Cro Customs Panhead

Panhead Harley-Davidson
Caleb Owens of Cro Customs is known for building “functional” motorcycles, designed to be ridden long and hard. But a couple of years ago he attracted a huge amount of attention with the amazing BS1, a boardtracker-influenced Harley Sportster with 23-inch wheels. Owens has now built a second “show quality” bike, a beautifully detailed 1956 Harley panhead. “I’ve never been much for the ‘show’ thing,” Owens says. “The idea of sitting all day looking at my bike makes me anxious. Make no mistake, this is no different than any other bike I’ve built—it will be ridden.”

Panhead Harley-Davidson
The bike in question is Owens’ take on a 1960s chopper. It’s called Siksika, which means “black foot” in the Algonquian language of the same name. The rebuilt motor is something of a hybrid, with barrels and heads from a ’48 bike, Wiseco forged pistons, and a genuine S&S Super B carb with accelerator pump. The pipes are modified Paughco upsweeps and the motor is hooked up to a ’49 transmission with a jockey shift.


Owens has subtly modified the frame, mostly around the seat, and fitted a classic Wassell tank. Up front he’s installed big twin springer forks—narrowed a couple of inches for a slimline look—and skinny handmade bars. The headlight is from a vintage Packard, and the taillight is a modified 1948 Webster microphone, with LEDs hidden inside.

Panhead Harley-Davidson
Elegant black paint contrasts with exquisite detailing and polish, plus custom engraving by gunsmith Mark Cooper. “I outlined exactly what I was looking for: subtle and balanced,” says Owens. “He did an incredible job.”

Panhead Harley-Davidson
Siksika is an understated bike that rewards close inspection, and reveals its charms slowly. But it’s already causing ripples on the show circuit: Owens took the top spot in the builder voting at Born Free 3, and at the Dave Mann Chopperfest, took first place in the Cali Bobber category. The bike was also Dice magazine’s pick of the show. It’s not our usual fare on Bike EXIF, but then again, this is no ordinary panhead.

Images by Michael Schmidt Photography.

Panhead Harley-Davidson