Vintage Penton calendar
Penton Owners Group has produced a 2008 wall or desk calendar
featuring photographs of many of the prized Pentons owned
by its members, some for show and some still used to go.
The Penton has not been built since 1977, but is still
frequently used in vintage racing. 2008 will be the 40th
anniversary of the introduction of the Penton, the first
container of which arrived in the United States early
in 1968. To order the calendar, click here.
marques named for 2008
of the Motorcycle International Concours
featured marques for the Third Annual Legend of the Motorcycle
International Concours d'Elegance, scheduled for the first
weekend in May at Half Moon Bay,
California will be MV Agusta and Norton. Entries are now
being sought for the event through a selection committee
that has called for exemplary restored and original condition
motorcycles of any make and model up to 1977. The deadline
for entries is December 31, 2007.
For more information, or to download entry forms, click here.
To request entry forms by fax, call 415-673-7980
or e-mail email@example.com.
the Speer Special
Note: Recently, Johnny Sells, owner of Vintage Motorcycle
Works, proudly displayed an original Class C racer called
The Speer Special at the Davenport AMCA meet (See Motohistory
News & Views 9/7/2007). We thought Motohistory readers
might like to know more about this interesting machine.
Speer Special is a 1929 Harley-Davidson DL built in the
mid-to-late 1930s by Frank Speer, owner at the time of
Frank Speer Harley-Davidson in Paterson, New Jersey (pictured
here). Speer began
his business as an Ace dealer in 1922, and when Ace went
out of business he acquired a Harley-Davidson franchise.
Famed Harley factory rider Joe Petrali was Speer's friend,
and it is said that when Joe came to town, he and Frank
would go out
and tie one on. Speer competed in hill climbing events,
and built the Speer Special for AMA Class
C dirt track racing (shown here in left and right-hand
the late ‘30s and 1947, it was ridden by Woodrow Wilson
“Woody” Gerish on tracks throughout New
Speer Special has a 1929 motor and frame, but several
racing modifications have been made. The front forks
are from a 1935 RL model, the carburetor is a Linkert
M6, and the engine has been fitted with high-compression
heads and drilled
connecting rods. Larger intake nipples have been welded
onto the cylinders and a JD manifold has been added to
accommodate the 1¼ inch carburetor. The original
sliding-gear transmission was replaced with a mid-1930s
a practice session at the Newfoundland Speedway in New
Jersey in 1947,
locked up, pitching Gerish off the bike and bending
the handlebars in the process. For the next 60 years,
the bike sat idle. When Joe Rybensky bought the dealership
from Speer in 1963, the Speer Special went with the deal.
Rybensky hung around the shop as a youth, and had worked
for Speer since 1958.
October, 2006, at the Barber Vintage Festival in Alabama,
Rybensky met Johnny Sells, owner of Vintage Motorcycle
Works, and learned that Sells is a specialist in Harley
45 cubic inch flatheads. After Sells explained that 45s
from 1929 to 1936 are
the only model and period he restores,
Rybensky told him about the Speer Special, and said he
wasn't sure what to do with it. Sells said, “If I owned
the bike, I wouldn't restore anything on it. I would fix
the transmission, replace any missing parts, and otherwise
leave it alone in its as-raced condition.” Rybensky was
impressed with Sells' respect for the history and authenticity
of the bike, and the two became friends, often discussing
the Speer Special. Finally, in August, 2007, Rybensky
decided to sell the bike to Sells, making him the third
owner of the 78-year-old motorcycle.
less than four weeks to get ready, Sells decided to prepare
the motorcycle for display at his booth at Davenport (pictured
above). He and his friend Mike Silvio, owner of Cyclemo's
Motorcycle Museum, removed and repaired the transmission.
Parts that had been scavenged
over the years, such as the battery box, coil, controls,
fuel line, and chains, were replaced. One exhaust pipe
that was completely smashed was repaired, but the bent
handlebars were left as is because Sells considered these
an artifact of the bike's racing history. On August 21,
fluids were added, a new battery was installed, and the
Speer Special was brought back to life. After its debut
at Davenport, it was placed on display at Cyclemo's Museum
in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee (as pictured above).
For more information about Vintage Motorcycle Works, click here.
For information about Cyclemo's Motorcycle Museum, click here.
it to the streets
a reader of Motohistory and the AHRMA homepage, I recognize
an evident difference in the presentation
of “Oldtimer Motorraeder,” as we call historically important
motorcycles in Germany.
If I am correct, the main focus in the United
States is twofold:
1) shows and concours, and 2) racing on permanent circuits,
as organized by AHRMA. Both types of events have taken
place in Germany since about 1985,
but both forms of presentation have a specific failing,
as far as the public is concerned.
let me explain. Shows are about insiders judging the nice,
old motorcycles of other insiders. Don't get me wrong.
This is fine as far as it goes, and there is some notice
by Joe Average, who likes to look at shiny old bikes,
and this is good. It is similar with vintage
racing where insiders race against insiders, and many
of the fans are retired racers and their friends. This
is very nice for those involved, but how much of it is
exposed to the public as a whole? Where are the public
on a desire to get the average man or woman involved with
vintage motorcycles, in Germany the Veteranen-Fahrzeug-Verband
(Veteran Vehicle Association) decided that their events
need to come to the people, and not the other way around.
the Second World War, racing in Germany included hill climbing
on closed public roads, road racing on road circuits and
towns like Hannover,
and the national or international-level races at permanent
circuits like the Nurburgring and Hockenheim. The racing
over public roads especially drew huge numbers of viewers.
But by the 1960s, most of the racing on public roads had
come to an end because it was regarded too dangerous for
riders and spectators alike.
was decided that the best way to expose more of the public
to old motorcycles was to try to revive the old way of
racing too, namely on courses laid out on public roads
and streets through towns. This would not really be racing, but
exhibitions at speed, or “demonstration runs.” There is
no timekeeping to give participants an incentive to go
faster, and a pace car is used to keep speed under control.
