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Ed Youngblood's News and Views
June 2007 News

The Oddest Indian

(6/30/2007)

 

Cycle Munch CoverFloyd Clymer, a racer, dealer, Indian distributor, promoter, and publisher, was one of the true characters of the American motorcycle industry, both before and after the Second World War. While people joked that Clymer never met a motorcycle he didn't like, he was especially partial toward Indian, and in the 1960s he became the first of many to try to resurrect this classic American brand. Undoubtedly, Clymer had genuinely sentimental feelings toward Indian, but he was also a businessman who never passed up an opportunity to turn a profit while enjoying a motorcycling endeavor. As a publisher, Clymer paid attention to the international motorcycle scene, and he became fascinated with Friedel Munch's four-cylinder NSU-powered Mammoth, introduced in Germany in 1966. In August of that year Clymer published in his Cycle Magazine a cover story about the bike (pictured above), based on a road test of the Mammoth published in the German magazine Das Motorrad.

 

Munch Indian BrochureThrough Das Motorrad road test editor Ernst Leverkus, Clymer arranged a meeting with Munch. He was most impressed by the man, and while Clymer was interested in selling the Mammoth in America, he also saw in Munch a “Meister” who could help him fulfill his dream of resurrecting Indian. Already three years into his costly Mammoth project, Munch was in financial trouble, which gave Clymer an opportunity to acquire the company, paying off its debts to become the owner of Munch-Motorradfabrik. Munch may have been happy to have Clymer as a white knight to rescue his company, but he was not so enthusiastic about building Indians. Clymer moved forward with his dream, sending Indian experts Frank Christian, Art Hafer, Dick Gross, and Max Bubeck to Germany as advisers on the design of a new motorcycle. Bubeck, for one, did not share Clymer's first-impression opinion of Munch. He says, “Munch was a big talker, but he wasn't getting anything done. When Floyd came to Germany a little later I tried to warn him, but he didn't want to hear it.” Munch expert Mike Kron conMunch Indian Right Sidecurs. He says, “Mr. Munch was not happy that an American was now his boss – I think his feelings may have dated to the war when Americans were his enemy – and he worked very slowly on the project.” Kron adds, “I think Clymer may have had a dream to build a new OHV twin with modern technology, but Munch never started it so Clymer built his Munch-framed prototype around an old 45 side-valve Scout engine. (pictured above and below).”

 

Clymer clearly had faith in his vision, because despite the problems with product development, he announced his new 1968 Indian Scout 45 and distributed a brochure (pictured above) promoting the machine. Technologically, it was an odd mMunch Indian Left Sidearriage of Munch's modern Mammoth chassis, complete with costly light allow components, and an antiquated engine based on the Big Base Scout that had been introduced in 1948 with a victory at Daytona in the hands of Floyd Emde, and won its last AMA national race in 1953. Bear in mind also that by this time Harley-Davidson had stopped using side-valve engines in 1957 (except for its utilitarian Servicar), overhead cams had been state of the art in Japanese and German imports for a decade, and Honda was just a year away from introducing its revolutionary and mighty Honda 750 Four. To some, the flathead-powered Indian/Munch might have seemed a little like putting a Plymouth Slant Six into a Corvette. Justifying use of the aged engine, Clymer's brochure bravely declared, “America is a V-POWER country. 92% of all cars have V-power engines. Rolls-Royce, the fastest racing boats, the fastest Italian racing cars, Ferrari, and MMunch Indian at Legends with Kronaserati, use V-power, as do Indianapolis race winners.” The brochure blathered on, giving example after example of the success of “V-power,” but it conveniently avoided the topic of the Scout's obsolete side-valve configuration.

 

Clymer brought his prototype Scout 45 and a Mammoth to the Los Angeles motorcycle show early in 1968, announcing that he would deliver 1,000 Scouts in the coming year, and that he expected to sell one Mammoth in America for every 20 Scouts. While a price for the Scout was not announced, the Mammoth carried a sticker of $4,000, which was simply breath-taking for that era (a Sportster XLCH, possibly the only American hot rod bike comparable to the Munch, was $1,500 at the time). While limited production of the Mammoth continued, no Scouts were ever built. About the Mammoth, Kron states, “The literature claims that 450 were made, but I think no more than 250 or 300 were ever produced.” Still, Munch had the funding to continue with his beloved Mammoth while Clymer's Indian layMunch Indian at Legend stillborn. Kron explains, “Mr. Clymer became unhappy with Mr. Munch who did what he wanted to do and not what his boss Clymer wanted.” As a result, Clymer sold his interest in Munch to Florida investor George Bell and began collaborating with Italian frame builder Leopoldo Tartarini to realize his resurrection of Indian, building Velocette, Norton, and Enfield-powered Indians which he imported into America until his death in January, 1970.  Below is a photograph of Clymer aboard one of his Velocette-powered Tartarini-framed Indians, taken shortly before his death and published in the April 1970 issue of Cycle.

