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Ed Youngblood's News and Views
March 2004


The Barber Museum

This month I finally had an opportunity to visit the new Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum near Birmingham, Alabama. I had seen it when it was under construction, along with the race track at Barber Motorsports Park, and I found it hard to grasp the scope of this enormous facility and the collection it would house. Although I had visited the old Birmingham warehouse museum several times, at that location much of the collection – by necessity – remained in storage and out of view of the public.Museum exterior Now, having seen the finished structure with its contents about 80 percent in place, I remain overwhelmed by the size, scope, and style of the project.

George Barber began collecting motorcycles in 1989, today owns over 800 machines, and the collection continues to grow. Six hundred of the motorcycles are now on display, and another 200 will probably be brought onto the floor before Barber and manager Jeff Ray are satisfied with the presentation. Thereafter, vehicles on display will be rotated with new acquisitions and those currently in storage. Presumably, the very rare and unusual pieces – a Morbidelli V8, a Britten, a Boehmerland, an 8-valve Harley board tracker, a Hesketh, several grand prix MV Agustas – will always remain on display and not be rotated out . . . at least we hope not!

Sitting on 740 acres near I-20 northeast of Birmingham, the five-story structure contains 100,000 square feet of exhibit BMW & sidecarspace, a restoration and maintenance facility that includes a full machine shop, a research library, administrative offices, conference rooms, a theater, and a gift shop. In the center is a huge elevator capable of moving large automobiles from floor to floor. Around the elevator is a spiral ramp, rising from the basement to the fifth floor. One can exit the ramp on each floor to walk among the motorcycles. The presentation is so vast, after about two hours of exploring and photographing bikes, I suddenly found myself totally disoriented, not knowing what floor I was on or whether I was Boehmerlandon my way up or on my way down. The collection is so rich and overwhelming, one can become numbed by it. At one point I found myself zoning out in the midst of MV Agustas, once ridden by the likes of Phil Read and John Surtees, and I had to mentally kick myself to fully appreciate the value, extraordinary rareness, and historical importance of these machines.

It would be absurd to characterize this collection as lacking, but within its grand scale, there are some historical segments that are under-represented. For example, though one of the collection's great strengths is its road racers, little has been done yet for the acquisition of motocross machines. And though both Indian and Harley 8-valve racers and many other antiques are on display, the whole field of pre-Roadracer1920 machines is somewhat under-represented. Barber has instructed his staff to focus on these areas, which can easily expand the collection by several hundred more motorcycles in the coming years.

Much has already been written about this museum, but I believe that words, including my own, cannot do it justice. One must see it to appreciate the quality and enormity of the presentation. For information, including directions and visitation hours, click here .

Colorado Man to Ride Motogiro d'Italia

John Beldock, owner of Erico Motorsports of Denver, Colorado, has been chosen through an international selection process to be one of the riders of the 2004 Motogiro d'Italia, held May 25-29, 2004, on the island of Sicily. A tradition that began in 1914, the Motogiro has become Italy's quintessential long distance vintage motorcycle road race. Beldock reports that his interest in the Motogiro was piqued by Colorado collector and Motohistory reader Jim Dillard, who rode the race on three previous occasions. Beldock first teamed up with Dillard to exhibit Vintage Moto, Dillard's private collection of more than 300 European motorcycles that are on a constant, rotating display at Erico Motorsports. Beldock will ride the event on a 1958 Ducati 125 Sport owned by Chris Bushell of Kent, England. Weighing approximately 220 lbs., the bike is said to be able to reach 70mph flat out. For more information on the Motogiro d'Italia, click here.


Classics in Connecticut

Classic motorcycles, cars, vintage boats, and aircraft will be featured June 5 and 6 at the Ninth Annual Greenwich, Connecticut Concours d'Elegance. Admission is $20 for one day or $30 for two. Children under 12 are free if accompanied by an adult. For information on how to enter the Concours, call 203-618-0460.