The response from spectators to these events has been
course, getting local governments to support such events
is not always easy, but often they can be used to help
towns celebrate their own history and increase tourism.
Many of the towns that have hosted demonstrations were
once the venues for real races.
There are two major events that now take place annually
on the streets of town. One is the Fischereihafenrennen
– meaning Fish Harbor Race – in Bremerhafen, and the Schotten-GP,
which is one of the biggest. The Schotten event draws
20 to 30,000 people, which is five to six times more than
come to the German Superbike National Championship.
have visited the Dieburger Dreiecksrennen, which is only
15 kilometers from my home in Darmstadt,
and it is just indescribable how it is welcomed by the
citizens. The general mood was frisky, the local newspaper
contained extensive coverage, and 10 to 15,000 people
– young and old – attended the festivities. The riders
had a great time, though of course they would have liked
to race faster and longer! But they understood the importance
of playing out their hobby in front of the general public,
and it was astonishing to all of us to see people who
have no reference to motorcycling in their daily lives
information about the VFV, click here.
For information about the Schotten-GP, click here.
by Ralf Kruger.
Legend of Fireball Fleming”
historical novel, which follows the exploits of a wholly
fictitious character through a real and accurate historical
context, has become a very popular literary genre. Now,
Peter Gagan, motorcycle historian, collector, and current
president of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, has
written what is – to the best of my knowledge – motorcycling's
first historical novel. Jedidiah Fleming, born on February
29, 1884, near Racine, Wisconsin,
becomes a member of America's
first generation to be bitten by the motorcycle bug when
he reads about Lucius Copeland's steam motorcycle in an
issue of Scientific American, then one day in
July, 1895, witnesses E.J. Pennington demonstrate his
“Motor Cycle” on the streets of Milwaukee.
That day in Milwaukee,
Fleming also meets two other young would-be motorcyclists,
Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson. Then Fleming's enthusiasm
for motorcycles is further kindled when, during a trip
to visit relatives in Boston,
he sees Sylvester Roper ride his steam motorcycle. In
fact, he witnesses the fateful day when Roper died while
at the controls of his revolutionary conveyance at the Charles River race track. Later, on a trip with his wealthy uncle George
to Florida in 1907, Fleming meets Glenn Curtiss and witnesses his
record run aboard his V-8 motorcycle at Ormond
Beach, as well as
Fred Marriott crashing his Stanley Rocket into the surf.
Fleming acquires a motorcycle – first an Orient, then
a Harley-Davidson - and after shaming his conservative
family by getting a local girl pregnant, he sets out to
ride to California, inspired by a story he has read about
George Wyman, who in 1903 became the first person to ride
a motorcycle from coast to coast. Arriving in Los
falls in with the racing crowd headed by Paul “Dare Devil”
Derkum at Agricultural Park,
and soon meets Jack Prince, who has come to town to build
a new board track. All of the riders in Los
Angeles have nicknames,
and this is where Jed becomes “Fireball Fleming.” As the
story unfolds, Fireball Fleming meets and interacts with
practically everyone of note in motorcycle history from
Shrimp Burns to Red Wolverton. In fact, he even goes to England in 1911 where he meets Billy Wells, Charlie Collier, Charles
Franklin, George Brough, and Oliver Godfrey, and becomes
a member of the support team for Jake DeRosier at the
Isle of Man TT.
Gagan's ability to weave a plot that takes Fleming into
almost every important event in early American motorcycle
history is incredible, but at the same time delightful
and almost believable. Fleming was there when Eddie Hasha
crashed and eight people died in New
Jersey, giving motorcycle
racing its darkest day. He saw the horrendous collision
between Jake DeRosier and Charles Balke in Los
Angeles that ended
DeRosier's career and ultimately his life. He was part
of the Excelsior crew that saw Bob Perry kill himself
aboard the spectacular overhead-cam motorcycle on its
first outing, then later he confiscated the engine from
Perry's machine when Ignaz Schwinn ordered all of the
cammers destroyed. Leaving the Excelsior firm with William
Henderson, he helped build and tune Red Wolverton's record-setting
Ace, then later stole one of the speedsters when the company
went into receivership. Gagan has made Fleming an excellent
mechanic, which enables him to brush shoulders with all
of the great names in early motorcycling and earn employment
with most of the industry's leading firms, including Indian,
Excelsior, and Ace.
mechanical skills, however, are about his only positive
quality. He is endearing and amusing, but otherwise Gagan
has made him a totally unsympathetic character: a womanizer,
a drunk, a gambler, a cheat at cards, a thief, and a dedicated
slacker. As he floats through life and slowly squanders
his resources and his reputation, at one point he even
considers seeking a job at Harley-Davidson, but having
met Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson, decides that at this
company he would probably have to work too hard. Fleming's
one genuine contribution is that he invents the Wall of
Death, which is a suitable symbol of his and motorcycling's
downward progress as the great age of board track racing
declines and comes to an end. The great wooden structures
like Playa del Rey have fallen into disrepair, and racing
“on the boards” has shrunk to a carny sideshow playing
to the hick towns of America (Fleming even tries
to incorporate a monkey and a toothless lion into his
act to better appeal to the rubes). At last, Fleming gets
thrown out the back door of a brothel by a prostitute
who was once his best friend, and the story ends with
an aging and arthritic Jed Fleming living in a shack in Tacoma,
trying to keep warm by burning wood scavenged from the
once great, but now derelict Tacoma board track.
has created an altogether entertaining story that is ingenious
in how it winds a plot through the real events of the
glory days of early motorcycling. His making Fleming such
a bum is a clever literary device, because it explains
why today we don't remember him as we look back on our
“real history.” Fireball Fleming does not go out
in a blaze of glory like Eddie Hasha, Charles Balke, or
Bob Perry. Rather, he dies alone and in total obscurity
as just reward for his wasted life. But what about that
name “Fireball?” Isn't there a certain amount of glamour
there? All I will tell you is that Jed Fleming did not
earn that name for his ability to burn up the boards.
