Claes Lindblom left his barn unlocked so that we could come and shoot his Panhead chopper. A more confident owner is hard to find. When we were in Varberg last summer, we paid a visit to the “mopedclub” Lyftdon MC. There someone tipped us off about an excellent Panhead chopper owned by Claes Lindblom. Unfortunately Claes was away somewhere to pick up a -53 DeSoto station wagon which had been used as an ambulance. He and his girlfriend were going to share it. I called him and he thought that I could go to his place and shoot the bike. It wasn’t locked anyway …
Said and done. Ankan and Barten, from Lyftdon MC, gave me a lift in their nice old Chevy Apache from 1960. Some miles outside Varberg we arrived at Claes place, consisting of a farmhouse and two barns. The only living thing moving around was the cat, whom was happy for a bit of company.
In one of the barns we found an old Model A Ford. Claes isn’t satisfied with just building bikes; he’s also interested in old American cars. The Model A, which soon would enjoy the company of the ambulance, is a part of his car collection right now.
Yes, that’s right, the Model A Ford is one of my projects on the side. There are a few of those. But it’s drivable and soon completed. I will keep it in a worn, original condition, I think.
But bikes trumps cars. There have been bikes continuously in Claes life since he was 18 years old. He used to hang out in a motorcycle club in Borås, where he grew up. At the club there was a youth recreation leader who customized bikes and that planted a seed in Claes mind, a seed that grew with time.
I’ve never owned a factory bike, except for my Flathead 74 cui, which is pretty much standard. But the Panhead that I came to see is anything but standard. It started with a friend having it in his stall in the garage of Lyftdon MC, and there it stood for many years, without anything happening. Claes had grown restless and wanted to build something new again and thought it could be a good foundation for a new build. All the parts were pretty much there but it wasn’t roadworthy.
It’s originally a Sundbäcken bike and it has been modified sometime in the late seventies up in Hagfors. I have modified it quite a bit. I’ve had to replace half the frame, because they had been cutting and wreaking havoc with it, but it has pretty much the same lines as before.
The front brake is a bit of Claes specialty, a Hydra-brake with a shield from a rear brake on a Sportster. The front end has also been modified. A normal Hydra front end has ten inches between the fork tubes, but Claes has reduced it to eight inches, to get it more in line with the late sixties look he is striving for.
Two Dellorto carburetors are mounted on the intake and they have their own little story. The brother of the grandfather of one of Claes workmates lives close by. He went rummaging around on a garbage dump and found these very nice carburetors in a box, and gave them to Claes.
None of us knew what they were until we checked them more thoroughly. They proved to be a pair of quite exotic carburetors, real racing stuff that was fitted to MV Augusta’s, among others, in the sixties. The carburetor housing is made from a magnesium alloy and it’s probably the Italian equivalent to the Amal TT carburetor. Pretty good stuff, in other words.
They are two 28 millimeter carburetors and put together they are the equivalent of a 40 millimeter carb. Claes thought it would be hard to find jets for carburetors but he has never needed to reconfigure them. The original jets works nicely. It can be a bit sulky when it comes to starting. There was no choke available and it can be a bit tricky to get the flow right when it starts, but now I’ve created a detachable choke mechanism that I put on the Velocity stacks and then remove before I start off.
The Bengalos Motorcycle Club in Uddevalla has a two day party and exhibition in July, every summer. Claes Panhead won first price in the Harley Chopper Class last summer. A couple of weeks earlier it had won second price in the Iron Horse Motorcycle Show in Nyköping.
I asked Claes if he just is into old bikes. He then told me that he got to borrow a Road King from a friend, when he and a bunch of other guys were taking a trip to Normandy, France.
Sure, if you are going to ride that far it’s as comfortable as it gets. There is no doubt about it, and everything has its charm. But I’m a bit nerdy when it comes to old stuff, I guess. Besides the Flathead, the Panhead chopper, the Model A Ford, and the DeSoto, Claes is keeping himself busy with yet another Flathead.
I’m working on an experimental engine. It’s going to be a large volume Flathead. I have been wrenching for some people in the drag racing business and sometimes there are stuff left over. So I’ve found some flywheels that has a 5 1/4 inch stroke and they’re going into my Flathead now, so it will be 102 cubic inches. 5 inches the ride with but I’ve never seen anyone with more, so it will be great fun to see how it will work.
Just to be safe, another project is in the works. The Model A Ford is getting a new engine, that Claes is tuning right now. How people like Claes, with all their projects, finds enough time for everything is a mystery. But life outside the big sprawls, with its slower pace, is probably a part of the secret.
Panhead -54 in a modified frame
Engine: Panhead -54, with STD heads, 4.5” stroke, 3.5” bore, 87cui
Carburetor: 2 x 28 mm Dellorto SS1 from the sixties on a home made intake
Exhaust: Superior Rocket mufflers with short cones on sand bent pipes
Frame: H-D -54 modified with an open steering head, 2” stretch, 38 degrees rake
Front end: Hydra fork with modified triple-trees
Front wheel: 21” x 3” with a narrow star hub, a Hydra brake drum with a Sportster shield
Rear wheel: 18” x 4” original rear wheel with a mechanical brake drum
Clutch pedal: From a Servicar
Headlight: Bates with side mount
Taillight: Monark Albin
Petrol tank: Wassell Peanut
Rear fender: BSA front fender
Paint: Brons with gold flake, laid by Pobben Berglund in Hagfors. Pinstriping by Ankan