Bench Racing

Bench Racer MagazineEvery racer bench races. As they grow older and race less (or race less well), they begin to bench race more (or bench race better). Eventually, they can race much better on a bench than they ever did on the race track, and many discover that their golden years of bench racing become the best part of their career. With most of us pre-Boomers and Boomers moving from bike to bench, publisher Shawn McDonald clearly has a firm grip on current demographics with Bench Racer, a quarterly magazine that interviews former champions and generally takes its reader down motorcycling's memory lane. The current issue includes an interview with Dick Mann, a story about Jeff Smith, a product report about the JOFA mouth guard, one of the early uses of plastic to make motocross safer; a reminiscence about Evel Knievel, and a story by Jim Pomeroy about riding with Steve McQueen, accompanied by a story by editor McDonald about McQueen's 1968 Husqvarna. McDonald's historical point of view is perceptive, creative, often amusing, and sometimes biting. About Supermoto, the current next big thing, he says, "Just what we need, something imported from France that the US threw away a long time ago," and he describes the AMA's current attempt to freshen its corporate image as "their Battlestar Galactica AMA logo."

If you have spent a lot of your life with motorcycling in America, you will enjoy Bench Racer. No, "enjoy" may be to timid a term. You might just revel in Bench Racer! Clearly, we have here an idea whose time has come. With a cover price of $5.00, it is $24 a year. Send your check to 6514 N.E. 151st Street, Kenmore, WA 98028, or to learn more on line click here.

Cool Sites

Motohistory reader Dal Smilie has brought to our attention a source for high quality reprints of vintage posters. To check it out, click here.

Riding Into History

The Fifth Annual Riding Into History, presented by the Atlantic Beach Vintage Motorcycle Club, will be held on May 15 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida. Benefitting the battle against breast cancer, it will consist of several events and feature a Concours d' Elegance for vintage, custom, and Riding into History Posterracing motorcycles. Charity rides to the World Golf Village will originate from Jacksonville and Daytona Beach at 10 a.m. In the evening, a Biker's Ball, including dinner, drinks, dancing, and silent and live auctions, will be held at the Renaissance Resort at the World Golf Village, from 6:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. Craig Vetter will be the Grand Marshal.

The rides cost $15 per rider and $5 for a passenger. There is no cost to enter a motorcycle in the Concours, and spectator admission is $10. The Biker's Ball is $95 per person, and all proceeds will benefit Buddy Check 12, a breast cancer charity. The theme this year will be Beautiful British Bikes. Special rates are available at several hotels at the World Golf Village, which is at Exit 323 off I-95. For more information call Bill Robinson at 904-730-9719, or click here.

My Vintage Idaho

The Idaho Vintage Motorcycle Rally and Show will take place at Caldwell, Idaho on May 15 and 16. Saturday's festivities will include a 32 mile ride and a catered banquet. Sunday will feature a swap meet and bike show, open to the public. Admission is $4.00 with children under 12 free. For more information, click here.

When Ignorance was Bliss

How often have you heard younger riders look at old photos of events like the Jack Pine from the 1940s and ‘50s, and say, "Jeez, how could anyone do something like that?" Or how many times have you looked at such photos and said, "Jeez, how did we ever do that?"  Recently, Motohistory reader Gary Winn brought a great web site to your attention. For great photos of things you could once do off the road aboard big, heavy motorcycles because you didn't know any better, click here.

Springer in Pictures

Born in Flint, Michigan in 1957, Jay Springsteen has become one of the most durable and popular competitors in American dirt track racing. He is also one of the best, with 43 national championship wins, and he is still in the hunt. Unlike many dirt trackers, his abilities transfer well to pavement where he has become a star in AHRMA road racing. Celebrating Springsteen's career – so far – Arai Helmets has produced Springer #9: 30 Years of Racing.  In full color throughout, this is a lavish photo album featuring the work of Dan Mahony, Bert Shepard, and Shogo Nakao. There is no text, and minimal captions, though a summary of Springsteen's career is provided. The price is $20. For more information contact Arai Helmets Americas, P.O. Box 9485, Daytona Beach, Florida 32120. For Arai Americas web site, click here.


