The Best of Times
Harley-Davidson, Inc. has just completed its 18th straight year of record
growth and profits. Revenue for 2003 was $4.62 billion, compared with
$4.09 billion in 2002, a 13.0 percent increase. Net income for the year
was $760.9 million, a 31.1 percent increase versus last year's $580.2
million. Retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles for the year 2003
grew 8.8 percent in the U.S., 6.7 percent in Europe, and 9.0 percent
in Japan, as compared to 2002.
With 18 years of growth, it is historically and literally the best of
times for any American motorcycle manufacturer. Indian, which began
production in 1902, experienced eleven years of steady growth through
1913, then began a precipitous decline in 1914. At its startup, Harley-Davidson's
sales increased for 16 years, from 1904 through 1920, before it turned
a deficit in 1921.
According to Harley-Davidson CEO Jeff Bleustein, the current boom is
not yet over. In announcing record sales and profits yet again, Bleustein
said, "As we begin our 101st year, we expect to grow the business
further with our proven ability to deliver a continuous stream of exciting
new motorcycles, related products, and services. We have set a new goal
for the Company to be able to satisfy a yearly demand of 400,000 Harley-Davidson
motorcycles in 2007."
Predicting the future, especially in regard to the economy and consumer
behavior, is risky business. With sales of 10,000 units in 1911, the
Indian Motocycle Company published a promotional poster entitled "The
Evolution of the Race," which predicted a near-doubling of sales
to 19,500 in 1912, another 80 percent increase to 35,000 in 1913, then
another 70 percent increase to 60,000 unites in 1914. Indian almost
achieved its 1913 projection with 32,000 units, but thereafter went
into steady decline. We will hope that Harley-Davidson's ability to
predict the future is better than that of its once-rival Indian.
For more on H-D Inc's financial report, click here
2004 Historic Happenings
A huge schedule of historic motorcycling activity during Daytona speed
week, including road racing, dirt track, motocross, cross country, observed
trials, and three different award banquets is posted on the American
Historic Racing Motorcycle Association web site. Click here.
The Joy of Stepping Through
Scooters, thought by many to be too "European," seem basically
alien to the testosterone-driven American motorcycle scene. . . or at
least, that is what the editors of most leading motorcycle publications
would have us believe. The fact is, there is a big and growing scooter
culture in America among enthusiasts who enjoy both vintage and modern
scooters. And, as Americans are prone to do with anything with a motor,
these people race their scooters too.
Scooter racing in the U.S. got its start on the west coast in the 1990s
with the American Scooter Racing Association (ASRA), which is the largest
and most active of the three scooter racing groups in the United States.
Then, Joe Kokesh, of St. Louis, became weary of flying to California
to race his scooter, and organized Mid America Scooter Sports (MASS).
Three years ago, scooter racing moved farther eastward with the formation
of the Eastern Scooter Racing Association (ESRA), which held its first
race at Summit Point, West Virginia in 2001. The various organizations
run both vintage and modern scooters in two classes: Stock, with limited
modifications, and highly modified specials.
Scott Smallwood, who runs Supersonic Scooters in Columbus, Ohio explains
that the growing popularity of scooters, plus the technological evolution
of some of the new, higher-powered scooters, is forcing the governing
bodies to rethink their rules and classes, and that the emergence of
more classes will be the inevitable result. About the history of the
sport he explains, "Scooter racing is huge in Spain, Italy, Germany,
France and other European countries. More often than not, your favorite
GP 125, 250, Moto GP and World Superbike stars have had scooter racing
experience." To back up that claim, he cites names like Olivier
Jacque and Carlos Checa, both of whom spent time learning the ropes
and honing their skills aboard scooters on their way to becoming world-class
Of course, scooter racing is not just for men. The magnificent cornering
form inside the black and white leathers pictured here
is that of Merritt Waters, the spouse of Phil Waters, who runs Pride
of Cleveland Scooters in Cleveland, Ohio. Phil learned to enjoy scooters
in Europe, then upon returning to the United States formed the Pride
of Cleveland Scooter Club to identify and create a network among like-minded
enthusiasts. About the relationship between the club and the dealership,
Phil Waters explains, "Pretty soon we were buying and selling so
many scooters that the State of Ohio decided it was more than a hobby,
and it became necessary to form a dealership." When Phil got involved
in racing, Merritt at first went along to help out as a corner worker.
That didn't last long. She recalls, "Getting that close to the
action was really exciting, and I said, ‘I can do this.'"
Merritt's racing career began on a 1980 vintage Vespa, but she says
that next season she will probably move to a modern, modified machine,
adding, "When you start running hard enough to break suspensions
and other parts on those vintage machines, it can get pretty difficult
and expensive to keep them running." On one occasion, Waters has
beaten her husband, and she attributes her on-track style to her practice
of yoga. She explains, "It's all about alignment and form, you
For information on the Eastern Scooter Racing Association (ESRA), click
here. For information
on the British Scooter Sport Organization (BSSO), click here.
To contact Scott Smallwood at Supersonic Scooters, click here
You don't have to straddle to go fast and have fun.
Have a Winner!
It is clear that I am going to have to go to great lengths to find a
quiz that will stump Motohistory readers. Very quickly, I got a correct
response from Will Stoner. Earlier this year, Will won an obscure
quiz about Royal Enfield. Undoubtedly, this kind of expertise
comes from spending way too much time at swap meets! But, being
a gentleman as well as a scholar, Will voluntarily stepped aside. Motorcycling
author Piet Boonstra was right there on deck, also with the correct
answer. So Piet is our official winner.