 

The sole Munch-framed Scout prototype that Clymer brought to America in 1968 remained in the country. It has passed through several hands and appeared on display at the Legend of the Motorcycle International Concours at Half Moon Bay, California, in May 2006 (pictured above with Mike Kron aFloyd Clymerboard). It is more compact and has better lines than its brutish NSU-powered Mammoth cousin, but the combination of an obsolete engine and a chassis built for a large OHC four makes it arguably odder than any of the many subsequent attempts to create a new Indian. As it turned out, all of Clymer's adventures in this regard would depend on engines on the verge of extinction, but none quite as old-tech and outdated as the Scout-powered Munch.

 

To read Floyd Clymer's official Hall of Fame bio, click here. To read Max Bubeck's Hall of Fame bio, click here. For photos of Friedel Munch and his Mammoth motorcycles, click here. To read about Mike Kron's Mammoth restorations and reproductions, go to Motohistory News & Views 3/8/2005 and 12/26/2005. To read about the latest attempt to resurrect Indian, see Motohistory News & Views 5/24/2007 for our interview with Stellican founder Stephen Julius.  For Mike Kron's Mammoth site, click here.

 

Photos from Floyd Clymer's Indian Scout brochure appeared in Walneck's Cycle Trader , July 2007.

Photos of the Clymer Indian Scout 45 prototype from the 2006 Legend of the Motorcycle International Concours provided by Mike Kron.

Photo of Floyd Clymer from the April 1970 issue of Cycle.

 

Walneck's: the source

Walneck's CoverMost people who pick up Walneck's Classic Cycle Trader are interested in buying or selling unusual, rare, and collectible motorcycles. However, mixed in among the classified ads are some of the best nostalgia-triggering articles you will find in any American motorcycle publication. Walneck's frequently reprints road tests and articles from years gone by, and often from magazines that no longer exist. Some of the graphics for the above story were taken from the July 2007 issue of Classic Cycle Trader, in which editor Buzz Walneck reprinted the whole of Floyd Clymer's brochure about the Munch-built Indian Scout 45. The same issue contains a story about E.J. Potter's Bloody Mary 5 drag bike from the October 1970 issue of Supercycle, plans for how to motorize your bicycle as printed in Mechanix Illustrated in July 1942 (Walneck's father actually built a bike from these plans in 1942, and Buzz publishes a photo to prove it), a road test of the Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH that appeared in Cycle World late in 1966, a road test of the Triumph Speed Twin published in Classic Bike in May 1955, and road tests of a Ducati 250 scrambler and a Bridgestone 90 Sport that appeared in Cycle World in January 1966. In addition, there are restoration tips, news of the vintage bike scene, and Mark Zimmerman's always entertaining technical Q & A. Even if you are not in the market to buy or sell a collectible motorcycle, Walneck's Classic Cycle Trader is always an entertaining and informative read. To learn more, click here.

 

 

Motohistory Quiz #42

(6/30/2007)

 

VMD LogoWith AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days 2007 (July 27 through 29) fast approaching, we have a special VMD history quiz that will award a pair of tickets to each of three winners. To win, be one of the first three readers to correctly answer any one of the questions below:

 

1) What are the three venues where AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days has been held, and what were the years at each of these venues?

 

2) What was the commemorative marque for each year at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days throughout the history of the event?

 

3) Who were the Grand Marshals and what year did each preside?

 

Send your answers to Ed@motohistory.net prior to July 15, 2007.

 

 

Motocross legends coming

to Vintage Motorcycle Days

(6/29/2007)

 

A full gate of past motocross champions is expected for the American DiStefano at 13Historic Racing Motorcycle Association vintage motocross race on July 28 during AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. The list is expected to include Tony DiStefano (pictured here at age 13), Brad Lackey, Danny LaPorte, Rick Johnson, Gary Jones, Billy Liles, Andy Stacy, Graham Noyce, Gary Semics, Mickey Kessler, Marty Smith, Tommy Croft, Ron Lechien, Rick Sieman, Marty Tripes, Jeff Smith, Dick Mann, John DeSoto, Jimmy Weinert, Mike Bell, Rex Staten, Donnie Hansen, Mark Barnett, and Ron Pomeroy. The Champions Race will run at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, during the VMX program on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course motocross track next to the spectator camping area. An autograph session will follow. Additionally, Tony DiStefano is being saluted as the Legends of MX Honoree. DiStefano, who won three 250 national titles and is a member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, will also present a session of his motocross school on Friday, July 27. AHRMA is honoring a different motocross legend at each of its 17 vintage motocross nationals during 2007. For more information, click here.

Photo of Tony DiStefano taken by Carl Hess in 1970.

 

From the web

(6/28/2007)

The Wheels Through Time Museum has an all-new web site.  To WTTM Logocheck it out, click here.  If you use this site often, you may have to hit your refresh button to get to the new site.

