Leo Tancreti's Panhead


I'm not sure what they're putting in the water in the Northeast, but it must be good stuff. Long winters, an education in engineering and a heavy dose of creativity helped one motivated citizen of this region craft a fine looking motorcycle. Leo Tancreti of Leo Speed Shop built this machine with help from his buddy Lock Baker. It's pretty easy to build a "formula" bike with all the right parts scavenged off eBay. It's quite another to build a monoshock panhead. Here's Leo's personal backstory on his awesome motorcycle.



Growing up I started riding motorcycles at the age of five. I raced for a while but that lost its fun as I got older and it was obvious that the only thing people cared about was winning. Friends weren't really friends and since I knew it wasn't something I wanted to make a career out of, the plug was pulled. In the following years I continued to ride off road but when I would bore of that; taunting the local law enforcement down the main strips of my town would always leave a shit eating grin on my face.

Owning race bikes requires owning tools and knowing how to wrench on your own shit. However, it wasn't until my first year in college when I was introduced to the amazing world of machine tools that the fire to machine and fabricate parts was lit. Living at school in Boston didn't afford me much time to ride and by that time I was ready to get a more street legal bike anyways.

Growing up I hated Harley's but that was because none of HD's heritage was ever made clear to me; all I knew were the lawyers and old guys on their baggers passing me on the highway. This may sound lame but it wasn't really until I watched the first Motorcycle Mania and the Biker Build Off series on Discovery Channel that my eyes were opened to the world of choppers. Keep in mind that the Internet became available to the public when I was maybe in 6th grade with wide spread home usage by the time I was 15. Anyways, I spent a lot of my down time in College researching and discovering this world and by the summer of 2006 I had my first Harley. In its newly purchased form, this '62 Pan was some guy’s version of what I would now consider a quick throw together "bar hopper." I wouldn't tear it down and embark on what is now the "Steel Panther" until about one year later when I met Lock from Eastern Fabrications.

Lock and I have a similar way of approaching, designing, creating and finishing things and he picked up on that right away. I took my time with the build mostly due to the fact that I was funding the project myself but it helped create what I consider a mechanically and aesthetically sound vehicle. The lack of funding paired with the amount of time I was willing to allow for the build had other positive outcomes as well.

The rear brake configuration which is completely unique to this bike was hatched from an idea I had to use the existing mechanical drum which was equipped when the bike was in rigid form and adapt that to the newly acquired swing arm frame. Lock and I brainstormed and created a couple crude sketches to get our ideas out (the only time a sketch was drawn during the creation of this bike) and a solution was born.

As a mechanical engineering major in college I learned a lot of things but one thing they couldn't teach me was where to apply my knowledge. With a strong passion for motorcycles and a great friend willing to help me along, the answer was clear.

This year I decided to go into business for myself and I created Leo Speed Shop LLC. It's tough to be your own boss at times but at the end of the day it's rewarding to know that I am in control of my success. I am working to create hand made parts which are made in my shop in the USA and have just launched a line of tail lights.


Owner/Builder: Leo Tancreti

Location: North Haven, CT

Bike name: Steel Panther

Engine, year and make, model, modifications: Panhead, 1962 Harley Davidson, FLH, 3 5/8” Bore, KB 9.5:1 Pistons, STD Heads/ 3 Bolt Flanges, Crane 308B Cam, Solid Lifters, Lightened and Balanced Flywheels, Mallory Electronic Ignition, S&S Super B/ Thunder Jet, Leo Speed Shop Special Rocker Box. S&S Reed Valve Breather Gear.

Frame: 1975 H-D swingarm

Fork: Repop H-D springer

Chassis mods: Round swingarm, gusseted and set up to run mechanical H-D drum brake; monoshock accommodations

Tire/wheel size and style:

Rear: 16” H-D star hub and steel rim, Coker Classic tire, Buchanan stainless steel spokes

Front: 19” Triumph conical hub, anodized alloy Sun rim, Firestone tire, Buchanan stainless steel spokes

Favorite thing about this bike: People can’t figure out why the bars are purple. 

