Art of the Motorcycle Returns
fifth rendition of the Guggenheim's The Art of the Motorcycle
Exhibition opened at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee
on April 22. Organized by the Wonders International
Cultural Series under license from the Guggenheim, the
show features 92 motorcycles ranging from a replica
of the 1884 Copeland steam-powered high-wheeler to a
2004 Honda Rune. The exhibition, which has attracted
over 1.5 million visitors since its debut in 1998, has
played previously at the Guggenheim Museum in New York,
the Field Museum in Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum in
Bilbao, Spain, and the Guggenheim Las Vegas.
the Memphis show has remained faithful to the three
criteria used to assemble previous exhibits – technical
innovation, style, and cultural
impact – it features many examples not seen in previous
exhibitions. These include an 1897 Leon Bollee three-wheeler,
a 1913 Henderson Four, a 1950 Velocette Mark 8 road
racer, a 1954 Maico Taifun, a 1986 Wankel rotary Norton,
and a 2004 Suzuki Burgman. Still, many of the great
standards – the Cyclone, Indian, and Harley board track
racers; the BMW R32, the Brough Superior, the Vincent,
the Imme, the Norton Manx, the Aermacchi Chimera, the
Vespa, the Triumph Hurricane, the Harley XLCR, the Bimota,
the Britten, the Aprilia 6.5, the MV Agusta F4, and
more – remain in the show.
motorcycles are set among curved walls, sweeping red
ribbons that rise to the second level of the facility,
and large panels of didactic text that place the vehicles
in their cultural and historical context. At several
locations, the motorcycles are perched on the huge ribbons
that provide – along with the bright yellow text panels
-- flashes of color throughout
the otherwise black, white, and silver decore. Through
carefully directed lighting, the motorcycles emerge
as brilliant patches of color in their subdued environment.
The effect is to suggest the flow, grace, and excitement
that is the essence of motorcycling in any era. Several
of the motorcycle lenders who have seen previous exhibitions
commented that the Memphis treatment is a more “friendly”
presentation in comparison to the towering spiral interior
of the Guggenheim in New York or Frank Gehry's giant
stainless steel monoliths that overwhelmed the presentation
in Las Vegas. The comfortable atmosphere is reinforced
by red-vested docents who exude southern hospitality.
friendly aspects of any Wonders presentation is the
fact that each visitor is provided an electronic device
that delivers an audio tour at no extra charge. In this
case, a stroll through the history of motorcycling is
narrated by Jay Leno with support from Guggenheim regulars
Dennis Hopper, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne, and
Lauren Hutton. Leno's familiar voice and personal
knowledge of the subject matter might make one think
he is conducting a personal tour of his own collection.
exhibit previewed on the 22nd with a black tie and biker
chic gala for lenders, sponsors, and members of the
Memphis arts community. The next morning it officially
opened to the public with a parade of hundreds of rumbling
motorcycles, led by Antique Motorcycle Club of America
Peter Gagan aboard a nearly-silent working
replica of the 1894 Roper steam motorcycle (for more
information on this working replica Roper see Motohistory
News & Views 7/14/2004).
Art of the Motorcycle in Memphis will be open seven
days a week through the end of October. For a group
discount, motorcycle clubs should call Twyla Dixon at
901-312-5528. For more information on the exhibition,
hours, and location, click here.
in Memphis to participate in the opening of The Art
of the Motorcycle Exhibition, I also took the opportunity
to visit the National Civil Rights Museum and the Quilts
of Gee's Bend exhibit at the Brooks Museum. Both were
especially moving; one because it is configured around
the actual buildings in which Martin Luther King was
killed and from which James Earl Ray fired the fatal
shot, and the other because it simplistically celebrates
a time and culture where people were unable to pursue
status through waste and excess.
I observed the age of most of the visitors at the Civil
Rights Museum, it occurred to me that I was among only
a handful of people there who witnessed these significant
events. I watched youngsters react with awe, reverence,
and revulsion to the chronicle of bigotry, hatred, and
murder inherent within the fabric of American history,
just like the privation lovingly stitched into the simple
beauty of the Gee's Bend quilts. This made me understand
again why museums are so important.
is a city of rich history, music, and cultural diversity,
and even the commercialism of Beale street cannot completely
suppress its authenticity. And then there is Graceland,
where people and their wallets are herded like cattle
through the ticky-tacky world of Elvis Presley, and
everyone still seems to love it. You can't help but
smile at the kitschiness of it all. How about that Jungle
information on the Civil Rights Museum, click here.
