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Motohistory Quiz #51:

We have a winner

(2/29/2008)

 

Quiz PhotoThe object in our Motohistory Quiz #51 photograph is the cowling, or “grille” around the engine of a DKW Hummel, first correctly identified by Jim Dillard of Denver, Colorado. “Hummel,” meaning “Bumble Bee,” was used by DKW several times throughout its history. First, it was used on a 32cc hub-engine for bicycles during the Second World War, then next on a line of mopeds introduced in 1956. In 1961, it was applied to this stylish little 50cc “Kleinkraftrad” – meaning “small motorcycle” – which the press gave the less-endearing name of “the Tin Banana.”

The late 1950s and early ‘60s were difficult years for the German motorcycle industry. Though they were building some of the most stylish and technically advanced production models the world had ever seen, Germans were abandoning motorcycles at a rapid pace. The country was emerging from the demoralization and poverty of the period immediately following the war, and as its economy grew stronger and its world status improved, Germans were shifting their family transportation budgets from motorcycles and micro-cars to full-size automobiles.

 

A turning point came in 1958 when Daimler Benz AG gained control of Auto Union, Germany's amalgamated motor industry. Having no commercial or historical DKW Hummelinterest in motorcycles, Mercedes-Benz led a movement among Auto Union's member companies Horch, Audi, Wanderer, and DKW to abandon motorcycle production. Victoria, Express, and DKW, which had sold more than a half-million motorcycles in the years following the war, moved to protect their interests with the formation of Zweirad Union in November, 1958, which integrated these formerly independent companies. Still, the die was cast, for it was conventional wisdom throughout Germany that the automobile – not the motorcycle – was the vehicle of the future. NSU, for example, made the strategic decision to abandon motorcycles in favor of cars at a time it was offering some of the best two-wheeled products in the world.

 

The DKW Hummel (pictured above), perhaps, can be seen as a stylistic effort to cope with Germany's changing tastes by building a motorcycle that was more “car-like,” even to the extent of hiding its engine behind a grille. The sleek little bike was also offered under the Victoria brand, and, as we can note in the brochure pictured here, like Honda in America, the German manufacturer had its own “nicesDKW Brochuret people” campaign in the early 1960s.  The text of the brochure reads, "Connoisseurs ride DKWs -- Small motorcycles and mopeds." 

Though the Hummel has become a prized collectible today, it never enjoyed good sales in its day, and after 1965 was discontinued. The fine example shown here is a 1965 model, and is currently on display at Jim Kersting's World of Motorcycles Museum in North Judson, Indiana.  For more information about the Hummel, click here. For additional pictures, click here and here. To read a history of DKW, penned by Leo Keller, go to Motohistory News & Views 4/10/2007.

Congratulations, Jim, for winning our latest Motohistory Quiz.  Your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.

 

DKW Hummel brochure provided by Leo Keller.

 

Motohistory Quiz #51

(2/29/2008)

 

Quiz photoOkay, kids, it's time for another Motohistory Quiz. Be the first to tell me what this is and I'll send you your own personalized Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma.

And no, it is not a vacuum cleaner, nor is it a man's electric razor.

 

Send your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net.

 

 

Vern Goodwin:

The sidecar man

By Carl Edeburn

(2/28/2008)

 

Vern GoodwinSome people would say it really doesn't do Vern Goodwin (pictured here) justice to call him a “sidecar man,” because his experience in motorcycling has ranged over practically every aspect of the sport and community. But still, it is that intrepid and relatively small gang of enthusiasts who ride the asymmetrical three-wheelers who have claimed him as their own.

 

Goodwin was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1931, the son of an Indian motorcycle dealer. From 1920 until 1938, Goodwin senior – also named Vern (pictured below with young Vern)– had a delivery business for which he used Indian 10Vern and Father1 Scouts equipped with sidecars. He acquired his Indian franchise in 1936, but continued the delivery business for two more years. During this period, he became acquainted with Charles Lindbergh, who was in Lincoln for flight training. Lindy rode an Excelsior, and used to frequent Vern Sr.'s shop. Goodwin says, “Dad considered Lindbergh more an acquaintance than a friend, and he thought him a bit of a foolhardy fellow.”  But foolhariness may be a relative quality, because there were also local rumors that during prohibition, Vern Sr. had set up a bootlegger's Indian Chief so that one tank held gasoline and the other held two and a half gallons of hooch, so he could make regular runs to Kansas City.

 

Young Vern's first motorcycle was a 1939 Indian Chief, which his father gave him when he began working at the shop in 1947, at the age Indian dealershipof 16. Over time, he graduated to the position of head mechanic for the dealership. Vern wanted to go flat track racing at the Nebraska State Fair, and at first his father refused. Having been denied his chance to race, Vern loaned his front tire and transmission sprocket to a friend. Then, just before the event, his father relented, and Vern rushed back to the shop to find parts to make his motorcycle track-worthy. He found an oversized sprocket that would do, but the only front tire available was a whitewall. He felt utterly humiliated to go racing with a whitewall tire (Pictured above is the Goodwin's Indian dealership.  Out front is the white-walled Scout). However, more than a half-century later he changed his mind when he saw a picture of Johnny Spiegelhoff mounted on his Big Base Scout after winning the Daytona 200 in 1947. Incredibly, Spiegelhoff's factory racer was decked out with Firestone whitewall tires, and Goodwin says, “Now I brag about looking like a real pro after all!” Vern continued to race throughout Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska, earning his AMA Expert license, which gave him the right to carry the prestigious white number plate assigned to Experts.

 

When Indian began to wane in the early 1950s, Vern Sr. switched to a Harley-Davidson franchise, and in 1954 Vern went to Milwaukee to the Motor Company's mechanic's school. It was there he met Omaha Harley dealers Dean and Priscilla Hummer, after whom Harley's little 125 was named. Goodwin says, “The Hummer's dealership sold more of that little Harley 125 in 1953 and '54 than any other dealer in the country. Harley-Davidson sent them air fare to attend the 1955 new model showing, which was not a common practice, and I was standAllstate Racering there with my regional sales manger when they introduced the 1955 model as a ‘Hummer,' in honor of Dean and Priscilla.”

 

Although his father had been a dealer for the leading American brands, Vern turned to a far more unusual racing machine, becoming the first, and probably only, person in the United States to become a Sears “factory racer” for its Austrian Puch-built Allstate motorcycle (pictured above). He recalls, “In 1957, a Sears national sales manager from Chicago contacted me about racing an Allstate in local competition. I agreed, and a few months later went down to the local Sears loading dock where my new racer had arrived. It was a 175cc, and had been modified by the factory, apparently to European racing standards.” Vern took the bike to Dodge City for its first outing, and finished fourth. Later he switched to a 500cc Indian, built by Royal Enfield (pictured below), on which he won some of his more than 250 trophies. In 1957, Vern began working nights for the CB&Q railroad, later to become the Burlington Northern, and during the day at a localIndian Westerner Honda dealership. In addition, he was racing Hondas and Nortons on weekends and moonlighting with his own motorcycle repair business. He chuckles, “I used to be pretty good at burning the candle at both ends.”

 

During the 1970s, Goodwin went to the rally and races at Sturgis to wrench for his son Rob, who as racing there, and who owned a Kawasaki-Bridgestone-Moto Guzzi dealership in Lincoln. In addition to continuing to race flat tracks, Vern dabbled in hill climbing, TT scrambles, and motocross, and took up vintage racing in the 1980s. It was at Sturgis where he met racer Al Burke, one of the founders of the White Plate Flattracker's Association, and was invited to join. Finally, at age 65 he officially retired from competition. Looking back over his racing career, Vern says, “The cash winnings always went into the gas tank.”

 

Today, Goodwin still operates a shop on Highway 77, just north of Lincoln, and for the last 25 years he has become nationally known for his work on sidecars. At one time he manufactured his own brand of sidecar, which he calls the “Good One,” and one of his inventions is an electric “lean adjuster,” designed to make sidecars handle better in turns. The leaning sidecar dates back to the teens, when it was raced by the Ohio company Flxible, but Vern has applied modern technology to refine the idea. The device is operated with a thumb switch on the handlebar, enabling the operator to Goodwin with maytag minibikeinstantly lean the sidecar toward or away from the motorcycle. Goodwin's son, Mike, states, “Cornering performance and stability are so enhanced to make the rig behave in a corner like a sports car, if not better.”

 

One of Goodwin's most unusual sidecar creations is what he shamelessly calls a BMW, which he is quick to explain means, “Backyard Motorcycle Works.” The diminutive motorcycle was originally built as a solo bike and presented as a Christmas gift to his son Mike when he was only three years old (pictured above). Cutting down a bicycle frame, Goodwin installed a twin-cylinder Maytag Mini BMWwashing machine engine, hooked to a 1937 Puch three-speed transmission. Later, after his sons were grown, Goodwin built and installed a miniature sidecar (pictured here), then painted the rig in classic BMW black with white striping, thus making it worthy of its name. In addition to building, installing, repairing, and modifying sidecars, Vern restores classic Indians, and on September 8, 2007, he was awarded the Excellence in Sidecaring Award by the United Sidecar Association and the Internet Sidecar Owners Klub. Goodwin was only the third individual to receive the prestigious award, having been preceded by Chris Dodson, editor of Hack'd Magazine, and Doug Bingham, founder of the Sidecar Industry Council.