 

 

Video Reviews:

(6/28/2007)

 

New Blood: The Story of the KRV5 Tracker

New Blood videoRoland Sands, son of Perry Sands of Performance Machine, brings a perspective to custom bike design that differs from that of many of his contemporaries. Instead of the long and laid-back cruisers favored by many of today's builders, Sands' work tends toward short-coupled trackers, in part inspired by his personal racing career (Sands won nine AMA 250 Grand Prix Nationals between 1998 and 2002, and in 1998 was the AMA 250 Grand Prix Champion), and in part by the vintage racing bikes in his father's collection. In addition, he must pay more attention than some builders to what “works,” because his day job includes designing and developing commercial products for Performance Machine, and often his one-off designs are used to prototype parts that may appear the following season in the PM catalog. A good example of the Sands' race-bred vision is the award-winning “No Regrets,” but his ultimate (so far) is surely the “KRV5 Tracker,” built around an ex-Kenny Roberts five-cylinder MotoGP engine.

 

When Roberts agreed to provide one of his 200 horsepower motors for a custom bike project, Sands promised that within one year the bike would be delivered, on the eve of the U.S. GP at Laguna Seca, 2006. “New Blood” is the story of that project, from drawing board to a running motorcycle and King Kenny's test ride, which he compares to his night aboard the horrific four-cylinder Yamaha TZ750 dirt tracker at the Indy Mile in 1985. This video documents the process in detail, sharing insights into the way Sands overcomes design problems by KRV5 Tracker Right Sideapplying a combination of modern CAD technology available at Performance Machine, and the old tried-and-true method of cut-and-fit and cut again that builders have been using for more than a century. And the design problems are many, inherent in the shape and complexity of the liquid-cooled, five-cylinder engine. For example, Sands does not have the benefit of a narrow footprint provided by the V-twins favored by most builders. Rather, the MotoGP engine is wide, and how to keep the motorcycle looking small and sleek requires many hours of taping up mockup fuel tanks from card stock. This is the kind of aesthetic challenge -- requiring more art than science -- that a CAD system just can't seem to solve. Then there's the bulky radiator and all of the ugly guts of the liquid cooling system, the problem of routing five exhaust pipes through a compact package, and figuring out what to keep and what to trash from the complex and massive electronics system of the MotoGP engine.

 

The video also provides interesting insights into the human dynamics of the Sands operation. When both Sands and a key staff member are injured in separate accidents, Sands must find additional talent to keep the project on schedule, and he hires Hoops, a young craftsman with a face full of metal who probably earned his name from the enormous rings KRV5 Tracker Detailin his ear lobes. Sands says, “What can you do?” and Hoops replies, “Everything.” As it turns out, he is right, bringing to the task an incredible range of skills and craftsmanship. Furthermore, Hoops brings an understated sense of humor that defuses a lot of the tension in a shop behind schedule. Explaining why a vice is a good tool, he says, “It's just like having another hand.” Still, at moments the job becomes overwhelming, and at one point when the jokes have been stretched too thin, Sands, who is also the executive producer for the video documentary, glances at the camera and says quietly, “I don't want to film right now.”  Scene ends.

 

For me, the high achievement of the KRV5 build comes clear when the frame alone, cleaned and undercoated, is displayed hanging in the paint booth. It is a graceful, truss-like arch of triangulated tubing, bristling with tabs and brackets where the engine, radiator, tanks, seat, and other parts will be mounted. Sitting on a plinth in a gallery, it would be worthy of contemplation as a work of art in its own right; forget the fact that it is only the skeleton for a motorcycle that has not yet been born. With no down tubes or under-cradle, it is about as far from a conventional bobber or chopper frame as a Bird Cage Maserati from a Model T Ford. When the bike becomes ready for paint, Sands returns to his board track inspiration, paging through a motorcycle history book and finally settling on Army Green Metallic, similar to the olive green of an Iver Johnson. For the seat for his tracker, Sands preRoberts and Sandstty much duplicates the saddle from one of his dad's Indian racers. Smiling, he considers just stealing the seat from his father's collectible, but wisely does not ponder that option for long.

 

It is sometimes amusing to watch the Roberts/Sands relationship unfold. Roberts (pictured here with Sands on the occasion of his test ride on the KRV5 Tracker) just shakes his head when Sands decides to polish the cases of the racing engine to a mirror finish, but he recognizes that as much as he might know about road racing and MotoGP, he is simply out of his depth in the world of a visionary artist. They attempt to bridge the generation gap by agreeing that the polished engine is “insane.” Still, and perhaps unknowingly, they remain miles apart. Sands is using the term in the slang of his generation, meaning it is exceedingly cool. Roberts, on the other hand, just considers it “insane” in the most literal and conventional sense of the term. Insane or not, the KRV5 Tracker is one of the most innovative and unusual custom bikes ever built, and this video documentary will give one a greater understanding of the design philosophy as well as the work that went into executing the vision.  At least, it did for me.  I loved this bike the first time I laid eyes on it.  Now I appreciate it as well.

