have a winner!
Kanter of Stamford, Connecticut, identified the photo
as that of a dual-carb cylinder head for the Harley-Davidson
Panhead, developed by S&S Cycle founder George Smith
(pictured below). Smith rightly understood that more air
and mixture into the combustion chamber could create more
power, so for his legendary Tramp Knucklehead speedster
he created cylinder heads that each carried its own carburetor.
carbs, more air, more power. It stood to reason. The idea,
proven with Tramp, created a small market, so Smith's
company, S&S Cycle, began to offer twin-carb heads
for Harley Panheads in the mid-1950s. A customer would
send in stock heads, and Smith would exchange them for
twin-carb units. The process included welding up the stock
heads and installing inserts that provided direct flow
from a carburetor into each head. The heads were so carefully
machined with the weld contoured into the fins that they
looked like factory racing castings. Only about fifty
sets of these heads were built, and today they have become
a prized collectible, commanding
a high four figures.
S&S dual carb heads were too labor intensive to produce
on a large scale, but they offered an early solution for
providing more power and more speed. Later they became
unnecessary as Smith perfected carburetion that would
achieve the same results without resorting to the expensive
process of hand-fabricating the twin carb heads. The photos
for this Motohistory Quiz were provided by Brian Holubetz.
Buzz, your Motohistory
Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.
Incidentally, we have just learned that Motorbooks has
partnered with S&S Cycle and fifty of the world's
leading custom bike builders to celebrate the 50th Anniversary
of S&S with a book by Howard Kelly and Michael Lichter
entitled “S&S Cycle Presents Today's Top Custom Bike
Builders.” For more information, click here.
have a winner!
never cease to be amazed at how well-informed our Motohistory
readers are. Not a single person thought the photo was
of Nicholas Tesla or Ming the Merciless. However, many
recognized it as sculptor Jeff Decker. The first among
those was Herb Harris of Austin, Texas.
is well known for his bronze sculptures of historical
motorcyclists. His style and themes are often reminiscent
of the old west
and the works of Remington and Russell. His most notable
work to date is an enormous hill climber commissioned
by Willie G. Davidson to grace the pedestrian mall at
Herb, your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.
Jerry Hatfield ain't got nothing on you!
Motohistory published a feature on Decker in March, 2004.
It is re-posted in its entirety below.
As a young boy, Jeff Decker used to prowl the aisles of
swap meets with his hot-rodding father, looking for vintage
speed equipment: perhaps a set of Ardun heads, or a Frenzel
blower. He recalls, "I have very vivid memories of
holding my Dad's thick fingers, the insides covered with
grease-stained calluses and black crud beneath his nails,
wondering if someday I would have hands like his."
Just like his father, Decker would one day learn to use
his hands to build powerful racing engines and beautiful
Bonneville speedsters, but of a different sort. About
his formative years in the Westlake area of Los Angeles,
Decker says, "I would build go-carts and contraptions,
but they never turned out the way I envisioned them."
Though his mechanical aptitude may not have come up to
the standards of his father's, Jeff had an additional
gift. He excelled in art. His drawings were praised by
the adults around him, and it was probably just a matter
of time and the right circumstances for Decker to discover
sculpture, the perfect resolution between his artistic
talent and his mechanical aspirations.
Following college in Utah, where Decker still did not
find his calling, he took a job in a foundry. He explains,
"It was a foundry that specialized in lost wax castings
for fine art bronze. I became a mold maker and made literally
hundreds of molds for every kind of fine art. The education
I received there far surpassed anything I had learned
in college. I was finally able to harness my love of vintage
racing and use my skills as an artist. In sculpting, I
again tasted what I had felt as a child when I saw my
father build working machinery with his hands." Decker
credits world renown automotive sculptor Stanley Wanlass
– whom he met in Utah – as his catalytic inspiration.
He says, "I began sculpting cars, boats, and airplanes,
then I tried motorcycles. Most sculptors are intimidated
by men aboard motorcycles, just because of the detail,
sheer complexity, and the amount of surface area. The
number of molds required is overwhelming.
But that didn't stand in my way, because, after all, I
was a trained mold maker." Wanlass encouraged Decker's
interest in this new subject matter, stating, "Cars,
boats, planes, they've been done. Motorcycles have been
neglected. Focus on the motorcycle as art, it's a niche
that's never been filled."
When he undertakes a sculpture, Decker does not work from
photographs. He brings an actual antique racing motorcycle
into his Springville, Utah studio. Working with a wide
range of materials, including actual nuts and bolts, he
constructs a painstakingly accurate replica, mostly out
of wax, ranging from a reduced scale to full size. For
the rider he puts a living model aboard the machine, dressed
in authentic vintage racing gear from Decker's own collection
of artifacts. Although his sculptures are accurate to
the tiniest detail, he departs from reality to achieve
an incredibly lifelike sense of motion. For example, the
wheels have no spokes and appear to be spinning, and sometimes
they are distorted into a slightly elliptical shape, imitating
the time-lapse distortion often seen in vintage racing
photographs. No more than 29 of any given piece has ever
been produced, and – depending on complexity, size, and
quantity – they will sell for an opening price of $4,000
to $75,000. The market for such fine art is not large,
but all of Decker's sculptures have appreciated at a rate
of 15 to 30% per year.
