Motohistory Quiz #77:
We have a winner!
The very unorthodox motorcycle pictured in our quiz is the one-off Killinger und Freund, introduced in Germany in 1938.
Now what did we learn from this quiz? We learned that while it is strange and rare, the K&F is certainly not obscure. In fact, we had dozens of correct answers pour in; far more than for any previous quiz. But the quickest Motohistorian to the keyboard was Doug Klassen of Casa Grande, Arizona. Many of you will recognize that name as the author of the excellent blog “Forty Years on Two Wheels.” To check it out, click here. Doug professes to have ended his blog at the beginning of this year, but we’re hoping the writing bug will bite him again soon.
Robert Killinger and Walter Freund (pictured below) headed up a team of five technicians from Munich who began a project in 1935 to build an utterly modern motorcycle with front wheel drive, achieved by placing the engine within the front wheel, similar to the German Megola. When the bike was finally completed as a prototype and put on display at the Berlin motorcycle show in 1938, the October issue of Motorrad wrote, “What the five technicians from Munich [have] now completed is more than an improved Megola. The engine displacement is 600cc and it is also incredibly light: 135 Kilograms (with fuel), but this bike has a three-cylinder two-stroke engine in the front wheel, it has a transmission and a clutch, it has a comfortable front and rear suspension and looks elegant and thrilling.” Pictured below is the front wheel with three-cylinder engine.
Motorrad continued, “And now the construction: the middle of the frame and the rear wheel cover are currently built as sheetmetal shells around a tube frame. For the mass-production version there are plans to build the middle frame as a boxed frame, welded together, using two pressed sheetmetal parts. Of course this supermachine has a rear suspension. It is linked to the lower end of the (inner) tube frame and fixed with flexible (rubber/metal???) elements which don’t need any service. A lid in the box frame allows access to the seat springs to regulate the hardness of the seat’s suspension. The steering is like that of a normal bike, but the telescopic elements (80 mm lift) are more vertical than usual. That means that the wheelbase won’t change much when the front fork dives in.”
Regrettably, the K&F never went into production. Twenty test engines were built by the Gustloff company in Suhl, and Hurth made 20 gear sets, but in 1941, when the Reich required that all industry focus on war production, work on the K&F ceased. The U.S. military seized the prototype at the end of the war and brought it to the United States where it was placed on display. Later it went to a scrap heap where collector Harry Buck salvaged its remains (pictured here).
The rumors that surround the K&F are almost as fascinating as the facts. There are reports that it is now back in Germany, having been sold by Buck. But other reports claim that it remains in the United States, in the possession of a collector in Ohio. There is also a report that a collector in Philadelphia holds the rear wheel, which was not included with the remains that Buck acquired.
Over time, we expect to learn more about the existence of the K&F, but in the mean time we will congratulate our Motohistory Quiz winner, Doug Klassen. Doug, your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.
Motohistory Quiz #77
For sure, this is back to the future!
Tell us what it is, and when and where it was built, and you will become our next Motohistory Know-It-All, equipped for elevated social discourse with your own personalized Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma. So rush to your keyboard now so compete with the world’s best Motohistorians. Send your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net.
When Yamaha chased women
Throughout motorcycle history, designers have tried to capture or expand their market to women riders. In the 1920s, the Ner-A-Car, built both in England and America, had a low center of gravity with a step-over chassis, ample bodywork for weather protection, a friction-drive “automatic transmission,” and could be fitted with a bucket seat instead of a saddle. In the 1940s, Velocette departed from its high-performance reputation to build the LE, a remarkably sophisticated design with a quiet, liquid-cooled twin; shaft drive, floorboards and leg shields, and a hand-activated starting lever so businessmen and women would not scuff their shoes and hosiery. In the early 1960s, Honda introduced its legendary Super Cub with step-through chassis, light weight, good weather protection, and clutchless shifting. Breaking from traditional marketing practices, Honda bought advertising in magazines aimed at women, families, and teen-agers. It worked!