 

“New Blood: The Story of the KRV5 Tracker,” is available through the Roland Sands' web site. For more information, click here. In addition to the main story, there are shorts about Sands' visit to the Kenny Rogers Ranch in Northern California , and the unveiling of the motorcycle at Sturgis, where a bike like this seems like something brought from the future by aliens. For more about the KRV5 Tracker at MotorcycleUSA.com, click here and here.

Images of KRV5 Tracker provided by Roland Sands Design.

 

The National Motorcycle Museum 2006 Tour

National Motorcycle Museum videoStill haven't found the time to make it to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa? You should, but if you can't, now there's a video tour hosted by Museum Chairman John Parham. In a 77-minute walk through the facility, Parham discusses bikes and artifacts in considerable detail, effectively mixing objective history with his personal views on why certain machines and objects are important to him. Parham confesses that if the Museum were for him alone, every motorcycle in it would be a pre-1920. But this is not the case. Instead, the National Motorcycle Museum appeals to a broader audience with everything from priceless original antique motorcycles in glass cases to latter-day sport bikes to choppers to art bikes to one-off V8 monstrosities. The Museum promotes Broughitself as "The experience of a lifetime."  It is a supportable claim, since you will find on display the oldest original-paint Harley-Davidson and Cleveland in the world, and the largest collection of Broughs and Vincents on public view in America.  This video covers it all, and it is available for less than $10.00. For more information, click here. To read our most recent story about the National Motorcycle Museum, go to Motohistory News & Views 4/26/2007.

 

 

Indian museum treasures

go to the City of Springfield

(6/27/2007)

 

For decades, Indian enthusiasts have wondered what would eventually happen to the contents of the Indian Motocycle Museum at 33 Hendee Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where Indians were manufactured until 1953. Well, wonder no more, because 91-year-old Museum owner Esta Manthos has announced that almost all of her multi-million dollar collection of motorcycles and artifacts will be donated to the Springfield Museums Association. For more on this important development, click here.

 

 

Found In Print

(6/27/2007)

 

Motorcycle

Motorcycle Book Cover“If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand.”

I can't count the times I have heard this explanation of the motorcycling experience, and I have always found it wholly unsatisfactory. Granted, the role of the motorcycle in our culture is complex, as is its personal meaning to those of us who ride, but I have always suspected this explanation says more about the inarticulateness of the speaker than the complexity and true nature of the experience. Furthermore, it is exclusionary and arrogant, suggesting that if you don't know what I already know, then you don't deserve to.

 

At last, in their upcoming book “Motorcycle,” Steven Alford and Suzanne Ferriss have given us a more comprehensive and satisfactory explanation of what motorcycling is all about, and if anything, they have confirmed in 240 pages of text that the answer is complex indeed. While this work has feeling, it is not the touchy-feely kind of drivel we had seen too often by writers trying to express why they like motorcycles. Rather, this is a rigorous and scholarly exploration of history, technology, literature, film, fashion, and aesthetic design related to motorcycling, and through this wide-ranging study the authors create the most extensive, perceptive, and rewarding inquiry yet into the role of motorcycles and our fascination with them.

 

Alford and Ferriss, who edit “The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies,” an on-line quarterly scholarly publication about motorcycling, teach at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Motorcycle,” which will be available in October, is published by Reaktion Books in Great Britain, and will be available in the United States through the University of Chicago Press. For more information or to order a copy, click here. For more information about Alford and Ferris, click here.

 

 

Photohistory by CHess

(6/26/2007)

 

The first motocross races in America took place in 1959 at Grafton, Vermont, and at least one California club was hosting motocross Motocrosserevents as early as 1965. However, the sport did not attract popular attention until the autumn of 1966 when world champion Torsten Hallman conducted exhibitions at several California tracks, including Corriganville, and at Pepperell, Massachusetts. Fans were astonished by his smooth and acrobatic style, and riders became eager to learn more about this European form of off-road competition. By the end of the decade, American motorcyclists had gone crazy for motocross, though they still had a lot to learn. Our Pennsylvania photohistorian Carl Hess shares with us an image from the first motocross ever held in eastern Pennsylvania, hosted by the Flying Dutchmen Motorcycle Club on July 19, 1970. CHess reports that 72 riders signed up for the event, riding an odd mixture of motorcycles that ranged from true motocross bikes to modified street machines. Pictured here is Roy Schaeffer, riding a Yamaha enduro bike, complete with headlight. But he is definitely having fun!

 

Legend of the Motorcycle Concours

opens entries for 2008

(6/26/2007)

 

LOTM LogoThe organizers of the Legend of the Motorcycle International Concours d'Elegance have announced that the featured marques for 2008 will be MV Agusta and Norton. Owners of exemplary motorcycles of any make up to the 1977 model year are invited to submit entries. To access a downloadable entry form, click here. For photographs from the recently-completed 2007 event, click here.