The answers are:
1. It is an Ariel.
2. It had the terribly imaginative model name of "Ariel 3."
3. It was manufactured by BSA.
4. It was introduced in 1970.
In his response, Will Stoner answered question 5 by explaining that
it was an articulated three-wheeler. This is a correct answer, because
the front wheel and rider can lean in turns while the two-wheeled rear
section remains level. It is an idea that has been tried by other manufacturers,
but it doesn't work as well as one might think. Laws of physics tend
to dictate why there are motorcycles and why there are cars, and designing
a hybrid has rarely brought results worth the trouble.
Boonstra went on to provide some very detailed history. He pointed out
that the advertising slogan for the Ariel 3 was, "Here it is .
. . whatever it is!" Boonstra writes:
The advertising slogan that BSA thought up for the Ariel 3 probably
demonstrates how much faith the company had in the little machine. Not
much! However, they did tool up to produce them at the rate of 2,000
a week, which was a bit on the over-optimistic side. The engine of the
Ariel 3 was a 49cc Anker, of Dutch origin. It is quite a powerful little
unit and capable of more output than it gives in the Ariel, where its
performance is restricted by a small carburetor. The transmission is
via a toothed belt and a chain. There is no gearbox nor any variable
pulley mechanism—just a centrifugal clutch.
The three wheels, running on 2.00 x 12 tires, are all the same and a
spare wheel can be carried on top of the rear box. In the event of a
puncture, just change the wheel like on a car: the Ariel 3 was definitely
aimed at the non-motorcyclist.
It did sell, although never in as great numbers as BSA had hoped, and
with hindsight is now saddled with some of the blame for BSA's demise.
Nowadays, the 3 is enjoying a bit of a revival among moped enthusiasts.
A few will turn up at most club events. Its robust engine and luggage
carrying ability make it a good choice for the sort of enthusiast who
believes that mopeds were made to be ridden.
Editor's Note: More on Ariel
I deliberately selected the profile photo to disguise the fact that
this is a three-wheeler. Here is another view, providing a different
name "Ariel" was used by Shakespeare in "The Tempest" for an other-worldly spirit similar to Mercury, the Roman messenger
of the gods. The name was chosen by James Starley in the late 1870s
to brand his bicycles. The first motorized Ariel was a three-wheeler,
introduced in 1898 and powered by a 211cc Minerva engine. Ariel's link
to BSA arose from the fact that Jack Sangster, who owned Ariel, was
also head of BSA. Thus, history's first and last Ariels were three wheelers.
For a great deal more information on the marque, click here. The Ariel 3 shown in our Motohistory Quiz is owned by Carl Donelson
and is on display at his museum (reported in Motohistory 1/14/2004).
History at POG Annual Meeting
The Penton Owners Group will hold its annual meeting at the Motorcycle
Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio on February 7, 2004. The meeting
will convene at 10 a.m. and feature a number of seminars and forums.
All interested parties are invited, whether or not they are members
of the POG.
Two Living History Forums will be featured. In the first, John Penton
and Al Born will recall their experiences at the Stone Mountain Enduro
in 1968, which was the world debut for the Penton motorcycle. Ridden
by a team that included John, Al, Tom Penton, Dave Mungenast, Leroy
Winters, and Larry Maiers, the new Pentons won two classes and finished
second and third in the highly competitive A Lightweight class. The
second Living History Forum will feature John Penton and a special guest,
Canadian motorcycle historian and former Canadian Motorcycle Association
official Larry Bastedo. Larry and John will tell tales of the legendary
Corduroy Canadian National Championship Enduro and answer questions
from the audience. Still today, over 25 years after the Penton became
extinct, no other brand has won as many Corduroys as Penton.
After lunch, Kent Knudson will conduct a seminar on the evolution of
the KTM-powered Pentons, and Mike O'Reilly will discuss collecting Penton
memorabilia. If time permits, I will give a report on the Penton Future
Project (reported in Motohistory 11/20/2003) and conduct a tour of the
Museum. Penton owners are encouraged to bring their motorcycles for
display, whether they are beautifully restored or barn fresh. In case
of unfavorable weather, a display area under cover will be provided.
For information on the Penton Owners Group, click here.
For information on the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, including directions
to the facility, click here.
Next? Vintage Arenacross?
The following was just posted by Paul Ramsbey on the Vintage Enduro
Internet List. I figured it is something a lot of Motohistory readers
might enjoy as much as I did.
This past Friday and Saturday, I rode my 1985 IT200 in a supercross
at the arena in Brookings, South Dakota. My son races a 2003 KX85 and
originally I planned to play my usual "crew chief, pit crew" role. As the weekend drew closer, I decided ... what the heck ... I
might as well enter in the Vet class. Of the 150 or so entries at the
event, the oldest bike I found besides mine was a 1993.
The announcer took a liking to me, and on Friday night he announced
that I deserved a special award for racing a vintage bike that "didn't
even have a radiator." I placed 8th out of 10 on Friday.
When they gave out trophies, they dug up an extra one for me. On Saturday
night, the arena was sold out with 4000 spectators. I had become something
of a celebrity with a lot of the other riders saying things like, "You're
the one that rides that old bike, aren't you? .. . that's cool, man!" The young kids looked at the bike like it was a museum piece of some
sort. It was made before many of them were even born. The announcer
found me after practice to get more info on my bike and my age, then
before the main event told the crowd to keep an eye on me, and gave
them the rundown on the old IT, air cooled engines, and the introduction
of the monoshock. I couldn't hear any of this, but my kid says he mentioned
something about how lucky they were to see a bike of this age being
ridden competitively in an arenacross.
motocross and such doesn't really exist out here as it does in the East.
Everyone rides the newest stuff they can (or cannot) afford. I ended
up placing 7th out of 9 on Saturday night. I get REAL satisfaction any
time I can outrun someone on an 2003 YZ450F! Then I can tell them I
paid $400 for my bike.
Ride on, Paul, you make us proud!
In case you still doubt that motorcycle nostalgia has no boundaries,
Go to the link for the Penton Cafe. This is a curiosity that Motohistory
is trying to learn more about.