How he got it I will not reveal. For that you must read
the book, but I will tell you that it arose from an incident
entirely suitable to Fleming's dignity, or lack thereof.
Legend of Fireball Fleming” is a fun read. For your copy,
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fonda's "Easy Rider"
going to auction
Auction Galleries has announced that Peter Fonda is selling
some of his memorabilia from "Easy Rider," the
1969 release directed and co-written by Fonda that has
been named among the 100 best films of all time by the
American Film Institute. Items going on sale at
the October 6 auction will include the American flag from
the back of the jacket Fonda wore in the film, a Department
of Defense medal that adorned the jacket, and his personal
collection of movie posters from both "Easy Rider"
and "Ulee's Gold." To reach the auctioneer's
web site for more information, click here.
you can never be like Jay Springsteen, at least you can
feel like him aboard your new Jay Springsteen Replica,
a fully street-legal, dirt track-styled, 105 horsepower
hot rod powered by a 1200cc Buell XB engine. These bikes
are offered by SHR Enterprises, owned by Billy Hofmeister,
a long-time professional racer and AMA national number
holder with 14 years experience on the AMA Grand National
circuit. With an oil-in-the-frame chassis and Supertrapp
exhaust system, these custom-built motorcycles begin at
$26,995, and each one is personally signed by Jay Springsteen.
For more information, click here.
Ham ride now
April 4, endurance rider Wayne Stanfield, backed by a
team from the Wheels Through Time Museum, took to the
high banks of Talladega International Speedway to see
how many miles he could ride a 70-year-old Harley-Davidson
Knucklehead in 24 hours (See Motohistory News & Views
3/10/2007 and 4/9/2007). Inspiration for the project was
the endurance feat that Fred Ham performed in 1937 when
he rode the same kind of motorcycle – then brand new – 1,825 miles in 24 hours at Muroc
Dry Lake, California.
Through Time team did not surpass Ham's record due to
mechanical problems, but they covered more than 1,300
miles in a memorable experience that has been fully documented
on video. Stanfield logged laps as fast as 94 miles per
hour, but his time on the track was interrupted with the
replacement of a burned piston, electrical problems, a
broken fuel tank bracket, and at least two failed primary
chains, a problem that Ham also experienced in 1937.
whole event, plus nine brief documentary segments on the
building of the motorcycle, is now available on DVD from
the Wheels Through Time Museum. It is well produced and
captures the emotions of a long night at Talladega, including
the frustration of mechanical failures and the elation
of completing the 24-hour commemoration of Fred Ham's
original ride. To order a copy, or for more information
about the Wheels Through Time Museum, click here.
Hannah to receive
November 4, seven-time AMA motocross national champion
Bob Hannah will be given the Edison Dye Motocross Lifetime
Achievement Award at the White Brothers World Veteran
Motocross Championships at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino,
recipients of the award include Torsten Hallman, Joel
Robert, Roger DeCoster, and Rick Johnson. A special display
depicting Hannah's contribution will be presented by Tom
White's Early Years of Motocross Museum. To visit the
Early Years of Motocross Museum on the web, click here.
To read Bob Hannah's official Motorcycle Hall of Fame
bio, click here.
To see what Bob Hannah is doing today, click here.
photo published with permission from www.motoxschool.com .
Blackwell to host
of Fame induction ceremony
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum has announced that Mark
Blackwell, Vice President of Victory Motorcycles and International
Operations for Polaris Industries, will serve as Master
of Ceremonies for the 2007 U.S. Motorcycle Hall of Fame
Induction scheduled to take place October 6 in Columbus, Ohio.
career in the powersport industry has spanned more than
three decades. He began as a professional motorcycle racer,
winning the 1971 American 500cc Motocross title, a forerunner
of today's AMA National Motocross Championship. He also
won the 500cc motocross class at Daytona in 1972, and
was one of the first American riders to compete in the
Motocross World Championships during the early 1970s.
to the induction ceremony, the Motorcycle Hall of Fame
Museum will host its 6th Annual Concours d'Elegance. Saturday's
events are preceded by "An Evening of Stars and Legends,"
a cocktail reception honoring the Hall of Fame Class of
2007 on Friday, October 5. Hall of Fame Weekend activities
are open to the public. For more information, call 614-856-2222
or click here.
Inter-Am CZ found
Johnson, of Old S'Cool Restorations, reports that an original
and intact 1970 360cc CZ ridden by Czech star Miroslav
Halm in the Inter-Am International Motocross Series has
been discovered. Owned for many years by Czech motorcycle
enthusiast Steve Canady, the motorcycle has been authenticated
through information found in an American JAWA newsletter
dated May, 1971. For the complete story, including many
detailed photographs of the bike, click here.
by Steve Canady
by Big Sid
Sid Biberman, legendary Vincent expert, has sent us this
photograph taken at a grudge race against a Triumph dealer
named Gerald in 1956. Overcome by youthful exuberance,
Biberman lost the race when he launched his Vincent into
a giant wheelie. He reports that the Vincent subsequently
beat the Triumph in three out of three runs, despite the
fact that it was running 9:1 compression on gas, and the
Triumph had a 13:1 race motor burning methanol. The relationship
between Gerald and Biberman that gave rise to the grudge
race is described in detail in Biberman's book, “Vincents
with Big Sid,” by Rapide Press, 1998. For more about Biberman
and his book, click here.
there is another book in the works in the Biberman family.
Son Matthew, who is also an active motorcyclist and a
literature professor, is well along with the working title
“Big Sid's Vincati: A Father, a Son, and the Bike of a
Lifetime.” The work is not just about the hybrid Vincati,
but will discuss all of the great V-twins throughout motorcycle
history. It is due for publication early in 2009. To read
Motohistory's account of Biberman's Vincent/Ducati hybrid,
see News & Views 6/4/2006.