 

Photohistory from down under

(6/25/2007)

Australian speedway expert Garry Baker sends this vintage photo of American speedway pioneers Jack (right) and Cordy Milne (left).  Between the brothers is Bill Longley, nine times Australian testMilne Brothers team captain.  The photograph was taken in England, but the date and exact location are not known.

The Milne's established themselves as world-class riders at the first Speedway Individual World Championship in 1936 where Cordy finished fourth and Jack tenth.  Then Jack led an American podium sweep in 1937 when he won the individual world title, followed by Wilbur Lamoreax and brother Cordy.  Jack was runner-up and Cordy finished sixth in the 1938 championship, the last world speedway title race before the outbreak of the Second World War. Milne was the only American to win the speedway individual world title until Bruce Penhall won in 1981 and 1982.  Subsequent American world champions have included Sam Ermolenko (1993), Billy Hamill (1996), and Greg Hancock (1997)

The methodology used to determine a speedway individual world champion has changed over the years.  For an historical overview, click here.

 

Motohistory Quiz #41:

We have no winner.

(6/24/2007)

Quiz 41 EngineWe usually have correct answers to our Motohistory Quizzes within minutes, and experience has shown that if the correct answer does arrive within 24 hours, it probably won't.  Still, I decided this time to let the quiz stand about a week to see if something might finally roll in, but it did not.  This is only the third time out of 41 that a quiz has stumped our worldwide Motohistory readership.

The engine in our Motohistory Quiz #41 (posted 6/17/2007) is from a 1953 CZ racer currently on display at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum near Brimingham, Alabama.  The answers we received included Quiz 41 MotorcycleESO, which is at least in the right neighborhood (Czechoslovakia), but no one gave us a correct answer. 

The label that describes this motorcycles states that it is a 488cc single overhead cam with four speed transmission, capable of 26 bhp at 5,500 rpm.  It was designed for CZ by Jaroslov Walter, whose name is cast into the timing cover.  It was never known to have been raced outside of Eastern Europe.  Its resemblance to the 1950 Norton Manx is obvious.  I thought some of our readers might identify the engine as a Manx, but no one did.  For more information about the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, click here

 

“Rides and Rebels” opens in Flint

(6/17/2007)

 

Denim Vests“Rides and Rebels,” a wide-ranging exhibit of motorcycle culture, opened at the Alfred P. Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan this month, and is scheduled to run through March 23, 2008. The Sloan Museum, noted for its fine collection of futuristic concept cars that toured America with the General Motors Parade of Progress during the 1950s, is well-known among motor enthusiasts, but “Rides and Rebels” is sure to broaden its audience and provide its visitors with new insights into the motorcycle as transportation, Sloan 1pop culture, sport, entertainment, personal expression, and art. The show's 58 motorcycles include something for everyone, from an endearing Hodaka Wombat to the magnificent Brough Superior SS100 that greets visitors when they enter the gallery. There are also oddities, such as a 1967 Marusho and a 1974 MZ. And there are several astonishing art bikes by Michigan builder and artist Bob Katrinic, including the Sloan 4“Leatherbike” on which all sheet metal is covered with exquisitely tooled black leather, and his “Tea Service Bike,” encrusted with silver serving dishes. In the lobby of the Sloan, one is greeted also by strange robotic sculptures built by Katrinic entirely from motorcycle parts.  These will certainly appeal to children and invite them into an exhibit that they otherwise might not fancy.

 

Sloan 2But motorcycles are only part of this dense and busy display. Including posters, photographs, clothing, advertisements, parts, and other ephemera, the artifacts in this exhibit must number into the thousands. In addition, there are constantly-running motion pictures and a dozen touch screen consoles that will attract the younger andSloan Robots computer-literate visitor.  The visual impact is overwhelming.  There are also video games and an especially ingenious display where small children can mount tiny motorcycles on which they can turn the throttle to make a fan blow wind in their faces.  While the youngsters are getting the feel for why their parents like to ride, there is a shop-like exhibit where dad can see how motorcycles are put together.

Sloan ScootersText panels in the 5,500 square foot display are informative and well-written, and space is managed with carefully-positioned grid dividers and a curb system – made from curbing, no less – that supports the motoring theme and mood of the display. Consultation for the exhibit was provided by local motorcyclists Rocky Roll, Larry Klein, and Bob Schmelzer, and design and floor plan were executed by Sloan Exhibit Manager Warren Lehmkuhle. This is a winner. If you can't make Flint a destination ride this summer, get in your cage and visit the Sloan this winter before the show closes next March. For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Museum, click here.

 

Motohistory Quiz #41

(6/17/2007)

Quiz 41 EngineOkay, kids, it's time for another Motohistory Quiz. 

All you have to do is be the first to identify the brand and nation of origin of the engine shown here, and you'll receive a rare and valuable Motohistory hat and a personalized Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma.

Just send your answer to Ed@motohistory.net.

But here's a hint and a word of caution.  Don't respond with the obvious.