For information on the traveling Gee's Bend quilt exhibition,
For information on Graceland, click here.
International Journal of Motorcycle Studies
has hit the information highway. This online-only
journal, which is aimed at scholars and motorcycle enthusiasts,
will be published three times a year. Its inaugural
issue includes articles on the iconography of the 1950s biker,
motorcycle clubs in Britain between the two world wars,
and American off-road motorcycle culture in the
1970s. It also includes an essay by Michelle Ann Duff,
who, prior to gender reorientation, was the legendary
Canadian racer Mike Duff, the first North American to
win a world championship road racing Grand Prix.
journal's managing editors are Suzanne Ferriss, a professor
of English at Nova Southeastern University, and Wendy Moon,
an assistant lecturer at the University of Southern
California. Both are active motorcyclists. Ferris
has just issued a call for papers for the July issue.
She states, “We welcome submissions on all areas related
to the cultural phenomenon of motorcycling from not
only academics but all members of the motorcycling community
or those interested in motorcycling. IJMS
seeks to maintain a high standard of quality as well
as readability. Essays should be written in English
in a style accessible to the broadest possible audience,
and should be no more than 5000 words.” For more information,
E-mail Ferris at firstname.lastname@example.org
of the Evo and Other Stories
May/June issue of IronWorks has an abundance
of material for the historically-minded reader. Especially
interesting is Margie Siegal's story about a small number
of 1983 Harley-Davidson test mules with pre-production
Evolution engines (the Evo was not introduced until
1984) that ended up in private hands, due to miscommunication
between corporate headquarters in Milwaukee and the
factory at York. Having been ordered by Milwaukee to
“get rid of the mules,” York offered them for sale to
Harley-Davidson employees, rather than destroy them
as Milwaukee had intended.
also pens a well-illustrated story about the restoration
of a 1963 Harley police Servi-Car. Writer Joe Kress
and photogrpaher Tom Platz detail a beautiful WLDD bobber
built to AMCA period modified standards by Harley-Davidson
archivist and restoration expert Bill Rodencal.
Finally, Editor Dane Gingerelli photographs and writes
about the stem-to-stern retro Indian Chief that is available
from Kiwi Indian of Riverside, California. To contact
Kiwi Indian click here.
For more on this motorcycle, see Motohistory News &
Valley Rally Set
12th annual Hocking Valley Vintage Rally will take place
at the Red Bird Ranch in southeastern Ohio June 10 through
12, 2005. Registration in advance is $20, or $25 at
the gate, and includes two nights of camping. A day
pass, including dinner, is $15. For more information
call Sam Booth at 740-594-8184.
& Times to open in Alberta
new exhibit entitled “Life and Times of the Motorcycle”
will open at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin,
Alberta, Canada on May 14, 2005, and is scheduled to
run through September 17, 2006. For more information,
Fresh: The Perfect Herc
Germany, the word “Scheunenfund” means “finding
a treasure in a barn.” During the Second World War,
Germans sometimes hid their bikes and cars in barns
or walled them up in basements to avoid having the army
confiscate them for military service. Over the past
six decades, most of those old barns have been torn
down and the Scheunenfund revealed. However, thanks
to Internet auctions and the ease (and sometimes
deceit) of E-commerce, there has been a renaissance
of the Scheunenfund phenomenon. Of course, much
of it is junk passed off as treasure, and hopeful collectors
beware. We've seen the same trend in the United States
where markets expanded by the Internet have made it
worthwhile to peddle frauds, repops, and bitsabikes
as intact originals.
the odd Scheunenfund can come to light, as reported
to Motohistory recently by German Vinduro enthusiast
Leo Keller. Keller writes:
was St. Claus day last year when I got an email
from France. There was a guy who offered 20 brand new
1974 Hercules motorcycles, found in an old factory building.
But he wanted to sell them only in one lot, not individually.
