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Ed Youngblood's News and Views
April 2005 News

The Art of the Motorcycle Returns

(4/28/2005)

 

RibbonsThe 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, hasCopeland 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.

 

While the Memphis show has remained faithful to the three criteria used to assemble previous exhibits – technical innovation, style, and Broughcultural 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,Britten the Britten, the Aprilia 6.5, the MV Agusta F4, and more – remain in the show.

 

The 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 Speedwaythroughout 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.

 

Another 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 thisZundapp 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.

 

The 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 president Peter Gagan aboard a nearly-silent Yamaha GTSworking replica of the 1894 Roper steam motorcycle (for more information on this working replica Roper see Motohistory News & Views 7/14/2004).

 

The 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.

 

Memphis Sidebar:

While 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.

 

As 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.

 

Memphis 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 Room!

 

For information on the Civil Rights Museum, click here. For information on the traveling Gee's Bend quilt exhibition, click here or here. For information on Graceland, click here.

 

 

Motorcycle Studies Online

(4/26/2005)

 

The 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.

 

The 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 ferriss@nova.edu .

 

 

Eve of the Evo and Other Stories

(4/25/2005)

 

IronWorksKiwiIndianThe 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.

Siegel 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 & Views 4/25/2004.

 

 

Hocking Valley Rally Set

(4/23/2005)

 

The 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.

 

 

Life & Times to open in Alberta

(4/20/2005)

 

A 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, click here.

 

Barn Fresh: The Perfect Herc

(4/14/2005)

 

In 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 muBarn in Germanyst 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.

 

Still, the odd Scheunenfund can come to light, as reported to Motohistory recently by German Vinduro enthusiast Leo Keller. Keller writes:

 

It 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,Sachs Rotarys 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.

 

Some 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 to own.

 

Through 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 50 wHercules GS50ith a silver frame were produced for Italy under the DKW nameplate. 

 

In 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.”

 

However, 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 your Dornroeschenschaft. 

Photos provided by Leo Keller.

 

Boonstra Book on the Press

(4/12/2005)

 

“The Golden Age of Enduros” by Piet Boonstra is Boonstra Bookon 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 pboonstra@optonline.net .

 

 

Larry Loves Indians

(4/11/2005)

 

Well, 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.

 

Barnes 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 seLarry and Indiansll 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.

 

This 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.”

 

Having 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 take it!”

 

Barnes returned to Wooster in 1975, went to work for the local news paper, then moved from Scout Enginewriting 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.

 

A 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.”

 

Next 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 Larry and Fatheracquisition 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.

 

A 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.

 

Barnes 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.”

 

 

Full Throttle at Sangre de Cristo

(4/10/2005)

 

The 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.

 

 

Indian Literature for Sale

(4/8/2005)

 

Californians 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.

 

 

Packard's Motorcycle Milestones

(4/7/2005)

 

Packard FrontThe 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 example ofBMW K1 at Packard 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.

 

To learn more about the National Packard Museum, click here.

 

Scenes from Motocross America

(4/4/2005)

In planning for more than a year, Motocross America is nearingMXA Sign 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.

While 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.

Birth of MotocrossMotocross 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, Hallman Outfitand 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 in 1966.

A 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.  This Saddleback Bannersegment 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, Higginsalong 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 DeCoster wonLarsson 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 in 1967.

Enhancing these pedigreed machines and riding gear are over a dozen display cases containing rare, unusual, and nostalgic motocross artifacts. In 70s Grouptotal, more than 750 artifacts and 63 motorcycles are on display throughout the exhibit.

A 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 Parillathey are all in showroom condition.  This display alone includes more than a dozen motorcycles.

A 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, picturedMcGrath Honda 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.

How 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 Pedigreed Bikesaddition, 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 riders.

Motocross America contains more video and interactive features than any exhibit previously developed by the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.  OneEngines 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 present.

Two technical displays are included; one about motorcycle technology and one about apparel and safety.  The motorcycle technologyApparel 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.Women's gear

The 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.

As visitors exit Motocross America, they will pass a time line listing the great moments in motocross from 1924 to the prTwo Helmetsesent.

Motocross 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.

 

(4/4/2005)

Lawrence's Last Ride 

TE LawrenceThe 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, Jackson 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 Concours.

A New Tool

Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide is a great new tool for anyone interested in restoration and collecting Price Guidein 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 oldcarspg@krause.com.

Tributes to Thompson

Recently we paid homage to Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote first about the iconic American motorcycle Thompson RSoutlaw, 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 800-283-1549.

Also, Cycle World Editor-in-Chief David Edwards has devoted his column in the May issue of CW to Thompson.

RS cover photo courtesy of Rick "technology is our friend" Kocks.

 

BMW:The Mastery of Speed

(4/3/2005)

 

BMW LogoBMW 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, Ohio. 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.

 

 

The Art of the Flying Eyeball

(4/2/2005)

 

Flying Eyeball"If 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 does it last? A few years, and then it's gone!"

Those 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.

 

(4/2/2005)

More Fake Harley History 

Not 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. Click here.

The Museum of On-line Museums

Looking for the “Gallerie Abominate” of Really Bad 3-D, the Museum of Norwegian Manhole Covers, or the Burnt Food Museum, click here.

 

 

Win a Dirt Squirt

(4/2/2005)

 

HodakaHow 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.

Photo courtesy of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum

 

 

Amerivespa Will Rock Cleveland

(4/1/2005)

 

Americavespa, 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.

 

 

A Clean Sheet to Nowhere:

What Cannondale Might Have Learned from Indian

(4/1/2005)

 

With 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 withCannondale oil housed in the frame, a cassette-style transmission, and electric starting.

 

Clean 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 revolutionary concept.

 

Focusing 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?

Although weight is a critical factor in motocross design, it was not just too much beef that droveCannondale Engine 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.

 

Had 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.

 

Change 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, Rogers 's Larry and Indiantheory 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.

 

Based 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 disastrous results.

 

In 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 Indian Enginetried to protect the reputation of its basic engineering by claiming that faulty Edison electrics caused 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.

 

This 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.”

 

It 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 said, “That's 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.

 

With 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.