 

Choppertown: The Sinners,

A Motohistory review

(6/16/2007)

 

American Kustom Kulture was spawned by the Great Depression, when young men with no money, seeking freedom and mobility, built cars and motorcycles from whatever worn-out and hand-me-down components they could find, applying creativity to necessity to give birth to roadsters and bobbers, which, over time, would become recognized as examples of a uniquely American art Choppertown Videoform. In our age, when the chopper has become a garish media phenomenon, built from off-the-shelf parts for clients with lots of money and little taste, it is refreshing to know that the originals are still out there, making motorcycles that are built to ride, not just to look at.

 

“Choppertown: The Sinners” is a documentary film by Scott Di Lalla and Zack Coffman that tells the story of a thirty-year-old club of working-class enthusiasts who pool their resources, talent, and moral support to see that everyone has a ride. Its plot centers on club member Kutty Noteboom's build project, starting with a salvaged frame, a homemade flea market oil tank, and a well-worn Bates saddle. Kutty, whose parents named him after a bottle of Scotch, turns to Sinners patriarch Rico Fodrey to shepherd him through the project. Along the way, Rico tells us why bobbers and choppers should be built from old parts, explaining that each of those well-used components has given someone a lot of joy, and that they all bring karma to the project and join together to give the new machine a lot of positive energy.

 

This movie is not about choppers. It is about camaraderie, creativity, and community. The Sinners, and affiliated clubs, are composed of men with little pretension who have learned how to find joy in motorcycles, their friendships, and the road. The story begins with Rico opening his garage as a passing freight sets the mood with its clatter and horn. Kutty arrives in his customized '53 Chevy and opens the trunk to proudly display the $200 second-hand frame on which he intends to build his motorcycle. Rico, Kutty, and other members of the club tap resources they know throughout California to bring together the components and craftsmanship the project will require. In the process, we learn about their philosophy, their theology, and their music Choppertown Rider(Kutty also plays guitar for The Whitewalls, a traditional rock and metal band). Music plays a central role in this picture, and it is used expertly to accompany the excellent cinematography by Di Lalla, Coffman, and Armando Koghen. Some of the most beautiful images are of the Sinners and their bikes at speed, taken in the evening when the combination of California sun and smog gives the air a brassy glow. It's story notwithstanding, this video bears repeated viewing just to study the way its creators have framed their shots and manipulated color to achieve mood.

 

One of the most amusing segments in the film is when Rico, Kutty, and crew travel to Northern California to seek a special gas tank where they meet Jason, an eccentric collector and craftsman who may have spent way too much time in the paint booth. Jason is self-conscious, obsessed with his hair, and can't confront the camera without whipping out his comb. To entertain his guests he dons his thrift store superhero outfit and performs a skateboard exhibition on the makeshift course behind his shop. It is during this outing that we also get some insight into Sinners theology, or at least that of one of its group. Brandon, a young struggler who says his mother Jason Scatingconstantly tells him he will amount to nothing, asserts, “We'll be fucked until we die, then it'll be bitchin'.” Then he elaborates, “It'll be awesome, but until then you gotta pick weird shit out of your nose.”

 

We know a lot about the Sinners, their views, and their values by the time Kutty's motorcycle comes together and is taken for its first ride. It is indeed a work of art. Kutty christens his newborn machine with a performance of The Whitewalls, announcing from the stage how much his three families mean to him. These families are his wife and child, his band, and the Sinners. The movie ends with a long sequence of riders on the highway over “The Sinner's Prayer,” a hymn written and performed by James Intveld. For me, this ending lapsed a bit into sentimentality. But that's just me, and I'm probably nit-picking. I expect others will find it comforting and even uplifting.

 

“Choppertown” is an excellent movie; a film by real people about real people. Nothing here is scripted, contrived, annoying, or bombastic as we have learned to expect from cable television coverage of Kustom Kulture. For more information, and to access your copy of the DVD, click here. And by the way, Coffman and Di Lalla are currently in the post-production phase of a movie about the vintage Brit Bike scene. I can't wait to see it!

 

 

“Malcolm!” previewed in California

(6/15/2007)

 

Malcolm Smiling“Malcolm!,” an exhibit celebrating the life and career of off-road racing ace Malcolm Smith, due to open at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum on July 26, was previewed recently at a reception at Tom White's Early Years of Motocross Museum in Southern California. The exhibit, curated by Tom White, will include several of Malcolm Smith's motorcycles, photographs, and other memorabilia. For more information about the June 7 reception, click here.

 

 

David Uhl's latest:

Elvis “In Tune”

(6/14/2007)

 

Elvis PaintingArtist David Uhl's latest work, entitled “In Tune,” depicts a young Elvis Presley outside his Graceland home, tuning his old Gibson with his 1957 Panhead in the background. The painting is endorsed by both Harley-Davidson and Elvis Presley Enterprises. A series of 350 numbered, 24 inch by 30 inch framed prints are available for $1,850 each, and a series of only fifty 36 inch by 46 inch oversized prints are available for $4,500 each. All prints are on canvas, hand signed and numbered, and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. For more information, click here.