There were two new-old-stock Hercules W2000 Wankel rotarys,
four Hercules MC125s with double cradle frames and 5-speed
Sachs engines similar to the first chrome moly frame
Pentons, one GS50, a "sport bike" that was
a kind of mini bike like the Honda Dax,
some 50cc street bikes, and ten E1 electric Accu bikes
complete with uncharged batteries. I didn't know what
to do. I wanted the GS50, but I didn't want to buy 19
bikes to get it.
days later -- it was just before Christmas 2004 -- I
got an email from the Sachs company telling me (and
some big former Hercules dealers and the Hercules Owners
Club) that something wonderful had happened. They had
found 20 new Hercules bikes in France and had decided
to acquire them and look for collectors who wanted to
help protect the heritage of the world's oldest two-wheel
manufacturer still in production. On Wednesday
before Easter I drove to Nurnberg to pick up the GS50,
the one bike from the French “barn find” that I wanted
additional research, Keller learned that a total of
only 150 of these machines were built. Fifty of the
Hercules GS50s were built for Germany, another 50
were built for general export throughout Europe, and
a silver frame were produced for Italy under the DKW
America, the term “barn fresh” is applied to a category
of bikes similar to the Scheunenfund that Keller has
described. However, the term “barn fresh” is usually
spoken with tongue in cheek about an old bike that is
very rough but usually all there. Often generations
of chickens have anointed its tank and rats have found
a haven in its seat. Rarely does someone find a decades-old
motorcycle like Keller's magnificent Hercules pictured
here. For this, a new term must be created. In English
it might be “barn perfect.”
the Germans have an even better word. Dornroeschen was
the fairy tale princess known in the English-speaking
world as Sleeping Beauty. The circumstances surrounding
a remarkable find like Keller's perfect GS50 Hercules
are known as “Dornroeschen's sleep,” or “Dornroeschenschlaf.”
Indeed, in this case the analogy to Sleeping Beauty
is most appropriate. Congratulations, Leo, on
provided by Leo Keller.
Book on the Press
Golden Age of Enduros” by Piet Boonstra is on
the press and should be available in May. Focusing on
his own experiences as an accomplished enduro rider,
Boonstra recounts an era when an elite corps of highly-skilled
off-road riders practiced the arcane art of “keeping
time” without the aid of computers. This is Boonstra's
second book. “Motorcycle Stories” focused on his on-road
riding experiences. “Golden Age” is available for $20
plus $3 for postage and handling. To order a copy, E-mail
actually, Ohio collector Larry Barnes loves motorcycles,
but Indians happen to be high on his list. That
love of Indians is a family thing that goes way back.
was born in Wooster, Ohio three days after Christmas
in 1949. His father, Don, was a motorcycle racer and
Indian dealer, but his wild time of riding a 1929 101
Scout around dusty TT and oval tracks as an AMA Expert
was coming to an end. Larry's arrival caused Don to
start rethinking his position as a
family man, and, besides, business was not going so
well for Indian dealers. The final slide toward oblivion
and bankruptcy in 1954 had already begun, and Don did
not want to stick around to sell
second-rate Brit bikes with “Indian” plastered on the
tank. He closed the business and sold off the inventory.
His beloved 101 Scout was the last thing to go.
is when Larry's youthful memories kick in, and he recalls,
“Then he complained for the next 30 years about how
he never should have sold the 101.” At last, Larry's
mother, Dorothy, could take it no more. Secretly, she
tracked down the Scout, found it disassembled and rusting
away in boxes, and bought it to present to Don on their
40th wedding anniversary. Larry spent five years helping
his father lovingly restore the machine in original
street trim, and –- following his father's death in
1996 -- it remains the crown jewel of his growing collection.
