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Ed Youngblood's News and Views
January 2004

 

The Best of Times
(1/30/2004)

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

Daytona 2004 Historic Happenings
(1/30/2004)

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
(1/29/2004)

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 motorcycle racers.

Of course, scooter racing is not just for men. The magnificent cornering form inside the black and white leathers pictured Merritt Watershere 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 know."

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.

 

We Have a Winner!
(1/27/2004)

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 perspective.

Ariel 3-2The 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).

Living History at POG Annual Meeting
(1/27/2004)

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.

 

What's Next? Vintage Arenacross?
(1/26/2004)

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.

Greetings all,

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.

Vintage 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!


Nostalgia in Finland
(1/26/2004)

In case you still doubt that motorcycle nostalgia has no boundaries, click here.  Go to the link for the Penton Cafe.  This is a curiosity that Motohistory is trying to learn more about.


Tommy McDermott's Fantastic Summer of ‘49
(1/24/2004)

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.BSA Team 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 Tommy performs."

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 here.

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.


Motohistory Quiz
(1/24/2004)

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."

Ariel 3 Side View
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.


Book Signing
(1/23/2004)

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.


Goodbye, Gilroy
(1/22/2004)

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 web site.


Burt Munro Biography
(1/20/2004)

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, ingenioBurt Munro Bookus, 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.

Burt Munro's 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 805-650-6777.

Bell Turns 50
(1/20/2004)

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.


Museum Movement in Milwaukee
(1/19/2004)

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.


A Second Copeland Replica
(1/17/2004)

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 Copelandborrow 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.

 

Norton's Bone Pile Helps Birmingham Rebuild
(1/17/203)

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.

The Donelson Museum
(1/14/2004)

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 aspired to.

DonelsonsCarl 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.

The 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 .

 

Motorsport Now On Line

(11/13/2004)

Lee 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.

 

BSA's Greatest Daytona
(1/12/2004)

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 BSA logopersonal 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 web site.

"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.

Anniversary at Classic Motorcycles

(1/10/2004)

If 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 clicking here.  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.

 

2004 Bonhams Auctions Set
(1/10/2004)

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
(1/9/2004)

"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 nacyr@albanyinstitute.org.


ISDTR Web Site Launched
(1/8/2004)

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?
(1/8/2004)

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 Morey Jammer & Tony D.in 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, click here.

 

Motohistory Feedback
Fashionable Chic and the N Word

(1/8/2004)

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.

We Have a Winner!

(1/7/2004)

The 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.

The 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.)

This 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 Motohistory quiz.

 

Behold, the New Daytona Bible

(1/7/2004)

The 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."

Well, 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.

 

Go, Johnny, Go
(1/7/2004)

People have asked me about the photograph on the opening page of this web site. I like this image so much, I Johnny Spiegelhoffhad 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.

Spieglehoff 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 races.

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.

 

Motohistory Quiz

(1/7/2004)

Only 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.

 

More on Indian
"Just the logo, please."

(1/6/2004)

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.

 

No H-D Museum In Sight
(1/3/2004)

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.

 

Heroes Exhibit Among "World's Best"
(1/1/2004)

Those of us involved with the planning, design, and construction of the Heroes of Harley-Davidson Exhibit at Heroes Exhibitthe 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.

 

Motorcycles, the Media, and the Message
(1/1/2004)

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.

This 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 American Way.

"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 different.

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.