Next modification will be: It’s finished

Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: Mechanical link drum brake through swingarm pivot; Ohlins monoshock; LSS original air cleaner, headlight, mid controls and pegs, gas tank and tail section. Heyltje Rose seat, LSS SS exhaust, handlebar, aluminum rocker boxes and taillight

Any building or riding story or info you'd like to include: Last year in Sturgis I ended up locking up the motor due to the combination of a faulty spiro-lock install and a missing breather screen preformed by a local shop. The bike was hauled home and there it sat until about three weeks before this year’s Daytona. I needed a bike to ride and this was as good a time as any to repair the case and fix the seized breather gear. I ended up having to bore the breather pocket to 1.5” and machined a sleeve to fix the damage caused by the spiro-lock embedding itself in the case and blowing it to pieces. With a little modification to an S&S reed valve the job was finished and the motor ran strong. Now that the nightmare is over and I’m confident in the job I can relax and enjoy riding

Thanks: Lock Baker at eFab, Heyltje Rose

See more at Leo's blog

Comment with Facebook


Comment with Chopcult (48)

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 05:24 am

Iv been wanting to do a headlight like that and this gives me the balls to try it. Shits rad .

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 05:57 am

bizzaro & dope.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 06:12 am

saw this bike at the brooklyn invitational last year, found myself stopping to gawk at the details everytime i walked by, a very cool bike front to back-congrats!

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 06:23 am

I'm digging the style coming out of the Northeast. Good to see some different ideas put together with top notch craftsmanship!!! Cool bike for sure!

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 06:57 am

very cool, futuristic and vintage in one.. Great details , the TLS grabbed me right off the bat. never seen that on a panhead....

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 07:32 am

Great lookin ride. Diggin the creativity.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 07:38 am

Finally a write up on this bike. I have been seeing it in jpegs on line and in small shots in magazines for months now. Original, in a good way. Nobody I know would have the cahones to do that to a Pan.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 07:56 am

It must've been a long winter for these two guys.
I'd love to rap about these bikes with both Leo & Lock.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 08:51 am

The seat/fender is badass, tons of details, I hope to see this bike in person one day

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 09:38 am

That rear brake linkage is a work of art!

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 09:38 am

cool, weird but cool, and whats up with the rear fender

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 10:09 am

Pushing buttons and pushing the envelope in various ways.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 10:20 am

I took a look at his other stuff.. gotta say that the guy's an artist in metal.
Even if i don't "get" everything he's doing.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 10:24 am

Very nice bike.

I do have one question. I am asking out of sheer curiosity and because I have never gotten a clear answer. Why swastikas? I see them on bikes along with "SS" and completely fail to see the reason. Is it to commemorate a group of white men that annihilated millions of people? Or, is it to look tough? Even still, is it some way to disempower the Nazis by plastering their iconic symbol on a motorcycle? I'm honestly curious and would love to hear responses to this.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 10:43 am

nazis stole the swazie from asia . It was not always a hate symbol . as far as putting them on bike's . I think it's just for shock value a big F.U ! thats what its all about ! Sick bike I dig it swazie and all .

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 11:10 am

Very nice work, and different. This is what it's all about, putting your own spin on things. Super neat scoot.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 11:51 am

these guys dont raise the bar they launch it into outer space! congrats on a fine lookin ride

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 01:59 pm

Speechless, a true work of mechanical art, the creativity is boundless...

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 02:09 pm

Love this bike on so many levels. Sans the bars it's completely my style. I've been mocking up a headlight like that since this last weekend, funny its on CC now. Don't laugh at me when I have a similar one.........................but really, dont.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 02:36 pm

Mechanical genuis! Digg IT

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 02:44 pm

Sweet. I love the fairing, headlight thing, whatever it's called.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 02:59 pm

I'm not a fan of the bike, but I am stoked to see someone else taking the swastika back from the Nazi-fucks and making it a good luck symbol again.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 04:23 pm

needs more holes!