He says, “It was my dad's one true passion until he
passed away. When he could no longer ride it, I would
start it just so he could hear it run. It will never
leave our family again.”
been raised in a family that enjoyed motorcycles, Larry
got his first bike –- a 1966 red Honda Super Hawk –-
when he turned 16. Following in his father's footsteps,
he soon acquired a Bultaco Astro and went looking for
dirt ovals. He was injured racing in 1976 and gave it
up for the next 20 years. For a while he remained professionally
involved in motorcycling as an editor for Cycle
News Central, based in Texas, but that job did
not fulfill his emotional needs. He explains, “I was
covering races every weekend, and here I was standing
around with a pencil and a note pad while everyone else
was having fun racing. I just couldn't
returned to Wooster in 1975, went to work for
the local news paper, then moved from writing
into advertising. Today he is the CEO of his own company,
Media Resources, an automobile industry media buying
firm with 45 employees and offices in five cities. Hard
work has enabled him to return more of his time and
attention to his collection.
turning point came in 1990 when the AMA and AHRMA began
to organize vintage dirt track races at Ashland, Ohio
during Vintage Motorcycle Days. Barnes says, “I went
to see the races at Ashland, and I was suddenly taken
back 20 years. I saw guys my age racing vintage dirt
bikes, and I thought, ‘I can do this!' Besides,
I had always wondered what it was like to storm a big
hand-shift Indian around a dirt oval.” To fulfill that
dream, his next acquisition was a 1939 Indian Sport
Scout, which he and friend Steve Benson restored to
gem-like condition and raced at Ashland. He says, “It
just doesn't matter whether you're going very
fast. Just the sound of that machine coming down the
straightaway makes you feel like you're going a thousand
miles an hour.”
came a 1949 Super Scout, the ill-fated vertical twin
that took Indian into its End of Days. These bikes,
long ignored by purists, are gaining a following and
a higher appreciation among collectors, and Barnes knew
this when he acquired it. And his latest acquisition
is a fine example of the very rare 1937 Indian “upside-down”
Four. Few of these models were built during their short
two-year production life.
visit to Larry's workshop reveals that he's not just
an Indian fanatic. He still has his 1975 racing Astro,
a perfect 1967 305 Honda Scrambler, a 1992 Storz Sportster
Street Tracker, a 1998 full-dress Harley, a 1999 Kawasaki
Drifter, and miscellaneous off-roaders and pit bikes.
Barnes hopes to add an Indian Chief to the collection
as well as a Super Hawk like the first bike he ever
owned. Behind his tidy shop is a small museum
that contains his father's photographs and racing memorabilia,
including the postcard through which the AMA advised
him he had earned Expert status.
is uncertain about his vintage racing career. He explains
that the installation of an artificial left knee makes
one think twice about putting that foot down and courting
injury. Then he pauses and a wicked smile comes across
his face, and he says, “But you know, I might just set
up that hand shift Indian for road racing and do it
just once, just to see what it's like.”
Throttle at Sangre de Cristo
Sangre de Crfisto Arts & Conference Center in Pueblo,
Colorado will present “Full Throttle: Underground Art
and the Motorcycle” from May 28 through August 27, 2005.
A description published by the Center states the exhibit
“offers an intense chronological
look at the history and development of the motorcycle,
complemented by art that represents the culture of the
motorcycle.” In conjunction with the exhibit, on June
10 and 11 the Center will present the Full Throttle
Brush Bash, described as a pinstriping panel jam and
party. For more information, click here.
Literature for Sale
Jake and Sally Junker have offered for sale their massive
collection of Indian Motorcycle News. A flyer
about the opportunity pictures a man –- arms outstretched
–- standing in front of a wall of boxes seven feet tall
and 14 feet wide. The flyer goes on to claim that the
9,600 different items containing over 430,000 pages
packed in 117 boxes weigh more than 3,000 pounds. In
addition, the Junkers are selling Indian Chief parts
and two 1953 Roadmaster Chiefs. They have no interest
in selling the literature collection piecemeal and are
looking for a buyer who will pay $217,000, which is
based on a calculation of 50 cents per page. To submit
your reasonable cash offer, call 951-678-1583.
National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio has just completed
its third annual exhibition devoted to motorcycling.
Entitled “Motorcycle Milestones of the 20th Century,”
the exhibit presented an eclectic grouping ranging from
the world's oldest running Harley single to a current
the marque. Among the 35 bikes on display
were machines as diverse as a Rockford Silver Pigeon
scooter, a Neracar, a Brough Superior, a Vincent, and
a BMW K1.
learn more about the National Packard Museum, click
from Motocross America
planning for more than a year, Motocross America is
completion at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum near
AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio. Visitors
have already begun to tour the exhibit as final details
are put in place.
motocross events were organized in the United States
as early as the late 1950s, the sport did not really
catch on until world champion Torsten Hallman conducted
a promotional tour on behalf of the Swedish Husqvarna
brand in the autumn of 1966. Americans fell in
love with motocross, and it has continued to revolutionize
the motorcycle sport to the present day.