 

To learn more about the United Sidecar Association, click here. To reach the home base of theCarl Edeburn Internet Sidecar Owners Klub, click here. To reach Hack'd, the magazine about sidecars, click here. To reach the Sidecar Industry Council, click here.

 

About the Author:

Dr. Carl Edeburn is a retired professor from South Dakota Statue University, in Brookings, South Dakota. He has co-authored several books on leadership and management, and is the author of “Sturgis; The Story of the Rally,” a definitive history of this event.  He has three more books completed in manuscript form that are awaiting publication, including two more about the Sturgis Rally and one about the lives and experiences of the great Indian racers and the brand's success in AMA Class C racing from 1934 to 1953. He lives in Brookings with his wife Cleo, and they spend lots of time with his seven grandchildren. Edeburn is an active touring rider.

 

Photos provided by Carl Edeburn and Mike Goodwin.

 

Coming in March:

The Motohistory Tribute to Philip Vincent

(2/28/2008)

Vincent graphicMotohistory has brought together a dozen leading Vincent experts from Great Britain and the United States to share their views about the great man and his great brand.  Our special tribute to Philip Vincent will be published on March 14, the centenary of his birth.  We will notify our readers via E-mail when the file has been uploaded.

Profile image of Philip Vincent provide by Roy Harper.

 

The end of an era:

Honda to cease motorcycle

production in Ohio

(2/27/2008)

 

Last night in Cleveland, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton went at each other during their 20th Democratic Primary debate on the topic of the economy and jobs in Ohio. This morning in Marysville, Akio Hamada, President and CEO of Honda of America Manufacturing (HAM), announced that in the Spring of 2009, nearly 30 years of motorcycle production in Ohio will cease.

Honda's sprawling Marysville automobile and motorcycle manufacturing campus has 260,000 square feet of space dedicated to motorcycle production, and currently hires 450 employees, to whom Honda refers as “associates.”  In a memorandum distributed to all HAM associates, Hamada said, “This morning I made a very important and difficult announcement . . . Honda will consolidate the Marysville Motorcycle Plant production at a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Kumamoto, Japan.” Hamada explained that the move was being made to strengthen the competitiveness and appeal of Honda products by applying advanced technologies available at the new factory.  He pointed out that Honda motorcycle manufacturing at its home base of Hamamatsu had also shifted to Kumamoto, which will be capable of producing 600,000 motorcycles a year.

 

Hamada assured the Ohio motorcycle facility employees that there would be no layoffs, which presumes they will be taken into automobile and engine manufacturing through attrition at Honda's other Ohio facilities. Emphasizing solidarity, he said, “In the past, many people have identified themselves as motorcycle associates, or auto plant associates, or engine associates. But the very important thing for all of us to remember is that we are one team, a team of dedicated and committed Honda associates whose number one objective is to satisfy our customers.”

 

Honda's manufacturing venture in America began at the Marysville plant in September, 1979, where its first product was a motocross machine. Over time, a $165 million capital investment was made in the facility, which became the worldwide supplier of some of Honda's most popular models, such as the luxury touring Gold Wing. Honda's experiment proved successful enough that ground was soon broken for expansion into a huge automobile manufacturing facility, now covering 3.8 million square feet and representing a $2.6 billion capital investment, where over 5,000 are employed to build Honda cars. 

The motorcycle plant reached its peak production in 1997 when it turned out 174,000 vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles.  In 2005, ATV production was moved to South Carolina.  Last year, the Ohio factory built nearly 61,000 motorcycles, 44,000 of which were Gold Wings and VTX cruiser motorcycles.  The company's Ohio automobile production reached a record of over 701,000 units last year.  Mirroring the rest of the industry, Honda's U.S. motorcycle sales fell in 2007, but the company said that its decision to end Ohio motorcycle production was not based on a softening Amerian motorcycle market.  To reach the HAM web site, click here.

 

Revisiting Jim Kersting's

World of Motorcycles Museum

(2/27/2008)

 

Jim Kersting proudly bills his motorcycle dealership, based in North Judson, Indiana, “the little ship in the middle of nowhere.” The enterprise began in 1962, when you could get a Harley-Davidson franchise at almost any location. Jim and his wife Nella opened the shop in 2,000 square feet of space that included their living quarters. Today, Kerstings also handles Kawasaki and Yamaha and is nearly 50,000 square feet, which includes the 10,000 square-foot museum housed in its own purpose-built facility opened in May, 2003. We first visited Kersting's in the summer of 2Kerstings museum004 (see Motohistory News & Views 8/7/2004), and we decided it was high time to stop by again to see how much the collection has grown.

 

Not only have the rare and collectible motorcycles on display increased from about 100 to over 150, but many changes have been made in the displays and presentation. The incredibly eclectic collection – ABC to Condor to Dneper to Marusho to Nimbus to Vincent – is surrounded by a vast array of posters, signs, photographs, apparel, toys, bicycles, scooters, and tools, and a partition has been installed that creates a lobby as interestingly cluttered and comfortably appointed as your grandmother's living room. Frequently, NeracarKesting's sense of humor comes through with the artifacts and mannequins scattered throughout the museum. For example, upon walking in the door, the first thing one sees see is a rustic-looking fellow aboard a Ner-a-car (pictured here).

 

Nearly a quarter of the motorcycles on display are Harley-Davidsons, which might be expected for a guy who has sold them for 45 years, but don't get the idea that this is strictly a monument to the Milwaukee firm. In fact, the American V-twins are almost overshadowed by rare and usual brands from more than a dozen countries. How often is it you see a Cedos or a Hoffman or a Lilac in an American motorcycle museum? There are also some interesting one-offs too, such as a Zephyr V-12 powered motorcycle (pictured below) and one of the best Daimler replicas weLincoln Zephyr have ever seen. And packed in among all the two-wheelers are a couple of Rolls Royces and Excaliburs. With such breadth and novelty, this is a museum that will bring you back for more. You simply cannot absorb it all in a single visit, and we're going to try to stop again before another three years pass by. To reach Kersting's World of Motorcycles Museum on line, click here.

 

The Josh McCoy Hare Scrambles:

Proof that history ain't always pretty!

By Larry Smith

(2/26/2008)

 

Editor's note: Some, and especially our overseas readers, may find this story curious and even frivolous. However, we believe our many American readers who know master-of-ceremonies and television commentator Larry Maiers, or knew the late, great, popular promoter David Coombs, will enjoy it. And besides, in our quest to get to the bottom of the great historical issues of our world of motorcycles, we have to face the unwashed truth that it is our obligation to sometimes publish the good, the bad, and the ugly. We'll let you decide which this is.

 

Part of the fun of covering motorcycle events for Northeast Ohio Motorcycle News and other publications was meeting and interacting with the characters who were the principal movers of the sport. One example I recall was the weekend of December 2, 1984, when KTM held an introduction of new models at its U.S. headquarters in Amherst, Ohio, followed by a party on Saturday night at the Amherst Meadowlarks club house and the Josh McCoy Hare Scrambles race on Sunday. Among the participants were Larry Maiers, prMcCoy Trophyesident of Penton Imports, Jack Lehto, head of the US Husqvarna distributorship, and well-known West Virginia promoter Dave Coombs.

The possibility of these folks getting together and not having some form of competition was unlikely, so the Saturday night party included the “Bowling Champeenship of the World Trophy” contest. The rules were simple. The participants deposited their entry fees in a container and were given a roll of duct tape. Over a designated period of time, the contestants drank beer, taped their empty cans into a trophy, and the one with the largest at the end of the event – usually two hours – won the prize money, which on this particular evening was over $500. Larry Maiers won, defeating the defending champion, Dave Coombs. Maiers is shown here brandishing his beer can trophy as Coombs hides his face in shame (pictured above).

 

The following morning, everyone was moving at a slow pace as they prepared for the two-hour Josh McCoy Hare Scramble, a race that took the competitors over the Meadowlarks' motocross course and through the surrounding woods and fields of the 200-acre club grounds. Shortly after the start of the race, I was walking along the course, photographing the action. As I wandered out of the wooded section, I encountered Larry Maiers and Jack Lehto. As the three of us walked across an open field at the back of the property, we came across a discarded square top to a washing machine. Maiers picked it up and examined it. I do not remember who made the suggestion, but it was decided that it would make a unique pit board for signaling a racer. It was then decided that Dave Coombs would be the recipient of a special signal. I proposed to take a photo of this, and we went searching for an appropriate location.

 

We found a section where the racers came down a hill out of the woods and out onto the course across a field. I climbed a tree at the edge of the woods so I could shoot my photos from above and behind the riders as they came down the hill, giving me a good vantage point to get all of Coombs, Maiers, and Lehto in the frame. We recruited a spectator who wandered past to go back down the course and signal us when he spotted Coombs coming. Lehto and Maiers moved to the side of the track, Larry dropped his pants, and Lehto carefully positioned the washer top around his buttocks. From my position in the tree, I was able to shoot the picture shown here. Later we laughed that Maiers must have been giving Coombs the signal to “gas it!”

