. If you follow him on social media, you may think that Ken earns his living as a professional photographer, but no, this is just another one of the hobbies/passions in which he excels. But let’s get back to the famous Panhead gracing the pages of your favorite magazine. 

To begin with, I must mention that this chopper is Ken’s first major custom project, and that he did most of the work himself in his small garage behind his house in a suburb of Chicago. Never one to shy away from getting his hands dirty, Ken wanted to get a taste of the building process and jump right into the project. Even if it’s not perfect, the experience is just as rewarding as the final result. Working with your hands using what you have, the old-fashioned way. 

After searching for some time for a motor, he got his hands on an original 1962 Panhead and a 1958 transmission, which he bought from a friend who had just placed an ad on Instagram. Once he acquired the engine, Ken embarked on a scavenger hunt for parts so he could finally put together his vision of the ideal chopper.  

He started with a Paughco frame of which he opened the neck, molded and sanded to perfection. He then chose a narrow glide front fork, stripped of fender and brake mounts, chromed and dressed with fork shrouds. The 21-inch front wheel is mounted on a spool-type hub and fitted with an Avon tire. The rear wheel is 18 inches, laced on a starhub core and fitted with a Coker Diamond tire. The ribbed rear fender was made by his friend Ron of Seven Metal in Milwaukee. Ken attached it to the frame using a sissy bar that he made himself, not too high, but just high enough for him to secure his luggage for road trips! The solo seat, black leather and braided seams, is the exquisite work of the well-known Gentry Dayton. The Wassel fuel tank was mounted very deep in the frame, as close as possible to the motor. The final touch is the handlebar, which is 16 inches high and 7/8 inches in diameter for a slim and comfortable feel. On the engine side, the Panhead breathes through a famous Linkert carburetor and a Zeppelin-type air filter, manufactured by Pangea Speed. The clutch is on the left foot and is operated by a rocker clutch lever. The four speeds can then be selected by a jockey shifter directly attached to the transmission. I especially like Ken’s finishing touch on this one, an antique wooden pommel that comes from the handle of an antique file. A small but effective detail, just the way I like it. 

Aesthetically, Ken used a “less is more” approach. A plain colour and chrome. He did the red paint job himself, but changed it to black a few months after we took the photos. The success of this motorcycle is in the simplicity and purity of its lines. No glittering multicolor paint or complicated parts. Just a beautiful and simple chopper. By the way, I’m not the only one to think so because Ken’s project has been invited to the Mama Tried in Milwaukee, the Congregation Show in Charlotte, and the Fuel in Cleveland. Not bad at all for his first project! If you meet him at a show, please feel free to stop and say hello; Ken is an open and welcoming enthusiast, always ready to answer your questions with pleasure! In the meantime, check out his Instagram (@kencarvajal) account, his pictures are breathtaking!

Thanks for your time Ken, and we look forward to your next project!

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