Kuhn and the 1921 TT
are always pleased when Motohistory can make a connection
that leads to better understanding our history and our
traditions. Such was the case recently when we published
an article about BSA's unsuccessful assault on the Isle
of Man TT in 1921 (See Motohistory News & Views 9/10/2007),
written by Mick Duckworth. That article prompted the following
response by Valerie Davey:
YOU. You have solved a mystery for me. Gus Kuhn is my
grandfather and I have been sorting out the pictures that
I inherited from my mother. Very few of them had any info
with them, but over the last year I have managed to work
out the “who, where, and when” of most of them, and
I have now made a web site of my grandfather's exploits.
there was one picture, marked “BSA Riders,” that I couldn't
fathom out. I had no record of his riding a BSA (though
he rode just about anything he could get his hands on!),
and I thought he had given the 1921 TT a miss – that is
until I found your web site! It explains everything. It
explains the picture itself and it explains why Gus is
standing at the back in “civvies.” I got out my magnifying
glass and now I can see that he has a walking stick, which
is explained by your information that he had an ankle
have sent you a copy of the picture with Gus Kuhn standing
behind, third from the right (top photo). I have also
sent a photo of three members of the BSA team in their
very jazzy regalia (above), which must have been very
remarkable at the time.
we are pleased to have been of service, and especially
we want to thank Mick Duckworth for submitting the story
with photos of the one known remaining 1921 BSA works
machine that appeared at the TT in 1921. Thanks for sending
the great historical photos of the team.
check out Valerie's new Gus Kuhn web site, click here.
have a winner!
did not take long for Florida reader John Wiser to identify
our Motohistory Quiz engine as that of a Model 85 Salsbury
scooter. John should know, since
he owns an exquisite Model
85 that was declared Best of Show at the Riding into History
Councours a few years ago, then featured in the Orlando
edition of the Guggenheim's The Art of the Motorcycle
Exhibition beneath a huge mural of Clark Gable, as pictured
the depths of the Great Depression in 1935, E. Foster
Salsbury designed a tiny two-wheeled scooter he called
the Motor Glide. It featured a ¾ horsepower Evinrude
engine that powered a roller that pressed directly on
the rear tire. The novel drive system was problematic,
working properly only in dry weather, but Salsbury's total
package became the platform for all subsequent scooter
design in that it advanced five
key features, most or all of which can be seen on all
modern scooters. These are: 1) the motor next to the rear
wheel, 2) step-through construction, 3) bodywork covering
the motor, 4) small wheels, and 5) automatic transmission/clutch.
Salsbury went through several improvements and model changes
prior to the Second World War, then the company turned
much of its engineering resources to defense work, including
the development of a wind tunnel for jet aircraft design. Its scooter
contributions to the war effort included military models
used for Navy base transportation and a “mono-ambulance,”
which was basically a scooter with a sidecar bearing a
stretcher. During the war, Salsbury sold his company to
a subsidiary of Northrop Aircraft Corporation, and when
hostilities ended a new scooter was put into production,
still under the Salsbury name. This
- the Model 85 - was starkly different from its pre-war
predecessors. Designed by aeronautical engineer Lewis
Thorstenson, it was large, luxurious, and radically modern
in its styling, often described as “pure Buck Rogers!”
the Salsbury – especially the Model 85 – is a coveted
collectible. Somewhere between 700 and 1,000 Model 85s
were produced, and today a good example will command upwards of $10,000. For more information
and pictures at the U.S. Scooter Museum web site, click here.
To reach the web site of the International Salsbury Restoration
Society, click here.
For an explanation of the continuously variable transmission
created by E. Foster Salsbury, which has far broader application
than just scooters, click here.
For an excellent history of the Salsbury, and scooters
in general, refer to “The Scooter Bible” by Michael and
Eric Dregni. It is available from Whitehorse Press. Click here.
being informed that he had won our Motohistory Quiz, John
Wiser sent us this great photo of his wedding day.
He writes, "I still have the scooter yet today, but
the girl did not make the whole trip. It was wonderful
to be 29!"
John. Your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on the way.
George “Cannonball” Baker, born in Indiana in 1882, became
so renowned for his long-distance endurance and economy
runs with both cars and motorcycles that relatively little
has been written about his achievement as a machinist,
designer, and inventor. According to published reports,
Baker undertook over 140 timed long-distance record attempts
during his career, 126 of which were cost-to-coast marathons
across the continental United
States. In 1911,
he rode an Indian across the nation in 11 days, 12 hours,
and 10 minutes, and in 1922 he reduced his time for that
crossing to six days, 22 hours, and 52 minutes aboard
a four-cylinder Ace. As reliability of both cars and motorcycles
improved, manufacturers began to place more emphasis on
efficiency, and Baker's cross-country jaunts became tests
of fuel-economy rather than just speed and endurance.
as a machinist from his teens, Baker learned about metallurgy
by working in a foundry in Indianapolis,
and he consolidated his technical knowledge and interests
in vehicle performance and efficiency into a project to
build a better engine, based on a revolutionary rotary-valve
design. According to a report written by his nephew, Clarence,
Baker began working on a single-cylinder, rotary-valve,
air-cooled engine in 1929 (pictured here and below). The
theory of a rotary valve is to achieve higher speed –
thus, more power – by eliminating the reciprocating parts
in the valve train. There are basically two types of rotary-valve
designs that have been applied to four-stroke engines.