Honda’s novel approach to selling motorcycles in America collided headlong with the Baby Boom generation as it moved into its teens, and the result was unprecedented and phenomenal. Honda was soon selling more motorcycles in a month than many of the established manufacturers had sold in a year, and a great number of those buyers were high-school and college boys. No doubt, Japanese brand product planners were looking wide-eyed at this success, but thinking, “What if we could appeal equally to young women?” Enter Yamaha with its Model U5-E (pictured above). Introduced in 1967, it was pink, fringed, basket-equipped (for groceries, don’t you know), and marketed in America as the “Lady Yamaha.” It abounded with features intended to appeal to women. It had step-through design, a quiet 50cc rotary-valve engine, automatic clutch, electric starting, automatic lubrication so its owner did not have to put up with the nasty job of mixing gas with oil, and plastic leg shields and enclosed chain for good rider protection. And in case you missed the woman-friendly features of this bike, you could not ignore its pink and white livery and fringed seat! In a kind of back-handed compliment to the little Yamaha, one of the magazines of the era said, “The new Lady Yamaha is a radical departure in motorcycling. Now the female cyclist can have a machine all her own, and not worry about the males wanting to borrow it. After all, what man would want to be seen riding a pink motorcycle trimmed in fringe?”
Unfortunately, Yamaha did not crack the women’s market with its U5-E. Offered only in 1967 and 1968, dealers either avoided stocking them, or they sat unsold on the showroom floor. Today, the Lady Yamaha remains so obscure that many vintage motorcycle experts have never heard of it, much less even seen one. Recently, however, an original example, owned by Kathy Dhue (pictured below), of Lakeland Florida, achieved “Winner’s Circle” status in Antique Motorcycle Club of America judging, which means that it has gone through three rounds of judging while earning 95 or more out a possible 100 points. More astonishingly, it earned this honor as an original—not a restored—motorcycle. Dhue’s award-winning Lady Yamaha is titled as a 1969, which is also testimony to its original failure in the marketplace. At the time, motorcycle dealers could “re-title” a motorcycle that had not sold during its year of manufacture, so the fact that Dhue’s Yamaha is a 1969 indicates it sat for one year, and possibly two, on the showroom floor.
Happily, this example eventually found a customer when it was purchased—along with a pink helmet—as a Mother’s Day gift for Carolyn Bray, of Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, from Marsh’s Yamaha, starting a 40-year chain of events that would take it eventually into the AMCA Winner’s Circle. The Bray family, consisting of husband Harry and sons Mark and Glenn, were into camping and hiking. The boys already had mini-bikes, and it only seemed fair that Mom should have a bike as well. Carolyn’s Lady Yamaha was carried with the family motor home as a run-about bike during camping trips. Bray recalls, “When we came to a campground, I would get on the Yamaha and ride around to scout out a nice spot. I carried a walkie-talkie in the basket, and when I found one, I would call Harry and give him the site number. This way, we did not have to cruise around the campground in a big motor home to look for a place to stop.” Carolyn Bray’s pink Yamaha was undoubtedly a hit among the campers. Laughing, she says, “One year it even won a trophy at a National Campers and Hikers Association meet for winning a race where I had to ride across a field with a cup of water in my teeth without spilling all of it.”(pictured right)
The little U5-E remained in the Bray family for 15 years, but in the mid-1980s it changed hands. The Brays do not recall who purchased the bike, but they believe it was someone from New Jersey. After another decade of undocumented existence, it showed up in the back of a truck of junk owned by George Derrick at an AMCA Empire Chapter meet in 1994. This was when Kathy Dhue spotted it, literally on its way to the land fill, and knew she had to rescue it, paying $50 to save it from oblivion. She recalls, “My husband Raymond didn’t want me to buy it. He said, ‘If you buy that thing, don’t expect me to ever work on it. I’m not touching it!’” But Ray, who is a qualified motorcycle technician, apparently warmed up to the little Lady, because he quietly set about detailing it and finding NOS replacement parts when necessary. It turned out that the paint was too good to require restoration, and a torn seat was expertly repaired by a shop that found some of the original material. Dhue brought the bike back to near-new beauty and presented it to Kathy with a big ribbon around it for Christmas 1995, complete with Carolyn Bray’s pink helmet, which had somehow remained with the bike as it changed hands over the years. Now equally as proud as his wife is of her Lady Yamaha, Ray says, “The motorcycle still has its original tires and only 1,020 miles on the clock. It is easy to ride and gets close to 200 miles per gallon.”