 

To the entertainment of my readers, I published the coverage of the race and featured a photo of the scandalous pit board (pictured below) in the December 1984 issue of Northeast Ohio Motorcycle News. In January, I drove over to the Richfield Coliseum, near Cleveland, where ice races were being held at the hockey rink. This was one of the biggest winter events in Northern Ohio, packing the arena with over 7,000 spectators. Larry Maiers was the announcer for the race, and I had been McCoy Moongiven permission to distribute about 1,000 copies of my newspaper, which contained the story about the Josh McCoy Hare Scrambles. As I distributed the paper, I informed the fans that the buttocks pictured belonged to Maiers, and I told them he was available to autograph the photo. Soon, a long line formed in the aisle leading down to the scoring table where Larry was announcing, and finally Maiers boomed over the public address system, “Ignore the man with the newspapers! That picture is not me.” But it didn't work. By intermission, the aisles were totally blocked by autograph seekers, and for the second half of the evening, Maiers announced from the ice in the center of the arena in an effort to get away from the mob. “I repeat,” Larry exclaimed, “That is not me!” Still, he was hounded for more than an hour after the races by fans wanting him to autograph the photo.

 

I next saw Larry at the Competition Riders of America awards banquet where he was the master of ceremonies before more than 700 amateur racers and their friends and families. When Larry saw me he said, “We're not going to do this with the photo again, are we? Please, tell everyone that picture is not me!” “Okay, it's not you,” I said. During the ceremony, while Maiers distributed over $4,000 in trophies and prizes, nothing more was said about the photo. Finally, when he thought he would escape without any further embarrassment, he was presented a special award. It was a real pit board on which I had glued an enlargement of the offending photo that completely covered the board. The place went crazy and Larry's face turned red. Next, the wife of one of the racers presented a sculpture she had made out of pink silk. Also mounted on a pit board, it was a life-size buttocks and two small gonads. The nearly thousand guests on hand roared with applause.

Several years later, when Larry was working for a cable sports station in Atlanta, I asked the president of that company it he had ever seen the pit boards. “Hell yeah!” he exclaimed. “Larry has those things hanging in his office.” I took the time to explain the story of the JoshLarry Smith McCoy race and the “gas it” signal. “That gives me a better understanding,” he said, “but Larry is still nuts!”

 

About the author:

Larry Smith, former editor and publisher of Handcrafted American Racing Motorcycles and Northeast Ohio Motorcycle News, resides near Youngstown, Ohio. His principal motorcycle is a 1964 XLCH Sportster with nearly 400,000 miles on the clock, which he has owned for 42 years. He began contributing photos to motorcycle magazines in the early 1970s, and became a contributor to Cycle News while road racing at Nelson Ledges in 1977. He started publishing his regional motorcycle newspaper in 1982, then developed a chain of independent regional publications, one of which became Keystone Motorcycle Press, serving eastern Pennsylvania. An all-Harley drag racing paper was begun in 1987, and continued until an accident with a semi-tractor trailer in 1996 ended Smith's publishing career.

 

Editor's note:

The Josh McCoy Hare Scrambles

The Josh McCoy Hare Scrambles began during the Penton era as a weekend of entertainment in conjunction with the brand's annual dealer meeting at its headquarters in Amherst, Ohio, and it continued into the KTM era, as indicated in the story above. It became a popular annual happening that attracted the attention of many more people than the visiting motorcycle dealers, thanks to John Penton's local civic activities. Penton was an enthusiastic Rotarian, and many members of the Amherst Rotary Club turned out to support the Amherst Meadowlarks with the organization of the event. Jack Penton recalls, “We had these local doctors and lawyers and businessmen running all over the place and getting dirty, and we made converts of a lot of them. As a result, some got into dirt-biking.” But Josh McCoy never showed up for his namesake race, because Josh McCoy was a fictitious person. The origin of the name is shrouded in mystery, but Larry Maiers does recall that he once got the AMA to process a membership card for the nonexistent Josh McCoy. Any Motohistory readers who can explain the origin of the name and why it was used in the title of a race should contact Ed@Motohistory.net.

 

Photohistory from Paul Danik

(2/25/2008)

 

Eric TrunkenpolzRecently, Penton Owners Group President Paul Danik has been digging through a box of photographs and records not previously available to motohistorians. Almost daily he sends us exciting messages about the wonderful artifacts in his trembling hands. Here's an example, a photograph of KTM President Eric Trunkenpolz inspecting the air box on an early Penton. Judging by the style of the air box, it would seem possible that this photograph was made sometime in 1968 or very early 1969.  The type of air box shown, adapted from a small KTM street bike, was used only on early-production Pentons, proved totally unacceptable for off-road riding conditions, and was soon replaced with a “Husqvarna-type” air box.

 

However, the photo raises another history mystery. The engine in the motorcycle is a Puch, not the Sachs that was chosen for the prototype and the full run of the steel-tank models, produced from 1968 through 1971. It is known that Penton Imports experimented with the 175cc Puch engine after the Penton was on the market, but this engine appears to be the 125cc version.  Did Penton hope to switch to the Austrian-made Puch because there had been shifting problems with the German-built Sachs?  Then, did the promise of a new KTM engine put the Puch project on hold?  These are questions that will keep Penton fans digging through the available archives.  To contact the Penton Owners Group, click here.

 

Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame

announces plans for 2008

(2/25/2008)

The Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame has announced that nominations for the class of 2008 will be open until April 30. The 2008 induction ceremony will take place at the Renaissance Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Center near Toronto's Pearson International Airport.  For more information about the nomination and induction process, click here or E-mail halloffame@cimhmf.ca. 

 

Uhl to unveil “Babe” at Daytona

(2/24/2008)

 

BabeEach year, artist David Uhl unveils a special commemorative painting at Daytona. This year his subject is Babe Tancrede, winner of the 1940 Daytona 200, unloading his Harley-Davidson WLDR on the beach early on the morning of the race. Not only did Tancrede win the big race that year, but he was presented a huge trophy for being elected the AMA's Most Popular Rider for 1939, and when he returned home to Rhode Island he met a new-born son, who had arrived while he was away racing in Florida. Uhl's painting will be on display at the Daytona Beach Ocean Center, along with Tancrede's 1940 Daytona-winning motorcycle, now owned by the Wheels Through Time Museum. For Babe Tancrede's Motorcycle Hall of Fame bio, click here. For more information about David Uhl's fine art, click here.

 

 

Catalina lives!

(2/23/2008)

 

The legendary Catalina Grand Prix ended 50 years ago, but thanks to desert and dirt track racing great Eddie Mulder, Catalina will live on this coming April 26 and 27. Eddie Mulder Ltd. is organizing a Catalina Grand Prix 50 th Anniversary Reunion and Classic Motorcycle Show on Santa Catalina, the Southern California island on which motorcycles have not been allowed for many years. Many of the great racers of yesteryear are expected to attend, and more than 200 award-winning motorcycles will decorate Front Street in Avalon. For entry forms or more information, call 661-944-1184. For more about the event on Flattrack.com, click here. For a story about the Catalina Grand Prix published in 2006 in the Los Angeles Times, click here. For the history of Santa Catalina Island, click here and here.

 

 

From the web

(2/22/2008)

 

I'll admit it; sometimes I just don't get it. For example, I always thought the 1970 film “ Little Fauss and Big Halsey ” was the dumbest and most pointless motorcycle movie ever. I disdained it more than the trashy biker flicks of the 1960s because at least they didn't take themselves seriously. But, judging by the viewer comments about the snippet uploaded on YouTube, I am obviously out of sync on this one. To check it out, click here.

 

The Indiana Vintage Off-Road Motorcycle Enthusiasts 2008 schedule has been updated. To access a printable PDF version, click here.

 

For some wonderful 1930s and ‘40s racing photos on IronWigwam.com, click here.

To see the fine art of David Wayne Russell, including motorcycle subjects, click here.  And check out his excellent writings as well. 

 

 

Stars will shine at Diamond Don's

(2/21/2008)

 

Diamond Don's Sixth Annual Vintage Motocross, scheduled for April 3 through 6 in Jefferson, Texas will include a remarkable lineup of the men and women who made motocross an American sport in the 1970s. Mercedes Gonzalez, Sue Fish, Tami Rice, and Nadine Holbert will appear in a Women Pioneers of Motocross Race. 1975 500cc AMA Supercross Champion Steve Stackable will be honored as a Legend of Motocross and 12-times Six Day competitor Jack Penton will be honored as Legend of Cross Country. 1972 Superbowl of Motocross winner Marty Tripes will be honorary chef at a Friday BBQ and catfish extravaganza. Brad Lackey, Danny LaPorte, Rick Johnson, Tommy Croft, Jeff Smith, Tom Benolkin, and Rik Smits are all expected to compete. Early camping will be available on March 29. For more information, click here.

 

Found in Print

(2/20/2008)

 

IronWorks, April 2008

It seems that 1969/70 was a turning point in the social status of motorcycling in America. For at least the previous 25 years, it had been branded an unsavory reputation, and it was not uncommon for law-abiding citizens who chose to travel on two wheels to be turned away at motels and restaurants. Then, something changed with the popular depiction of motorcyclists in the motion picture “Easy Rider” in 1969. The protagonists, while certainly not upstanding citizens, were no longer treated as mindless thugs and IronWorksgang followers. Billy and Wyatt were complex, three-dimensional characters who had intelligent debates about politics, morality, and the meaning of life, and at the end of the movie they fell victim to the true bad guys, who were rednecks who represented everything thuggish and narrow-minded about American society.