McDermott's Fantastic Summer of ‘49
Tommy McDermott was born in Glens Falls, New York on April 8, 1931.
When he was eleven, he borrowed a 350cc BSA from a local motorcycle
dealer and taught himself to ride in a field. At 16, he began racing
professionally, and by 1948 earned his AMA Expert license. In the spring
of 1949 he entered the Daytona 200, finishing sixth aboard a BSA Gold
Star. Cracking the top ten and giving BSA its highest-yet placing during
his first ride at Daytona was a big accomplishment, and it did not go
unnoticed by BSA's competition director, Bert Perrigo. Perrigo invited
young McDermott to England for the summer, offering to pay a subsistence
fee, provide a road bike to get around on, and a racing bike to use
as a kind of foreign apprentice on the BSA factory team. For an 18-year-old
first-year Expert, it was an incredible opportunity. Upon returning
to Glens Falls, McDermott immediately headed for Canada and bought passage
on a freighter out of Montreal, paying $220 with borrowed money.
Shortly after arriving in England, McDermott traveled to a scrambles
meet at Coventry with the BSA team, which consisted of John Draper,
Fred Rist, and star rider Bill Nicholson. These were some the best scramblers
of the era, and BSA's team was the best organized and prepared in Europe.
They are seen here, with Bert Perrigo standing second from left between
Draper (13) and Rist (7), and McDermott second from the right, next
to Nicholson (22). After the Coventry event, McDermott was allowed to
take some practice laps aboard Nicholson's works bike, and the team
was duly impressed, just as their boss had been with the young American
rider's performance at Daytona a few weeks earlier.
For the next team outing of back-to-back Whitsun holiday races in Wales,
McDermott was given his own works machine. At Pontypool he finished
third, but at Pontypridd on the next day he won the event. A week later
he finished fourth at the Peveril Grand National on the Isle of Man.
At the prestigious Cotswold Scramble in June, he finished second to
Nicholson. Then he repeated that performance at Shrubland Park,
finishing second to Matchless-mounted Basil Hall. The American
teen-ager became a sensation among the British fans. About the Cotswold
event, The Motor Cycle said, "The highlight of the race
was undoubtedly the fine riding by T. McDermott (350 BSA). McDermott
is an American over here to see how we do things. If he stays much longer
he will be showing us!" Ralph Venables, writing for the American
motorcycle publication BUZZZZ, said, "All motorcycle enthusiasts
in England are now eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to see how
McDermott did it all that summer. He tried out for, and qualified to
race in the British Speedway League, and in September he became the
first American to earn a gold medal at the International Six Day Trial
at Llandrindod Wells, Wales. Despite a crash that seriously damaged
his rear wheel, he finished the event without losing a point. Not only
had he become the first Yank to win an IDST gold medal, but he did it
in his teens, which would not happen again until the Penton boys arrived
on the scene more than two decades later. Still on his winning streak
when he returned to America, McDermott won the New England Championship
at Dover, New Hampshire.
McDermott's fondest memories of his remarkable summer of ‘49 are
of the friendships he established with the great British champions Bill
Nicholson and Geoff Duke. But the English sojourn also gave him an opportunity
to learn how to prepare racing engines and further sharpen his mechanical
skills. Because he did not have a British work permit, he was not allowed
to receive compensation for "working" at the BSA factory.
However, he spent as much time as he liked setting up the racing bikes,
and even did what he describes as "hands-on observing" on
the BSA assembly line.
McDermott rode Daytona again in 1950 and made it onto the podium with
a third place finish. In 1951, he joined the U.S. Air Force, serving
as a crew chief for P-51 Mustangs in Korea. He was on leave in 1954
when he earned another third at Daytona among BSA's spectacular top
five finishers, including Bobby Hill, Dick Klamfoth, McDermott, Albert
Gunter, and Kenny Eggers. This year, as part of the 50th anniversary
celebration of BSA's greatest Daytona 200 victory, McDermott will serve
as Grand Marshal for the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association
races. For information on the AHRMA 2004 Daytona racing schedule, click
McDermott estimates that he has competed in 750 to 800 events during
his motorcycle racing career, nine of which were at the Daytona 200.
All told, he has compiled nearly 1,500 road racing miles at Daytona,
finishing in the top ten five times. It is a racing career that anyone
would be proud of, but surely his greatest memories are of the summer
of 1949 when he dazzled the British fans and became the first American – at the youthful age of 18 -- to earn a gold medal at the International
Six Day Trial. Tommy McDermott was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall
of Fame in 2000.
Okay, kids, run to your keyboards! It's time for another Motohistory
Quiz. Last time I was way too easy on you. Within an hour of posting,
I got ten responses, nine of them were correct, and the other was almost
correct. This time, you must be the first person to answer ALL FIVE
of the questions about the mystery vehicle shown below to win an autographed
copy (My signature AND John's) of my book "John Penton and the
Off-Road Motorcycle Revolution."
Based on this photograph, tell me:
1) What was its brand name?
2) What was its model name?
3) Who manufactured it?
4) When was it introduced?
5) What was its claim to fame?
The first four questions require precise, factual answers. The last
question can be answered any way you see fit. Go ahead, be clever. Send
your response to Ed@motohistory.net.
I will be selling and signing my books at an anniversary party at Classic
Motorcycles LLC in St. Louis from 3 to 7 p.m. on February 21st. Classic
is at 5675 Gravois Road. All are welcome, but you must register to attend.
For easy online registration, click here.
Or, for more information call Becky Lewis at 324-481-1291.