One is the Aspen-type vertical valve, which is a rotating
disc that sits atop the combustion chamber. As it turns,
timed ports function as valves to introduce fuel and expel
other is the Cross-type horizontal valve, which is a cylinder
or drum that sits horizontally across the top of the combustion
chamber. It also contains ports that introduce and expel
gasses as the cylinder turns, timed to the rising and
falling piston. This design was developed by Roland Cross
in Great Britain from 1920 to 1945. It was reported in The Motorcyclist in December, 1934 that Cross
had perfected the design and it would appear on production
motorcycles the following year. This, however, was
an overly optimistic claim. When Cross entered two
rotary-valve machines in the TT at the Isle of Man in
1935, one failed to qualify and the other retired with
“spark plug trouble.” Cross's rotary-valve development
came to an end when his company had to devote all of its
resources to military production during the Second World
War. Still, the design showed such
promise that as late as the 1960s, Norton development
engineer Joe Craig was working on a Cross-type rotary-valve
head for the Manx engine. For more information about rotary
valves, Cross, and the experimental Norton, and for excellent
drawings of both vertical and horizontal valve designs,
“spark plug trouble” that Cross experienced at the Isle
of Man is symptomatic
of the Achilles Heel of the rotary valve design when the
valve is integral with the combustion chamber on a four-stroke
engine. The competing objectives of compression and friction
are hard to overcome. Significant areas of metal against
metal must be lubricated, and sealing for compression
is complicated as metals expand and contract at different
heat ranges. When one tries to overcome these problems
with excessive lubrication, spark plug fouling is the
result. How to keep the valve adequately lubricated without
spilling too much oil into the combustion chamber is hard
to do. Cross tried to place a cast steel valve in
a bronze sleeve, using a spring-loaded scraper to reduce
the amoung of oil spilling into the combustion chamber.
The Isle of Man results and the failure to ever put a
rotary-valve on a production motorcycle would suggest
it did not work.
more than a decade of development, Baker overcame this
sealing/lubrication problem through extensive experimentation
with the material used in his rotary valve. This was referred
to in the undated report written by Clarence Baker sometime
after 1941, and in an article by Chet Billings that appeared
in The Motorcyclist in June, 1941. Billings stated that Baker
overcame sealing and lubrication problems by using a “sintered
material which was
subjected to heat treating.” Clarence Baker reported that
his uncle made the valve from “oil-impregnated graphite.”
Baker's design took the form of a tall, finned cylinder
head with a shaft and large sprocket on the right side,
rotated by a chain driven from the crankshaft (pictured
above). On the left side of the head is a round, finned,
removable plate (shown here), presumably slightly larger
than the valve itself. Baker mounted this upper end on
the crankcase from a 21 cubic inch Harley-Davidson single,
which was attached to an Indian primary drive cover, clutch,
gearbox, and magneto drive. The whole package was mounted
in an Indian Sport Scout frame. Billings reports, “Ready
for the road the outfit weighed together with the rider
a total of 725 pounds.” Since Baker was a big man, the
motorcycle must have come in well under 500 pounds.
people who want to perfect a new engine design would spend
countless hours in the relatively safe and controlled
environment of a test track, or perhaps on local roads.
Not Baker! In typical fashion, he decided the best way
to demonstrate the viability of his new engine was to
ride it from coast to coast, which would test its durability
and efficiency under all kinds of riding and weather conditions
at altitudes from below sea level to 8,000 feet. This
would be a feat for any test rider, but by this time Cannonball
Baker was 60 yeas old. Chet Billings described his departure:
“At 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 16 th , it was the old time Cannonball
Baker who sat astride his motor at the city limits of Los Angeles and Alhambra .
To see him off were AMA referee Al Koogler, west coast
AMA representative Chet Billings, old-timer Fred Ludlow
and Ed Farrand. At the tick of 3:30 Koogler waved
him on, cameras clicked and a huge husky figure bent forward
on the machine in the same position that it held years
ago when many weary miles of bad weather and high speeds
were ahead. Yes, Cannon Ball rode again.”
followed in a Chevrolet as his uncle made his way to Tucson,
then Oklahoma City,
then Carthage, Missouri;
then on to Indianapolis,
his home town. Billings reports, “He was
brown as a berry, bewhiskered and tired. So, he treated
himself to a bath, shave, some sleep and a good feed.
He lost nine hours in all.” Continuing on, Baker passed
through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
and New Jersey,
arriving at the Holland Tunnel in New
York with an elapsed
time of six days, six hours, and 25 minutes. Baker is
pictured above after his arrival, with Indian dealer Ben
Kasof. Though it had not been Baker's objective to beat
his record set aboard the Ace when he was nearly 20 years
younger, he did so, bettering that crossing by 16 hours.
Rather, it was his intention to prove the reliability
and economy of his rotary-valve prototype, which complete
the coast-to-coast trip without mishap, averaging 57.2
miles per gallon on any type of pump gas that was available
along the way, including the low-grade fuel that was known
as “white gas” at the time.
Roland Cross in England,
Baker had great hopes that his rotary-valve design would
revolutionize the internal combustion engine. Not only
did it offer a simpler, non-reciprocating valve train;
he reckoned it would be cheaper to manufacturer and capable
of greater horsepower without sacrificing reliability.
For example, his transcontinental prototype, Billings reports, produced
close to one horsepower per cubic inch. But it was not
to be. Baker – an accomplished salesman and self-promoter
– could not persuade investors to back his design, probably
for the same reason that Cross ceased development in England in the mid-1940s.
As nations prepared for war, few investors or governments
were interested in funding novel or unproven ideas that
did not involve weaponry or aeronautics.
Cannonball Baker's rotary-valve prototype is owned by
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, and
has recently been placed on display in a new motorcycle
exhibit created to celebrate the fact that next year Indy
will host a MotoGP. The motorcycle is original and unrestored,
and its engine wears a patina of oily grime which may
well be the very residue of its successful cross-country
ride. Arguably, it carried rotary-valve development to
a higher level of success than any other example, and
it certainly proved that Cannonball Baker was a great
deal more than a tough and stubborn man who could sit
in a saddle for a week at a time. It is a tribute to a
thoughtful and creative side of Cannonball Baker that
has often been overlooked in the many stories of his feats
read Cannonball Baker's official Motorcycle Hall of Fame
bio, click here.