America opens with a display entitled "Birth of
Motocross" that features a stunning collection
of the great four-strokes of the 1950s and '60s: Velocette,
Norton, Monark, BSA, Lito, ESO, and others. When
smaller two-strokes began to displace the big 500s,
names like Greeves, CZ, and Husqvarna began to emerge.
The exhibit includes examples of all of these, including
one of Roger DeCoster's twin-pipe works CZs, and
the only known complete and original example of a 1963
Husky production racer, of which only 100 were built.
This motorcycle is posed with a mannequin dressed in
the type of gear that Hallman introduced in America
display entitled "Motocross Comes to America,"
tells the story of Edison Dye's legendary Inter-Am series
that treated American fans to grand prix quality racing.
includes many pedigreed machines from the era, including
the Husqvarna Hallman rode in 1966, Barry Higgins's
CZ and the jersey and helmet he wore when he earned
top American honors at Pepperell, Massachuetts in 1969;and
Lars Larsson's 1971 titanium Husqvarna and his riding
gear. It also includes the Greeves that Gary Bailey
rode in 1969 when he beat Arne Kring to become the first
American rider to win an international race, along
with the complete riding outfit Bailey wore that day;
the 250 BSA that Dick Mann rode in the Trans-AMA support
class in 1971, and the Cheney BSA that John Banks rode
at the U.S. Grand Prix at Calrsbad, California in 1973.
The display also contains the 1977 works Suzuki on which
his fourth and final Trans-AMA championship in 1977,
along with the gear he wore that year. These bikes,
and others, appear under the actual start/finish banner
that was displayed at the Inter-Am at Saddleback Park
these pedigreed machines and riding gear are over a
dozen display cases containing rare, unusual, and nostalgic
motocross artifacts. In total,
more than 750 artifacts and 63 motorcycles are on display
throughout the exhibit.
display entitled "Expanison in America" tells
the story of the 1970s when motocross became enormously
popular with the Baby Boomers, supported by dozens of
competitive brands from Europe and the Orient. Brands
such as Hodaka, DKW, Sachs, Maico, OSSA, Bultaco, AJS,
Suzuki, Honda, Rokon, Penton, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and
others are on display, and they
are all in showroom condition. This display alone
includes more than a dozen motorcycles.
display entitled "Motocross: Past to Present"
uses the Museum's large central spiral staircase to
dramatically summarize the technical develop of motocross
machines. A 1963 Parilla, pictured
here, appears to leap off the crest of a jump.
Soaring over the stairwell are a 1974 Harley-Davidson/Aermacchi
and a 1984 Yamaha, and crashing down through a giant
X into the era of supercross is Jeremy McGrath's 1995
supercross Honda. Along the wall by the stairwell
are panels containing photographs and the names and
titles of all American national champions since the
AMA began to sanction motocross championships in 1970.
supercross was born in America is told with a set replicating
the Los Angles Colisuem, featuring Jimmy Ellis's 1975
Coliseum race winning Can-Am and the trophies that Marty
Tripes won at the first two Superbowls of Motocross
in 1972 and 1973. In addition,
more than a dozen motorcycles ridden by the likes of
Jim Pomeroy, Brad Lackey, Jeff Ward, Jimmy Weinert,
David Bailey, Gary Jones, James Stewart, Grant Langston,
Chad Reed, Ricky Carmichael, and others are on display,
accompanied by over 40 jerseys worn by American and
world champions, plus cases of artifacts owned by legendary
America contains more video and interactive features
than any exhibit previously developed by the Motorcycle
Hall of Fame Museum. One
video kiosk offers biographies and career highlights
of championship riders, a small theater called the "X-Dome"
will present images of freestyle motocross, and a Motocross
America Resource Center will give visitors access to
a vast amount of information about motocross past and
technical displays are included; one about motorcycle
technology and one about apparel and safety. The
display, designed to look like a workshop, presents
seven cutaway engines, examples of materials used in
the construction of motocross bikes, Joe Bolger's long-travel
OSSA prototype, suspension components, and the first
Yamaha monoshock motorcycle to arrive in America.