This bike comes off way more like puff the magic dragon than a steel panther...the purple, the flames, the whole seat and tail combo..
besides missing the mark on the name, its totally badass!

As far as the swazi.. Id have to guess since its not symmetrical, and it obviously has "good luck" stamped into it, he was going for the ancient buddhist/ eastern good luck aspect meaning of it..
So ya, puff the magic dragon...

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 04:51 pm

Nice work man!

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 05:04 pm

Love it...mechanical and gadgety goodness.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 05:38 pm

i dig the showcasing of talents, and all the details on this bike are clearly a superior class of workmanship. the unique profile set up with the headlight, tank, seat, and tail section are really cool and flowy. i also love when a bike has one random thing that sticks out like a sore thumb, and the lavender bars totally do that for this bike. my only hangup on this thing is that too many intense details tend to detract from each other and disrupt the overall flow of a bike's design. i'm may be a minimalist, but i firmly believe that form follows function. while it's very impressive to show off so many flamboyant one-off bits and pieces, there's got to be a balance between 'less is more' and 'too much is never enough' when it comes to designing a bike as a whole. that being said, this man's skills and sense of mechanical whimsy are both humbling and astounding. i may end up buying some of his products in the future.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 06:09 pm

What a great contraption-lookin bike. Love it!

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 06:20 pm

Not one mention of Japan, but everything about it is Japanese influenced.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 10:12 pm

Jesse13 points out that the swastika's form was stolen from Asia. KIRK says it was originally a good luck symbol. Twinkies supports this with the fact that the current one has "good luck" stamped into it. These are good points. Indeed the swastika form has roots in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, even Native American Indian culture.

However, this does not explain away the issue. First, the clear intention on most motorcycles is the Nazi swatika. There is no arguing this. Second, and in this particular case, the Leo Speed Shop t-shirt takes both S's in "Speed Shop" and forms them as written by the Nazi storm troopers. What is the explanation for this? Was there some Eastern or Native American tradition of the SS long before the Germans troopers used it?

No one has answered my core question of why it is cool to put symbols based on hatred and fear on a motorcycle (or a t-shirt).

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 11:07 pm

because jailhouse pussy tastes like shit!! thats why. ,.......I agree it looks like a japanhead , great scoot.

Commented on 4-6-2011 At 11:15 pm

Time to butt in.

The use of swastika on bike: I purposely put the symbol on the cam cover because of all the shit I have gone through with this motor. If you read the story than you will get what I am talking about. I specifically used the Buddhist/Hindu "backwards" swastika and stamped "good luck" into it to further drive the point home. Unfortunately, the Nazi party was effective in their use of the swastika emblem and many don't know it's other meanings.

SS on T-shirts: You got me there. The shirts were specifically designed to incorporate the SS lightning bolts. The reason for the use of this font is simply because I like it. The band KISS uses this font on millions of album covers sold around the world. Jesse James used the Iron Cross for 10+ years and hundreds of thousands of people cloaked themselves, wives, toddlers, 4x4's and anything they could sticker in that symbol; which was also used by the Nazi party and no one seemed to mind.

Finally, people have definitely been putting the Nazi Swastika on "choppers" since, well, people started building choppers. I mean what do these motorcycles represent at their core? Not hate, but the "I'm going to do what I want" mentality. That's why all of us build and ride our own motorcycles.

Yes I am aware of the connotations certain symbols evoke. If you are trying to insinuate I am racist than you are sorely mistaken. I could care less about your religious views, your ethnic background, your political views etc. I create what I like and/or what I think others will like it's as simple as that.

I'm glad most people on the Chop Cult site are aware of the swastikas history and multi-meaning and the conversation hasn't gotten hung up on this one detail.

Thanks for all the feedback and kind words!