Jeff Decker: Artist, Historian, Motorhead

As a young boy, Jeff Decker used to prowl the aisles of swap meets with his hot-rodding father, looking for vintage speed equipment: perhaps a set of Ardun heads, or a Frenzel blower. He recalls, "I have very vivid memories of holding my Dad's thick fingers, the insides covered with grease-stained calluses and black crud beneath his nails, wondering if someday I would have hands like his." Just like his father, Decker would one day learn to use his hands to build powerful racing engines and beautiful Bonneville speedsters, but of a different sort. About his formative years in the Westlake area of Los Angeles, Decker says, "I would build go-carts and contraptions, but they never turned out the way I envisioned them." Though his Decker and bronzemechanical aptitude may not have come up to the standards of his father's, Jeff had an additional gift. He excelled in art. His drawings were praised by the adults around him, and it was probably just a matter of time and the right circumstances for Decker to discover sculpture, the perfect resolution between his artistic talent and his mechanical aspirations.

Following college in Utah, where Decker still did not find his calling, he took a job in a foundry. He explains, "It was a foundry that specialized in lost wax castings for fine art bronze. I became a mold maker and made literally hundreds of molds for every kind of fine art. The education I received there far surpassed anything I had learned in college. I was finally able to harness my love of vintage racing and use my skills as an artist. In sculpting, I again tasted what I had felt as a child when I saw my father build working machinery with his hands." Decker credits world renown automotive sculptor Stanley Wanlass – whom he met in Utah – as his catalytic inspiration. He says, "I began sculpting cars, boats, and airplanes, then I tried motorcycles. Most sculptors are intimidated by men aboard motorcycles, just because of the detail, sheer complexity, and the amount of surface area. The number of molds required is overwhelming. But that didn't stand in my way, because, after all, I was a trained mold maker." Wanlass encouraged Decker's interest in this new subject matter, stating, "Cars, boats, planes, they've been done. Motorcycles have been neglected. Focus on the motorcycle as art, it's a niche that's never been filled."

When he undertakes a sculpture, Decker does not work from photographs. He brings an actual antique racing motorcycle into his Springville, Utah studio. Working with a wide range of materials, including actual nuts and bolts, he constructs a painstakingly accurate replica, mostly out of wax, ranging from a reduced scale to full size. For the rider he puts a living model aboard the machine, dressed in authentic vintage racing gear from Decker's own collection of artifacts. Although his sculptures are accurate to the tiniest detail, he departs from reality to achieve an incredibly lifelike sense of motion. For example, the wheels have no spokes and appear to be spinning, and sometimes they are distorted into a slightly elliptical shape, imitating the time-lapse distortion often seen in vintage racing photographs. No more than 29 of any given piece has ever been produced, and – depending on complexity, size, and quantity – they will sell for an opening price of $4,000 to $75,000. The market for such fine art is not large, but all of Decker's sculptures have appreciated at a rate of 15 to 30% per year.

Decker's works include "Wrecking Crew," a 16-inch tall bust of a pre-20s racer; "Slant Artist," the imposing 75-pound, 40-inch tall sculpture of a rider fighting an Excelsior hill climber on the verge of flipping over backward, as pictured above with the artist; "Petrali Racer," an 18-inch long blue-patinaed bronze of Joe Petrali at speed aboard his 1937 Knucklehead streamliner, and "Flat Out at Bonneville," a depiction of the iconic image of Rollie Free setting a world speed record aboard his mighty Vincent. Decker's work can currently be seen at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, and the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.

For Decker, sculpting riders aboard historic motorcycles is not just challenging, it is true Americana and it is mythological. He explains, "Early motorcyclists were simply post-industrialist cowboys. The era when the motorcycle replaced the horse is as important as the Frontier West. In fact, in terms of transportation, the motorcycle was even more important, because it was totally created by, and dependent upon those who rode it. It is an extension of ourselves. Without its rider, the motorcycle is nothing. Just a machine. And with its rider, it must be moving or it will fall down. There is nothing that embodies the urgency or our age and the modern synergy of man and machine better than a motorcycle and its rider. It is a perfect marriage of the mechanical and organic aspects of our world."

As Decker waxes eloquent about the deep meaning of the motorcycle as art, and how it ties our current era to our pre-industrial history, one cannot help but be reminded of the vast popularity of the bronze sculptures of Fredrick Remington. Undoubtedly, there was a time when the fine art community did not consider rough-and-tumble cowboys and bucking horses a fitting subject for sculpture. But art represents its time, and consider how Remington bronzes and Old-West paintings are revered today. These works are highly valued and broadly popular. Decker envisions a similar evolution for motorcycle art. "No one has yet taken the motorcycle seriously as a subject for fine art. Our art is pop art, such as tattoos and T-shirt art, but it may be time for our motorcycling culture and our history to be taken to a higher level." Indeed, the commercial driver for such a movement may have already arrived. With the Guggenheim declaring the motorcycle an art form, and people waiting in line to pay $30,000 or more for custom-built V-twins as investments and collectibles, the price of a limited edition Jeff Decker sculpture does not seem so out of reach.