 

 

Shobert at Sandia

(6/13/2007)

 

ShobertAMA three-times Grand National Champion and Motorcycle Hall of Famer Bubba Shobert will be the guest of honor at the Fifth Annual Sandia Classic at Albuquerque, New Mexico September 14 through 16. The event is AMA and AHRMA sanctioned and Honda has been designated the commemorative marque. For more information about the Sandia Classic, click here. To read Bubba Shobert's Motorcycle Hall of Fame bio, click here.

 

 

Visiting the Lane Motor Museum

(6/12/2007)

 

The Lane Motor Museum, in Nashville, Tennessee, offers a collection of 150 unusual and mostly-European cars, motorcycles, and Planetascooters. Situated in a 132,000 square foot former bakery, the collection is mostly automobiles, many of which will not be found elsewhere in the United States. The same is true of some of the motorcycles on display, such as the 1968 Russian IZH Planeta 5 pictured here. The Citroen-powered French BFG pictured in our Motohistory Quiz #40 was also from the Lane Museum (See Motohistory News & Views 5/29/2007). A small scooter collection includes a Zundapp Bella and an excellent Lane ScootersSalsbury, pictured here. For more information about the IZH Planeta, click here.

 

The Lane also has an outstanding collection of micro-cars, those diminutive vehicles born of post-war adversity that fall into a netherworld of design between cars and motorcycles. Many are three-wheeled vehicles and thus are technically motorcycles, despite the fact that they are enclosed. They often used motorcycle engines, and some were built by motorcycle manufacturers.  One interesting example is the Scootacar (pictured here), introducedScootacar in Great Britain in the late 1950s. The Scootacar is pretty much what its name implies: a three-wheeled scooter enclosed in a tiny fiberglass body. In fact, it was advertised as “the covered scooter with a car-sized door.” It is powered by a 197cc Villiers engine, the operator steers with a set of handlebars, and a single passenger can squeeze in behind the driver, straddling a narrow seat mounted above the engine. For more information about the Scootacar, click here.

 

The Lane Motor Museum will be the host of the 2007 Great American Race, scheduled to depart on July 7. For more information about the facility, click here.

 

Vintage events coming up in Utah

(6/11/2007)

 

The Utah British Bike Club is hosting two big events this summer. The International Norton Owners Association Rally will take place at Torrey, Utah July 18 through 22. Next, the Bonneville Vintage GP Road Race, sanctioned by AHRMA and the AMA, will take place at Miller MotorSports Park at Tooele, Utah, just 90 miles from the Bonneville Salt Flats, September 7 through 9. With the International Motorcycle Speed Trials by BUB going on at Bonneville September 2 through 6, it will be a major week for speed and excitement. For information about the Utah British Bike Club, click here. For information about the INOA Rally, click here. To learn more about the Bonneville Vintage GP, click here. For information about Miller MotorSports Park, click here. For information about the International Motorcycle Speed Trials by BUB, click here.

 

Motorcycles abundant

at World War II Weekend

(6/10/2007)

 

Military USCarl Hess, our provider of nostalgic racing images from the 1960s, recently attended the 17th Annual World War II Weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum at the Reading Regional Airport, Reading, Pennsylvania. The event is an extravaganza of WWII-era military equipment,Military Navy including jeeps, trucks, weapons, airplanes, and motorcycles. Participants conduct re-enactments in accurate period uniforms of the U.S., British, and German forces.

 

I loved the Hellcat and other military aircraft on display, but since Motohistory's theme is motorcycles, we will limit ourselves to photographs of motorcycles used by various nations. These include, in order of appearance here, a group of American machines featuring a Harley WLA flanked by two Indian 741s in the foreground, a U.S. Navy Military GermanHarley-Davidson WL in gray livery, and a German Zundapp with sidecar. Check out the big Mercedes military truck behind the Zundapp. That is not something you see every day. There were also an abundance of military Brit bikes on hand. For more information about the World War II Weekend, click here. For more information about the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, click here.

 

More photohistory by CHess:

When having fun was all that mattered

(6/9/2007)

 

Trials SportsterRecently, our photohistorian Carl Hess sent us pictures from an observed trial hosted by the Lebanon Valley Motorcycle Club on March 16, 1969 at their club grounds north of Bethel, Pennsylvania. He reports that this event was the first of its kind in southeastern Pennsylvania, and that most of the riders showed up on street-legal trail bikes. Then there was Lebanon Valley President Skip Fox who decided to tackle the course with a Sportster, seen here on the verge of a treacherous stream crossing. CHess remarks facetiously that the club probably modified to rules to award Fox extra points if he could fall into the stream and come up without extinguishing his cigar. He adds, “Fox was one-of-a-kind, and immediately likeable by all who met him. In keeping with the spirit of District Six Sport Association motorcycle events of the era, club members supported each other's activities and often participated with some rather unusual steeds.” Who cares about winning when you're having this much fun?