Motohistory has been following the unraveling of the Gilroy, California-based
Indian Motorcycle Company, which shut its doors last September on the
eve of its 2004 new model showing. At first there appeared to be a scramble
for the company's assets. Some reports said as many a nine qualified
entities were bidding to buy the company, and many – especially
the 380 workers who lost their jobs – hoped a white knight would
arrive to resume manufacturing in Gilroy. However, as time passed, interest
in the company and its assets seemed to wane, and now it seems clear
that whatever remains of Indian will -- once again -- be sent off into
the intangible neverland of nostalgia and broken dreams.
Unable to attract a qualified buyer for the whole package, the company's
assets have been broken up into three segments. A liquidator bought
all of the furniture and equipment, and will dispose of it through negotiated
sales. The real estate in Gilroy will be sold at auction. Finally, the
intellectual property, including the name and trademarks, remains available
and will probably be put up for auction in February. For the sake of
a once-proud American motorcycle brand, we can only hope its next owner
will not treat it as shabbily as it sometimes has been since the original
Indian Motocycle Company collapsed 51 years ago. The Indian label has
been slapped on the gas tanks of bitsa bikes containing old-tech Velocette,
Enfield, and Horex engines, on war surplus British paratrooper bikes,
and on mopeds from Italy and minibikes built in Taiwan. Perhaps the
low point came in the 1990s when Philip Zanghi plastered the label on
banjos and cigars, bilked investors with promises that he would soon
build 100,000 Indians a year, and ended up imprisoned for fraud in 1997.
An account of the sad and bizarre things that have happened to the Indian
brand, and how it has continued to endure, can be found in my book, "A Century of Indian," available in the books section of this
At the risk of offending the very people I praise, I will suggest that
Indian's fantastic reputation is owed less to the motorcycle itself,
and more to those who rode it. Great and loyal Indian partisans have
time and again stretched the technical capabilities of their motorcycles
to achieve remarkable results and shower the brand with glory. These
have included Jake DeRosier, Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, Gene
Walker, Howard Mitzel, Fred Ludlow, Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, Ernie Beckman,
Max Bubeck, Ed Kretz, Sr, and many others. But undoubtedly the greatest
Indian overachiever of all time was Burt Munro, a tenacious, ingenious,
hard scrabble New Zealander who campaigned his ancient Indian Scout
in speed trials for more than a quarter century, coaxing it to a record
of 183.586 mph as late as 1967.
story has been told in "Burt Munro: Indian Legend of Speed,"
written by George Begg. This 200-page book is published on high-quality
coated stock and includes over 70 historical photographs of Munro and
his racing machines. It is not available in book stores in America,
but you can obtain it for $29.99, plus shipping, from Dave Hansen at
The Shop, 6541 Ventura Blvd., Ventura, California 93003. Call
Though it has been battered by litigious lawyers and off-shore competitors,
Bell probably still remains the most widely-recognized brand among helmet
manufacturers throughout the world. Today, the Santa Cruz, California
company announced that it is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Bell
began 50 years ago in a small auto parts garage in Bell, California,
when Roy Richter hand-crafted a laminated fiberglass helmet for auto
racing. Previously, racing helmets had been constructed from leather,
aluminum, pith, and various fabrics shaped and stiffened with coatings
of shellac. Richter's motivation to build a better helmet came from
the loss of two friends in racing accidents. Not only did Bell introduce
fiberglass technology in helmet design, but it introduced the full-coverage
helmet, an idea proposed by motorcycle racer Albert Gunter. For more
on the story, click here.
Movement in Milwaukee
There appears to be movement again with Harley-Davidson's long-delayed
museum project. The Motor Company has just revealed plans for a $95
million development on a 20-acre site in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley
district that will include the museum, a restaurant, and office space.
A second phase of the project will include 20,000 square feet of space
to provide a new home for Harley-Davidson's archives. Harley-Davidson
estimates its future museum will attract 350,000 visitors a year, and
hopes it will be open by the end of 2007.
Second Copeland Replica
In 1883, Lucius Copeland, of Phoenix, Arizona built a small steam engine
that he attached to a Star high-wheel bicycle. While the original vehicle
has been lost to time, for the past two decades Copeland's engine has
been in the possession of the Phoenix Museum of History. About five
years ago, Peter Gagan, (pictured here in the 1880s period dress of
Lucius Copeland) who is now president of the Antique Motorcycle Club
of America, set out to recreate the Copeland. He hoped to borrow
the engine from the Phoenix Museum of History long enough to fabricate
a working copy, but that was not allowed. However, he did obtain measurements
and photographs adequate to proceed with the project, and Gagan's replica
was completed in time to debut at the Guggenheim's Art of the Motorcycle
Exhibition when it opened in Las Vegas in October, 2001. An account
of Gagan's Copeland reconstruction project appeared in the Fall 2001
issue of The Antique Motorcycle.
Now, the Phoenix Museum of History is building a second replica under
the direction of David Barnett, a local engineer and antique automobile
enthusiast. A recent article in The Arizona Republic reporting on the
project wrongfully identified Copeland's machine as the first motorcycle
invented in America. Rather, that honor goes to the steam motorcycle
invented by Sylvester Roper in Massachusetts in 1868. The Phoenix Copeland
replica will not be a working model. The Gagan replica has not yet run,
but it is intended to. Some internal parts of the engine were not completed
when the vehicle was rushed into assembly in time for the Las Vegas
Guggenheim opening. For information on the Phoenix Museum of History,
click here. Thanks to Lynn Camp for
reporting to Motohistory the Phoenix Copeland replica project and the
item below about Norton's recent auction.
Bone Pile Helps Birmingham Rebuild
For false starts, premature announcements, lavish promises, bogus products,
and outright fraud over the last 30 years, the Indian brand has been
rivaled only by Norton, a still-prestigious name that has been battered
through a bewildering series of mergers, acquisitions, and trademark
disputes. At various times since the cessation of production at Andover,
those in control of the trademark in Great Britain and other countries
have applied the Norton brand to bikes powered by other company's engines,
and proposed American-style V-twins, and Hayabusa-like hyper bikes.