Again, video will be used to help tell the story through
a vintage videotape of Rick Johson explaining how to
set up a bike for motocross racing.
apparel exhibit will display items from the early 1960s
to the present day, showing how designs, styles, and
materials have changed over the years. In addition,
examples of women's and children's safety gear are on
display, as seen here.
visitors exit Motocross America, they will pass a time
line listing the great moments in motocross from 1924
to the present.
America will be open through the end of 2006.
An official grand opening and motocross reunion will
take place on July 14, 2005 in conjunction with AMA
Vintage Motorcycle Days, and an exhibit catalog, written
by Bill Amick, will be available by that date.
For information on that event, click here.
For a story about the making of the Motocross America
exhibit, click here.
spring 2005 Robb Report: Motorcycling contains
an article about T.E. Lawrence (of
Arabia), his love
of Broughs, and his untimely death aboard one. Written
by Mike Jackson, it is accompanied by superb photography.
Many of us well remember Jackson
from his years
with Norton-Villiers-Triumph, selling Isolastic Fastbacks
and AJS Stormers in America.
Now back in his native England,
remains active in vintage motorcycling, has consulted
with the Guggenheim for its Art of the Motorcycle Exhibition,
and has helped with the organization of the Louis Vuitton
Motorcycle Price Guide is a great new tool for
anyone interested in restoration and collecting in
the North American vintage motorcycle market.
Editor Brendan Dooley and his crew at F+W Publications
have done a superb job of launching this attractive
quarterly magazine that contains well-written and beautifully
photographed articles about diverse brands, including
America, European, and Japanese. In addition to
material by respected authorities like Jerry Hatfield
and Somer Hooker, the publication contains 30 pages
of vintage market value information on everything from
Ace to Yamaha. This is supplemented by recent
auction results. For subscription information,
call 715-445-2214 or write to email@example.com.
Tributes to Thompson
we paid homage to Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote first
about the iconic American motorcycle outlaw,
then went on to expose the fear and loathing throughout
our culture (Motohistory 3/7/2005). Rolling
Stone recently devoted most of an issue to this
great writer, humorist, and social critic, publishing
remembrances by Douglas Brinkley, Mikal Gilmore, Johnny
Depp, Jack NIcholson, Thompson's son Juan, and others.
Publisher Jan Wenner credited Thompson with helping
make RS what it is today, stating, "Hunter
was part of the DNA of Rolling Stone, one of
those twisting strands of chemicals around which a new
life is formed." The issue sold off the news
stands immediately, was reordered by some, then sold
out again. I trekked to my local library to get
my hands on a copy, only to find that some Thompson
lover had already swiped it. Back issues are still
available from the publisher for $12 each. Call
Cycle World Editor-in-Chief David Edwards has
devoted his column in the May issue of CW to
cover photo courtesy of Rick "technology is our
BMW:The Mastery of Speed
collector extraordinaire Peter Nettesheim has been chosen
as curator for a new exhibit at the Motorcycle Hall
of Fame Museum. Before June, BSA's Greatest Daytona
will be replaced by BMW:The Mastery of Speed, featuring
BMW sport bikes from the 1920s to the new K1200R. The
ribbon cutting for the exhibit will be Wednesday, July
20, set to coincide with the BMW MOA International Rally
in nearby Lima,
Museum executive director Mark Mederski says,“Those
heading for the rally can stop off here, be part of
the ribbon cutting ceremonies, and easily make the two
hour ride up to Lima
before dark.” For more details, keep an eye on
the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum web site or the BMW
MOA web site. For the Museum web site, click here.
For the BMW MOA web site, click here.
Art of the Flying Eyeball
I had my way I'd
be a gunsmith! I like to make things out of metal, because
metal is forever. When you paint something, how long
it last? A few years, and then it's gone!"
words were uttered
by a guy from L.A. named Kenny Howard, AKA Von Dutch.