 

On the small screen, the 1969/70 show “Then Came Bronson,” told the story of a young man who turned his back on his career to become a motorcycle gypsy in search of enlightenment. Along the way, he enriched the lives of others, whether he realized it or not. The show lasted only one season, but it clearly settled the issue over whether motorcyclists could be decent, non-violent contributors to society. It would be a long time until the messages of “Easy Rider” and “Then Came Bronson” trickled down to the bedrock of our culture, but they were the beginning of a sea change in thinking that eventually culminated in the Guggenheim's unveiling of “The Art of the Motorcycle” in 1989.

 

Easy Rider replicas have been built by the score, which might suggest that the motorcycle was really the star of the movie. With “Bronson,” however, it was the show's writing and the acting of Michael Parks that dominated the screen, and his near-stock 1969 Harley Sportster was only a prop, albeit the essential “vehicle” for the story. Thus, far fewer Bronson Bikes have been replicated than Wyatt's Captain America chopper.

 

The April, 2008 issue of IronWorks contains an interesting story about one man's quest to build a Bronson Bike replica. Greg Patnik (pictured below), who acknowledges that his life – at the age of 13 – was inalterably influenced by the show, discovered that it was no easy task. In the process of carefully researching the show, he discovered Bronson Bikethat three different Bronson Bikes were actually used in filming, and the producers made only a casual effort to make them look alike. Details on the motorcycle changed all the time as the show progressed through its short run, so Patnik had to make some judgment calls in deciding how to replicate the “original.” American television nostalgia buffs will appreciate the results, pictured here, and in other detail photos with the IronWorks article. The story reports that this motorcycle will be included in the new Motorcycle Hall of Fame “MotoStars” exhibit, currently under construction and scheduled to open later this spring. For information about the MotoStars exhibit, click here.

 

The April IronWorks also contains another of Margie Siegal's stories about an antique motorcycle, this one being the two-stroke Cleveland single built from 1916 through 1920. Siegel always treats her topic on three levels. She provides a well-researched history of the brand in question, a technical review of the model under discussion, then finally a description of the history and restoration of the specific example used for photos, which also includes biographical information on its owner. The coverage of the little Cleveland benefits from her thorough treatment, as usual. To reach IronWorks on line, click here.

 

RacerX Illustrated, April 2008

When RacerX Illustrated grew from a down-and-dirty tabloid (the ink always came off on your hands) to a slick monthly ten years ago, it brought to its readers a level of journalistic depth, graphic creativity, and a sense of history and cultural context not often seen in motorcycle magazines. With Racer Xits April issue, RacerX celebrates its first decade in a highly-competitive industry with a 396-page monster. Yeah, I know, 66 of those pages are a complete catalog for DeCal Works, but even after deducting that, 330 pages is a hell of a magazine. However, depth, sensitivity, history, and variety are what make this a landmark issue, not its gigundous page count.

 

For example, fans of James Stewart who honor his achievement as America's first African-American motocross national champion have an opportunity to read about his lesser-known precursors, Andy Jefferson and Brian Thompson, two black men who broke into the white world of American motocross in the 1980s. “The Original Riders,” by Paul Willis, recounts their careers and tells us what they are doing today. Thompson, who rose to the level of an FIM international license in 1983, was likely the first black man to compete in a Motocross GP. Jefferson was sponsored at the national level by Mitch Payton and raced as a teammate of Troy Lee. This is the kind of historical work, characteristic of RacerX, that gives depth to our understanding of the motorcycle sport.

 

Addressing both ends of the competitive age scale, the issue contains features about Jeff Ward, age 46, and Adam Cianciarulo, age 10. Ward, as we are reminded in “The Longest Wheelie,” by Eric Johnson, was the first man to win a national championship in all categories of AMA motocross competition, left motorcycling to win a championship race in IRL open-wheel automobile racing (and very nearly the 1997 Indy 500), then returned to motorcycles at the age of 43 Knievelto win 2004 and 2006 national supermoto championships. Cianciarulo, just at the dawn of his motocross career, has already made his mark by breaking Ward's 30-year-old record of winning 15 motos and five division titles, at the age of eight, in mini-cycle competition.

 

Longtime readers of RacerX are quite familiar with the publisher's personal obsession with Evel Knievel, which is sometimes reverent and sometimes whimsical, dating all the way back to the days when his publication was porous and better suited for soaking up oil spots in the garage than the glossy stock of his latter-day publication. With Knievel's recent final jump, the magazine's April issue eulogizes him as a cultural icon through a feature entitled “Sympathy for the Daredevil” that is both thorough and sensitive. The words of publisher Davey Coombs are lavishly illustrated with original works by artists from the United States and Canada (as illustrated above), and a sidebar contains tributes from Jeff Emig, Rich Winkler, Shaun Palmer, Bob Moore, and others. Editor Bryan Stealey explains, “When it came time to do Knievel's tribute, we knew we could work with the stock photos that everyone else would use, or we could do something different.” Networking with friends and other members of the staff, Stealey pulled together original works from seven artists in three weeks. This homage is a classy and fitting sendoff for America's master showman of the 20th century.

 

There's a great deal more in the RacerX tenth anniversary issue than we can address here, but the four features mentioned above capture nicely what this publication has brought to its field. Many motorcycle magazines are edited by gear-heads who talk about technology and boast of flogging test bikes beyond any level of performance that most of their readers will ever attempt or even care about. They will write ad infinitum for road tests, but limit feature articles to 1,200 to 1,500 words, going downstream on the Fogg Index to keep a grip on their less-literate readers. The RacerX editors give a story the length it deserves (the feature about Jeff Ward's long career is 3,500 words), they don't write down to some condescending assumption about the literacy of readers, and they understand what motorcycling is all about. It is not about the motorcycles. It is about the people who ride them.

 

Congratulations, RacerX Illustrated, for upholding high standards for the last ten years. May it always be so. To reach RacerX on line, click here.

 

The Knievel graphic used to illustrate this story is a portion of “Taking Flight,” an original mixed media collage by Dalyn Szilvassy of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Originally published in RacerX Illustrated, it is used here with permission and may not be reproduced without the artist's permission. To reach the artist, go to www.bruiser.ca.

 

Stayin' Safe:

The Art and Science of Riding Really Well

There was probably no one in America who knew more about riding a motorcycle safely, or at least no one who could articulate its principles and practices as well as Lawrence Grodsky. And Grodsky was no rider-ed egghead. He was a long-distance rider who put the theories of street survival into practice, every day. In fact, stepping beyond the laboratory-based Grodsky Covercurriculum of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, he created his own training program called “Stayin' Safe Motorcycle Training” which took his students onto the streets where they learned in an environment of the real-world factors we all deal with: unfavorable weather, poor roads, and bad drivers. In 1988, Grodsky became a columnist for Rider, and through that magazine began to reach even more riders with his advice for “Stayin' Safe,” as he entitled his column. Over the years, he penned over 200 columns in which he addressed complex and sometimes technical subjects with a clear, witty, and entertaining personal style. Whereas some believe that one cannot make safety exciting and engaging, Grodsky defied conventional wisdom. He did.

 

Then, tragically, on April 8, 2006, while Grodsky was crossing the country from California to Pittsburgh to visit his mother on her 85th birthday, he was taken out by a deer near Fort Stockton, Texas. According to an obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Grodsky had told a friend only weeks earlier this is how he would go. He knew that no matter how much he learned and taught about coping with the hazards of the road, there was an unpredictable element he could do nothing about, and this was deer. They are the bane of all motorcyclists, an ever-present danger that some riders refer to derisively as “long-legged rats,” the vermin of the road.

 

I once knew an attorney who did a lot of liability defense work who constantly lectured his clients: “Don't talk about safety. Don't talk about being safe. None of us can ever be safe, and no one can make us safe. The best we can do is manage risk.” Grodsky's untimely death seems to reinforce the view that none of us can ever be safe, not totally. But he knew that “stayin' safe,” as he put it, was about managing risk to the greatest degree our training, skills, and attitudes will make possible. And for Grodsky, managing risk was not just the grim process of avoiding the inevitable. It was about increasing the joy of motorcycling and the intensity of the experience. We don't learn to be better riders just to keep from dying. We become better riders to get more enjoyment out of motorcycling while we are alive. Grodsky knew this, and Grodsky devoted his life to teaching it.

 

Fortunately, we do not have to find old issues of Rider magazine to discover or revisit the wisdom that Lawrence Grodsky shared with us. The best of his work has been collected in a book edited by his good friend and fellow instructor, Pete Tamblyn. “Stayin' Safe,” published by Whitehorse Press, is 352 pages of Grodsky's art and science of riding well, with index, presented in a hard-cover 6¼ x 9¼ format. Listed at $24.95, it is a book that every motorcyclist who wants to experience better riding by riding better should own. To order a copy of “Stayin' Safe: The Art and Science of Riding Really Well,” click here.  To read more about Grodsky, click here, here, and here.