While the Lady Yamaha did not fulfill its original mission to tap into a women’s market in America, over time the various manufacturers—including Yamaha—would figure it out. What they learned was the little bikes, fringe, and pink paint aren’t really what the majority of women riders want. Turns out that with attention to ergonomics—such as a low seat—women prefer pretty much what men like in a motorcycle. If they want it to be pink, by golly they’ll paint it themselves, as some have.
Women and motorcycles,
from then to now
In 1910, Clara Wagner (pictured below), 18-year-old daughter of the designer and builder of the Wagner motorcycle, won a national endurance competition with a perfect score of 1,000 points. The organizers of the event refused to give her the victory because women weren’t supposed to compete on motorcycles. No wonder women were imprinted early on that motorcycling was a man’s activity. However, Clara’s mail competitors, being more enlightened than the officials, took up a collection to provide her an award.
A lot has happened since Clara Wagner demonstrated the ability of women aboard motorcycles. For that matter, a lot has happened since Yamaha tried to attract women with a pink motorcycle with fringe on the seat. Today, women have become an integral part of the worldwide motorcycling community—and not just as passengers—to the extent that the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM) has created successful and popular world championship programs for women in many competition disciplines. The FIM has also created a “Women Ride” international public relations campaign featuring world speed record holder Leslie Porterfield (pictured right), women’s motocross world champion Livia Lancelot, and women’s world trials champion Laia Sanz. The campaign’s aims are to enlarge the audience of international motorcycling and change the perception of motorcycling by including women as well known female ambassadors. To view the FIM’s “Women Ride” video on YouTube, click here. To download FIM Women Ride wallpaper, click here. Incidentally, Porterfield has been recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records. To read the story on the Cyril Huze Blog, click here. And, on the subject of women and motorcycling, the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada will host an international women’s conference this coming August 11 through 15. For more information, click here.
Fast From the Past
Moves to Newburgh
“Fast From the Past,” a popular exhibit about the history of motorcycle racing that opened at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania in June 2009, will be relocated and reopen in June in an expanded form at the new Museum of Motorcycle History in Newburgh, New York.
“Fast,” which features rare and beautiful motorcycles from the private collections of members of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, presents an overview of the history of motorcycle racing from 1908 through the 1980s. Demonstrating how motorcycles have been modified by both manufacturers and private owners to achieve greater speed and superior performance, the exhibit includes examples of bikes used in nine different categories of motorcycle competition ranging from the spindly and delicate machines used for observed trials to the sleek and powerful specials used for land speed record competition. Other categories of racing highlighted in the display include board track and dirt track racing, drag racing, hill climbing, endurance competition, road racing, and motocross.
Currently, the exhibit contains 40 motorcycles, but will be expanded to nearly 50 at the new venue where floor space for the display will be increased. The new presentation will included a greatly expanded section for the fascinating board track racers of the teens, and even an example of how motorcycle engines have been used to power midget racing cars. With detailed historical and technical information presented in layman’s language, “Fast” has proven to be an enormously popular exhibit at the Hershey museum where more than 50,000 visitors have toured the exhibit and made the word “motorcycles” one of the biggest drivers of traffic to the AACA Museum web site.
The Museum of Motorcycle History, at 250 Lake Street in Newburgh, New York, is a new project sponsored by the Gerald A. Doering Foundation. Its exhibits will be developed in collaboration with the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, an autonomous non-profit, educational corporation created by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America in February, 2008. In addition to “Fast From the Past,” the museum will present exhibits featuring historical military motorcycles (pictured below), a wide array of motorcycles built in America prior to 1930, and a novel display entitled “Chopper City,” featuring custom motorcycle art from the 1960s and ‘70s (pictured right). Opening in June with nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibits, the facility will eventually expand to more than 40,000 square feet of display space.
Located in the historic Hudson River Valley, the Museum of Motorcycle History is easily accessible by Interstate travelers, but also provides scenic roads where motorcyclists can plan pleasure rides to and from the facility. Newburgh is close to major population centers, including Boston, New York City, Newark, and Philadelphia. Antique Motorcycle Foundation president Dennis Craig states, “This is a wonderful opportunity to fulfill our mission to celebrate the fascinating history of motorcycling and to carry our story to the public at large. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Doering Foundation to entertain and educate the public as to the fascinating and diverse use of motorcycles since the earliest days of the 20th century.”
