A ride back in time
Story and photos by Gabe Konrad
The rumble of motorcycles around Newaygo is a pretty common sound. Newaygo County is motorcycle country and, let’s face it, Harley-Davidson territory. The center of this universe is Sandy’s Harley-Davidson in Fremont, so it was no surprise when Sandy’s was the scene of Pandemonium on Tuesday, July 17. The dealership hosted the Pandemonium Ride, as 75 vintage motorcycles made their way through Michigan.
Several achievements have been reached this year by Harley-Davidson; it’s the Motor Company’s 115th Anniversary, the 10th Anniversary of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, and the Panhead—Harley’s early 61- and 74-cubic-inch engine design—turned 70 this year. To celebrate this landmark, the Badger (Wisconsin) and Wolverine (Michigan) Chapters of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) organized the Pandemonium Ride, with nearly 80 riders on 75 vintage Harley Panheads taking part. “The Panhead is an amazing touchstone in Harley-Davidson history, and we thought the 70th Anniversary of this milestone engine deserved a commemorative event to celebrate the release of
this iconic machine,” said ride organizer Tom Hinderholtz.
The Panhead was produced from 1948 until 1965 and it received its nickname because the rocker covers—essentially the top of the engine—resembled frying pans. Harley fans have a habit of nicknaming the Motor Company’s engines, like the 1936 Knucklehead and the 1966 Shovelhead. More than one motorcycle journalist has referred to Harley’s current Milwaukee 8 engine design as the “Musclehead,” due to the muscular look of its cylinders. The Pan was introduced just in time for the post-WWII motorcycle boom. With returning GI’s anxious for action and an improving system of roads, a new engine capable of handling higher speeds and higher temperatures was needed. The Pan was just the ticket. Before long the durable, mile-hungry engine spawned a generation of fans. It remains so popular that aftermarket companies still produce new versions of the Pan, and it remains one of the most popular powerplants in custom choppers. For the uninitiated the most familiar Panhead was “Captain America,” Peter Fonda’s chopper in Easy Rider.
Pandemonium began in Milwaukee during the Museum’s 10th Anniversary celebration and the ride wound its way to the AMCA meet in Wauseon, Ohio—via the SS Badger. On route, they stopped for lunch at Sandy’s where they filled the parking lot with vintage motorcycles. The passion for their Panheads—which were loaded down with gear—was obvious. The event featured at least one Pan from each year of its production. Some of the bikes were meticulous, period-correct restorations, and some were hodgepodges of parts spanning decades. Like their riders, all had character. Participants came from across the country and everyone was having a great time as they stretched their legs and filled their tanks and their stomachs.
One rider, who road from California, admitted he wasn’t exactly sane for taking part in such a long journey, but was having “a hell of a time.” Slink, who rode from New Jersey with his daughter and son-in-law—all on their own Pans—joined the event to celebrate his own 70th birthday. The spectators were equally diverse with unsuspecting customers and seasoned bikers alike all gawking at the beautiful machines. Sandy’s owners, Rick and Karen Corley, were all smiles. They were happy to lay out a spread for a hundred people, “just to take part in something so cool.”
After lunch, and plenty of water, the riders remounted, kicked their Pans to life and headed south in waves to their next destination—75 iconic Harleys rumbling their way through Fremont.
On July 26, 27 and 28, Sandy’s Harley-Davidson is hosting the 30th Annual Sandy Corley Memorial Run to raise funds for the Johnson Family Center for Cancer Care. To date, the event has raised over two million dollars! The three-day event takes place at the Double JJ in Rothbury and features a motorcycle run, field events, a military salute, charity auction, beer tent, camping, and three nights of music, including Fran Cosmo of Boston, Blue Oyster Cult, and Mark Farner’s American Band (formerly of Grand Funk Railroad). For more information, stop by Sandy’s or visit http://www.sandycorley.com/.
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