He is the man who restored the art of pinstriping, first
on motorcycles, then on automobiles, creating a fad
that no 1950s motorhead could live without. Offbeat
and ascetic, Von Dutch adopted a flying eyeball trademark,
an image of the all-seeing eye in the sky that can be
traced back to ancient Mediterranean religions. So extensive
was his influence, that flying eyeball is even seen
on a 1929 Scott Super Squirrel that will appear in the
Art of the Motorcycle Exhibition in Memphis. Once owned
by Steve McQueen, the motorcycle was restored by Von
Dutch and still bears his trademark logo. For an excellent
story about Von Dutch, click here.
For a list of what else you can see at the Memphis Art
of the Motorcycle Exhibition when it opens the week
of April 23rd, click here.
Fake Harley History
long ago we explored the topic of fake history (Motohistory
2/2/2005). In part, that article addressed the Harley-Davidson
creation myth and other early motorcycle industry legends
in connection with the motives behind the production
of distorted or inaccurate accounts of how events unfold.
I contended that fake history could be fun when it is
not designed to deceive, usually for the purpose of
emptying our wallets or getting our votes. Recently,
Walter Kern produced a fine piece of fake history about
the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Read it and enjoy.
Museum of On-line Museums
for the “Gallerie Abominate” of Really Bad 3-D, the
Museum of Norwegian Manhole Covers, or the Burnt Food
Museum, click here.
a Dirt Squirt
many of us Baby Boomers had our first motorcycle experience
aboard a Hodaka? I owned motorcycles before the Hodaka
arrived, but I gave my wife-to-be her first motorcycle
ride aboard one of these little red-framed wonders.
We wore shorts, sneakers with no socks, and no helmets,
of course. Those of you nostalgic about a similar experience
will be happy to know that you can win a Hodaka Dirt
Squirt in connection with Hodaka Days 2005. (The bike
pictured above is the Dirt Squirt's cousin, the Super
Rat.) Tickets are $5 each, there is no limit per customer,
and all proceeds will be donated to the Make-A-Wish
Foundation of Oregon. The drawing will take place on
June 25. For more information, click here.
courtesy of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum
Will Rock Cleveland
the annual Mecca for Vespa lovers, will take place in
and around Cleveland, Ohio June 2 through 5. Check-in
will be at Pride of Cleveland Scooters on Friday, and
weekend activities will include a day-long ride and
a Show & Shine exhibition at the Comfort Inn in
downtown Cleveland. To contact Pride of Cleveland
Scooters click here.
For more on Amerivespa 2005 click here.
Clean Sheet to Nowhere:
Cannondale Might Have Learned from Indian
a sound reputation based on the manufacture of bicycles,
in 1998 the Bedford, Pennsylvania-based Cannondale announced
it would enter the motorsports industry with motorcycles
and ATVs, and build an entirely new factory for that
purpose. What emerged – as seen in the MX400 pictured
here, now on display at the Motocross America exhibit
at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum – was a radically
innovative motocross machine. Its revolutionary features
included a reverse cylinder head with double overhead
cams, sophisticated electronic “field-tunable” fuel
injection with air induction through the steering head,
a dry-sump lubrication system with
oil housed in the frame, a cassette-style transmission,
and electric starting.
sheet engineering is not how the manufacturers of today's
successful motocross machines have become successful.
Like most specialized racing tools, motocrossers began
in the early days of the sport as serial production
road bikes. Seeking better handling and performance
over rough terrain, over time the manufacturers – first
the British, then the Europeans, then the Japanese –
have made incremental and usually cautious improvement,
all the while keeping a sharp eye on each other to learn
new workable ideas and better designs. Rarely has any
manufacturer found immediate racing success with a stem-to-stern
on innovation and a fast track to the marketplace rather
than fundamentals, Cannondale created a motocrosser
that weighed better than ten percent more than the comparable
machines it hoped to beat. For example, Ricky Carmichael's
2004 championship-winning CRF450R Honda weighs in at
220 pounds, and its unmodified production counterpart
weighs about 230. The Cannondale MX 400 weighs 258!
Was that electric starter really necessary?
weight is a critical factor in motocross design, it
was not just too much beef that drove
Cannondale into bankruptcy. More likely, it was an unwise
decision to rush an undeveloped product into national-level
competition that killed Cannondale's dream of competing
in the American motorcycle market as effectively as
it had with bicycles.