“Crash Brown, Without Restraint” is a video produced by Mike Silvio that highlights the life and daring-do of the late stuntman, John Tim “Crash” Brown. Silvio, the owner and curator of Cyclemo’s Motorcycle Museum in Red Boiling Spring, Tennessee, took an interest in Brown after being loaned some memorabilia by the Brown family, and in 2009 took his idea for a documentary to Twin Path Productions, based in Asheville, North Carolina. The result is a biographical human-interest story told by the voices of those closest to this unique daredevil, including his daughter Joan, who participated in many of his stunts. The film also features original footage and photographs of Brown in action. A private premier showing of the film for family and friends of “Crash” Brown was hosted by Silvio earlier. Cyclemo’s Motorcycle Museum specializes in vintage motorcycle exhibition and restoration. The current exhibit features “Crash” Brown memorabilia. Twin Path Productions was started in early 2009 by Matthew Yates and Tighe Wachacha, both North Carolina natives who have an interest in documenting stories close to the heart of the Southern United States. For more information about the “Crash” Brown DVD and exhibit, contact Silvio at 615-699-5049. To access Cyclemo’s web site, click here. To read our previous feature about Cyclemo’s Motorcycle Museum, go to Motohistory News & Views 6/23/2008.
The Springfield Mile:
America’s dirt track mecca
By Mike Vancil
There are many cities named “Springfield” across the United States, but very few are as famous as the one located in central Illinois. Even if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t left his home there to become President of the United States, Springfield would still be famous. It is the state capitol, but it is also home of one of the most prestigious motorcycle racing venues in the nation, tracing its fame back to 1909.
It all began when the Illinois Fair Board constructed a facility for the Illinois State Fair, including a one-mile track for horse racing, in Springfield in 1853. Horse racing was a popular feature of every fair, but in 1909 a promoter decided it might be a good idea to also race automobiles and motorcycles on the extra-wide Springfield track. On July 6, a meet sanctioned by the American Automobile Association provided eight events, one of which featured motorcycles. Lewis Strang, driving a Buick, won the professional portion of the automobile program, and J. Nash McCrea won the motorcycle race on a Thor. This was a kind of a “home town victory,” since Thor was built in Aurora, Illinois, just west of Chicago. Races were held again in 1910 and 1911, which is evidenced by an old photo captioned “1910 or 1911” of five Indians on the starting line, but no other details have been uncovered about those meets. The name “McCrea” appears again in a July 27 article in “Motorcycle Illustrated” reporting that J.H. McCrea has been elected secretary of the Illinois Motorcycle Club, and that a lunch and smoker
will be held on July 3 for the riders attending the 1912 races.
No further information about the early races has been discovered until 1916 when the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM.) began sanctioning motorcycle races at the fairgrounds track. That event was on Labor Day, September 4, 1916, and the legendary Don Johns (the local newspaper misspelled his name) won the feature event aboard his ultra-fast Indian. Uncharacteristic of most of the nation, races at Springfield were not curtailed in 1917 and 1919 due World War I. These were still under the auspices of the FAM, but subsequent races came under the sanction of the Motorcycle & Allied Trades Association (M&ATA). These were not annual events, but more sporadic. By this time it was realized that the Illinois Fair Board had made a major mistake by building the track with the straights running east and west because the late afternoon sun blinded racing drivers, jockeys, and spectators alike. Consequently, in 1927 the track was reconstructed with straights running north and south, and huge new grandstands were placed where they stand today.
Motorcycle racing on the Springfield Mile came under American Motorcycle Association (AMA) sanction in 1936 when a local promoter named James Kidd persuaded the Association to authorize a trial event at the fairgrounds on the opening day of the Illinois State Fair on August 5. The event was a financial success and a great draw to the fair. Archie Sprague, of Terre Haute, Indiana won the feature race, though we don’t know what he was riding. The AMA returned in 1937, beginning the long tradition that continues today. So spectacular was the racing on the Springfield Mile that record crowds and huge entry lists became common from 1937 onward.
In 1938, it was decided by the AMA that the rider winning the Springfield Mile would be declared the Grand National Champion and carry the prestigious number “1” plate for the following year. Today it seems bizarre that a rider could win big events like Daytona, Langhorne, and Peoria, but not earn the National Championship if he did not also win Springfield. In this way, during the early 1950s Indians continued to carry the Number One plate although Harley-Davidson riders had begun to dominate the sport. This changed in 1954 when the AMA instituted the new points system to determine the Grand National Championship. Joe Leonard left no doubt that year when he both won Springfield and finished the season with top points.