Decker's works include "Wrecking Crew," a 16-inch
tall bust of a pre-20s racer; "Slant Artist,"
the imposing 75-pound, 40-inch tall sculpture of a rider
fighting an Excelsior hill climber on the verge of flipping
over backward, as pictured above with the artist; "Petrali
Racer," an 18-inch long blue-patinaed bronze of Joe
Petrali at speed aboard his 1937 Knucklehead streamliner,
and "Flat Out at Bonneville," a depiction of
the iconic image of Rollie Free setting a world speed
record aboard his mighty Vincent. Decker's work can currently
be seen at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington,
Ohio, and the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
For Decker, sculpting riders aboard historic motorcycles
is not just challenging, it is true Americana and it is
mythological. He explains, "Early motorcyclists were
simply post-industrialist cowboys. The era when the motorcycle
replaced the horse is as important as the Frontier West.
In fact, in terms of transportation, the motorcycle was
even more important, because it was totally created by,
and dependent upon those who rode it. It is an extension
of ourselves. Without its rider, the motorcycle is nothing.
Just a machine. And with its rider, it must be moving
or it will fall down. There is nothing that embodies the
urgency or our age and the modern synergy of man and machine
better than a motorcycle and its rider. It is a perfect
marriage of the mechanical and organic aspects of our
As Decker waxes eloquent about the deep meaning of the
motorcycle as art, and how it ties our current era to
our pre-industrial history, one cannot help but be reminded
of the vast popularity of the bronze sculptures of Fredrick
Remington. Undoubtedly, there was a time when the fine
art community did not consider rough-and-tumble cowboys
and bucking horses a fitting subject for sculpture. But
art represents its time, and consider how Remington bronzes
and Old-West paintings are revered today. These works
are highly valued and broadly popular. Decker envisions
a similar evolution for motorcycle art. "No one has
yet taken the motorcycle seriously as a subject for fine
art. Our art is pop art, such as tattoos and T-shirt art,
but it may be time for our motorcycling culture and our
history to be taken to a higher level." Indeed, the
commercial driver for such a movement may have already
arrived. With the Guggenheim declaring the motorcycle
an art form, and people waiting in line to pay $30,000
or more for custom-built V-twins as investments and collectibles,
the price of a limited edition Jeff Decker sculpture does
not seem so out of reach.
Unlike the school of artists that followed Andy Warhol,
Decker does not confuse himself with his art. He is not
a man to promote his works by promoting himself. He wants
his works to speak for themselves and not become enmeshed
in a cult of personality. Significantly, his press kit
for Hippodrome Studio, his workshop in Springville, contains
many high-quality photographs of his sculptures, but no
photos of the artist. He says, "Quite frankly, the
choice between fame and fortune is simple. Give me fortune
without fame, so I might continue to buy old race bikes
from swap meets. Getting my name out there and selling
T-shirts and trinkets is not my goal." He concludes,
"My goal is simply to make others aware through my
art of the importance of the early history of motorcycling."
In fact, Decker declares himself a historian first, and
an artist second, though his clients and fans of his work
would likely disagree.
NOTE: This story was updated from a similar work published
under the same title in Thunder Press
access Jeff Decker's web site, click here.
of Decker used for the quiz is by Adam Wright.
Motohistorians, it is time for another Motohistory Quiz.
Many of our quizzes have featured
European bikes lately, so this time we are going to tilt
toward our American big twin performance specialists.
become our next Motohistory Know-It-All, be the first
to tell us what engine this cylinder head was built for
and who built it. The first correct respondent will receive
a much-coveted Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma. Frame
and take it to your next bike night and everyone there
will want to pay for your beer. No kidding! So
rush to your keyboard and send your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net.
Motohistory Quiz #69
the first time in Motohistory, we offer a bonus quiz.
is this? Mysterious
inventor Nicholas Tesla, sculptor extraordinaire Jeff
Decker, pioneer racing great Fearless Balke, or despicable
despot Ming the Merciless? Be the first with
the right answer and you too will receive a Motohistory
Rule: Sorry, you can't win both quizzes today. Why not?
Because I said so. We need to spread the glory around
your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net.
Photo by Adam Wright.
way for the
am uncertain what kind of Motohistory Update I will be
able to post in August, mainly because I will be in the
saddle and on the road for half the month. German Motohistory
contributor Ralf Kruger is flying over, arriving in Cleveland
on August 2. I'll
meet him there and we will embark on a loop that will
include visitation of 20 museums and private collections.
We will cover 3,000 miles through 15 states, and may even
take a ferry ride. We have dubbed it our Motomuseum Monster
Tour, and we would be happy for motohistorians to join
us for a day if we come through your area.
the plan. We'll visit the Crawford
on August 3, then we will head for Hammondsport,
where we will visit the Glenn
on August 4. From
we ride to Hershey, Pennsylvania where we will visit the
Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (pictured right)
on August 5, currently featuring the “Fast From the Past”
motorcycle exhibit. This exhibit is the second created
by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America at the Hershey
facility. We'll try to catch a Harley-Davidson factory
tour at York on our
way out of Pennsylvania, then travel on to Rockville,
Maryland that evening. Rockville will be our Smithsonian
base camp where we will park our motorcycles on the 6th
and take the metro into Washington to spend the day at
the various Smithsonian museums.
Friday, August 7, we will ride out to Chantilly,
to see the new Smithsonian National Air and Space
we'll head for Front Royal where we will jump onto the
Heading south, we'll stay on the Skyline and Blue
Ridge until we get
tired of going slow, run out of time, OD on scenery, or
get fed-up with motor coaches, whichever comes first.
At that point we will hit the super slab and ride on to
Maggie Valley, North Carolina to visit the Wheels Through
Time Museum on August 8. That afternoon we will ride south
into Georgia to see the Bruce
we will head west across Georgia
and into Alabama
we will have the whole day of the 9th for the Barber
On August 10 we will hammer out 500 miles to St.