Unlike the school of artists that followed Andy Warhol, Decker does not confuse himself with his art. He is not a man to promote his works by promoting himself. He wants his works to speak for themselves and not become enmeshed in a cult of personality. Significantly, his press kit for Hippodrome Studio, his workshop in Springville, contains many high-quality photographs of his sculptures, but no photos of the artist. He says, "Quite frankly, the choice between fame and fortune is simple. Give me fortune without fame, so I might continue to buy old race bikes from swap meets. Getting my name out there and selling T-shirts and trinkets is not my goal." He concludes, "My goal is simply to make others aware through my art of the importance of the early history of motorcycling." In fact, Decker declares himself a historian first, and an artist second, though his clients and fans of his work would likely disagree.

For more information on the artist and his work, click here. [This story was updated from a similar work published under the same title in Thunder Press in 2002.]


The National Packard Museum:

Motorcycles at Work and at War


Previously we mentioned Motorcycles at Work and at War, (Motohistory 2/2/2004), showing now through April 18th at the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio.  The facility, located at 1899 Mahoning Avenue, provides 7,500 square feet of exhibit space and changes theme exhibits several times a Packard Museumyear.  Opened in 1999, the museum has a facade featuring a huge replica of the distinctive Packard automobile grille, as pictured here. 

Early in the last century, Warren was one of the most dynamic industrial cities in the nation, thanks to a great extent to the Packard family.  Packard Electric - which eventually became Delphi Packard - was founded there in 1890, and in 1911 Warren became the first city in America to light its streets with incadescent bulbs.  The Packard Motor Car Company was founded in 1902 and built a reputation for making durable and luxurious automoZundapp Militarybiles, vying with Lincoln and Cadillac for high-end customers.

Motorcycles at Work and at War features 30 machines, the oldest of which is a 1903 Holly, manufactured in Bradford, Pennsylvania from 1902 until 1911.  The war bikes are definitely the better half of the exhibit, including some of the best examples of Second World War BMW and Zundapp (pictured above) military motorcycles I have ever seen.  Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors 65 and older, and $3.00 for children 7 to 13 years of age.  For directions and hours, call 330-394-1899, or click here .


C'Mon, Get Hodaka-Happy

As the vintage off-road movement grows in America, one of the most enthusiastic marque groups to emerge is Hodaka owners, rallying around the club Strictly Hodaka, promoter of an annual celebration entitled Hodaka Days. This coming June 25th through 27th, Hodaka Days will take on special significance with the celebration of the brand's 40th anniversary. A swap meet, seminars, and a big parade down the main street of Athena, Oregon, home of Hodaka's importer, the Pacific Basin Trading Company, will be featured. PABATCO executives Marv Foster, Scott Mayberry, and Chuck Swanson will conduct historical seminars, including a slide show with images of the factory in Japan where Hodaka's were built. In addition, there will be a service school, bike show, field meet, observed trial, and TT scramble races. For complete information and a registration forms, click here.

Plan Now for Perkiomen

The 1994 season for Antique Motorcycle Club of America national meets began late February in Eustis, Florida. The next event will be the Perkiomen Chapter meet April 23 through 25, near Oley, Pennsylvania. Maybe it is the great job this club does, or maybe it is the smell of Spring across the verdant rural countryside of eastern Pennsylvania, but for whatever reason, this is one of my favorite meets.

Founded in 1971, the Perkiomen Chapter is one of the oldest chapters in the AMCA. In the late 1970s, Perkiomen began to organize AMCA national meets, co-hosting some with New Jersey's Seaboard Chapter. In 1982, legendary Ace speed record rider and hill climber Red Wolverton attended the meet as its guest of honor, and from that association AMCA director Doug Strange came up with the idea for an award in his name. After Wolverton's death in 1986, Strange proposed and the club approved the creation of the Charles L. Wolverton Memorial Award, which is bestowed on the best restored motorcycle present during the AMCA concourse judging at the Perkiomen national. It has become a highly-coveted award, contributing significantly to the prestige of the meet.