Earlier it was mentioned that motorcycle racing at Springfield was not a continuous annual affair, but that there have been a few interruptions. The first came in 1941 due to the declaration of war. Early in 1942, the AMA announced that all speed contests would be discontinued for the duration of World War II in an effort to preserve gasoline and rubber for the war effort. Consequently, racing at Springfield didn’t resume until 1946, after which it ran continuously through 1966. Racing was discontinued then due to the unruly behavior of a handful of rowdy attendees who often did not even attend the races.
In 1981, the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association became the promoter of the meet, and continues today with two national championship races a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. This has proven a winning formula for all concerned—including the city and state—as the two annual meets draw huge crowds of fans to the fairgrounds. Since 2001, additional meets have been added to the program. For Memorial Day weekend, a national championship TT and the Mile National are staged. For Labor Day weekend a short track national championship and a second Mile National are held. For a time during the 1990s, even a third event—the Flat Track Hall of Fame Race—was conducted in addition to the national championships.
Springfield is the fastest mile for motorcycles in the United States (check the record books), and it is the widest. It is not uncommon to witness five or more riders abreast entering a turn. With such spectacular racing, many of history’s greatest riders have earned their names at Springfield. Among active racers, it is former Grand National Champion Chris Carr who has won the most miles and the most races at the Springfield Mile. Prior to his retirement, Scott Parker was the all-time mile race winner and the holder of the most Springfield victories. The late and much-loved Ricky Graham was given the name “Mr. Springfield” for his dominance at the track before his record was surpassed by Parker. If you have never been to the American Mecca of dirt track racing, aka Springfield, and are a true fan of motorcycle racing, you need to set things right by starting your attendance in 2010.
For more information about the Springfield Mile and the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association, click here.
About the author:
Born in Detroit in 1935, Mike Vancil (pictured here) moved to Springfield, Illinois at the age of 5, and witnessed his first motorcycle race on the Springfield Mile in 1947. He has been a lifelong street rider, has raced motocross, and held an AMA professional license in dirt track and road racing. He earned a degree in engineering, and while working at United States Steel in Chicago, he was recruited in 1970 to work for the American Motorcycle Association as its Director of Amateur Competition. For the next 38 years, Vancil held various posts in the motorcycle industry, including the Motorcycle Industry Council, Harley-Davidson, and the Indian Motorcycle Company. His interest in motorcycles and record keeping made him a natural historian with special interests in the International Six Days Trial/Enduro, AMA championship racing, and specifically the Springfield Mile. His study of Springfield history has resulted in 60 pounds of ring binders containing notes and news stories, plus a collection of nearly all of the Springfield programs.
To complete his collection of Springfield memorabilia, Mike Vancil is looking race programs in good condition from 1939, Sept 1940, 1946, 1947,1951, 1962, Sept 1985, Sept 1986, May 1989, Sept 1989, May 1990, May 1993 and May 1994, plus anything prior to 1937. If owners have copies but are not willing to sell them, he would love to have photocopies. Any Motohistorian who can help should contact Vancil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead photo provided by Mike Vancil.
All others by Manohyphoto.com.
Hear rolling thunder,
dangerous and fast as hell.
Springfield is The Mile!
Roll On Columbus
plans antique, custom bike shows
Roll On Columbus, a fund-raising event for Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio will feature a wide range of entertainment, including antique and custom bike shows. To be staged at PromoWest Pavilion in the Columbus downtown Arena District on May 22, the one-day happening will include live bands, stunt and skill riding demonstrations, an observed trials exhibition, and the always spectacular motoglobe, in addition to the indoor bike shows. Classes for the shows are as follows:
Class A1 Antique, American Pre-War (1900 thru 1945)
Class A2 Antique, American Post-War (1945 thru 1985)
Class A3 Antique, European (prior to 1985)
Class A4 Antique, Japanese (prior to 1985)
Class A5 Antique, Scooter (prior to 1985)
Class C1 Custom, American V-Twin (any year)
Class C2 Custom, European (any year)
Class C3 Custom, Japanese (any year)
Class C4 Custom, Scooter (any year)
Shows will be set up between 8 and 10 am on the morning of May 22, and close at 6 pm. An appreciation award will be given to all show participants, and a People's Choice Best In Show award will be given in each class. Admission to Roll On Columbus is $12 in advance or $15 the day of the event. There are no entry fees for bikes placed on display. For more information about Roll On Columbus, click here. For information about Ohio Motorcyclists for Children, the organizer of the event, click here. To enter a bike in the show, write Jungleeddy@aol.com.