Louis where we will
visit the Dave Mungenast
the Moto Museum,
and Carl Donelson's Museum on the 11th. We are also hoping
to have dinner at the Triumph Grille, next door to the
in downtown St.
Louis. On August
12 we will ride to Anamosa,
315 miles—where we will visit the National
13. That afternoon we will
roll off another 220 miles to Milwaukee
to visit the Harley-Davidson
Museum (pictured left) on August 14.
this point we are looking a two options to finish
the tour. Option A is to take a ferry across Lake
Michigan to Muskegon, then visit the Henry Ford Museum
before returning to Cleveland on the 16th. Option
B is to ride south from Milwaukee through the dreadful
traffic of Chicago and Gary so we can visit Jim Kersting's
World of Motorcycles Museum (pictured below) in North
Judson, Indiana, and the Studebaker Museum in South Bend,
which currently has a motorcycle exhibit. If time
allows, we could even squeeze in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg
Museum in Auburn, Indiana before returning to Cleveland.
If we make it back to Cleveland in time, we'll check
out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Ralf has to
turn in his motorcycle and catch his flight back to Germany.
you can see why we call it a Monster Tour. Keep checking
Motohistory News & Views during the coming month.
We hope to do postings of stories and photos from the
road, though we may be too tired most evenings to spend
much time on the laptop. As I said before, we would be
glad to meet some motohistorians along the way. If you
want to check in to see if we are on schedule, E-mail
me at Ed@motohistory.net,
or call 614-519-2843 and leave me a voice mail.
Maybe we'll see you on the road.
late June, Harley-Davidson patriarch and design guru Willie
G. Davidson was honored with a lifetime achievement award
by Eyes on Design, a professional society that promotes
and recognizes outstanding achievement in vehicle design.
Until now, it had been exclusively a club of car guys,
but no longer once Davidson became the first motorcycle
stylist to be so recognized by the organization. As a
backdrop for this historic ceremony, 25 superb examples
of more than a century of Harley-Davidson products were
invited to be placed on display. Two of these—a 1972 XLCH
Sportster (pictured below) and a 1972 XR750 dirt tracker—belonged
to Jim Oldiges of Erie,
Just days before the Eyes on Design ceremony, the XR750
had earned the paramount status of “Winner's Circle” motorcycle
in Antique Motorcycle Club of America judging at Rhinebeck,
Earning 99.75 points against a perfect score of 100, the
motorcycle is unimpeachable in its quality, correctness,
and attention to detail. It also won first in its class
at Gilmore in 2007 and was named “most
unique” at the AMCA meet at Oley in 2009. About its near-perfect
score, the AMCA judge who informed Oldiges of his achievement
added, “And nobody gets a hundred, don't you know!”
Oldiges was born in Toldeo,
in 1956 and graduated from Toledo
School in 1974.
Prior to graduation he had already signed up for the Marines,
which he served until the end of 1980, followed by another
two years in the active reserves. Oldiges is among the
generation that was so profoundly influenced by the products
of Soichiro Honda. When he was only five, a neighbor bought
a Honda Dream and offered him a ride. Oldiges recalls,
“I badgered my father until he let me do it, and with
that first ride I was addicted. From that moment on, motorcycles
would be an important part of my life.” In the Marines,
Oldiges worked in Artillery and Transport, he did a tour
of the West Pacific, then was stationed at Twenty-Nine
Palms in California.
There he got into the So-Cal off-road racing scene. He
explains, “On the weekends we would take our dirt bikes
out to the Mojave and race the civilians.”
Oldiges got a job as a heavy equipment mechanic then moved
into the tree and lawn maintenance business. He says,
“I liked to climb, which many tree trimmers won't do,
so I was able to get a lot of well-paying specialty tree
work.” Oldiges had already learned about landscaping and
lawn maintenance when he worked at Toledo's
Sylvania Country Club during high school.
Recalling those years, he laughs, “I got to see Palmer
and Nicholas play in 1970 and 1971, and I really put it
to those guys. I had the greens mowed so close that they
complained is was like putting on concrete.”
building up his tree trimming and landscaping business
during the late-1970s, Oldiges got into building, restoring,
and customizing muscle cars. Through this activity he
learned the skills of metal working, painting, and attention
to detail. But he continued to ride motorcycles, and eventually
they displaced his interest in cars. He explains, “I finally
got burned out with muscle cars. During the 1980s it became
kind of a cookie cutter business, and I got bored with
it.” “But I also figured out what so many others have,”
he adds, “which is that you can have a lot more motorcycles
than cars for the same space and with the same money.”
Oldiges' collecting gravitated toward Harley-Davidsons,
which are the core of his collection still today. Over
the years he has owned seven of the MX250 motocross bikes,
dozens of CR, CRS, and ERS Sprints, ten XR750s, and even
two or the rare RR250 Aermacchi
road racers. Current builds include a 1968 XLR (#8 of
only 15 built that year) (pictured above) and a 1980 XR750
(pictured right). About the current XR750 restoration
he says, “There's a lot to work with. The engine was once
installed in a hillclimbing chassis where it got very
light use, so this is a nearly new motorcycle that has
never seen duty on a dirt track.” Whether it will ever
match his 99.75-point 1972 still remains to be seen.
wife Tina and teenage twin daughters, Jessica and Jennifer,
are as dedicated to motorcycles as he is. Tina has her
own rider—a 2001 Jade Green 883 that Jim presented her
on her 40th birthday—the girls cut their teeth on a 1971
Indian mini-cycle, and extensive travel to vintage bike
meets around the country is still usually a family affair.