 

Ducati 2007

No one does style like the Italians. They can achieve grace and beauty with a line, a shape, or a splash of color like no other people on the planet, and they understood that a motor vehicle was an object of art long before the Guggenheim declared it so. Within motorcycling, no brand has consistently maintained the adherence to a high standard of Italian style better than Ducati, and it is carried through by Ducati owners all over the world, the Ducatistas. In Ducati Cover2007, when Ducati beat the mighty Japanese by winning both the MotoGP and the World Superbike championships, it was a very big story, and a very big story required a very big book, and, of course, that book had to be executed in classic Ducati style.

 

“Ducati 2007,” the official yearbook of Ducati Corse, gives real meaning to the term “coffee table book,” because its 12 x 12 inch format will likely not fit on your bookshelf. And, faithful to the Ducati image, it is gorgeously stylish and printed in Italy on a beautiful, heavy coated stock. Except for introductory remarks in both English and Italian by Gabriele Del Torchio, Claudio Domenicali, and Filippo Preziosi, this is largely (pun intended) a picture book, many of which speak for themselves without the benefit of captions. Among its 144 pages are 16 pages of statistics from the 2007 racing season, but this book will give a researcher fits, because there are no page numbers! The next time you and your fellow Ducatista are having an E-mail argument about where Casey Stoner finished at Catalunya, just tell him to grab his big book and turn to page . . . "uh, what the hell! It's the page with the beautiful, velvety black background. Wait, they all have black backgrounds!" This casual omission I find also so Italian. Who needs page numbers when you have such beauty? And the book is beautiful indeed, like few others I have seen. And expensive. Will someone buy a motorcycle picture book that costs $80.00? Ducatistas will. Just look how they maintain their bikes. Look at the cost and quality of their riding gear. This is the book for Ducatistas, and if you are one and want one, E-mail Parker House Publishing at tim@tgparker.com.

 

Springsteen and Kyle to teach

(2/19/2008)

 

Three-time AMA Grand National Champion Jay Springsteen and tuner extraordinaire Woody Kyle will conduct a vintage dirt track school on June 26 at the AHRMA Square Deal National to be held at Harpursville, New York. Cost of the 15-student class will be $375 per rider. Racing will be held in conjunction with the Boots Oakley Vintage Show and Swap Meet. For more information, click here.

 

 

Lambert & Butler's

vintage motorcycle cards

(2/18/2008)

 

Here are more motorcycle cards, distributed with Lambert & Butler's cigarettes in the United Kingdom in 1923, from the Ken Weingart collection.

 

Fifteen in a series of 50:

Diamond

DiamondThe text on the back of the card reads:

This Ultra Lightweight is designed to meet the needs of the rider who requires a reliable motorcycle at low cost. Fitted with 4½ h.p. Villiers engine and two-speed gearbox, it is capable of a maximum of 25-30 m.p.h. Provided with automatic lubrication, this machine (which weighs only 115 lbs.) is extremely simple to manipulate.

 

Sixteen in a Series of 50:

Douglas

DouglasThe text on the back of the card reads:

The Douglas Sports Models are all fitted with overhead valve engines of 2¾, 3½, and 6 h.p. This machine won ten International Championships during 1922. It was the first 3½ h.p. to do 100 m.p.h., and the 2¾ h.p. has exceeded 93 m.p.h. The Douglas engines have two horizontally opposed cylinders, and are claimed to be vibrationless.

 

 

Feedback

(2/16/2008)

 

LGC: the text is wrong

Recently, we carried a story about the LGC, a motorcycle built in Great Britain in the 1920s by bicycle manufacturer Leonard Gundle, 1926 LGCnoting a discrepancy between a leading historical reference book and information provided by British bicycle historian John Faulkner (see Motohistory News & Views 2/2/2008). “The British Motorcycle Directory,” by Bacon and Hallworth, reports that the first LGC motorcycle was introduced in 1928, but Faulkner supplied a photo of Gundle aboard one of his products at the London to Land's End Run in 1926. We wondered whether Gundle was photographed in 1926 riding a prototype of the machine that would not be put into production until 1928.

 

Faulkner, however has provided additional convincing photographic evidence that the LGC was manufactured and introduced for sale to the public Lands End 1926in 1926. This includes a studio photograph of the production LGC (pictured above) on the back of which Gundle has written in his own hand, “The first of the clan. With love to my Parents. Leonard, March 1926.” In addition, Faulkner has provided photos of three riders named Bartlet, Bethel, and Watkins aboard LGC motorcycles at the London to Land's End Run in April, 1926 (pictured above), and a photograph of an LGC with sidecar at the Solcombe Hill Climb during the London to Exeter to London Run in December, 1926.

 

Thanks, John, for continuing to provide interesting photographs that clarify the history of the LGC.

 

About Herbert Schek,

den Langen aus Wangen

By Leo Keller

(2/14/2008)

 

Schek younger“On Epiphany Day, January 6, 1951, I started my motorcycle competition career at the ice rink at Isny,” remembers Herbert Schek (shown here at age 45). “It was my first opportunity to race, having just gotten my motorcycle driving license a few days before,” Schek adds. And at the end of the day, the tall, 18-year-old youth held his first winner's cup. He explains with a laugh, “The others were so fast that they all fell. I was slow enough that I made it to the finish line without crashing once!”  Now, 57 years later, this 75-year-old German motorcycling legend is still active in off-road competition, consistently placing highly in vintage enduros. Week after week, he pushes his red BMW to the starting line while his contemporaries go walking with their grandchildren.

 

A year after his first ice race, Schek, whose friends and fans know as “den Langen aus Wangen,” meaning “the tall one from the 1955 Puchcity of Wangen” because he is over six and a half feet tall, participated for his first time in “Gelaendesport” (enduro competition) at the Oberallgaeuer Mountain Ride. Schek found enduros the perfect form of competition for his limited budget, requiring only knobby tires and a high pipe to convert his road bike to a suitable off-roader. The German Enduro National Championship program began in 1955, and Schek entered with an Austrian Puch (shown above), but with not too much success. Schek recalls, “Often the G'lump Schek on Maico(meaning 'junk') failed me. Once the front forks broke, and another time it was the frame.” While Schek placed well many times during the series, the occasional machine failure kept him from winning the championship. That finally changed in 1962 when he earned a Maico factory ride, delivering the Swabian company the 250cc title his first year aboard the bike. During the 1960s and ‘70s, he would deliver a total of six championships to Maico.  He is pictured here aboard a Maico at the Italian ISDT in 1974.

 

Although Schek won most of his championships aboard Maicos, most people associate him with BMW, which he started riding some forty years ago. Schek recalls, “In 1965, I won my class in the very difficult Three Days of Passau, and Hans von der Marwitz, the development manager at BMW, asked if would ride his motorcycle in 1966.”  Schek delivered for BMW with a victory in the open class at the International Six Days' Trial at Karlskoga, Sweden, but the very next year the Munich firm shut down its Gelaendespt Schek in USA 1973program, so it was back to Maico. Then, in 1968 he switched to a 350cc Jawa, sponsored by Neckermann, the German Jawa importer. Then again, in 1969, von der Marwitz contacted Schek, explaining that BMW was coming out with an entirely new motorcycle that would be built at its new factory in Berlin, and he was looking for someone capable of riding a prototype R75/5 at the ISDT, which would take place at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, just weeks away. Schek signed on, and Kurt Distler rode a second factory machine. Paul Hanemann, the Director at BMW, told the riders that the company had won 148 FIM gold medals, and that he was counting on them to bring the score to an even 150. Schek says, “When I asked why he had not prepared four machines if what he wanted was two medals, he reacted with utter astonishment that anyone could doubt the success of BMWs.” As it turned out, Distler's motorcycle failed, and in 1970 BMW returned to the ISDT with a four-man team Shown above is the BMW ISDT team in the United States in 1973.

 

However, Schek had discovered that the big boxer twins were too heavy to compete effectively against the British singles, and he advised von der Marwitz that the motorcycles needed to be slimmed down to 150 or 160 kilograms. Von der Marwitz responded that this was quite impossible, and Schek said, “Okay, I will build my own BMW.” BMW provided materials to Schek's specifications, and he reduced the machine to an incredible 135 kilSchek BMW 1978os, then later to 125 kilos. So unique were these specials, they became known as Schek BMWs.  Schek is shown here aboard one of his special BMWs in 1978.

 

When the ISDT came to the United States in 1973, BMW wanted to put on a big show. The American market was very important, and the Bavarian firm hoped to build its image consistent with the reputation of the new /5 model line, which was more sporting than the old, heavy /2s. For bragging rights, BMW had already given ISDT organizer Al Eames an R75/5 with special high pipe and other modifications for his use in laying out the course, and at the parc ferme BMW erected one of the largest displays of all of the manufacturers. Schek took responsibility for building four motorcycles for a Silver Vase Team, but between his delivery and arrival of the motorcycles in Massachusetts, someone at BMW made changes, without informing him. Schek says, “I was annoyed because I was responsible for these motorcycles, and after our arrival in America, I Isle of Man 1975converted my own machine again.” He adds,“The nights in New England were icy cold, and we had never tested the motorcycles for cold starting in the morning. They had no choke, and they would fire, but it was impossible to keep them running because they were too lean.” Schek modified the floats in his carburetors to richen the mixture, and won another gold medal, but after its expensive and unhappy American experience, BMW again shut down its off-road factory team.