Many of these never got beyond press releases and trade show mockups.
Along the way, a high-profile conviction for corporate fraud –-
as was the case also with Indian -- has not enhanced the credibility
of the brand. However, in 1992 the marque achieved an exciting resurgence
with victories at the Isle of Man Senior TT and in the British Superbike
Championship with Wankel rotary-engine machines. And while a limited
number of police and touring versions of Norton's rotor were assembled,
the racing achievements were not enough to rekindle serious production
or a new toehold in the market place.
Now, the remnants of Norton's once mighty factory have been sold at
auction. On the block in mid-January were the rotary racing machines,
machine tools, and memorabilia. One of the racers went for over $75,000,
but less well-funded Norton fanatics among the crowd of 300 were perfectly
happy to acquire a lavatory door for $60 and an old factory sign for
$270. In regard to the preservation of Britain's great motorcycle heritage,
the positive side of this story is that the burned-out National Motorcycle
Museum near Birmingham (reported in Motohistory 9/17/2003) acquired
rare racing bikes, including one of the rotary machines, as part of
its determination to rebuild one of the world's greatest repository
of rare motorcycles. All told, the Museum spent nearly $200,000, amounting
to more than half the total receipts of the auction. In its rebuilding
process, it appears the National Motorcycle Museum intends to take its
story on the road. A spokesman said they would campaign the Norton rotary
racer at vintage meets throughout the country.
Parked in the front window of Donelson Cycles in St. Ann, Missouri is
motorcycling's latest thing, the Honda Rune. A multiline dealer
selling Honda, Ducati, Yamaha, Triumph, and Moto Guzzi, Donelson has
kept up with the times during its four decades in business, yet has
never lost touch with its roots. One of the most interesting features
of the dealership is a museum, hearkening to an era when British bikes
– and specifically BSAs – were what many young Americans
Donelson became a dealer in 1962 when, while delivering flyers to promote
his club's poker run, he came across a shop whose owner couldn't wait
to get out of the business. Carl and his wife Kathy, seen here, paid
$600 for the man's complete parts inventory and one motorcycle. The
deal didn't even include a facility, which they found for $85 a month.
Today, the Donelsons have three stores, and in addition to being major
players in the St. Louis market, they have a mail order business that
includes NOS parts for Norton and BSA, serving customers coast to coast.
The Donnelsons' partiality toward BSA is evident in their museum, though
a wide range of brands are among the 40 bikes on display. They include
Dave Aldana's dirt track Norton and Mark Brelsford's Harley XR, both
on loan from Bill Milburn, and more BSA Gold Star dirt trackers than
you are likely to see in any one place, except here at Donelson Cycles.
These include Gold Stars ridden by Neil Keen, Dan Haaby, and Tom Rockwood.
Carl reports that the Rockwood machine is the only original Trackmaster
Gold Star in existence. In addition to the dirt track racers, several
Clubman Gold Stars are on display, including the 1962 model that was
the very first motorcycle sold by the Donelsons more than 40 years ago.
walls of the museum are literally covered with vintage posters, photos,
signs, and rare documents. Given the fact that the Donelsons own dozens
of bikes that are not yet on display, it is obvious that more space
is needed. Expansion is in the plan, awaiting the expiration of a lease
on adjoining property. For information on Donelson Cycles, click here .
Now On Line
Cowie's Motorsport is one of the places I go for hard-to-find motorcycle
history books. The company has been in business for over 40 years
and specializes in motorcycle books and magazine subscriptions ranging
from histories of motorcycle marques to restoration guides. Their
line of British publications covers modern motorcycles as well as antiques
and classics. To see their new web site, click here.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of serving as the curator for a new
exhibit at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum that will honor one of
the greatest chapters in Anglo-American motorcycle racing. Entitled "BSA's Greatest Daytona," the exhibit is about the remarkable
five-place BSA sweep of the Daytona 200 in March, 1954. The men who
rode their factory BSAs to victory included Bobby Hill, Dick Klamfoth,
Tommy McDermott, Al Gunter, and Kenny Eggers. In addition, Warren Sherwood
put another factory BSA in the top ten, and Gene Thiessen placed another
in the top 20. All of these riders, except Sherwood and Gunter, are
still alive, and all have contributed to the planning of the exhibit.
In addition to reconstructed examples of the Shooting Star twins and
Gold Star singles that BSA fielded at Daytona 50 years ago, the exhibit
will include personal
artifacts belonging to the riders, including Hill's winner's trophy,
Thiessen steel shoe and boot, and Gunter's helmet. The exhibit will
tell how and why BSA prepared for this historic victory, which was the
brand's only trip to the Daytona 200 winner's circle until Dick Mann
won in 1971. Graphic design, featuring many historical photographs from
the era, is being undertaken by Matt Scheben, the man who designed this
"BSA's Greatest Daytona" will open at the Motorcycle Hall
of Fame Museum in mid-March, and run through May 31 2005. An official
grand opening weekend, probably in late May or early June 2004 is currently
being planned by the Museum staff. Details will be reported on Motohistory
when they become available. For information on the motorcycles that
are being restored for this exhibit, click here.
For information on the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum click here.
at Classic Motorcycles
you have not yet seen Dave Mungenast's Classic Motorcycles LLC in St.
Louis, February 21st may be your chance. That is the date for
the Team St. Louis Honda 10th Anniversary Reunion. The public
is invited, but you MUST register in advance. Do so on line by
Classic Motorcycles LLC is a wonderful cross between a museum and a
dealership, with all the brands and models you wished you could have
owned when you were a teenager. Motohistory is planning to do
a feature on this fine establishment next month.