The Wolverton Award is only one example of the innovative style of the Perkiomen Chapter. For example, it was the first chapter to have theme events, cloisonne commemorative pins, and timed trials for vintage motorcycles. One year the chapter invited the remaining living employees of the Reading Standard factory as its guests of honor. Thanks to this kind of creativity, the Perkiomen meet has become the third largest in the nation, surpassed only by the meets at Wauseon, Ohio and Davenport, Iowa. This year, the featured marque will be Triumph, and in 2005 Japanese brands will be honored. Again, with the recognition of early Japanese machines into the era of vintage and classic motorcycles, Perkiomen is taking a leadership role in the AMCA. For more information on the upcoming national meet at Oley, E-mail AMCAdoug@aol.com.

Plus, the Milby Jones Estate Auction
Scheduled to coincide with the Oley meet this year is an estate auction of the remarkable collection of Perkiomen chapter member Milby Jones, consisting of dozens of American, British, European, and Japanese motorcycles, plus bicycles and motorcycle parts. The more than 35 motorcycles on the auction block will include models as rare and unusual as a 1931 Matchless Silver Hawk and a 1954 OHC Jawa twin. The sale will take place at noon on April 25th at Griffith Hall, 1325 Pottstown Pike, Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. For more information, contact Steve Dance Auctions at 410-823-3993.

Bike Week Special Edition
The following stories are based on events and observations in and around Eustis, Deland, and Daytona Beach, Florida during Bike Week 2004.

BSA's Greatest Daytona
Appearing first at Eustis, then moving to several venues in Daytona and Deland, were the motorcycles of Project DaytonaBSA Builders, a three-year-long effort to reconstruct examples of the works BSA's – both singles and twins – that achieved a spectacular five-place sweep at the Daytona 200 in 1954. As seen here, Don Bradley, Myles Raymond, Harris Turner, and Bob Birdsall (not pictured) were the men responsible. For more information on the project, click here.

Along with the machines, five of the riders were on hand to sign autographs and chat with fans. These included Bobby Hill, Dick Klamfoth, Tommy McDermott, Kenny Eggers, and GeneThiessen, pictured below.  Autograph sessions featuring these popular riders were held in several locations throughout the week and lasted as long as five hours. A tired but grinning BSA TeamEggers said, "I have singed more autographs this week than throughout all of the rest of my career."

The Project Daytona motorcycles will soon be installed in a new exhibit at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum entitled "BSA's Greatest Daytona." Along with the bikes, a display of memorabilia will appear, including Bobby Hill's championship trophy, jerseys worn by Klamfoth and Thiessen, and helmets from Eggers, Gunter, and McDermott. The exhibit will be open to the public by the end of March, and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on June 5, 2004. For more information on the BSA's Greatest Daytona Exhibit, click here.

BMW of Daytona
When I learned that BMW of Daytona features vintage machines on its showroom floor, I figured I should check it out. Acquired by Bill Perretti earlier this year, the dealership has Bill Perrettibeen expanded and totally renovated. Though based on BMW's corporate colors of muted blues and grays, the facility is brightened and given a sense of tradition with many large graphic panels, featuring historical BMW racing posters, as pictured here with Perretti and one of his vintage machines. Though personally involved in motorcycling since his childhood, and quite knowledgeable about motorcycle history, Perretti's business experience comes through other fields, including the entertainment industry. His emphasis on tradition, and the technique of mixing current models with vintage machines may appear to be a page lifted from Harley-Davidson's standard marketing guide, but it is something that other American BMW dealers seem to have been slow to catch onto.

Whether it is a nod to tradition or just aggressive pricing and marketing, Perretti's approach appears to be working, since BMW of Daytona has become the top dealership in the nation since he took over only eight months ago.  For more information about BMW Motorcycles of Daytona, including photos of its collectible machines, click here.

