Ben Ott photos/ Courtesy of Thunderbike

For the past 30 years, Thunderbike has worked hard to establish itself as Germany’s premiere Harley-Davidson dealership. The company has a Harley-Davidson worthy story. It started out as a small shop working out of a double garage and has grown into one of the most reputable names in the European motorcycle scene. They manufacture some of the cleanest aftermarket parts for Harleys, then create wicked custom builds to showcase those parts. They build ground-up customs as well and compete on the world stage at the AMD World Championships of Custom Bike Building. Thunderbike also throws a mean party every year called Jokerfest highlighted by a big ride-in bike show, bands and good brews.

And while Thunderbike has a knack for taking the latest and greatest Harleys to the next level, it also has a deep love and appreciation for the classics. Recently Thunderbike’s CEO Andreas Bergerforth got wind from a friend that there was a 1956 Harley-Davidson FL for sale with the original Panhead in good working order and the bike with a  “comprehensible history” overall so he jumped on the opportunity. While the engine did indeed check out, the rest of the bike was in an “incongruous” state. (Gotta love Google’s German to English translations!)

To turn a 1956 Harley FL into a post-war bobber, Thunderbike swapped out the stock telescopic fork for a Springer and threw on a thick chunk of Shinko rubber. 

The goal of the project was “not to change the original style too much and to bring in the spirit of the early post-war rebuilds.”

“It was to be a classic bobber with good suitability for everyday use - without any claim to originality,” said Bergerforth.

The conversion to a sweet Harley bobber starts up front with the swap of the stock telescopic fork for a Springer. They ditched the front fender and threw a meaty Shinko on the 16-inch spoked wheel but retained the original drum brake. The headlight, grips, and handlebars are likewise original, albeit the bars were thinned a tad.

Now that's one clean 1956 Panhead!

One thing you will notice missing from the handlebars is a clutch lever as the old Pan runs a foot clutch and a hand-shifter. The stock primary was swapped out for an open-belt primary. While the 1956 Pan was pretty clean from the get-go, Thunderbike gave it the once-over so it looks as good as it did when it rolled off the showroom floor. The powertrain did receive a few tweaks as its stock Schebler carb was replaced by 38er Dellorto and a shiny set of fresh Paughco pipes streak down the right side. It also got upgraded with a Dyna ignition and its kicker now sports a new Thunderbike pedal.

The tins, meanwhile, including the rear fender and both oil and fuel tanks, are original. The two-tone paint job was applied by Ingo Kruse, a long-time friend of Bergerforth who’s collaborated with them on many past projects. The cool old saddlebags were said to be in original condition but were shipped over to Spirit Leather for sprucing up. Spirit crafted a super sweet leather saddle to match up to the saddlebags.

Thunderbike's Andreas Bergerforth rolled out on the bad to the bone bobber called "Uncle Pan" at Jokerfest 2019. 

Thunderbike finished the project just in time to debut at its annual Jokerfest custom bike show. Dubbed “Uncle Pan,” Bergerforth proudly rolled the 1956 Harley FL bobber out on stage to an appreciative Jokerfest crowd and the Pan is now another jewel in Bergerforth’s “Personal Bike” series.

Thunderbike’s “Uncle Pan” Specs

Base Vehicle: 1956 Harley-Davidson FL

Engine: Panhead

Ignition: Dyna S

Fuel System: 38er Dellorto

Exhaust System: Custom Chrome Europe / Paughco

Handlebar: Original / thinned

Grips: Original

Footrests: Original

Fuel Tank: Original

Oil Tank: Original

Rear Fender: Original

Seat: Spirit Leather

Kicker: Pedal Thunderbike

Taillight: Custom Chrome Europe

Headlight: Original

Fork: Classic Springer -3°

Front Wheel: 3.00-16

Tire Shinko: 5.00-16

Front Brake: Original Drum Brake

Rear Wheel: 3.00-16

Tire Shinko: 5.00-16

Rear Brake:  Original Drum Brake

Paintwork: Ingo Kruse, Kruse Design