 

 

Hall of Fame Museum hosts Japanese motorcycles

(6/8/2007)

 

Hailwood ReplicaThe Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio held its second annual Japanese Motorcycle Day on June 2. The event, sponsored by the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, included an unjudged bike shows and seminars by vintage Japanese motorcycle experts. Pictured here are Terry Naughtin and his Mike Hailwood GP Honda replica, and a Honda café racer built by Greg Gronbach. Naughtin runs the Team Hanson Honda Racing Team, and his GP look-alikes are AHRMA-legal. Gronbach, a custom builder, is owner of Ohio Café Racers, which specializes in customizing motorcycles of the late Honda Cafe1960s and early ‘70s.

 

The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum will host its British and European Motorcycle day, presented by DomiRacer Distributors on July 30. For more information about this upcoming event, click here. For more photos from Japanese Motorcycle Day, click here. To contact Team Hansen Honda, click here. To contact Ohio Café Racers, click here.  To learn about the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, click here.

 

From the Web

(6/7/2007)

 

If you are a fool for Zundapps, especially the elegant four-stroke touring models, Zundappsyou are sure to like Zundappfool.com. The site provides links, a bibliography, a used parts section, and lots of nice photos of shaft-drive Zundapps. Just click here.

 

The guys a VintageFocus.com have been compiling vintage motorcycle photographs since 2003, and now have a library of over 30,000 that are available on CD and DVD. For more information, click here.

 

One of the new and growing vintage events in the United States is the Barber Vintage Festival, coming up on its third year this October at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum near Birmingham, Alabama. To check out the photos from last year's event, click here. To reach Barber's main web site, click here.

 

DeepDiscount.com is offering a 20 percent discount on “On Any Sunday.” Other motorcycle flicks at favorable prices in their catalog include “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “The Wild One,” “The World's Fastest Indian,” and “Easyrider.” For more information, click here.

 

 

North Alabama show set for June 23

(6/5/2007)

 

The Second Annual North Alabama Swap Meet and Bike Show will take place at the Morgan County Fairgrounds in Decatur, Alabama on June 23. For more information, click here.

 

 

Feedback

(6/3/2007)

 

Our report about the death of Edison Dye (see Motohistory News & Views 5/14/2007) brought a warm letter of tribute from Mark Blackwell, once a young Husqvarna motocrosser and protégé of Dye, later an executive at American Suzuki, and now a vice president with Victory Motorcycles. Blackwell writes:

Edison had a profound impact on my life. He got me onto a Husky in 1969 (with Dick Miller's help), and sent me to Europe during the summers of my 16th & 17th years. I earned my trip to Europe the second year by driving his VW van and hauling the luggage for one of his BMW motorcycle tours through the Alps. We spent many evenings together and he always took time to coach me and give me advice. He got me into the Husqvarna factory to learn from the engineers and mechanics. Of course, we know Edison brought the sport of motocross to the United States with his Inter-Am series in 1967. I am truly not sure what I would be doing today if I hadn't become so enchanted by those early motocross exhibitions

We were delighted to get an E-mail from 62-year-old Dottie Mattern, a member of the Cheap and Shameless Racing Team, who rode a 70-year-old Indian to a class record of over 91 mph at the Maxton Mile. To read her account of the world's fastest Indian with a lady on-board, posted with photos, click here.

Our Motohistory Quiz #40 about the French BFG and MF motorcycles designed around Citroen power trains prompted a fascinating letter from John Wiser, Citroen Motorcyclecomplete with a photo of one of the strangest motorcycles we have seen of late. John writes,

I was at the Citroen world meet near Tuscany in northern Italy a few years ago, and at this meet everyone brings their Citroens and great projects built from Citroens. I am pictured here on a home-made motorcycle built on the twin-cylinder 604cc boxer that is standard in the 1980s Cintroen 2CV. It also uses the steering mechanism from a 2CV. The rear suspension is the same as the front and it has 10 to 15 inches of travel. The Citroen-crazy guy who built it said he uses it as a daily rider. He also built the miniature 2CV kiddy car shown in the picture.

Wiser reports that the Citroen gathering attracted 7,000 enthusiasts and lots of unusual eye candy.

 

Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame
names Peter Sheppard President
(6/2/2007)

Peter Shepperd A new Board of Directors has been appointed for the Canadian International Motorcycle Heritage Museum Foundation, with Peter Sheppard its President. Sheppard, pictured here, is also Chairman of the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada. In addition, the Board has been expanded from five to 13 members to better represent all Canadian regions and interests. Hall of Fame founder Bar Hodgson will continue as a member of the Board.

Founded in 2005, the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame conducted its first induction of members on May 6, 2006. The organization has begun its nomination process for 2007, and nominations must be received by July 13, 2007. The 2007 Induction Banquet and Reunion, sponsored by the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada (MCC) will be held Saturday, October 27, near Toronto's Pearson International Airport. Nomination forms are available on the Hall of Fame website. To access the site, click here.