Bonhams Auctions Set
Bonhams & Butterfields will conduct auctions May 1st in Brookline,
Massachusetts at the Larz Andersen Museum; October 8th in Hershey, Pennsylvania;
and November 13th in Los Angeles at the Petersen Museum. For more information
contact Mike FitzSimons at 203-622-6093.
Historical Motorcycles at Albany Institute
"Designs Through Time," an exhibition celebrating 100 years
of motorcycle design, history, and technology, will open February 28
and run through June 6, 2004 at the Albany Institute in Albany, New
York. A wide range of motorcycles, from a 1906 Griffon to a chopper
currently still under construction, will appear in the exhibition. To
organize a ride-in or group tour, contact Richard Nacy at 518-463-4478,
ext. 412, or E-mail Nacy at email@example.com.
ISDTR Web Site Launched
Previously we reported that the 2004 Leroy Winters Memorial International
Six Day Trial Reunion will take place at the John Zink Ranch near Tulsa
Oklahoma. Planning and details will be reported on the web site here.
The Best MX Photo Ever?
Typically, Racer X Illustrated slants its covers toward a youthful
market, often with a rider and bike in mid-flip against a blue sky.
But this month the magazine's cover depicted one of the all-time historic
motocross images, taken at Highland Hills near Hillsboro, Ohio by Charlie
1974. Shown here, it captures Jimmy Weinert and Tony DiStefano, too
close for comfort. They appear to be riding in carefully-practiced formation,
or perhaps quite out of control, on the brink of disaster. Weinert's
arm and handlebar are actually over DiStefano's shoulder! The
viewer cannot tell what might have happened a split-second after this
photo was taken. Announcing a new feature called the Motocross Photography
Hall of Fame, Racer X Illustrated asks, "Is this the best
motocross photograph ever?" Arguably so.
This shot of Tony D. and the Jammer was not just a fluke for a lucky
photographer. Charlie Morey specialized in capturing brilliant, iconic
images of America's early motocrossers. For more information on Morey's
work, or to acquire a print of this image, signed by the photographer,
Fashionable Chic and the N Word
In response to our recent commentary (1/1/2004) about the evolution
of motorcycling toward widespread popularity and chicness (chicitude?),
Bob Higdon wrote, "I'm not so sure if the bottom line is positive.
My view right now is that noise will wipe us out or change us into something
unrecognizable within a few more years." Mr. Higdon's points are
well taken. In writing about motorcycling's growing trendiness, I suggested
there may be a dark side with my sarcastic reference to Paris Hilton,
who has become the new pop culture archetype for all that is ignorant,
shallow, narcissistic, and stylishly useless.
And discussions of ignorance, narcissism, and stylish uselessness lead
us to Higdon's second point, with which I also agree. I think it is
predictable that unnecessary and excessive noise will bring on the next
major regulatory and public relations crisis for the American motorcycle
industry. From the earliest days of the century, noisy motorcycles have
been a source of criticism. It is nothing new. But integral in today's
record growth is the emergence of a whole segment in the industry devoted
to nothing more than causing motorcycles to make as much noise as possible.
Their products have nothing to do with better performance, improved
efficiency, safety, comfort, or practicality; just Noise! It is no longer
a matter of a few young renegades who remove their mufflers or ride
with damaged or poorly-maintained exhaust systems. Now it is fashionable
adults who pay a lot of extra money for overpriced pipes that convert
their motorcycles to the most antisocial and obnoxiously conspicuous
vehicles on the road.
When the American Motorcyclist Association and the Motorcycle Riders
Foundation hosted a summit on noise earlier this year, the Motorcycle
Industry Council declined to attend because "it wasn't their problem." Protecting the interests of aftermarket companies that sell illegally
loud pipes, or OEMs that promote the use of loud pipes with a wink and
a nod, while placing the blame on their own customers, is just whistling
past the graveyard.
I am not one who believes history repeats itself, but I do believe that
past events can be analogous to our current experience. If so, they
should give some hints as to predictable outcomes, and even provide
useful lessons in how to avoid making similar mistakes twice. The last
time the motorcycle industry tried to blame a conspicuous problem on "user behavior," it ended up with an onerous federal consent
decree that forced it to redesign a whole product line, undertake an
incredibly expensive user education program, curtail sales to key segments
of the market, and spend millions of the profits it previously earned
while ignoring a gathering storm.
Hello? Is there anybody out there? Did we learn anything from the ATV
debacle? Given the industry's willingness to profit from unbridled noise
as long as it possibly can, apparently not.
Have a Winner!
first person to respond to our Motohistory quiz with the correct answer
was my own son, Ruben! No kidding! Then he graciously disqualified
himself from the contest. Thanks, Ruben, for not embarrassing
me. The next correct respondent was Bob Fornwalt, known to his
friends as Yankee Bob. (Gratuitous Motohistory quiz: What brand
of historical motorcycle does Yankee Bob like a whole lot?) Congratluations,
Bob, an autographed copy of "Mann of His Time" is on the way
to you. I'll bet you won't have to read this book to know who
designed the Yankee's frame.
correct answer is Ed Kretz, 1937; Johnny Spiegelhoff, 1947; and Floyd
Emde, 1948. Don Emde was disqualfied from the contest not because
he knows everything about the Daytona 200 (which he does), but because
he clearly would have recalled one-third of the correct answer from
family discussions around the dinner table. (Gratuitous Motohistory
quiz: Who were the only father and son to have won the Daytona 200? Answer: Floyd Emde and Don Emde, 1972.)
one was obviously way too easy. In short order I received seven
correct responses. I gotta get tougher on you people next time. Thanks for reading Motohistory, and thanks for participating in our
the New Daytona Bible
most shopworn book in my reference library is Don Emde's "The Daytona
200: The History of America's Premier Motorcycle Race," published
in 1991. I utterly rely on it for historical and statistical information
about the event, and I am always intensely frustrated when I need post-1990
facts, which I cannot readily lay my hand on in "Emde's book."
be ye no longer frustrated! A newly updated edition of this important
work has just arrived. Now in hard cover, this 282-page book provides
an in-depth history of the Daytona 200 through 2003. In addition
to a wealth of statistics it includes over 450 photographs, including
a color section displaying the cover of every Daytona program since
1937. It is available from Don Emde Productions for $39.95 plus
shipping and handling. To order online, click here.