 

Schek returned to Maico, which by now offered a 504cc – a motorcycle far more suitable to his imposing size – and he won the open class in 1975 at the ISDT at the Isle of Man (Pictured above). Then Schek changed to what was surely the most exotic and unusual motorcycle of his off-road riding career. He explains, “Sachs asked me to help them build an enduro bike with a Wankel rotary engine. We set the rotor longitudinally in the frame and mated it to a seven-speed gearbox.” Schek rode the Sachs Wankel in 1976 and 1977, after which Sachs abandoned development of the rotary engine Rahierand canceled its off-road program. But by this time, BMW was developing its new G/S model, which would awaken a new interest in Galaendesport during the 1980s, especially when the OMK – West Germany's motorcycle sport governing body – created a new enduro class for 750cc and larger engines. There was suddenly so much demand for big off-roaders that Schek found himself with orders for seventeen of his ultra-light Schek BMWs, some with engines even larger than 1,000cc!

 

At the international level, the FIM had a class for 1,000 to 1,300cc machines. Perhaps others did not study the rules closely enough, but Schek is what Germans call a Schlitzohr, a clever follow who can see the gaps (opportunities) in the rules. As a result,Schek today in 1980 Schek became the only person to win an enduro championship in the 1,300cc class aboard a 1010cc motorcycle. The following year the FIM revised the rules to make the open class 600cc plus.

 

In 1981, at the Isle of Elba, Herbert Schek entered his 25th ISDT. He says, “After the event, an officer of the OMK came to congratulate me. He said that 25 was a record that could never be bettered, and now it was time for me to step down for the younger ones.” Schek shakes his head in disbelief, “It is an attitude I simply cannot understand. Why would one ever quit?” (Schek's record of 25 ISDT/Es held until 2006 when American Jeff Fredette surpassed that number in New Zealand.) Schek went on to prepare BMW rally bikes for the French distributor, whose riders Hubert Auriol and Gaston Rahier won the Rallye Paris Dakar in both 1983 and 1984 (Pictured above is Rahier aboard his Schek-prepared Paris Dakar BMW). Schek also has ridden Paris Dakar fifteen times, winning the Marathon Class in 1984 before he was refused a racing license due to his age. Still, Herbert Schek (pictured above) rides on, and today der Lange aus Wangen remains one of the most popularLeo figures in German vintage enduro competition, where he can be seen week after week, pushing his original red Schek BMW to the starting line.

All photos provided by Leo Keller.

 

About the author:

Born in 1951, Leo Keller (pictured here) rode his first Gelaendefahrt in 1972. In 1995, he began to ride vintage enduros, participating all over Europe and three times at the ISDT Reunion Ride in the United States, 2001 through 2003. He writes a monthly “Klassik” page in the German magazine Enduro, plus features in Enduro and the Australian magazine VMX. He is author of the books “KTM: Motorraeder seit 1953” and “Enduros und Galaendesmotorraeder – Germany and Austria: 1960 – 2006,” and has written features for Motohistory about Sachs/Hercules (See Motohistory News & Views 5/17/2006) and DKW/MZ (See Motohistory News & Views 4/10/2007).

 

A remembrance of Herb Schek

Coincidentally, as we were preparing the above story for publication, we received an E-mail from Paul Dean, Vice President/Senior Editor for Cycle World Magazine. As he mentions in his message below, in 1972 he worked for Yankee Motor Company. Dean wrote:

 

In your latest Motohistory update, there's a mention of Herbert Schek, a factory BMW rider in the 1972 ISDT. I was National Service Manager for Yankee Motor Company at the time and attended that event to head up the support team for both brands. We had our OSSAs and Yankees garaged next to the BMW team, and Schek seemed particularly interested in the 500cc Yankee two-stroke Twins. The BMWs, as I'm sure you know, were Boxer four-stroke Twins but with lots of unobtanium pieces, and they used short-rod engines that allowed the heads to be tucked in moSchek in Czechore than on the streetbikes. Still, they were damned big bikes to be wrestling through the woods in the mountains near the Polish border, and all of us on the YMC team speculated on the weight of those bikes and the formidable challenge of riding them.

On the afternoon of the day before the start of the event, Schek came into our garage and introduced himself, and asked if he could sit on one of the Yankees. I said he could, so he sauntered over to the one Barry Higgins would ride, climbed aboard and, after bouncing the front end up-and-down a few times, leaned the bike over first one way and then the other while still in the saddle. He got a puzzled look on his face, and after a moment of apparent contemplation, did it again. Schek, who was a tall man with an athletic physique, then got off, stood beside the bike and leaned it way over to the left, almost as though he was going to lay it on its side, before picking it back up and propping it on its sidestand. He turned, looked at me and, without a trace of emotion, simply said, “Heavy.” He then thanked me and returned to the BMW garage, where he surely told his teammates about the two-wheeled tanks those poor Americans were being forced to ride.

In stock form, Yankees weighed about 330 pounds, and in ISDT trim, they were right around 300. If Schek thought the Yankees were heavy, one can only imagine how light those factory BMW ISDT bikes must have been.

Photo of Herbert Schek at the ISDT in Czechoslovakia in 1972 by Dave Armbrust.

 

 

Vincent tribute planned

(2/14/2008)

 

Vincent logoIn celebration of the centenary of the birth of Philip Vincent – March 14, 1908 – Motohistory is developing a monograph that will publish writings in tribute to the man and the machine by an international roster of famous Vincent historians, technicians, and speedsters. It will be posted as a Motohistory Special Feature on March 14, 2008.

 

The mechanical mind

of Cannonball Baker, Part Two

(2/13/2008)

 

Previously, we explored the development of rotary-valve engines by Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, and examined patents he received for the technology from 1934 through 1948 (See Motohistory News & Views 1/29/2008). Baker achieved considerable success with this project, having completed a marathon ride across the United States on a motorcycle with a rotary-valve engine of his own construction in 1941 (pictured below). Baker continued development of this idea after the Second World War, and built a second and far more Cannonball Bakersophisticated prototype in 1948. Both motorcycles still exist. The earlier example can be seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, and the later model is owned by the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

 

In our research into the mechanical mind of Erwin Baker, we learned that he also took a serious interest in fuel economy, receiving four patents between 1940 and 1947. Baker's pursuit of better fuel economy was based on the idea that a more finely-integrated fuel/air mixture would result in improved combustion and greater efficiency. He first looked for a way to more thoroughly atomize fuel flowing into an engine, then later he sought ways to take the fuel/air charge beyond an atomized mixture to a true gaseous state. All of his designs were fixtures intended to be retro-fitted onto any internal-combustion engine.

 

Baker's first fuel economy patent (#2,194,377), awarded in 1940, was for a simple device that could be installed between the base of a carburetor and its manifold. Pictured here, it was a double-conical Baker 1device that was suspended by wires within the throat of the intake manifold. This device had rows of sharp edges that Baker described as “knife-like in character,” which he believed would help break up fuel droplets as they flowed into the engine, thus better atomizing the fuel. He also argued that the conical shape would function as a venture, which would, as he stated in his patent application, “accelerate the movement of the vapors through the intake manifold into the engine.” The device seems naïve in its simplicity, and any Motohistory reader who dates back to the 1960s will surely be reminded of the little spinning fan device sold by J.C. Whitney that, when installed between the carburetor and manifold, would supposedly improve economy and engine performance. Baker's patent application makes no reference to experience or results, so we don't know whether he actually built and tested such a device.

 

Baker 2Baker's second fuel economy patent (#2,333,628), awarded in 1943, is aimed at “cooking” the fuel/air mixture beyond atomization to a gaseous state. Though it has no moving parts, it is far more complex than his first idea, but, again, is designed to be retro-fitted onto any engine. Literally, this device (pictured above) is like a muffler through which the fuel/air charge flows through a long passage of coiled tubes. The exhaust from the engine is attached to one end, and exits from the other, and in between it heats the mixture to a level almost as hot as the exhaust itself. Baker even asserts that the device will have a secondary benefit of functioning as a muffler, possibly even eliminating the need for a conventional muffling device. One cannot help but question the wisdom of this concept. The idea of a super-heated fuel charge flowing through yards and yards of coiled tubing inside a hot muffler sitting atop the engine, under the hood of a car, seems a bit unnerving; especially when we consider what corrosive exhaust gasses do to metal over time. To this we add the possibility of metal fatigue, exacerbated by a constantly vibrating engine, and we seem to have a nice, hot Molotov Cocktail waiting to happen, right in front of the passenger compartment.

 

Baker 3In 1945 and 1947, Baker applied for patents on more sophisticated versions of this device, each aimed at using exhaust gasses to heat the fuel mixture entering the engine. The 1945 design (patent #2,389,714), pictured here, spreads out the fuel/air charge through a chamber through which the exhaust gasses pass through a kind of radiator device designed to heat as much surface area as possible. Baker explains that this design will “utilize heat from exhaust gases (sic) to effect a major heat transfer therefrom to the fuel mixture whereby that mixture is heated to approximately the temperature of those exhaust gases.” Again, he claims that the device will double as a muffler. Information provided in this patent application suggests that Baker actually built and tested a prototype of this device, claiming that he has consistently achieved 40 miles per gallon, on the highway and in town. He even explains that the jets in the carburetor must be reduced when such a device is used, because less fuel is required.