Uhl gets naughty
First, fine artist David Uhl got saucy with Stella (see Motohistory News & Views 1/27/2020 and 2/12/2010). Now he gets downright naughty with “The Liberator,” the fifth in his Harley-Davidson pinup series. Uhl explains, “This particular cheesecake honors the Harley-Davidson WLA, called the ‘Liberator.’ It wasn’t the most attractive bike, having every surface painted flat drab green. I wanted to do a classic Elvgrin pose straight from the 1940s involving some unsuspecting beauty getting her skirt caught. Absolutely cheeseball, but pretty effective from our viewing point of view.” Keep it up, Dave; liberate us! For more about The Liberator on David Uhl’s web site, including prices, click here.
The 42nd Annual Hanford Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show is scheduled for May 15, 2010. For more information, click here.
Five rounds have been scheduled in the New York Air Cooled Trials Series. For the schedule and information on rules, click here.
Rick Sieman - AKA Super Hunky - has been publishing on his web site an interesting series entitled "What Caused the Four Stroke Fiasco." To check it out, click here.
The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club is hosting a Metric Fest August 6 through 8 in Omaha, Nebraska. The event will be held at the Nebraska Crossing Factory Outlet Shops at I-80, Exit 432. There is a hotel on the site and camping nearby. Admission is free and all metric motorcycles are welcome to participate. For more information, click here.
Now in its 35th year, the El Camino Historic Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet will take place September 18. For more information, click here.
The Dan Rouit Flat Track Museum will host its annual open house on May 17. For more information, click here.
The Classic Motorcycle Company will host its annual open house, swap meet, and bike show on April 17. To learn more, click here.
As Buzz Kanter demonstrates, before you can ride a pre-1916 motorcycle over 3,000 on the Cannonball Endurance Run, you have to get it started. Click here. For more information about the Cannonball, scheduled for September 10 through 26, click here.
Last month we published an interview with Mark Mederski, the man heading up a big expansion project at the National Motorcycle Museum (see Motohistory News & Views 2/10/2010. To let Mederski give you a video walk-through of the project, click here.
The legendary German motorcycle firm Triumph-Adler has been acquired by Japanese interests, and what remains not resides in the land of the rising sun. For the story, click here.
For a fun article story about what it takes to time Bonneville, by Rocky Robinson, click here.
Husqvarna fans will be dazzled by Rob Phillips’ Husky Restorations site. Click here.
The Strugis Motorcycle Hall of Fame has announced its 2010 inductees. Congratulations Nancy, Betsy, Ronald, Roger, Stan, and Mike. To read more about them, click here.
Walneck’s is hosting more than 15 swap meets—rain or shine, Sundays only—throughout the Midwest U.S. during 2010. To view the schedule, click here.
For great photos from Daytona 1948, click here.
Roll On Columbus, an event coming May 22 to raise funds for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio will include vintage and custom bike shows. A People’s Choice Best In Show Award will be given in each of nine classes. There are no entry fees for the show. For more information, click here.
The popular Motorcycle Cops exhibit at the Wheels Through Time Museum has been extended through May 31. For more information, click here.
It’s back to the past with a modern motorcycle converted to steam power. To see the picture, click here
Sex and Harleys is a web site name that should get your attention. Actually, there’s not any sex of the XXX type, but there are some sexy ladies and some really nice historical features. Good layout and design as well. To check it out, click here.
Remember the stylish little Steen minicycle? The Hodaka Owners Club is raffling off a nice one. For tickets and more information, click here.
For a story about restoration of a 1977 Husky 400 Cross set up for Baja, click here.
A stock of Nortons, Triumphs, parts, shop equipment, and other oddities (e.g. an MZ military) in Holland will be put to online auction on April 26. For more information, click here.
The 4th Annual Arlen Ness Bike Show and Swap Meet will take place in San Mateo on April 17 and 18. For more information, click here.
To view photos from Brad Lackey's March 13 and 14 vintage motocross, click here.