People have asked me about the photograph on the opening page of this
web site. I like this image so much, I had
banners made to use at my book signings. The energy, motion, excitement,
and intensity of this photograph are almost palpable. However,
few recognize the rider as Johnny Spiegelhoff because he is aboard a
Harley. Spiegelhoff is best remembered for his achievements aboard
Indians, including a victory at the Daytona 200 in 1947. This
photograph came from the Bob Jameson collection and is used here with
his permission. Jameson is the engine man on Dick Mann's 1970 Daytona-winning
Honda, and the son of Hap Jameson, who founded Harley-Davidson's service
schools in the teens and served as their chief instructor for many years.
Johnny Spiegelhoff was born in Watertown, Wisconsin on April 17, 1915.
As a young man he was a serious bicycle racer, and in 1930 earned regional
acclaim in eastern Wisconsin and the Chicago area as a speed skater.
When his love of speed shifted to motorcycles, so did some of his speed
skating skills. For example, he was noted for his ability to tuck in
and look under either arm during the heat of competition to check the
distance of the racers behind him.
went to work for Harley-Davidson and received factory support when he
began his racing career in 1934. He gained national prominence by winning
Sturgis in 1938. With the 1939 season he switched to Indian because
he felt the Motor Company was not providing the support he deserved.
Thereafter, he earned a reputation as one of the Indian loyalists –
like Ed Kretz, Bill Tuman, and Bobby Hill – who battled valiantly
against the greater resources of arch rival Harley-Davidson. He officially
retired from racing in 1949, but in the 1950s traveled to Mexico with
his friends Ed Kretz and Jack Horn to enjoy the sun and perform in exhibition
Following his racing career, Spiegelhoff and his wife Clare opened a
motorcycle and bicycle dealership in Milwaukee, but closed in 1954 when
Indian went into bankruptcy. After that, he worked as a heavy equipment
operator in construction in and around Milwaukee, and in Mexico during
the winter. In 1974, he contracted hepatitis and died in Colima, Mexico
at the age of 59. A lot of information about Spiegelhoff and his influence
during the formative years of the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic can
be found in "Sturgis, The Story of the Rally," by Carl Edeburn.
It is available from Dimensions Press, 421 Seventeenth Avenue South,
Brookings, SD 57006. To order, call 605-692-2700 or click here.
three men have won the Daytona 200 aboard an Indian. Who were
they and what years did they win? The first person to E-mail me
the correct answer will receive a free autographed copy of "Mann
of His Time," my biography of two-time Daytona winner Dick Mann.
Hint: Don Emde is disqualified from this contest for having "insider
knowledge." Send your answers to Ed@motohistory.net.
"Just the logo, please."
It is becoming evident that parties vying for ownership of the Indian
Motorcycle Company are interested mainly in its intellectual property
and few of its hard assets. Though seven buyers have shown an interest
in acquiring Indian, some bids have actually gone down since negotiations
began almost three months ago. The head of one investment group said, "The more we got into this thing, the less value we found." That statement was based on his belief that machinery claimed to be
worth $4 million is actually leased, rather than owned by the company.
More details appear in a recent story by Gilroy Dispatch writer
Peter Crowley. To read more, click here. If the hard assets of the company go to auction on the 21st of this
month, that sale will not include logos and trademarks, which will be
sold at a later date.
H-D Museum In Sight
According to a recent article in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, the
Harley-Davidson Motor Company has still not identified a site for its
long-talked-about museum. In April 1999, CEO Jeffrey Bleustein said
the company would build the museum at the brew house in Schlitz Park,
an office park created from a former brewery. The faithful had
hoped it would be open in time for last summer's centennial celebration.
That plan was scrubbed in November 2002 after renovation estimates for
the 1890 structure soared from $24 million to $52 million. H-D says
that sites both in and outside the city are under consideration.
Exhibit Among "World's Best"
Those of us involved with the planning, design, and construction of
the Heroes of Harley-Davidson Exhibit at the
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum are thrilled to see that a new book entitled "Designing the World's Best Exhibits," includes a description
of the Heroes exhibit with four pages of photographs. Published by Visual
Reference Publications, Inc., the book describes over 70 exhibits from
corporate headquarters, trade shows, and museums throughout the world.
To view the publisher's web site click here.
Heroes of Harley-Davidson, presented by Progressive Motorcycle Insurance,
will continue at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum through the end
of 2004. For a virtual exhibit on line, plus location and visitation
hours for the Museum, click here.
the Media, and the Message
How the social status of motorcycling in America has changed over the
last 50 years might make a good case study in the impact of visual media,
not just for their opinion-forming power, but how changes in the media
have been concurrent with a change in the message.
While motorcycling has been viewed as a rebellious counterculture since
it came on the scene at the beginning of the 20th century, in the United
States a truly negative image emerged only after the Second World War.
Newspapers and magazines reported (some say "over-reported")
the so-called Hollister riots of 1947, but fear and loathing of the
rampaging motorcycle outlaw did not become widespread until Stanley
Kramer splashed it across the big screen with "The Wild One" in 1953. (For more on the movie, click here)
This film prompted a decade of sensationalistic, low-budget movies that
thrived on the growth in popularity of drive-in theaters across America.
Can it be that many a young girl's first groping and unsatisfactory
sexual experience was played out against the violent images of a rowdy,
ridiculous biker flick showcasing the acting skills of John Cassavetes?