The Era of the Motorcycle
In my opinion, the best show of Daytona 2004 did not take place at the speedway, nor on MAllan Brewerain Street. It was an exhibit at the Daytona Museum of Art and Science entitled "Era of the Motorcycle." Displaying over 50 motorcycles, it surveys technology and design from the beginning of the century to the current day. Designs range from a 1917 Autoped, an odd little foldable scooter intended for golfers, to a huge and futuristic monster powered by a jet turbine engine. Many standards – for example, a 101 Scout, a Knucklehead, a Henderson – are included, as are less frequently seen models, such as a Maico Taifun or an MV Agusta Disco Volante. Local enthusiast and Museum director Allan Brewer, seen here, curated the exhibit, and most of the machines on display are from lenders within 150 miles of Daytona Beach. The exhibit will run through April 25th. For more information on the Daytona Museum of Art and Science, click here.

ThCruz Arte Art ON the Motorcycle
The Deland Museum of Art, near the campus of Stetson University, celebrated Bike Week with a departure from the usual Guggenheim-type show. Rather than display motorcycles as art, The Art of Chrome and Leater presented art on the motorcycle through the incredible paint work of local artist Chris Cruz, a sample of which is depicted here.  The exhibit will run through March 28th. For more information on the Deland Museum of Art, click here.

Behold the Bobber
Before the chopper there was the bobber. When America emerged from the Depression into an exciting and prosperous post-war era, many battle-weary young men returned from combat with no desire to resume the predictable routine of agrarian living. They wanted to travel, become free and independent, and live in the cities where they could get their kicks on the street and in the bars at the end of their nine-to-five day job. Most didn't have the money for a new vehicle, so they bought what they could afford. They bought junked-out 1930s Fords, stripped away inessential sheet metal, hopped up their engines, and lowered them for speed and betteIndian Bobberr handling. These were the street rods of the 1940s that became the icons of the era.

Motorcycles received the same treatment. Old Harleys and Indians were stripped for the street. One of the quickest ways to shed metal and achieve a lean and mean look was to remove the front fender and shorten the rear, and from these "bobbed" fenders came the name "bobber," describing a built-for-speed machine whose form followed function in a very fast and fundamental way. Comfort was sacrificed for a silhouette not unlike the track racing machines of the day.

Recently, the Colonial Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America created a new show bike class called Period Modified. While it is the mission of the AMCA to collect and preserve motorcycles in original – or restored to original – condition, the Period Modified class acknowledges the pop culture of an era when style was dictated not by the manufacturer, but by the creativity of individual owners. Taste was defined on the street. Eventually, the whole custom bobber movement would be memorialized by Willie G. Davidson with his 1971 FX Super Glide, and the individualistic bobber would be coopted by the assembly line under another name, the "cruiser."

Although Period Modified has not been accepted by the AMCA as an official judging class at national meets (and perhaps never will be since the genra defies parameters), it provides an opportunity for builders to have fun and exercise nostalgia. At Eustis, the bobbers -- as characterized by the Indian pictured above -- turned out in force, stirring admiration and bringing smiles to the faces of the meet's attendees.

Where will this rebellious trend take the staid and stalwart AMCA? Will it result in anything so antiauthoritarian as an official class evaluated not by judges, but democratically through a people's choice award? Who knows, but I see it as a fun and healthy trend for a national organization that has contributed so much to the preservation of our great American motorcycling traditions. Like America of the 1940s, the AMCA is in the throes of change, and change is good.

The Museum that Runs
With pride, Dale Walksler characterizes his Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina as "the museum that runs." At any given moment, more than 95% of the rare and unusual vehicles on display will be in working order, and Dale is not hesitant to fire them up to the delight of visitors. Walksler Andres Harleycontinues this theme each year at Eustis. The machines he brings to the meet may be impeccably restored or shabbily barn fresh, but at some point he will fire them up with great sound and fury. This year his runner du jour, seen here, was no less than the Harley-Davidson KR on which Brad Andres won the Daytona 200 for his third and final time, at an average speed of 98.06 mph, in 1960. After the death of his tuner/father Leonard Andres in 1996, Brad gave Walksler the motorcycle, as a basket case, along with other parts and paraphernalia. Not only did Walksler fire up the motorcycle at Eustis, but the following Tuesday he took it out onto the tarmac of Daytona International Speedway, turning three laps and running it up to approximately 110 mph. This is not a feat for the faint-hearted, considering the bike has 40-year-old tires! For more information on the museum that runs, click here.