 

Baker 4Baker's final fuel economy design (patent #2,422,517), shown here, is based on the same principle, except now the fuel charge is routed through an exhaust-heated spiral passage, outward to the ends of the muffler-like canister before it is drawn into the manifold. Baker claims to have discovered that the more hot surface area the fuel passes over, the better will be the results. Consequently, in each of his subsequent designs he has found ways to create more heating surface for the fuel within a canister of reasonable size (about 18 inches long) to be installed atop the engine and under the hood of a conventional automobile. But still, one must consider the safety issues of such a device, mounted just feet away from the front-seat passengers of said automobile.

 

Still, when viewed in conjunction with the remarkable work that Erwin Baker did with development of a rotary-valve engine, his search for better fuel economy makes it clear that this was a man of considerable creative genius, mechanical ability, and skill for fabrication. He was far more complex than his popular image as a “cannonball” who ceaselessly piloted cars and motorcycles from coast to coast.

Baker photo provided by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

 

 

More about cop cycles

in America

By Gary Smith

(2/12/2008)

 

Editor's note: We got a good reaction to Gary Smith's story about the development of the police Moto Guzzi (See Motohistory News & Views 1/31/2008), so we invited him back to tell us more about cop cycles.

 

Police HondaIn a recent article for Motohistory, I related the history of the Moto Guzzi police motorcycle designed for the LAPD. In the mid-1960s, prior to the Moto Guzzi, other motorcycles were tested for police use. The photo shown here is a 1966 Honda 450cc police version loaned to the LAPD by Honda for testing. I was one of many chosen to test the Honda 450 on the LA freeways. It handled nicely but was way underpowered. And, believe it or not, it leaked oil (Shhhhhh! Don't say anything to H-D about that). We also road tested BMW, Triumph 650s, Indian/Enfield, BSAs, and a Harley with a huge white fairing on it. We referred to this Harley as "the flying taco!"   I rode them all before the Guzzi came along, but none fit the bill.

 

When Honda came out with its CB750 Four, they did sell some to the LAPD, and later some had the Hondamatic transmissions. As the Honda 750s came in use at the LAPD, apparently the management felt no need to familiarize the riders with the first police bike having a disc front brake. Consequently, one of the old-timer Harley riders grabbed a handful of front brake, locked up the front wheel, and dumped his bike, breaking his elbow in the process. He sued Honda for "defective" brakes (they actually worked, compared to the old H-D front drum) and Honda said “bye-bye” to the police bike business for many years, due to concern for liability.

 

When I retired from the LAPD, I went to Honda as an employee in 1981, and one of the first jobs they gave me was to reinvestigate the police bike market. I had several Japanese Honda Police 750s shipped to me, and I outfitted them with correct lighting for local use and loaned them to several police departments for trial.  Most of the cops who tested them were "Harley" boys who felt that a 750cc bike was not big enough for police work. I figured that if the Japanese can do it, why can't we? But, alas, the Harley mystique still held sway with most cops.  Soon, Kawasaki came into the police bike market, and not long after that the company was hit with a very large class action suit from officers in Texas, I recall.

 

At that time, most police radio equipment was large and heavy, and departments mounted it on the back fender over the rear wheel. They were of different brands and sizes, and there was no common mounting procedure. Some of the radio equipment actually hung over the back fender, and allegedly contributed to wobbles and crashes. Later, Kawasaki remedied this problem by mounting shock absorbers on the radio boxes that fastened to the rear fender, similar to the anti-shimmy absorbers on the front forks of some models.

 

Eventually, the law suits were all settled and Kawasaki dominated the police market for many years. It still supplies police motorcycles, but to a limited degree.  Both Harley and Kawasaki have gained enough "case law" from previous law suits that they can still compete in the police market. Once again, Honda dropped the idea of police bikes after hearing of Kawaski's problems.

 

It gives a big boost to a company's reputation to sell cars and motorcycles to police departments. Most people think that police only buy "the best" automobiles and motorcycles. The reality is that most cities with big budgets purchase the lowest priced of the qualifying vehicles! Specifications have stiffened over the years with the development of ABS brakes and puncture proof tires, but many of the old-fashioned traditions still exist in the police motorcycle market. Footboards, so-called "crash bars,” and engines that are at least 800cc are mostly the rule. The specifications for most police bikes still maintain "Harley-like" standards. Even though current smaller engines can produce double the horsepower of a Harley, there is still a preference for larger engines.

 

Based on my 16 years as a motor cop, I believe the modern urban motor patrolman could do most his duties aboard one of the newer, more powerful scooters, but traditions prevail. For example, motor cops still wear the high leather boots and the riding breeches used since the Roaring Twenties, and although some departments are now switching to more of a “fatigue" type uniform, most still wear the traditional outfits in the United States. Obviously, old customs and traditions die hard, especially for cops. Would I ride a scooter in law enforcement? Maybe. I remember riding a 250cc Honda Helix while working the Sturgis Rally for Honda. One would have thought that the world was coming to an end to see a scooter on the streets of Sturgis, and I got a few laughs from the tattooed guys, until I blew them off the line from stoplights!

 

The whole police bike market has changed in some ways, but in other ways it has not. Honda is back in the market (I think they waited until I retired to do it), and BMW is going strong. Harley is back as if they never left, and I suspect that forces using BMWs are suffering from parts availability, just as we experienced with Moto Guzzi. I hear rumors that the departments that have the Beemers are starting to feel the squeeze of the cost of maintenance. In some cases, the motorcycle companies have subsidized the cost and maintenance of their police models in order to get and keep their products in use.

 

Honda police models are starting to appear more frequently. After serving police needs in Europe for many years, the Honda police model is now being accepted in the United States. But only time will tell how these newer styles of police bikes survive. As for Harley, well.... how can they go wrong? The bike is still thought of as the “traditional” police motorcycle, and it is basically the same bike it was when I rode them as a cop. Yeah, I know, many will say they are better now. And in many ways they are, but they handle like all the big bikes and still have quality problems when cops beat them up in constant use. The field of police motorcycles has always been controversial and dangerous, and it probably always will be.  Maybe that's why I loved it so much!

 

 

Penton Owners Group

kicks off anniversary year

(2/11/2008)

 

Cseh and PentonOn February 2, the Penton Owners Group held its annual meeting at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, kicking off a year of celebration for the fortieth anniversary of the Penton motorcycle, and the tenth anniversary of the POG. The guest of honor was Kalman Cseh, the KTM employee who served as John Penton's consultant, guide, and interpreter when he traveled Europe to lay plans to build the Penton motorcycle in late 1967 (To read our interview with Cseh, see Motohistory News & Views 12/23/2007). Pictured above are Cseh and Penton, both of whom spoke and answered questions about Penton history at the meeting.

 

Three PentonsThe club also brought together Pentons numbers one, two, and three, pictured here, for the first time the motorcycles have been together since they made their debut appearance at the Stone Mountain Enduro in 1968. John Penton is standing on the left with Penton V001, which is very likely the motorcycle he rode at Stone Mountain. The motorcycle is owned by Ohio Honda/KTM dealer Dale Barris. Dallas York, owner of Penton V002, is in the center, and on the right is Al Born, owner of Penton V003. Born was the original owner of number three, and the first man to buy a Penton motorcycle. The POG is planning other major events during 2008 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Penton. For more information, click here.

 

 

Legend Concours to feature

Bonhams auction

(2/11/2008)

 

Bonhams & Butterfields will host its second annual auction at the Legend of the Motorcycle International Concours d'Elegance at the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Half Moon Bay, California on May 3. This year's event will feature the Michael Corbin collection, consisting of 20 motorcycles, collectibles, and art. For more information about the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours, click here.

 

 

Three Motogiros in America in 2008

(2/11/2008)

 

MotogiroFor several years, the Motogiro USA, conducted in the Northeastern United States, has provided a timed road competition for small motorcycles, based loosely on the legendary Motogiro d'Italia. This year, two such events will be offered, on May 3 and 4 in Roxbury, New York, then in New Hampshire in September on dates yet to be announced. For information on the Motogiro USA, click here.

In addition, the MotoGiro America will be conducted in Northern California this coming July 13 through 20. Prior to departure from Monterey on July 13, there will be a symposium on Italian design and a Concours d'Elegance sponsored by the Ducati Vintage Club. Classes for the five-day event will include Vintage Racing, Touring, 70s Twin, Supersport, and Vespa. For more information, click here.

 

 

Riding into History Concours

set for May 17

(2/10/2008)

 

The Riding into History Concours d'Elegance will be held at the World Golf Village near St. Augustine, Florida on May 17. In addition to the concours, there will be a historical ride, charity rides, and a Biker's Ball. “On Any Sunday” star and former AMA Grand National Champion Mert Lawwill will be the grand marshal for this year's event, which will benefit the Buddy Check 12 breast cancer charity.  For more information, click here.