Whatever psychology may have been involved, it seems that these lousy
films had far more cultural impact than they should have, and that the
whole next generation of American mothers despised motorcycles.
depiction of motorcycling played on until 1969 with the release of "Easy
Rider," which, quite inexplicably, brought an end to the genre
and helped transform the image of motorcycling in America. (For more
on the movie, click here)
Neither "The Wild One" nor "Easy Rider" were especially
good movies, and Captain America was even more reprehensible than the
shiftless Johnny, in that the former was selling and transporting hard
drugs, but over time the movie was declared an icon and a dramatic documentary
for the age.
The 1960s were a time of change and confusion in America's collective
psyche for what constituted patriotism, social responsibility, and moral
leadership. Gray-suited men with neat haircuts fell into disrepute –
thanks to a large extent to Robert McNamara, Spiro Agnew, and Richard
Nixon – and rebellion, defiance, and dishevelment became associated
with patriotism by an under-30 America. Motorcycle outlaws mixed with
hippies in Golden Gate Park, creating odd images of a widespread cultural
phalanx of people who had little in common except their hatred of how
"The Man" – their parents – had abused power and
privilege. I would submit that "Easy Rider" became iconic
not for anything it had to say, but solely on the subliminal power of
that image of a freaked-out chopper painted like an American flag. Throughout
the next decade, the widely-publicized rambles of Malcolm Forbes and
his Wall Street set began to give motorcycles an air of respectability,
and this too culminated in a patriotic adventure when Forbes and his
entourage became the first Americans to ride motorcycles across the
Soviet Union, subtly flaunting the superiority of capitalism and the
"Easy Rider" probably had little directly to do with bringing
down the curtain on crappy biker flicks. Rather, "Easy Rider"
benefitted from good timing. Drive-in theaters were giving way to small
screens in living rooms across America, and biker flicks – lacking
any credible script or semblance of good acting -- just didn't seem
to deliver the same excitement and power when played out on television.
While cable organizations like Turner Classic Movies have made a good
business of selling old films through television, 1960s biker flicks
are not among them. What seems to sell on television is story telling,
whether under the guise of the news, through the farcical plot twists
of sitcoms, or as "reality TV" where we allegedly have the
voyeuristic opportunity to see how others really live. While
reality TV has displaced the sitcom, perhaps they really are not so
In regard to motorcycling, here enters the charismatic Jesse James,
giving us tons of reality, including a blow-by-blow of his painful divorce
and a savage killing within his pack of Pit Bulls. For all intents and
purposes, this "reality documentary" was not really about
motorcycles, or even about building motorcycles, but they were ever-present.
So what accounts for its great popularity? Consider the possibility
that James is exactly what the angry youth of the 1960s hoped Americans
would become: defiant, entrepreneurial, rebellions, irreverent, and
successful. Has anyone better demonstrated you don't have to act like
The Man to become as rich as The Man? And, better yet, he did it building
motorcycles that run against the grain of everything that government-standard-designed
motorcycles have become! Though few of us can afford a one-off product
from West Coast Choppers, wanting to be like Jesse James has probably
driven many a fan to a local motorcycle showroom, and that has not been
bad for motorcycle sales. (For more on WCC, click here)
Though he may have introduced the chopper-mania television genre, as
a ratings machine James has turned out to be a piker compared to the
battling Teutuls! The Discovery Channel's "American Chopper"
seems to have it all. Pappa Paul and Paul, Jr. play out in their work
shop a real-life version of "All in the Family," which was
one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. Pappa Teutul plays a closed-minded,
short-tempered, set-in-his-ways, insensitive tank-topped Archie Bunker.
Paul, Jr. plays the overly-sensitive, misunderstood, under-appreciated
Meathead. They rage, they shout, they interrupt, they threaten, they
mutter asides to the camera about the other's defects of character.
Here is the perennial generational struggle. Here is the battle of art
and creativity against the emasculating, clock-watching, dollar-counting,
hard-heartedness of American business. But, like "All in the Family," by the show's end, all come together in familial joy and mutual appreciation.
Meathead meets his deadline, Archie lets his soft side come through,
and they revel in the adoration of their fans as they unveil another
outrageous product of Orange County Choppers (For more on OCC click here)
Indeed, thanks in part to the influence of the small screen, motorcycling
in America has gone beyond social acceptance. It has become chic, so
don't be surprised if you next see Paris Hilton giving us a televised
tour of her garage full of expensive two-wheeled wonders (Actually,
I don't think Paris owns motorcycles, but if she figures out it will
get her some more attention, I'm sure she'll buy a few). Even
the Travel Channel has found a way to deliver shows that have everything
to do about motorcycles, but little to do with travel. And speaking
of which, have you seen MSNBC's feature "Ten Places to See Before
You Die?" Among such exotica as Rajastan, India; Moscow, Russia;
and Tobago, the Lesser Antilles, they include -- that's right, you guessed
it! -- the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic at Sturgis, South Dakota.
Here's what their web site says:
For one week in early August, the town of Sturgis (population 6,400)
hosts America's largest motorcycle rally, now attracting well over a
half-million people. Begun in 1938 by the local Jackpine Gypsies, the
Black Hills Motor Classic grew over the years into a bacchanal drawing
gangs of self-styled outlaws. In the late 1980s, the city partnered
with the Jackpine Gypsies to civilize the event, and today law and order
prevail. Baby strollers are not an uncommon sight—which is not
to say that the saloons and tattoo parlors don't still do a brisk business.
Baby strollers??? If you don't believe it, click here
One could get the idea that MSNBC means Motor Sickles
Now Be Chic. So we can stop this whining
about how motorcyclists are so misunderstood and abused by the media.
What bad stuff the big screen gave us, the small screen has taken away.
Enjoy it while you can. Most industries would kill to get this
kind of attention.