To reach the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame
Museum web site, click here.
of Baker aboard his rotary-valve prototype courtesy of
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
to Donald Davidson and Mary Ellen Loscar of the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum for assistance with
research for this article.
readers, it's time to test your knowledge of Motohistory.
tell us what two-wheeler this engine was built to power.
The first person to send us the correct answer will receive
a personalized Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma.
to your keyboard and send your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net.
terrible '21 TT
gained from road racing can be a two-edged thing. It's
fine if you do well, but not so good when everything goes
terribly wrong. That's what BSA learned in 1921, when
a high-profile racing campaign fell apart on its first
outing at the Isle of Man TT. The management of the old-established
company in Birmingham, England were so stung by this spectacular failure that the BSA
marque kept well away from road racing for years.
1921 TT was well supported by factory teams. In the premier
500cc Senior race, 12 different marques were officially
represented in a total of 68 entries. The TT had been
revived in 1920 after the traumas of World War One and
the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. Several leading factories
stayed away, saying that they had enough work meeting
orders for Britain's
booming motorcycle market without having to prepare TT
in 1921, the big names were there: AJS, Indian, Norton,
Scott, Sunbeam and Triumph as well as BSA, seeking to
expand motorcycle production after demand for its armaments
slumped. The Birmingham presence attracted
great interest, since BSA was not regarded as a race-oriented
factory and because the 14 single cylinder machines shipped
to the Island for six riders were of starkly radical design.
was fielding its first overhead valve engine, with a bore
and stroke of 80.5 x 98mm. Although a four-valve head
had been tried, the TT engine was a two-valver. The valves
were set vertically atop the head, operated by hollow
pushrods with unusual ‘lubrication-free' rockers. Instead
of rocking on spindles, they had hardened knife-edge projections
on top, pivoting in notches on steel plates fixed above the head. The rockers were held in
place by pressure from the main valve springs and auxiliary
springs on the pushrods.
head and barrel were of cast iron, but the piston was
of light alloy, then still an experimental material for
the purpose. Carburetion was by BSA's own twin-barreled
instrument, mounted at an extreme updraught angle, while
the single exhaust port led into a Y-shaped manifold and
twin exhaust pipes. A BSA hand-shift gearbox was driven
via a dry clutch, with a small external flywheel on the
mechanical pump took oil from a remote reservoir to the
roller bearing big-end and as a back-up measure an external
pump could be pedal-operated by the rider's right foot
when the engine was stressed on long climbs. The BSAs
were low-slung, with the cylinder inclined forward, parallel
to the frame's twin downtubes. While most British machines
of the day had horizontal box-shaped gas tanks, the BSA's
sloped downwards from the steering head to the tube supporting
the low-set saddle. The handlebars were wide and it is
worth noting that today's 200mph TT riders use wider-than-normal
team of six riders, plus a reserve, included frame designer
Harold Poole and chief road tester Albert Wood. One of
those recruited from outside the factory was Gus Kuhn,
who had finished second in the 250cc race run concurrently
with the 1920 350cc Junior TT.
in the practice period, Kuhn collided with Wood and was
sidelined by an ankle injury. Handling problems had to
be addressed and metric-sized 650mm wheels were replaced
by the slightly larger, more generally used, 26in size.
And while the BSAs were fast, allegedly reaching 70mph
in second gear, they were plagued by engine troubles throughout
the two weeks of early morning practices. Failures included
piston seizures, valve breakages and even melted aluminum
exhaust manifolds. The press were told that it was a case
of the parts not being able to withstand
the engine's phenomenal power output. There was a small
ray of hope when Irish BSA rider Tommy Green was fifth
fastest in one practice session.
teamster, Charlie North, caught his foot on the road when
trying to operate his oil pedal, so the auxiliary pump's
operation was changed to a cable and handlebar lever.
Durable iron exhaust manifolds were also fitted. In the
race, BSA's performance was disastrous. Only one of the
six machines, Albert Taylor's, managed to complete a single
lap of the 37.73-mile Mountain Course and it misfired
badly before expiring only yards into its third circuit.
Howard Riddell, pictured above, broke down only two miles
out and rode back to the start on a pedal cycle, receiving
a big cheer from the grandstand. It seems that the engines
were just too experimental and BSA had much to learn about
race, which lasted six laps, was won by Howard Davies
(who later founded HRD) on an ohv AJS single. Sensationally,
he rode the 350cc machine on which he had finished second
in an AJS 1-2-3 Junior TT finish days earlier. Indian side-valve singles
ridden by Freddie Dixon and Bert LeVack were second and
third in the Senior, while the fastest lap was set at
56.4 mph by Fred Edmond on a Triumph, also a side-valve
for BSA to contest a grand prix event in France were quietly dropped
and reputedly, the disgraced TT bikes were scrapped. However,
at least one escaped the death sentence and turned up
decades later. It was found near where Albert Taylor set
up in business after leaving BSA and is believed to be
his longest-lasting TT machine. Bought by Birmingham's National Motorcycle Museum,
it was restored and put on display in the early Eighties.
2003, fire swept through the hall where BSAs of all ages
were assembled to celebrate 100 years of the marque's
powered two-wheelers. The TT racer was severely damaged,
but fortunately not beyond repair, as was confirmed when
it recently returned to the Museum. The restoration, carried
out in-house, proved difficult, especially as solder holding
the surprisingly elaborate fuel and oil tank fabrications
had melted away entirely.
it is the Museum policy to have as many of its 700 machines
as possible in fine running order, a race track thrashing
for this BSA would seem most inadvisable. To learn more
about the National Motorcycle Museum UK, click here.
photo of Howard Riddell courtesy of FoTTofinders.
call for papers
organizers of the Motorcycling Culture and Myth Section
of the American Pop Culture Association Conference, scheduled
to take place in San Francisco March 19 through 22, 2008,
have issued a call for papers. The deadline for submission
of an abstract is November 1. For more information, click here or E-mail Gary
L. Kieffner at Kieffner@miners.utep.edu.
year's AMCA national meet at Davenport, Iowa, held over
the Labor Day weekend, offered up the usual vast array
of oddities, theasures, and priceless one-offs.
