Shovelhead Vs Panhead: Which One Is Better?

Engines as we know are the most vital part of a motorcycle, and Harley Davidson has done an excellent job of delivering high-quality motorcycles with newer and top-notch engines and parts. Precisely, each invention coming out with better efficiency and productivity. Shovel Head vs. Panhead: which one is better has always been asked by Harley users, and that is exactly what this article aims to answer. Hang on!

The pan head was an earlier invention by Harley-Davidson, it is called so because it resembles an upturned saucepan. It came into the market immediately after the Second World War, from 1948 to the 1965. The shovel head, on the other hand, is more recent than the pan head. It ran from the mid-60s to 1985. It is called a shovel head because the rocker covers resemble a coal shovel turned upside down.

Shovelhead vs Panhead: Comparison Chart

                         Panhead engines               Shovelhead engines
Production year.             1948 – 1965                1966 – 1985
Oil feeds. Located in the case of the engine. Located outside the engine’s case.
Weight.                     565 pounds                   716.5 pounds
Engine size.           1000 – 1200cc                 1200 – 1340cc
Head shape.      Saucepan turned upside down.  Looks like an old coal shovel.
Power. 66 cubic inches to 74 cubic inches, 50 – 55 horsepower.  80 cubic inches, 66 horsepower
Advantages.         Hardly leaks oil.        It has a higher horsepower.

Overview of Shovelhead Engine

Shovelhead engines are advanced pan head engines. Overview of shovelhead engine is very necessary as it helps us  picks out the improvements from the previous engine types. Her hey features include:overview of Shovelhead Engine

  • The heads have a shallow combustion chamber, and the valves are angled at 78.5 degrees while the exhaust is at 38.5 degrees. The shallow chamber accounts for the efficient cooling of the shovel head system.
  • The shovel head is also made up of two cylinders and four-stroke motors. The cylinders are positioned at 45 degrees covering the crankshaft.
  • The bottom of the engine compartment is around 75 to 80 cubic inches with an engine size of 1200cc-1340cc.
  • Cylinders have ten fins each.

Overview of Pan head Engine

The question shovel head vs. Panhead: which one is better can only be adequately answered when the Panhead engine is given a thorough overview. The Panhead engine is an older invention than the shovelhead. Some of its key features include:

  • The cylinder heads in Panhead engines are made up of high-temperature alloys, which is an improvement from the iron in knucklehead engines.
  • An engine size of 1000cc – 1200cc
  • An engine displacement of 74 cubic inches is derived from a 3.44″ ×4.00″ bore and stroke.
  • The pan head, where it got its name from, helps to reduce noise emission and also helps in oil containment.
  • It is also a two-cylinder four-valve system; the cylinders and exhaust intake ports open and close because of the valve on each cylinder.
  • It has a hydraulic system which plays a big part in noise reduction.

overview of Panhead Engine

Shovelhead vs Panhead: What Are the Differences?

There are several differences you can notice between the Shovelhead and the Panhead. I’ll discuss the major ones below.

Shovelhead vs. Panhead - What Are the Differences

  1. The oil feed in Shovelhead is outside the engine’s crankcase, while in Panhead, it is inside the crankcase
  2. The Shovelhead has a shallow combustion chamber, while the Panhead engine has a large chamber.
  3. There’s no oil leakage in the Shovelhead engine, unlike the Panhead, which leaks oil from the top of the engine.
  4. The Panhead has a smaller engine size(61 cubic inches to 74 cubic inches) than the Shovelhead, which has an engine size of between 70 to 80 cubic inches.
  5. The combustion chamber is shallow in Shovelhead and produces less heat. The cooling system in Panhead is not efficient as overheating is common.
  6. Their rocker covers are different. Shovelhead is shaped like a coal shovel, while Panhead is like an upturned saucepan.

Which Is Better- Panhead or Shovelhead?

In the clearest of terms, Shovelhead is better than Panhead. Shovel Head can easily be called the advancement of Panhead as Harley- Davidson worked on the limitations of the Panhead fo release the shovelhead. It has higher torque than the pan head engine, increased horsepower, etc. In addition, oil leaks are also non-existent on the shovelhead engine.

Which Is Better, Panhead or Shovelhead

The shovelhead also has a shallower combustion chamber than the pan-head and a better cooling and oil combustion system. According to statistics from Harley Davidson website, when the Shovelhead engine was first introduced in 1966, sales increased by 26 percent to 36,210 units that year. In explicit terms, the Shovelhead engine is better than Panhead.


Motorcycles have come to stay! Indeed cars provide luxury, but the experience of a motorcycle is unbeatable. In choosing a motorcycle to suit your need, it is important to check for specifications that will give the desired experience. This desire then raises the question, “Shovelhead vs. Panhead: which one is better?” This article answers the question. Shovelhead is better.

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