Oldiges also has his own modern rider, a 100th Anniversary
XL1200 Custom Sportster. About this bike, which is maintained
as well as any of his prized collectibles, Oldiges says,
“I was in the Marines when the Harley Bicentennial Editions
came out, and I really wanted one. It didn't work out,
so I swore that one day I would get another special edition.
It only took me about 25 years to fulfill that dream.”
surprisingly, Oldiges' meticulous restorations have not
gone unnoticed by the many museums that are assembling
motorcycle exhibits these days. At present, he has an
authentic Terry Poovey Harley-Davidson (pictured above)—with
engine built to full racing spec by Teddy Poovey—at the
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickertingon, Ohio,
and his near-perfect XR750 used for Willie G's Eyes on
Design ceremony is now on display in the foyer of the
Antique Automobile Club
of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania (pictured right).
In addition, at the Harley-Davidson
Museum in Milwaukee there are two Oldiges machines, a
1972 Sprint ERS and a 1974 SR100 Baja.
for how Oldiges affords his hobby, consider the fact that
at age 53 he commands a good fee because he is still an
active tree climber in a trade where skill and courage
have been almost entirely replaced by trucks and buckets.
So who says motorcycles don't keep you young at heart?
German autumn of 1953:
new triumvirate for the
the International Bicycle and Motorcycle Show (IFMA) at
in the autumn of 1953, Zündapp and Hoffmann were
the leading actors, and, based on rumor, it was anticipated
that a new small BMW boxer twin would appear as well.
As matters stood, the IFMA was the possible debut for
a new German boxer-twin four-stroke triumvirate of middle-range
motorcycles. It would have been the right time for such
machines because NSU had introduced its 250cc Max the
prior autumn for sale in 1953, and the Horex 350 had already
proven its worth. These two technically-advanced singles
dominated the West German mid-size
market with resounding success, but, after all, they were
The door remained wide open for exciting, modern four-stroke
is often the case at IFMA, the motorcycles on display
in 1953 were met with a fervent reaction by the attending
motorcyclists. Customers saw their dream machines, and,
better yet, it appeared that the industry was about to
close the gulf between the wishful thinking and the modest
wallets of the time. Wartime rationing coupons had been
abolished only three years before (1950). The
new currency—the D-Mark—had been in use since 1948 and
was now well-established in Germany's
three western occupied zones. At 2,000-DM, the price for
a new mid-size motorcycle was still a lot of money (about
$475 in 1953 dollars), but there was excitement and pent-up
demand among those stalwart motorcyclists who had made
the journey to Frankfurt,
despite the fact that they were still required to apply
for credentials to travel from zone to zone. This was
little impediment for those hoping to see and possibly
buy one of the new modern and affordable motorcycles that
would be on display.
much rebuilding had taken place since the war, a housing
shortage was still an urgent problem. Accommodations on
the road were not readily available, but Germans were
beginning to travel again for recreation, visiting relatives
or even planning a vacation in Italy
for its sunshine,
culture, history, and dolce vita. The idea of
having the freedom and convenience to go by personal vehicle—not
by bus or train—was especially tantalizing, adding one
more reason to one's justification for owning a new road-going
Zündapp B250 prototype (pictured left and above)
on display at IFMA—reported to be ready for immediate
production—gave hope for a more cultivated motorcycle
than the many two-stroke models that had been available
in the years following the war. There was an air of opulence
and luxury to the machine, depicted in its big, swinging
fenders and graceful styling. Zündapp's interpretation
of the “Zeitgeist” through a new "body language"
combined the stylishness of a scooter with the traditional
configuration of a motorcycle. The B250 was the star of
the show and promised to provide an alternative to the
sporty, sales-leading NSU Max. Its boxer twin would be
smoother than any single, and high-mounted carburetors
promised more leg space and greater comfort than what
its Bavarian competitor could offer. Its pushrods moved
in cast-in tunnels in the cylinder and were driven by
a cam lying under the crankshaft. The Zündapp had
a shaft and bevel gear final drive
and delivered a healthy 19 hp @7,000 rpm, with plenty
of margin for development and “hop up” by performance-minded
reaction was almost as sensational toward the 250cc Gouverneur
by Hoffmann (pictured below), from Lintorf near Düsseldorf.
It was a classic beauty featuring styling drawn by a calm
hand, emphasizing a delicate and smooth outer appearance
to its engine. Both the technical layout and outward appearance
of this boxer twin had been conceived by acclaimed designer
Richard Küchen. It was no less exciting than the
Zündapp at IFMA in 1953, but it had already been
available for a year. Hoffmann, which had built small
mopeds since 1948, was new to the motorcycle business,
and there had been many production problems—especially
with engine assembly—that had limited the motorcycle's
availability in its first year. With experience only in
building the Italian Vespa under license, when it came
to fabricating its own newly-designed boxer twin in a
new factory opened in 1952, Hoffmann learned that its
team lacked adequate experience, especially in maintaining
the required manufacturing tolerances. Furthermore, when
J.O. Hoffmann lost his license to build
Vespas, reduced cash flow made development, production,
and delivery of new motorcycles more difficult. For these
reasons, the Gouverneur remained in limited availability.
new 1953 Hoffmann Gouverneur MP-2 boxer engine made a
modest 14.5 hp @4800 rpm (up from 11 hp @4500 rpm for
the 1952 model), but this was no great disadvantage because
of the condition of the roads in Germany.