Frank Westfall brought his Enterprise, an Indian-powered
streamlined prototype built in 1950 by Ray Courtney of
Pontiac, Michigan. Courtney built three prototype
motorcycles, one of which was powered by a Henderson engine.
The example pictured here, which still runs, was featured
on the September, 1952 cover of Cycle and the
March, 1953 cover of Popular Science.
Sells proudly displayed in his Vintage Motorcycle Works
booth the Speer Special, a 1929 Harley-Davidson DL built
in the mid-1930s by Frank Speer of Paterson, New Jersey.
Speer, a friend of Joe Petrali, competed in hill climbs
and built the Speer Special for Class C dirt track racing.
We hope to report on this motorcycle in greater detail
in a future Motohistory update. To reach Sells'
Vintage Motorcycle Works web site, click here.
Walksler was bombing around on his recently-acquired Clem
Murdaugh's Indian sidecar rig that he rode at the Jack
Pine Enduro from 1948 through '51. Walksler bought
the motorcycle in a pile of Indian stuff, and being owner
of the "museum that runs," it did not take him
long to get it running. It is powered by and Indian
Four engine and features a snorkle that runs to an air
clearner mounted on top of the tank. It has power
to the sidecar wheel that can be engaged by the passenger,
and an engine-driven winch that can pull the machine out
of sticky situations. Walksler is brandishing a
brush cutter that came with the rig. For more about
the Wheels Through Time Museum, click here.
last, the Excelsior takes to the track
have been reporting for more than a year about the development
of a recreation of the famous
1919 Excelsior overhead-cam racer by Paul Brodie of Flashback
Fabrications. Paul has been promising since the
beginning of the project that one day it would take to
the track, and at Davenport it did, ridden by Larry Barnes
of Massillon, Ohio. The machine ran well in practice
and heat races, but failed to start before the main, possibly
due to the sheered Woodruff key.
describes the experience: "Taking laps on the Excelsior
replica was a great 'checkered flag' to top off my 30-year
experience. When it lit up, the roar from the two
very short pipes was music. And it handled like
being on rails. The only issue was the extreme vibration
created by the big twin engine. My glasses were
bouncing on my nose so much I couldn't see where I was
going at anything over half-throttle. Riding the
bike gave me a real appreciation and amazement for what
those young men in the board track era must have felt."
read our most recent story about this project, with references
to previous stories, go to Motohistory News & Views
7/12/2007. To reach Paul Brodie's Flashback Fabrications
web site, click here.
photos provided by Paul Brodie.
in Isle of Man racing photos? Check out
Manxshop.com, which contains links to TTmuseum.com and
FoTTofinder.com. Click here.
Good has posted on his MX Worksbike web site an excellent
story about 1961 World Champion Sten Lundin and his Lito motorcycle, a derivative
of the Swedish Monark brand. To check it out, click here.
AMA has just published on its web site a thorough and
sometimes amusing (e.g. vintageous) glossary of
motorcycle terms. To check it out, click here.
collections of motocross motorcycles and memorabilia,
see the “Your Collection” feature of the RacerX
Illustrated web site, which is updated frequently.
Vetter and Elvis Presley had a great relationship.
Craig bought one of Elvis's albums and Elvis bought one
of Craig's fairings. For this and other little-known facts,
check out the new feature about the Vetter Liberator fairing on the Vetter web site. Click here.
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum now offers a virtual
tour of its acclaimed Motocross America
Exhibit. Click here.
all things Salsbury, click here.
visit the U.S. Scooter Museum, click here.
read a strange tale of the Mafia, murder, and a motorcycle
sidecar used as a barber's chair in the 1920s,
Bird at the Wheel's collection of vintage motorcycle
art, click here.
Horner, leading Australian Vincent builder, pictured here
center-right, recently visited Big Sid Biberman, pictured
here center left, at his home in Louisville, Kentucky
(To read our previous story about Biberman, America's
Vincent enthusiast extraordinaire, go to Motohistory News
& Views 6/4/2006). Others pictured are Sid's son Matthew
(far left), also an expert Vincent builder and historian,
and David Howard (far right), sales and marketing manager for Irving Vincent.
that he will enter one of his Vincents in the AHRMA Battle of the Twins at
Daytona 2008. The bike will be ridden by Criag McMartin
(pictured here), seven-times Australian ProTwins Champion.
For a previous story about the Irving Vincent team, see
Motohistory News & Views 3/15/2007. To reach
Ken Horner's Irving Vincent web site, click here.
To reach Sib Biberman's web site, click here.
provided by Sid Biberman.
collaboration with the Penton Owners Group, Motohistory
has republished “John Penton and the Off-Road
Motorcycle Revolution” in hard cover. Originally
published in soft cover by Whitehorse Press in 2000, the
book went through several printings before it went out
of print earlier this year. The new edition contains a
foreword by POG President Paul Danik in celebration of
the 40th anniversary of the Penton motorcycle (2008).
It is available for $25.00, including shipping, from the
Penton Owners Group. To order a copy, click here.
pilot Rocky Robinson has recorded and shared his rare
experiences in "Flat Out: The Race for the
Motorcycle World Land Speed Record," a 265-page
hard cover book published by Motor Books International.
Robinson held the ultimate prize briefly in September,
2006 aboard the legendary Ack Attack streamliner, only
to see it snatched away a day later by Chris Carr in a
machine owned by his former employer and his team's chief
rival Denis Manning. To reach the author's official
web site, click here.
To acquire the book at a discounted rate of $23.35 through
the Motorbooks web site, click here.
Dutch stuff to go to auction
auction house of Bonhams & Butterfields has announced
that the Stan Betz collection of Von Dutch memorabilia
will go on sale November 10 at its annual auction at the
Museum in Los Angeles. Bonhams states that
the personal property to be auctioned has never previously
been exhibited, and therefore represents a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to own a part of the Betz and Von Dutch legacies.