 

"On Any Sunday" Reunion

scheduled for May 21

(2/10/2008)

On Any SundayThe Orange County Dualies will present an "On Any Sunday" Reunion at the Regal Big Six Theater at Fashion Island, Newport Beach, California on May 21.  The event, featuring personalities from the film from both in front of and behind the camera, will include an outdoor expo a 3 p.m., an autograph session at 5, and the movie at 8.  The event will benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.  For more information, click here.  For information about the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Click here

 

 

From the Web

(2/10/2008)

 

To watch a video tribute to 1970 and 1973 AMA Class A Hill Climb National Champion Carl Wickstrand, click here.

 

Did you own a Taco minibike, or were you insanely jealous of the kid next door who did? For a minibike ride down memory lane, click here.

 

To check out Ray Ninnis's classic racing photos, click here. For his home page, click here.

 

To contact the Confederate Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, click here.

We often find reasons to link to the main web site of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association. However, there are also some good, independently-run web sites dedicated to regional vintage racing activity. To check out the AHRMA Northwest Motocross site, click here, or to find the AHRMA Southwest site, click here.

 

Paul Hunt was one of America's great pioneers of motocross, racing in Europe and Down Under before most of his contemporaries had ever heard of motocross. To access an excellent web site about his career and his contribution to early motocross, click here.

Remember in 1975 when Jimmy Ellis showed his competition the taste of "canned ham?"  If so, you will probably enjoy Mike Rydman's Classic Can-Am web site. click here.

Want to see what a motorcycle with a Ferrari 308 engine looks like?  Click here to go to Randakk's site, then scroll down.  And, by the way, if you happen to be tooling around on a GL1000 equipped with nitrous, turbo, or multiple carbs, he'll give you free entry to his 2008 rally. 

Are you looking for an art print of a 1976 Honda RCB1000 for your bedroom wall?  Click here.

 

Lackey to honor Dick Mann

at Nor Cal Classic

(2/9/2008)

 

Brad Lackey's Third Annual Northern California Classic, featuring AHRMA vintage and post-vintage classes, will honor Dick Mann as one of AHRMA's 2008 Legends of Motocross. The event, scheduled to take place March 15 and 16 at the Sandhill Ranch in Brentwood, California, is sponsored by McGuire Harley-Davidson. For information, E-mail Lackey at Bradlackey@comcast.net.

 

 

Beezumph will remember

the Match Races

(2/8/2008)

 

The 17th Annual Beezumph Rally at Cadwell Park in England, organized by the Rocket III/Trident Owners Club, will celebrate the first Trans-Atlantic Match Race, which took place in 1971. Birmingham Small Arms, the builder of BSA and Triumph triples, was the principal sponsor of that event, and riders for both teams raced the 750cc three-cylinder machines, built on Rob North road racing frames. The event will take place August 15 and 16. For more information, click here.

 

 

Wisconsin vintage show

and swap meet coming

(2/7/2008)

 

The Fifth Annual International Vintage Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet, sponsored by the Vintage Japanese and European Motorcycle Club of North America, will take place at the Outagamie County Fairgrounds in Seymour, Wisconsin August 15 through 17. New on the program this year will be the Buzz Simmons Vintage and Classic Memorial Races on August 15, sponsored by the Badger Racing Association. For more information on the races, click here. For more information about the show and swap meet, click here.

 

 

Found in Pring

(2/6/2008)

 

Triumph bookVeloce Publishing has several new titles coming in March, including two in its Essential Buyer's Guide Series. These include “Triumph Bonneville: The Essential Buyer's Guide,” and “BMW GS: The Essential Buyer'BMW books Guide.” Both are by Peter Henshaw, are 64 pages each, and contain 100 color images. They contain information on how to examine and evaluate a used motorcycle, how to buy, and how to restore. Useful contacts, including clubs, parts suppliers, and restoration services are listed. Each title is $19.95US or £9.99.

 

Ducati bookAlso coming soon from Veloce is “The Ducati 860, 900, and Mille Bible,” by Ian Falloon. The book contains a full description of model development and racing history. Complete technical specifications and all engine and frame numbers by model year are included. At 160 pages with 200 images, the price is $59.95US £29.99. To explore all of Veloce's titles, click here.

 

WalnecksEven if you are not buying or selling, Walneck's Classic Cycle Trader, now celebrating its 30th year, is always a good read for motohistorians. It often reprints old road tests and magazine articles. For example, the March issue contains road tests for the 1970 Suzuki T50, a 1924 Harley-Davidson eight-valve racer (no kidding), the 1977 Moto Guzzi 850, and a comparison of the 1975 Triumph T160 and the Norton Commando. Especially interesting is a feature by Buzz Walneck, with color photos, about Crosley's 1939 bid for U.S. military business with an unorthodox proCrosleytotype motorcycle (pictured here) that had shaft drive, forced-air cooling, a gearbox with reverse, electric starting, and its fuel tank in the rear fender.  Crosley, a highly innovative company best known for its small post-war automobiles, was also a pioneer manufacturer of refrigerators and radios. To subscribe to Walneck's, click here.

 

 

J. Wood auction in 21st year

(2/5/2008)

 

Jerry Wood's 21st Daytona Bike week Antique and Classic Motorcycle Auction is scheduled for March 5 through 7 at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. Wednesday, March 5, is Japanese Day, sponsored by the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club. March 6 is American, British, and European Day, sponsored by the America Historic Racing Motorcycle Association and the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, and will feature a British bike parts auction at 2 p.m. The main auction will take place at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 7. For more information, click here. To review early consignments, click here.

 

Daytona Monument Day

(2/4/2008)

 

Our report on the First Annual Daytona 200 Monument Day (See Motohistory News & Views 1/25/2008), scheduled for March 5, failed to mention the starting time for the celebration. It will be noon. For more information, click here.

 

 

Lambert & Butler's

vintage motorcycle cards

(2/3/2008)

 

Here are more motorcycle cards, distributed with Lambert & Butler's cigarettes in the United Kingdom in 1923, from the Ken Weingart collection.

 

Thirteenth in a series of 50:

Coventry-Eagle

Coventry EagleThe text on the back of the card reads:

The Coventry-Eagle “Super Sports 8” is popular among the “Big Twin” Class of British-made motor cycles. The engine is neatly housed, giving a good riding position for a sports machine with low saddle. This machine is produced by the Coventry-Eagle Cycle and Motor Co., of Coventry, and is one of seven models, ranging from 1 ¾ h.p. to 8 h.p.

 

Fourteenth in a Series of 50:

Coventry Victor “Super-Six.”

Coventry VictorThe text on the back of the card reads:

Fitted with the Coventry vibrationless flat twin engine, rated at 6-8 h.p. Equipment includes twin carburetters, with air equalizer, extra large exhaust pipes, and special silencer; Sturmey-Archer three-speed close ratio gear box, with cutch, all-chain drive, plated saddle tank.

 

 

Photohistory: the LGC

(2/2/2008)

 

We received recently an inquiry from British bicycle historian John Faulkner, seeking any information we might provide about the LGC. Unfortunately, all we knew about th e LGC, which stands for Leonard Gundle Company, is the few words we could find in “The British MotorcycleLeonard Gundle Directory” by Bacon and Hallworth. Surprisingly, even Tragatsch does not make mention of the marque. Based in Birmingham, LGC built delivery bicycles and trikes. According to Bacon and Hallworth, in 1928 Gundle began to manufacture JAP-powered motorcycles, added a Villiers-powered lightweight to his line in 1929, and continued with motorcycles until 1931. After LGC product brochurethe Second World War, LGC returned to the motorized market with a Villiers-powered delivery tricycle, but never built true motorcycles again.

 

Turns out, Mr. Faulkner knew a great deal more than we did, having discovered some LGC archives in the possession of one of Gundle's heirs. He shares with us here an undated product brochure and a photo of Mr. Gundle himself, riding his namesake motorcycle on the London to Lands End Run in 1926, where he won a silver medal. Given the date of this photo, we must assume that either Gundle was riding a pre-production prototype (the initials LGC are clearly visible on the tank), or that our reference literature is incorrect in reporting that LGC motorcycles were not produced until 1928.

 

 

Feedback

(2/1/2008)

 

About our story by Gary Smith entitled “The Goose Patrol,” (See Motohistory News & Views 1/31/2008) Roger Stang wrote:

 

Hi, Ed. Enjoyed your piece on the Goose Patrol.  You might get a little chuckle out of an experience I had.  In the late 1960s, I was a Berliner dealer in the East Bay of California.  In late 1969 or early 1970, I sold the first Moto Guzzi police bike in Northern California to the Walnut Creek Police Department.  The first officer to be assigned the bike was named George (I can't remember his last name) and he found the bike so nimble, compared to the H-D he'd been riding, that one day he couldn't resist the temptation, and decided to spend his lunch hour at our local hill climbing venue.  Needless to say, the bike came into the shop on a truck with a red-faced George not far behind.  We put it back together and got George back on the street.  When I left to join Norton Villiers, the Moto Guzzis we had placed with the department were still running, much to the chagrin of our local H-D dealer!

 

Thanks, Roger, the story about the police Guzzis was so popular that we asked Officer Smith for a little more about the history of modern police motorcycles.

 

Editor's Note: Mr. Stang was once the ceo of Norton-Villiers-Triumph in the United States, and served for a period as Chairman of the Board of the American Motorcyclist Association.