The latest in artist Don Bradley’s graphic merging of motorcycles and mythology is “Liannan Shee,” a faerie from Manx lore that can be either evil or benevolent. Those she blesses live short but brilliant lives, and in some legends she is regarded a dark muse who inspires brilliant but tragic artists and poets who die young. In Bradley’s treatment, Liannan Shee is a ghostly presence hovering over a beautiful woman who is riding a Norton Manx, chasing the coveted Manx trophy, a statuette of the god Mercury on winged wheels. Will Liannan Shee bring her victory or a violent end? The painting leaves us to decide.
“Liannan Shee” has been chosen as the promotional graphic for this year’s Riding Into History Concours d’Elegance (see Motohistory News & Views 2/6/2010). To read our previous feature about Don Bradley, go to Motohistory News & Views 4/30/2009). To access Bradley’s web site for more information about “Liannan Shee,” including prices, click here.
Motohistory contributor Larry Smith writes:
Years ago, I had the pleasure of working with Fred Perry, the head mechanic at Gollan’s Honda. He was a great mentor to me and many others. Fred went on to work for twenty years at Warren Harley-Davidson, where he was the principal mechanic on their flat track machines. Fred gave tirelessly to the motorcycle community as well as to his family. This coming year will mark 20 years of area motorcyclists riding in his name at the Fred Perry Benefit Run for Kids.
Many of the thousands who now take part in the Fred Perry Benefit Run for Kids do not know who he was. This year, I will have a tent that will display bikes and photos of Fred’s life, his family, and the more than 60 area families that he and his family have helped. I am posting a “wanted poster” asking for stories and photos. I have already begun the long process of interviewing people influenced by Fred
To learn more about the Fred Perry Benefit Run for Kids, or to make a charitable contribution, click here. If you can support Larry in his historical research, e-mail him at Rabbit206@aol.com.
Because he was seen ceaselessly riding his Indian through the streets of New York City, Larry Desmedt earned the name of Indian Larry, and went on to be made famous by the Discovery Channel as a bike builder faithful to the old school, a stunt man and an all-round character. This was after his years as a bank robber, addict, and convict. “Indian Larry, Chopper Shaman,” now in paperback, is a beautiful tribute to the man in 176 pages, lavishly illustrated in full color on high-quality coated stock. Such color and quality is necessary to celebrate such a colorful life. This book, by those who knew him best, offers a closer look at the chopper shaman who became admired by so many. With photography by legendary Michael Lichter, the text was compiled by Easyrider editor Dave Nichols and Indian Larry’s widow Andrea “Bambi the Mermaid” Cambridge. It is available from Motorbooks for $19.99 US, $24.99 Canadian, and £14.99 in Great Britain. For more information, click here.
Whether you work on new motorcycles or old, you probably could make some improvements in that pesthole of tools, broken parts, and greasy rags you call your shop. Whitehorse Press comes to the rescue with its third edition of “How to Set Up Your Motorcycle Workshop” by C.G. Masi. At 208 pages with heavy cardstock cover, this book’s lessons are supported by images on every page. The breadth and depth of its advice is amazing. For example, want to see color graphics of the spectra of various light sources? You’ll find it here, and you’ll find an index to make use of the book easier. It is available for $26.95 from Whitehorse Press. To order your copy, click here.
We’re not qualified to vouch for its accuracy, but “The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide” is an impressive little volume indeed, containing price data on six different levels of condition for thousands of models of nearly 50 brands of motorcycles from 1901 to 1995. Compiled by the Vintage Japanese and European Motorcycle Club, it does not overlook the American stalwarts such as Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Henderson. With 222 pages, it is published in a handy small format (3 ½ x 5 ½ inches) with rounded corners to slip easily in your back pocket or the breast of your bibs. It is $15.95 from Whitehorse Press. For more information, click here.
The September/October issue of Ride With Us, the official magazine of the FIM, contains a cover feature by Marc Petrier about Steve McQueen, entitled “Hollywood Hero, Motorcycle Fan.” Petrier presents an account of McQueen’s appearance on the American Vase Team at the ISDT held in Erfurt, DDR, in 1964. Of course the photos have been seen before, but they take on new appeal with good layout of the magazine’s excellent coated paper stock. Petrier also brings a new international perspective to the oft-told story of McQueen at the ISDT by presenting reminiscences of some of the young men there who turned out to be world-class riders. These include Belgian Roger Decoster, Englishman Dave Nicoll, Spaniard Oriol Puig Bulto, and American Dave Ekins, one of the two members of the team who came away with an individual gold metal (the other was Cliff Coleman). For more information about the FIM, click here.