Often still made of cobblestones, they did not favor big
horsepower and high speed machines. Rather, in addition
to reliability, German customers wanted middle-sized machines
of nice appearance and modern technical design, especially
with a clean and trouble-free shaft drive
to the rear wheel. These features were provided by both,
Hoffmann and Zündapp.
was the view of IFMA visitors in 1953 that BMW's 250cc
single simply did not compete in the same league. Customers
felt that the Bavarian firm should have responded with
a conceptual engine design based on its own long-standing
boxer configuration. Besides, there had been rumors for
years about a new BMW boxer for the middle class, originating
from a 350cc prototype from the pre-war era. Sadly, BMW
disappointed its customers at IFMA, further feeding the
question, “Was there anything in development?” The new
Rennsport 500, which was shown at the Frankfurt
display for the
first time, demonstrated
that BMW was capable of resuming its prewar racing involvement.
Indeed, a second RS-engine for GP competition in a 250cc
capacity appeared in blueprint in 1955 and was built in
prototype by 1956 (pictured right), but it never made
it to a public debut. BMW was almost financially ruined
and had to concentrate on the development of cars while
it continued to sell its old, established motorcycle line.
And toward the end of the decade, a new, small street-going
boxer twin was definitely no longer on the agenda,
due in part to
sweeping changes that were taking place throughout the
German transportation industry (see
the Baby Boxer story at Motohistory News & Views 12/11/2007).
the anticipated German mid-class boxer triumvirate did
not materialize cannot be blamed on the motorcycle manufacturers.
In the spring of 1953, car manufacturer Volkswagen lowered
the retail price for its Beetle from 4,400 DM to 4,200
DM. This lower cost of a serviceable automobile triggered
rethinking within the typical German family toward the
usefulness of motorcycles. They turned away in droves
toward the small car—even micro-cars like BMW Isetta which
became available in 1955 for only 2,600 DM—putting the
very existence for all German motorcycle manufacturers
in peril by the middle of the decade.
fact, the brief post-war renaissance and decline of the
German motorcycle industry could be measured by the statistics
generated by IFMA (pictured above is the 1951 IFMA show).
In 1951, IFMA attracted 398 exhibitors and 305,000 attendees.
By 1953, vendors had grown to 470 and attendees to 310,000.
But this was the the high point. By mid-decade,
IFMA attendance had fallen below the 1951 level, and by
1962 the exhibitors had declined to 250, and only 102,000
attended the show. Prosperity and changes in social
values sent the public away from bicycles and motorcycles,
and toward automobiles. It was a situation not unlike
what had happened in the United
States forty years earlier when a low-priced Ford nearly
destroyed a once-vital American motorcycle industry.
you're a fan of antique motorcycles, the place to be in
July is the Wauseon Antique Motorcycle Club of America
National Meet held at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in
northwest Ohio. Held this year July 17 through 19, this
is a fine, fine meet in every sense of the word. Parking
is convenient in the huge, open field next the facility,
and admission is (can you believe it?) free! While there
is an admission fee for the on-site vintage dirt track
races, access to the swap meet and all other activities
costs you nuttin! So, a leisurely stroll through the gates
of the almost perfectly flat (no hills to climb – another
bonus!) fairgrounds finds one smack in the middle of a
wonderland of fantastic old machinery. In fact, no sooner
did I set foot in the place than
I was witness to none other than Wheels Through Time museum
curator and motorcycle enthusiast extraordinaire, Dale
Walksler, blat-blatting about the facility on a 1920-something-or-other
brings us to another excellent feature of the Wauseon
event – it is not static! On the contrary, at
any given moment one can be treated to the sight, sounds,
and smells of any one of a number of incredible machines,
of any age, make, condition, and operational status. Perfect
restorations, amazing original survivors, rat bikes, bikes
which look like they've been living in someone's living
room, and bikes which give every indication of having
been ridden hard and put away wet (for decades) are all
present. And, while the place is virtually awash in H-Ds
and Indians from the Golden Days, there are machines present
to satisfy the taste and inclinations of any and all enthusiasts
of old bikes. For example, you don't see a
German NSU very often (above) in the U.S., but it is common
as dirt compared to the Polish Junak (left).
special case in point was the Velocette LE, which stopped
me dead in my tracks (pictured above with the author).
This machine, though in perfect original condition, was
nonetheless being ridden around the fairgrounds by its
lucky owner. With its water-cooled, flat twin layout,
extensive bodywork, and numerous trick features, the lovely
little Velo was a treat for my eyes. I could hardly pull
myself away from it, and yet there was so much more to
see! For example, just across the street were two Indians,
vintage 1930s. One was obviously set up for dirt track
racing, and I arrived just as the owner was firing it
up for a warm-up session. And the sound which exploded
from that old twin's shorty pipes was pure music! Absolutely
awesome. The other of these two bikes was glorious in
its originality and road-weary condition. With an artful
and all the oil, bugs, and road grime inherent in a machine
which has seen decades of use, the beautiful, old Indian
fired right up in response its owner's talented and practiced
technique. More music!
there, a stroll around the fairgrounds revealed one after
another of amazing machines to be seen and heard. For
the purist and enthusiast ali'ke, there are treasures
galore to be found at Wauseon. From my child-of-the-70s
perspective, a 1974 (Taiwanese) Indian ME125 in perfect,
original condition was a sight to behold. Just beyond
that were immaculate Aermacchi/Harley-Daividson Sprints,
amazingly well restored. And, next door were several Harleys
from the late ‘30s, each a perfect specimen. Another few
steps revealed an incredible orange machine, sitting in
the back of a pickup truck (pictured above). At first
glance, I couldn't tell what it was. Then I got closer
and became really confused. This “thing” was huge and
ancient and looked as though it had been built in the
dark by individuals with lots of welding rod on hand,
but who had no understanding of motorcycle design other
than that such machines featured two wheels, and sat on
a single track. After pondering the great machine
for some time, I noticed the sign propped against it,
declaring it to have been built in the 1920s, to be used
for pacing velodrome-racing bicycles. I don't
who they ever got to ride the thing, but he or she must
have been an incredibly courageous individual.
great contrast, right across from The Beast was a Puch/Sears-Allstate
lightweight. All original, this little 50cc two-stroke
was once available right off the floor of your local Sears
department store. And, even though the little machine
showed its age – featuring in particular a rear tire which
had come completely off the rim and was lying beside the
bike, the little putter fired right up at the owner behest.
