In Chapter 1 of our Bronco Bronze series, we completely disassembled our 1952 Harley-Davidson FL Hydra Glide panhead barn find, nicknamed Bronco Bronze, as we pursue a mechanical restoration with our friends Dice Magazine and Harley-Davidson.
During the teardown process, we inspected and cataloged each item diligently and, during that process, we uncovered a couple of things; the engine was in better condition than we imagined and the vast majority of original components were in good condition and able to live again.
With that said, a few pieces had to go due to either a complete inability to salvage the part or if it wasn’t an original ‘52 part. A good example of this is the wiring - the wiring was all original, but was so brittle, we couldn’t keep any of it. So, we sourced vintage wires for the entire bike to ensure reliable and safe functionality.
We had the speedometer mechanically restored by John Bordas while we rebuilt the windshield using the good parts from two separate ‘52 Panhead windshields.The rusted wheel spokes had to go as well to make way for some NOS spokes and we wrapped the wheels with some fresh rubber from Coker Tire. A carb rebuild was also in order along with a complete overhaul of the brake system - which meant new cables and pads. Thankfully, we were able to tap into our friend, Matt McManus, who helped tremendously by identifying and providing various parts.
During all of that, we also cleaned up all of the paint and frame with the help from Dean at Dice while searching for some particularly rare parts we needed. If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen a post from a couple of weeks ago when we visited our friends Rick and Ramsey who have an incredible H-D collection and were generous enough to let us poke around the corners of their shop in search of parts.
Luckily, we were able to source a couple of items such as a guide light housing and lenses, brake and shift linkages and some pieces for the cheese grater bumper. They, coincidentally enough, also have two ‘52 Bronco Bronze Metallic Panheads in their collection which allowed us to do some side-by-side comparisons. One interesting thing we noticed was that the clutch cable wore the paint in the exact same spot on the left tank of their ‘52 Bronco Bronze tank as ours.
While we wrapped up sourcing replacement parts for the restoration, Derek at Duane’s Powertrains began buttoning up the engine where he was able to reuse the original internals thanks to the fact that everything was in such good condition. The engine had never been pulled apart in its 69 years of life so it was really cool to see how factory H-D assembled and machined them. Ben’s V-Twins rebuilt the transmission reusing all of the original internals as well.
With so many moving parts going on with this restoration (in the middle of parts manufacturing and our normal day-to-day business) everything started to come together this week and we were able to start the process of reassembling the bike. The following photos document the past few weeks of work, but a more in-depth video by William Simmons will show you the entire process along with the backstory of this piece of history.
Stay tuned for all of that and much more in Chapter 3 where we’ll finalize the mechanical restoration, fire up the engine and ride this ‘52 for the first time in decades.