Cannondale's brass paid more attention to their motohistory,
they might have proceeded with less urgency to go racing.
For example, we could look at Indian, an early giant
that had already produced 15,000 motorcycles at a time
when Harley-Davidson had made less than a hundred. Indian,
however, peaked in 1913 then continued a slow but steady
decline that left it a mere shadow of its Milwaukee-based
competitor by the end of the Second World War. Having
lived too long on the faded glory of its old, heavy,
side-valve Chief, Indian badly needed to change its
ways if it was going to survive to share in the new
post-war social exuberance and booming economy.
came, indeed! In 1946 a young industrialist named Ralph
Rogers arrived with a brave new vision. He would forsake
Indian's tradition and build a radically new motorcycle
designed to compete squarely against the British imports
that had become so popular after the war. In addition,
Indian would promote safe riding and the ease of handling
of this new lightweight machine, and market it to families
of suburban Americans who had never been considered
serious customers in the tough-talking, male-dominated,
rough-and-tumble world of motorcycling. In many ways,
of marketing was similar to what American Honda would
apply with spectacular results a decade later. He wanted
to vastly increase the dealer network with “non-traditional”
dealers, buy advertising in mainstream American publications,
and promote the idea that motorcycling could be as popular
and clean-cut as tennis.
on this bold plan, Indian built a new factory to manufacture
their new 220cc singles and 440cc vertical twins. The
example pictured here is owned – with pride – by collector
Larry Barnes. The bikes were light, modern, and stylish,
but they were rushed into the market with inadequate
testing and development. They experienced too many failures,
many of which were the result of flawed manufacturing
processes from a factory that itself had not been adequately
“run in.” But many brands have survived flawed new models,
and Indian might have as well, except for the fact that
Ralph Rogers decided to go racing. How this fit into
his plan to reach the wallets of squeaky clean suburbanites
is not clear, but he was certainly not the first executive
to succumb to the siren song of the race track with
this era there were really only two road races that
mattered: Daytona and Laconia.
Punching its 440cc twin out to 500cc, Indian assembled
twelve prototype Laconia Scouts and hired top talent
to ride them. The assault was a total fiasco, and not
a single factory Indian finished the race. Indian tried
to protect the reputation of its basic engineering by
claiming that faulty Edison
all the retirements, but top rider Bobby Hill later
confirmed that about anything that could break did break
on the Laconia Scouts. The brand's reputation never
recovered, and by 1954 the venerable American-built
Indian was no more.
tale is almost a foreshadowing of what happened to Cannondale.
The company had manufacturing problems in its new factory
and knew it, but still rushed its product into national
competition. Poor performance and machine failure under
the watchful eye of the press and the fans resulted
in an image problem that proved fatal for the fledgling
project. After investing $80 million in its motorsports
venture, Cannondale filed for bankruptcy in January
2003. Attempting to rationalize their mistake as early
as March 2001 in an interview in Racer X Illustrated,
Cannondale CEO Joe Montgomery said, “We were looking
at those national races as a high-level testing environment.
That should have been better communicated to the media.”
is hard to determine what would be more foolish: going
racing at the highest level of competition with an unproven
product or really believing that the marketplace would
understand and forgive the failures and embarrassments
that would ultimately come from testing motorcycles
in the light of day, before the fans, while real racing
is going on around you. Apparently recognizing this
folly, in the same interview Montgomery
one of the things that I would definitely do differently.
We got off-track and allowed ourselves to get sucked
into doing stuff that we should not have done.” These
would prove to be famous last words for Cannondale.
And while no one has recorded what Ralph Rogers said
after Indian's Laconia
fiasco in 1949,
it must have been a similar sentiment.
20/20 hindsight the comparison is so clear, and it seems
that Cannondale should have known better. But then again,
let's not forget that in 1970 Honda showed up at Daytona
with an utterly revolutionary machine that had been
introduced to the public only a few months prior, and
won! The mighty Honda Four not only won America 's most
prestigious road race on its first outing, but in so
doing it declared the End of Days for the British motorcycle
industry. So, maybe it is not what we do, but rather
how it ends. Success makes us heroes and visionaries.
Failure makes us fools.