Even better was another Allstate nearby, whose design
was that of a lightweight trail bike (pictured above).
A really cool and super rare little machine.
so it went. The above described bikes are but a handful
of the unique and fascinating machines which find themselves
at the Wauseon AMCA meet each summer. Un-crowded, yet
well-attended, spacious yet accessible, low-key but exciting,
this event is an excellent opportunity to enjoy some wonderful
examples of old bikes of all ages, types, sizes, and condition.
And, none of this even begins to take in the awesome spectacle
of the vintage dirt track races. So, mark your calendar,
and find yourself as I did, at the Fulton County Fairgrounds
next July. For details, keep your eye on the AMCA web
site. Just click here.
by Ted Guthrie and Ed Youngblood.
sound were to create visual images, do you know what the
sound of the Honda RC166 would look like?
It would look exactly like the glorious smile pictured
here. To check
it out, click here
and crank up the volume.
White reports, “We
now have our 2009 U.S.
Six Days Senior Team shirts
ready. To see what we are doing, posted on KTMTalk, click
We also have an Ebay store set up for orders and plan
to have it linked to our ISDE page on MotorcycleUSA.com
shortly. This ISDE page will feature my blog and stories
on our bike build as well as some things submitted by
current and past riders, so check by clicking here.
Our shirt theme this year is celebrating 60 years
of US riders at the Six Days.
Young, who sent us the Nimbus photos
for our #67 Quiz has also brought to our attention a take-off
on the film "The Long Way Round" by a couple
of madcap Nimbus riders who call their epic "The
Dumb Way Round." Click here
venerable Harley XR750 has outlived the
Motor Company's interest in dirt track racing to the extent
that now it is being repopped in whole. Got an extra
$17,000? Actually, that's not a bad price when you
figure the AMA claiming rule value for such an engine
was $25,000 fifteen years ago. Click here
to read about it.
sculptor Jeff Decker has graduated from
molten bronze to light-speed electrons by creating a new
web site that will showcase his work, current projects,
scheduled appearances and more. To access Decker's site,
20th Annual Vintage Bike Rally of the
Classic British Motorcycle Club of Cincinnati
will take place September 26 and 27 at Boone
County Fairgrounds in Burlington, Kentucky. Proceeds will
benefit the Council on Child Abuse of Southern Ohio. For
more information, click here.
lots of information about the game-changing Honda
Elsinore, click here.
the collector who has everything—or at least every Triumph
—you can buy a half-scale wooden artwork
for onlyu $10K, which includes personal delivery to anywhere
in the lower 48. Click here.
will restore to original spec, or create a classic special
using new technology. Click here.
Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame has announced
its inductees for 2009. To get the scoop, click
Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington,
Ohio has announced an open house on September 12.
No admission will be charged. For details, click
designed for off-road use, Penton motorcycles
were used also for road racing an Bonneville speed trials.
Recently, the Penton Owners Group forum carried a great
story about a Penton used in endurance racing. Click here.
And check out the photo of Bruce Williams with his homemade
road racing tank. Looks like something from a 1919 Excelsior.
2010, the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame
will move its induction banquet from Toronto to Vancouver.
For details, click here.
some great old Yamaha pix, click here.
always, there is great reading on the Vintagent
blog this month. Click here.
S'CooL MX Restorations
has a new website. To check it out, click here.
of the Motorcycle ,
featuring artists Scott Jacobs, Joseph Farmer, and Wendy
Stansbery Walker, will open at the River Front Foundry
Arts Center at Saint Charles, Missouri August 22. For
more information, click here.
to feature Bator auction
Fifth Annual Barber Vintage Festival, to be held October
8 through 11 at the Barber Vintage Motorsports
and motorsports complex near Birmingham,
will include for the first time an auction, hosted by
Bator International Auctions. Glenn Bator reports that
he expects over 150 fine motorcycles will be offered,
and that many will have no reserve. Bikes for sale may
be viewed 9
on Friday, October 9, and the auction will take place
on Saturday the 10th. Bator states, "There is no
better place to realize the best dollar for your bike,
as there will be hundreds of interested buyers and classic
cycle enthusiasts looking for their next acquisition.
However, space is limited so those wishing to consign
bikes should contact us immediately.” For more information
or to consign bikes, click here
or call 805-646-9566. For more information about the Barber
Vintage Festival, click here.
set for 2009-10
Stoner has announced dates for his Classic Swap Meets
for the remainder of 1009 and early 2010. They are Ashland,
Ohio County Fairgrounds on October 18, the York, Pennsylvania
Expo Center on November 15, Ashland on February 7, and
York again on March 21. There is a new lower price for
vendor space and children under 16 are admitted free of
charge. For more information, click here.