One Little Indian
I have written before (Motohistory 9/1/2003) about how much I enjoy the ingenious, odd, and sometimes bizarre contraptions that the skilled craftsmen within the AMCA membership come up with from time to time. Years ago, I recall seeing at the Little Indian EngineDavenport meet a demonstration of a single-cylinder engine for which someone had constructed a Lucite cylinder. It could not be run for more than a few moments at a time due heating and lubrication problems, but when in operation, one could clearly see the piston whizzing up and down, and a kind of a smokey fog in the combustion chamber. At Eustis this year I was amazed again by a tiny Hedstrom-type Indian twin, seen here, that Dick Winger had on display. Appearing to be somewhere around 50% scale, it was assembled from beautifully cast and machined parts. Winger says it will run, and thinks an Indian eight-valve would make an ideal future project. Indeed, it would!

Debut of the Detroit
A year ago at Eustis, Bruce Linsday had photos of a work in progress that feDetroitatured a large-diameter tubular frame similar to a Pierce. It was not a Pierce, but an example of the infinitely more rare Detroit, introduced in 1910 and out of business by 1912.  It is believed that less than 50 Detroits were built, and the remnants of only two are known to exist today. This year, the joint restoration project between Linsday and Dave Leitner, was resplendently complete and on display, as pictured here with Leitner.

The huge frame tubes of the Detroit provided much more than just a rolling chassis. The horizontal tube functions as the motorcycles fuel tank and battery box, and the saddle hinges upward to provide access to the battery. The front down tube is both an oil tank and a muffler. The ingenuity demonstrated Detroit Engineby the design of its chassis, however, seems to be totally lacking in the Detroit's engine, which the timing side reveals was largely a copy of a contemporary Harley-Davidson single, as seen here.

In the process of restoring this beautiful but short-lived motorcycle, Leitner and Linsday have probably become America's foremost experts on the brand, exhaustively collecting period advertisements, photos, and patent drawings in the course of their research. Technical features aside, the Detroit's historical timing could not have been worse. By 1911 the Flanders brand – also built in Detroit, Michigan – was driving many American manufacturers into a price war, forcing even Indian, the powerful market leader that had heretofore built its name on quality and performance, to roll back its technology with the introduction of a single-speed, belt-driven single aimed at the bargain buyer. With profit margins reduced to nearly nothing, many brands – including the Detroit – succumbed, even prior to the price reductions of Henry Ford's Model T, which by 1914 sent the American motorcycle industry into an even deeper downward spiral.  As the builders of the Detroit learned, the teens was a bad time to be investing in American motorcycling's future.

Bowlby's BSA
Ten-time national hill climbing champion Earl Bowlby was at Eustis, displaying one of his overdog BSA climbers. Between 1968 and 1990, Bowlby campaigned a series of blue-tanked BSAs, helping pioneer the development of long, suspended Earl Bowlbyframes and nitromethane fuel. About the beginning of his career, he recalls, "I went to a hill climb and saw guys crashing a lot and flipping over on the hill. I figured that was not the way to do it, and I told my wife I would try it once or twice to see if I could do it better."  Once or twice turned into over two decades during which Bowlby earned a reputation for tidy bikes and tidy style. His machines were always showroom perfect, and he rarely crashed on the hill. Though often unspectacular, his well-controlled assents were incredibly efficient, earning him more championship titles than any other climber in the history of the sport.   No other climber has come close to his achievement, and none made it appear as effortless as Bowlby did.   Incredibly, the 20 plus-year-old motorcycle pictured here will be campaigned again in 2004, though not by Bowlby.

Brit Bike Collecting Reported in the Times


The New York Times has published a story about collecting British motorcycles, quoting American collectors and experts Herb Harris, Bobby Sullivan, David Edwards, and Mike FitzSimons.  For the whole story, click here.


Pearl Hoel Memorialized


Pearl Hoel, the co-founder and great matrarch of the Sturgis Black Hills Classic, has been memorialized in a story appearing in South Dakota Magazine, penned by Carl Edeburn, the author of "Sturgis: The Story of the Rally."  To read the feature on Hoel, click here.  For information on how to obtain Edeburn's book, click here.