Mark Osborne, vice president of Bonhams & Butterfields'
Motoring Department, states, "We are thrilled to
offer such a major collection of Von Dutch memorabilia.
Whether on a billboard in Times Square or in a magazine
ad, his legend is as important and relevant today as it
was at the beginning of his career." The sale will
also include a variety of assorted racing collectibles,
memorabilia, scale model cars, and vintage motorcycles.
To register to bid remotely or in person, click here.
Illustrated auction catalogs will be available for review
online and for purchase in the weeks preceding the auction.
about boxer two-strokes
Motohistory Quiz #43 featured an unusual opposed two-stroke
engine. After Ralf Kruger identified it as a JAWA (see
& Views 8/3/2007),
I commented on the relative rarity of this engine configuration
in motorcycles. I could identify from memory only one
production motorcycle, the MZ BK350, and two prototypes,
the BMW R10 (pictured here) and the JAWA in question,
that used such an engine (see Motohistory News & views
8/11/2007), and I asked Motohistory readers if they could
Jean Roquecave responded immediately from France,
reminding me of the Velocette Viceroy, pictured here.
Introduced in 1961, the Viceroy contained a 248cc boxer
two-stroke. Contrary to conventional scooter design, the
Viceroy's engine sat forward, more like that of a motorcycle.
The Viceroy was a commercial failure that one road tester
called “Velocette's biggest mistake.”
Biberman wrote about the Marman Twin (pictured here),
a clip-on-type bicycle engine built in America. Marman
Products Company was founded by – believe it or not –
Zeppo Marx, brother of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. It introduced
a motorbike in 1948. For additional pictures of a Marman
Twin, click here.
the American “clip-on” engine department, we can think
of two others. An early example is the 1920 Johnson Motors
twin two-stroke manufactured in South Bend, Indiana. A
rare example, owned by Dave Bagne, is pictured here. Similar
to the Marman Twin was the Monark Super Twin, also powered
by a boxer two-stroke manufactured by Power Products.
The magnificent example pictured below was on display
recently at the AMCA meet at Davenport, Iowa. It too is
owned by Dave Bagne. For more information about the Monark, click here.
Neither the Marman nor the Monark took much market share
Kruger, our German reader who originally identified the
JAWA, was a wealth of information about boxer two-strokes.
First, he informed us and sent photos of a rather imposing-looking
four-cylinder Maico special built by Hans-Gerd Reichler
in 1970 for sidecar racing (shown below). Kruger writes,
“In the ‘60s and ‘70s, sidecar racing was tremendously popular in Germany,
and Great Britain.
Most of the German riders used BMW engines, but there
were some people – such as Reichler – who were disturbed
by the rising tide of conformity.” Kruger explains that
the engine used Maico RS125 cylinders, a Krober ignition,
Bing carbs, a BMW gearbox, and developed about 70 horsepower.
Helmut Fath, a man who tuned winning bikes for Phil Read,
Dieter Braun, and Martin Wimmer, also created an alternative
for sidecar competition by building his famous URS four-stroke.
It is less well known, however, that he also created a
500cc, four-cylinder, boxer two-stroke, pictured above
in a sidecar chassis.
addition, the Konig, originally built as a boat engine,
was used in motorcycles. Konig built both boxer twin and
boxer four two-strokes (pictured here), and in 1972 the
four was adopted as a BMW-killer in sidecar racing. Kruger
writes, “Steinhauser and Huber won the sidecar world championship
in 1975, and Schwarzel took the German national title.”
He adds, “The big problem for all of them was that the
Konig was developed for constant load for boat racing,
and the spark plugs fouled when the throttle was closed
for too long, then opened.”
Ralf, Sid, and Jean for all the additional information.
We are finding a number of examples of boxer two-strokes
used in competition, but still have identified only two
serial production vehicles – the MZ BK350 and the Velocette
Viceroy – plus three American-built motorbike engines.
of BMW, Maico, Fath, and Konig engines provided by Ralf
about Putt Mossman
story about Putt Mossman (Motohistory News & Views 8/6/2007)
brought responses from two readers. Antique Motorcycle
Club of America President Peter Gagan wrote, “Ed, there
is a little sidebar on Putt Mossman's life that is not
mentioned in the Hall of Fame bio. Mossman rode at the
Isle of Man Lightweight TT with works rides from OK Supreme
(pictured here) in 1936 and 1938. He didn't qualify in
'36 due to a crash. He qualified in '38, but didn't finish.
He was a big hit with the fans with his white leathers
and stunts in the paddock aboard a unicycle. The motorcycles
were painted white to match Mossman's leathers.”
Bill Brokaw, author of a story about Jim Lusk (Motohistory
News & Views 8/7/2007),
the bit about Putt Mossman next to the Lusk story brings
back memories of more of my dad's stories. Putt
was from Iowa and would come in my folks' shop fairly often, usually
begging something. Dad had many stories about Putt,
but some were so bizarre that only his telling made them
sound plausible. Putt was a crack shot, as
well as a horse shoe champion, and he incorporated both
in his act. My last time to see him myself was at
Daytona in '46. I was with my dad when he was with
Alf Childs on the beach. Putt was putting the sell
on Alf to score a Sunbeam for his act. He suddenly
told Alf to wait right there as he would do an original
stunt just for him. He took off down the beach,
which was loaded with traffic, on his Indian four. Soon
white and riderless Indian returned. As it
got closer we could see Putt being dragged on his belly
at arms length behind it, hanging on to the rear stand.
Somehow, nothing got in his way and somehow he pulled
himself back aboard. His traditional white clothing
was quite the mess upon his return. All was
for naught, as Alf did not come across with the Sunbeam.
Pete and Bill, for more tales of Putt Mossman.
provided by Peter Gagan.