Schek's enduring influence
he won championships on several brands, the imposing Herbert
Schek will always be associated with BMW, especially in
America where he was seen in 1973 leading a four-man team
on big Bavarian twins at the first International Six Days'
Trial held in the United States. Schek first rode a factory
BMW in ISDT competition in 1966, and in 1969 became key
in helping the company slim down its new 750cc /5 model
for off-road use. When Schek explained that the road-going
machine had to be reduced to 150 kilos, the BMW engineers
dismissed the notion as impossible. Schek set out to build
his own special BMWs, finally reducing their weight to
an astonishing 125 kilos. Understandably, such machines
were in immediate demand, and still today they are in
common use. Our German contributor Ralf Kruger reports
that at the Biebesheim Enduro earlier this month, no less
than seven Schek-type BMWs (pictured above) were seen
on the trail. To read our Motohistory feature about Herbert
Schek, penned by Leo Keller, go to Motohistory News &
by Ralf Kruger.
is the world's first full-length documentary chronicling
the fascinating history, legacy, and enduring cult of
one of the world's most remarkable styles of motorcycling,
that of the café racer. Two years in the making,
this 60-minute film is scheduled for release on August
28. It includes never-before seen historical footage,
interviews with legendary café racer builders including
Dave Degens of Dresda Tritons, Ian Kennedy, Erik Buell,
and others. In addition, there are eyewitness accounts
of the "live fast, die young" era presented
by the rockers and Ton-Up Boys themselves. For more information,
Holman, who has been working on “The Indian Wrecking
Crew” since 2005, reports that filming has wrapped
and that editing should be complete by the end of the
year. To gather historical material, Holman has traveled
the country and conducted interviews with Ed Kretz Jr.,
Erwin Smith, Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, Ernie Beckman Jr.,
Everett Brashear, Paul Goldsmith, Joe Leonad, Dick Klamfoth,
Dick Mann, Doug Chandler, Kenny Roberts, Steve Bonsey, Bubba
Shobert, Chris Carr, Joe Kopp, and others. About
his project, Holman states, “I was just going to do some
oral histories in the beginning. Then one thing led to
another.” For more information about the film, click here
by Dave Price
Dave Price of Dunstable,
sends us a photo aboard his 160cc Ducati, circa 1967.
Price writes, “I bought it used from the classifieds.
It replaced my Honda CB160 and was not as civilized as
the Honda, but it definitely had more character. The electrics
were downright primitive. The horn was just a buzzer,
so I attached a canned marine air horn to the handlebars
with hose clamps. Awesome!” Price adds, “By the way, my
33-year-old son saw the photo for the first time today
and chastised me for not wearing a helmet.”
Dave. A wheelie on a 160 is pretty impressive. As for
your adult son, well, he just has no idea how to really
are Animals," a statement that many have
used in the pejorative sense, has been turned by writer/cartoonist
Paul Jamiol into a book for children that brings joy and
amusement while promoting safe riding and delivering a
subtle but strong message against prejudice in all its
forms. Jamiol's community of motorcycle-riding fauna
will keep young readers enthralled. There are three
bears from Maine
who form a motorcycle club. One's love of riding has saved
him from a life of raiding dumpsters, and another
likes to work on his motorcycle all winter rather than
hibernate. Akorn the squirrel rides a sport bike, but
he isn't squirrelly. In fact, he has taken a rider training
course and hopes someday to become an instructor. Prowla
the puma plays
in a band called the Clawz when she is not riding her
motorcycle. Howlena is an assertive female wolf who enjoys
being leader of
the pack. Zig and Zag are twin gorillas who have painted
their motorcycles Mad Banana Yellow and always stop at
are Animals” is about diversity, and in each little story
that describes the personality of one of its motorcycle-riding
critters, there is a gentle message about safety. There
are no stereotypes here, and the only commonality is that
each of the characters loves his or her motorcycle. In
addition to his story and cartoons, Jamiol offers a line-drawing
of each of his characters that parents can photocopy so
their children can color them again and again. This is
a clever touch that will bring youngsters back to this
book, whether or not they overtly understand its many
socially-positive messages. If you've got kids or grandkids
of an age to enjoy such a book, get it for their next
birthday or for Christmas. It's coming in late September
and will be available at Amazon and leading book sellers.
illustrations by Paul Jamiol.
now available. This issue contains a cover story about
the OSSA Phantom GPII and features about the 1975 Puch
175MX, the Suzuki RM family—125 to 370—the 1979 Kawasaki
KDX400 and the 100cc Kawasaki Centurion. There are stories
about recent vintage events, a profile of Igor Grigoriev,
and a history of Zündapp in off-road competition.
As always, the photography is gorgeous, and backed up
by excellent paper quality. To subscribe to VMX,
on a superficial glance, you might think that Racer
X Illustrated —with its high-flying covers,
flashy layout, and sexy young things—is aimed at a teenage
audience. But you would be wrong. Publisher Davey Coombs
has always had a deep interest in history, and frequently
he publishes features that focus in depth on the great
riders and significant events of the past. For example,
in July Eric Johnson removed some of the mystery from
Russian world champion Gennady Moiseev, a man who won
with controversy and disappeared into obscurity. And the
new September issue contains a well-researched history
of Spanish motocross. History aside, even when covering
the modern sport this magazine often goes behind the scenes
and deep into the personalities of the riders in both
its features and its editorials. To reach Racer X
on line, click here.
us current, but every issue also reminds us of our important
roots through the “Archives” featured penned by publicist,
statistician, and historian Larry Lawrence. Lawrence is
one of the best researchers in the business, and in the
July 15 issue he shares with his readers a new and important
tool for motohistorians. Lawrence reports that Google
has put 50 years of American Motorcyclist on line, with
the exception of a handful of missing issues. This magazine,
as the house organ of the AMA, has often been passed off
as self-focused in inconsequential by the commercial newsstand
motorcycle publications. However, over time it has become
the most complete archive of American racing records,
rider profiles, and statistical information available.