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 12:06 am

leo i love you

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 05:57 am

OMG Kendall's gay!!! I herd of coming out of the closet by announcing it, but you could have just used the pm........ Okay I love him too.....

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 06:23 am


First and foremost, your answer was great. That is the type of response I was looking for. Second, I never insinuated that you are racist. Rather, I was curious how much you thought of the historical meaning of these symbols. Often people use things without thought to their meaning or ramifications. I think philosophical debates are great for Chop Cult and raise it above a place for just "Fuck man, your bike is waaaay cool. I'm doing the same thing..."

People on motorcycle often enjoy living under the cloak of "I don't give a crap what you think," but the bottom line is that we all REALLY DO. This is solidly proven by the fact of how we build and modify our bikes, dress, and carry ourselves to 'look cool.' And the simple fact is the choices we make and the way we present ourselves is constantly evaluated and judged by others.

OK, enough said. I still think your bike is great and you did a terrific job making it unique.

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 06:30 am

You northern types are always coming out of the closet on the web. Dale thanks for the picture of your cock last week. I though you were only part Japanese?? (small dick reference) Kendalls to big for you.

Leo rules and so do SS's and power

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 07:43 am

Leo is so dreamy! Be on the look for ANYTHING, bikes, parts, whatever it is that comes out of LSS.

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 04:34 pm

i fucking love it!

Commented on 4-7-2011 At 05:36 pm

For returning WWII vets in their clubs it was the ultimate FU to "square" society.
Since then it's been adopted as a sort of unfortunate tradition.
All the stuff about Hindu, Native American etc symbolism of the swazi is beating
about the bush.

Commented on 4-8-2011 At 03:09 am

Rad!!! Love it!

Commented on 4-9-2011 At 06:06 pm

Hey I just looked at the quality of the bike, then saw the comments below and had to join this forum. Don't know why I didn't before as I have had the link on my blog a while. Very interesting to see the stories of the reclamation of the swastika by bikers as i have wondered about that myself.

I met a mixed race hippie guyyears and years ago in the South of England who had a couple of swastikas with the points tilted at 45 degrees. I remember he reckoned the hindu meaning of the swastika was "inner creativity".

Commented on 4-9-2011 At 06:07 pm

that message didn't make sense- meant to say he had the swastikas tattooed on him..

Commented on 4-12-2011 At 09:45 am

hey kid, that bike is a piece of shit! look, no stretched tank, windshield, molding, or sterio! plus, it has purple on it, which is for gays. What a waste of a panhead... I know what a cool panhead is because i used to have one back in the 70's. Now i ride a paul yaffe pro steet bagger with a screamin beagle twin cam- I bet it would beat your bike in a race accross the country all day long! And the swaztica offends me because my son in law is part Jewish. Ok gotta go- bike show at hooters tonight. fuck original thinking and hand made shit. OCC baby!

Commented on 4-12-2011 At 01:59 pm

Original and rare thoughts make great pieces of art. It is great to see you have a ton of that in this bike.

Commented on 4-16-2011 At 04:23 pm

That is straight badass, nice work man.

Commented on 4-16-2011 At 05:38 pm

"And the swaztica offends me because my son in law is part Jewish."

Actually, Lock Baker, it was my great grandparents, all four of which were gasses at Auschwitz.

Commented on 4-17-2011 At 01:18 pm

Oh Kevin, that's what i love about effects us all.

Commented on 4-20-2011 At 08:35 pm

Definitely a unique approach. I dig the tail section... not sure how I feel about the bars...

Commented on 11-8-2012 At 12:04 pm

I dig the idea of a full metal shield around the head light, maybe not perfect for this bike, but definitely diggin the style all around

Please Login to Comment


ADVERTISE    |    CONTACT    |    ©2009 - 2017 ChopCult    |    REPORT ABUSE    |    CONDUCT

Chopcult on Instagram Chopcult on Pinterest Chopcult on Tumblr Chopcult on Facebook Chopcult on Twitter