Harley Davidson Panhead Vs Shovelhead | Which Iconic Engine Offers More?

Shovelhead engines are the successors of the great Panhead engines from Harley Davidson. However, the main difference between Panhead and Shovelhead is in the design of the engine head. Whereas the panhead looks like an upside-down cooking pan, the shovelhead engine’s head resembles a coal shovel.

From outlook to output, there are plenty of modifications between these two engines. Though at first glance, you may only notice the changes in design, the differences among internal parts and mechanisms are way too much. So, let’s explore every detail.

Harley Davidson Panhead Engine Specifications

Panhead engines were named so due to the shape of the engine’s head, which looks like an upside-down cooking pan.

First, they released two versions of the engines: code “FL” for 74 cubic inches engines, and the legendary “FLH” for 61 cubic inches engines. 

However, it includes many noble designs in the history of motorcycles like coolant circulating pipes, new rocker arm designs, hydraulically operated valves, etc.  

A detailed specification table for the Harley Davidson Panhead Engine is below.

Engine Size74 cubic inches (1208cc)
Bore size3 and 7/16 inches (87mm)
Stroke length3 and 31/32 inches (101mm)
Compression ratio7:1
Engine cooling systemAir-cooled
Maximum power50 HP at 4800 RPM
Maximum torque62 lb-ft at 3200 RPM
Piston displacement73.66 cubic inches
GearboxHand-controlled, 4 stages
Engine shape45-degree, V-Shaped
MaterialIron (Cylinder), Aluminum (Engine head)

Read Also: Harley Ironhead Vs Shovelhead: Which Engine Is More Powerful?

Harley Davidson Shovelhead Engine Specs

In shovelhead engines, the main change was the engine head, which came with a coal-shovel type cover.

One of the most important upgrades was the horsepower, which was increased by 10 times compared to the previous model.

The shovelhead engine also has two variants of 75 and 80 cubic inch cylinders. Though there were some problems with this engine, Harley solved them in later versions. 

This engine was so popular that it increased Harley’s overall sales by 26%. Shovelhead engines were better in some aspects than Panheads. Let’s see the specifications of Shovelhead.

Engine Size75 cubic inches (1200cc)80 cubic inches (1310cc)
Bore size3.498 inches (88.85mm)
Stroke length4.250 inches (107.95mm)
Compression ratio8:1
Engine cooling systemAir-cooled
Maximum power65 HP at 5600 RPM
Maximum torque62 lb-ft at 4000 RPM
Piston displacement73.66 cubic inches
GearboxFootShift, 5 stages
Engine shape45-degree, V-Shaped
MaterialCast iron (Cylinder), Aluminum (Engine head)

Read Also: Dyna Vs Softail | Comparing Harley-Davidson’s Iconic Legends

What Are The Similarities Between Harley Panhead And Shovelhead Engine?

Panhead and Shovelhead engines have very minor differences in terms of overall design, except for the engine head. 

The overall structure of the engine is almost the same. Let’s explore the similarities between Panhead and Shovelhead Harley engines.

  • Both of these engines are 4-stroke 2-cylinder engines. So, the basic mechanism and principles are almost similar. 
  • These are the very first engines where lubricant circulation was designed inside the engine frame.
  • Both the Pandhead and Shovelhead engines are air-cooled. As a result, the engine performance was better than the previous version of Harley engines, named Knucklehead.
  • The cylinders of these engines are made of Iron but the engine heads are made of Aluminum.
  • All two engines are attached in a V-shaped design which includes a 45-degree angle in-between.
  • The engine valves were placed at the top of the combustion chamber in both of these engines.
  • Both engines contain some unique design changes which were completely noble at that time.

Read Also: Harley Evo Vs Twin Cam: Who Is The Front Runner?

Harley Davidson Panhead Vs Shovelhead Engine: Quick Comparison Table

Anyways, besides some similarities in design, there are many differences in internal parts and the overall performance of these engines. Let’s focus on those.

Features Panhead enginesShovelhead
Engine size74 cubic inches (1208cc)64 cubic inches75 cubic inches (1200cc)80 cubic inches (1310cc)
Stroke length 101mm107.95mm
Bore size87mm88.85mm
Compression ratio7:18:1
Engine head purposeValve placement and lubricationHeat dissipation 
Gear stage4-speed5-speed
Power50 HP at 4800 RPM65 HP at 5600 RPM
Torque 62 lb-ft at 3200 RPM62 lb-ft at 4000 RPM

Read Also: FXR Vs Dyna: Comparing Harley-Davidson’s Iconic Legends

What Are The Differences Between Harley Panhead And Shovelhead Engines?

Now you may be wondering about the impacts of these differences between Panhead and Shovelhead engines. The differences affect the performance directly. Let’s see how.

Engine efficiency

A larger engine means more power. The dimensions of the bore, cylinder, stroke length, and overall size of the Shovelhead engine are larger than those of the Panhead engine. 

It can consume more fuel and produce more efficient combustion. As a result, the shovelhead can produce about 15 HP more power than the panheads.

Compression ratio

In Panhead and Shovelhead engines, the compression ratios are 7:1 and 8:1 respectively. 

A higher compression ratio means more work output. That’s why we can see more power output from Shovelhead engines than Panhead engines.

Head design change

The shovel-type design of the engine head performed better than the pan-type design in terms of lubrication. 

So, problems like oil leakage and low fuel economy in Panhead engines were solved in Shovelheads.

Gear stage difference

Shovelhead engines come with 5-stage gears, whereas Panhead engines contain 4-step gears. That’s why shovelhead engines are capable of producing more RPM than panheads.

Internal part design changes

Valves, rocker arms, and piston designs were improved in shovelhead engines so that they became more rigid. 

Moreover, since the lubrication system is better, the shovelhead is more resistant to wear and corrosion, resulting in more durability.

Read Also: Harley Davidson Electra Glide Vs. Street Glide: Which Bike Is Better?

Harley Panhead Or Shovelhead Engine: Which One To Choose?

Between the Harley Panhead and Shovelhead engines, we’ll recommend choosing the Shovelhead. Why? 

Because the Shovelhead engine is the updated and improved version of the Harley compared to the Panhead.

Before Panhead, Knucklehead was the best engine from Harley. But it had many problems, and that’s why Harley introduced the Panhead. 

The same goes for Panhead, too. There were many issues, from oil leakage to engine wear and noise, which were improved in Shovelhead engines.

So, when choosing between these two, it’ll be wiser to choose the upgraded version than the older one. 

Also, the performance and overall structure of the engine are better for Shovelhead.


When it comes to Harley Davidson, they’re always known for their best-performing engines. But when choosing between Harley’s several models, there may be some questions. Let’s explore some of the most popular ones.

What Is The Biggest Harley Engine In Cc

Harley recently introduced their new engine, called the Harley Screaming Eagle 135ci, which has a 2122 cc combustion chamber. This is so far the biggest and most powerful Harley engine until 2021.

Is A Shovelhead Engine Reliable?

If the engine is built well, then definitely yes. It’s too good compared to Knucklehead but less reliable than the next generation of Shovelhead engines, named Evo engines.  

Why Do Harley Bikes Have Low Horsepower?

Harley bikes’ pistons, rods, and crankshafts are designed to produce more torque than rpm. The main purpose of these bikes is to cruise all day at high torque but at a lower speed. That’s why it has lower horsepower than the sports bike.

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