Lawrence is not just a good historian. He is a man who
helps others become good historians. To access Cycle
News on the web, click here.
To access American Motorcyclist archives on Google,
To access “The Rider Files,” Lawrence's
personal blog, click here.
September issue of Cycle World
contains a feature by Allan Girdler entitled “Hap
Alzina & the Ill-Fated Arrow.” It summarizes
the career of Hap Alzina, a man who helped Indian stay
afloat during the dark days of the Great Depression, then
later applied his experience and storied work ethic to
the task of establishing BSA in America.
During Alzina's days as U.S. Western distributor for Indian,
he funded a project to upset speed records achieved by
Joe Petrali for Harley-Davidson in 1937. Alzina's machine
was a 61-cubic inch Sport Scout OHV special, fitted with
a streamlined shell constructed with the best aircraft
techniques of the time—spruce ribbing under painted linen
fabric (fiberglass had not yet been invented in 1938).
Though the naked machine earned some speed records, the
streamliner became unmanageable as it approached 140 mph.
Alzina was a conscientious man who refused to risk the
life of Freddie Ludlow, his pilot, and the attempt was
called off and never resumed. Excellent historical photographs
illustrate the story, plus some of the most recently captured
images of the ill-fated Indian Arrow, which still exists
today. To access Cycle World on the web, click
Business by Uhl
year about this time, fine artist David Uhl creates an
official Sturgis commemorative painting that explores
American themes connected with the rally or the history
of the Black Hills.
His 2009 painting, just released, is “Whiskey Business,”
depicting a man who delivers whiskey to the untamed gambling
towns of the lawless West aboard his Harley-Davidson.
Clearly, it was not a task for the meek since he carries
not only a side arm but also a Gatling gun on his motorcycle.
Uhl's original is a 30x40-inch oil on canvas. To access
his web site, click here.
Motohistory contributor Mick Duckworth writes from England:
Ed. Seeing the “double-barreled” Royal Enfield Bullet
on your site (see Motohistory News & Views 6/29/2009)
reminded me that an apparently well-engineered Enfield-based
1000cc V-twin was running in Britain around ten years
ago. Called the Norcroft, it was built by two guys, one
of whom worked for the Ricardo automotive research company.
The engine, with side-by-side rods on a common crankpin,
was installed in a modified Rickman chassis. I rode the
machine and enjoyed it. For anyone satisfied with
55bhp (I think that was the Vincent-like output), it
offered a very pleasant V-twin experience with
sound handling. The project just seems to have vanished.
What a shame, since its originators were aiming to go
into limited production.
included a photo of himself putting the Norcroft through
its paces (above).
by Martyn Barnwell.
response to Ralf Kruger's history of the two-stroke engine
(see Motohistory News & Views 3/27/2009), a reader
from Austria who prefers that his name not be used, writes:
found your very informative homepage. May I add some comments
to your history of two-stroke motorcycles in regard to
Alfred Angas Scott (pictured above). Scott was
the first who built a two-stroke motorcycle, in 1904,
and he started production in 1908. With its water
cooled two-stroke, twin-cylinder engine, it had very little
vibration and was smooth and silent. Its foot-operated
two-speed gearbox and all chain drive with kick starter,
low center of gravity, and low weight (my 1914 model weighs
only 89 kilos) put it at least ten years ahead of its
time. I always feel unfair
when I compete in veteran events with the four-stroke
bikes of the era (pictured here).
motorcycles dominated the racing scene in the UK from
the very beginning in 1908 until 1914, and continued
to have success until the end of the 1920s. The Scott
was the first two-stroke to win a race and the first to
win the TT, which they did in 1912 and 1913. They set
the fastest lap four years running, from 1911 through
1914. Their works bikes from 1911 until 1914 had rotary
inlet valves and double spark cylinder heads. They were
so advanced in their time that the ACU applied a 1.32
handicap on their two-stroke ending from 1908 to 1911.
Alfred Scott responded with an advertising campaign boasting
that his bikes were 32% better than others approved by
the ACU. For more information about the Scott, click here.
any of our Motohistorians identify this rider? The photo
was taken in 1955. The color of the number plate would
indicate that he was an AMA Novice at the time of the
photo, and the “E” on the plate indicates he is from the
state of Michigan,
as he also tells us on his jersey. If you can identify
him, please contact Dave Uhl at DvdUhl@aol.com.
Findlay of Burnaby,
Ed, I have recently stumbled across Motohistory and
can see that I have a lot of reading ahead to catch up
on. I have an interest in LDRs (to
read our brief history of Long Distance Riding, go to
Motohistory News & Views 2/28/2009),
particularly the first round the world trip by motorcycle.
It was completed in 1913 by Carl Stearns (Stevens?) Clancy
(pictured below). I have been unable to
find very much information about
it, although I believe it was written up in World Motorcycle
Review, October 13, 1913.
If you have any information about this trip, I would be
pleased to read about it. I am restoring a 1913
Henderson and have a dream of perhaps
re-creating the final leg of the trip in 2013, from San
Francisco to New York via
the Lincoln Highway.
Motohistorians, can anyone—especially you Henderson experts—share
some information with Mr. Findlay about Mr Clancy? Write
me at Ed@Motohistor.net,
or write direct to Peter Findlay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, go to Findlay's web page by clicking here.