Issue #2 of the glossy and wide-format Moto Retro Illustrated has arrived. It contains a huge feature about Kenny Roberts, including cover and 22 pages with great then-and-now graphics. There is also a story about the game-changing Yamaha DT-1 and the legendary Carlsbad circuit. Editor and Publisher Mitch Boehm gives his mag a personal touch with a return to the home track where he began racing 31 years ago, and father/son story centering upon an old YZ250. We don’t know if Boehm planned it they way, but this issues is a keeper especially for Yamaha lovers. To subscribe, click here.
The “black bomber,” Honda’s 450cc bid to beat the British at their own game, is featured on the cover of the March/April issue of Motorcycle Classics. There are also stories about strange period hybrids—a Kawazuki and a Noriel Square Four (no kidding!)—the Indian Chief, and the Buell RR1000, and the BSA 441. One of key virtues of “Motorcycle Classics” is its extraordinary diversity. No one else in the business packs so many brands, periods, nationalities, and specials between two covers. Plus, there are always stories about touring, meets, and restoration techniques. To subscribe, click here.
The Spring 2010 issue of The Antique Motorcycle contains features about the leading national antique meets of 2009, including Davenport, Mountainfest, Pebble Beach, and others. With color art from cover to cover, there is a beautiful feature about the exceeding rare 1906 Indian Tri-Car. As the official publication of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, it is included with membership, but not available on news stands. To learn how to join the AMCA, click here.
The April issue of American Motorcyclists, the official journal of the American Motorcyclist Association, contains an extensive cover story about John Penton, the man who—as this magazine states it—“invented the off-road world as we know it." The eight pages of coverage by James Holter is illustrated with a mix of often-seen historical, and original recent photography by Jesse Boone. There are also cameo stories on Roger Decoster and Malcolm Smith. Unfortunately, AMA CEO Rob Dingman shows himself not to be a motohistorian by stating in his monthly column, “Considering that the AMA was created in 1924 with substantial support from the industry, it’s understandable that we started out with six member-elected and six corporate-elected members [referring to members of the Board].” Sorry, Rob, member-elected directors did not arrive until the early 1970s, some 50 years after the AMA was founded, and even then only two member-elected directors were allowed on the board. American Motorcyclist is not available on the news stand. You have to be an AMA member to receive it. To join, click here.
For April, Margie Siegal’s regular “Seasoned Citizens” section of IronWorks tackles the issue of maintaining your collectible classics. Subtitled “An Oily Business,” the story focuses on caring and feeding of ancient lubrication systems, which can be tricky since none of these bikes was designed or built to operate with anything like the modern oils we have at hand today. This is a departure of Siegel’s usual extensive treatment of a single brand and model, but she does her usual well-researched treatment. Photography by Dana Shirey provides excellent images of Excelsior, Harley-Davidson, and Ace motorcycles. There is also a brief story on the Seventh Annual Knucklehead Reunion, held in 2009 at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.
When I opened my May/June issue of IronWorks and saw Margie Siegal’s feature entitled “Bicentennial Bagger,” I thought to myself, “Doesn’t she usually write about old stuff. Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago we were painting all those fire hydrants like little colonial Minutemen?” No, it wasn’t! It was 1976, 34 years ago that the United States celebrated its 200th anniversary. Wow, how time flies, whether or not you’re having fun. The subject of the story, presented in beautiful photographs by Gary Phelps, is a near-perfect original full-dressed Electra-Glide owned by motorcycle broker, restoration expert, and auction promoter Glenn Bator. The article places the Shovelhead in its historical context during the AMF era, objectively explaining the good and the bad of the relationship before the Motor Company returned briefly to private ownership and the Evo era. Also in this issue, Sam Kanish provides a riding impression of the new Indian Chief Vintage, and there are lots of nice bobbers powered by Shovels or Knucks. To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.
VMX No. 41, with its tall format, heavy cover, and green masthead has arrived. This issue’s cover bike is the 1980 Honda RC 500M works motocrosser ridden by Andre Malherbe to his first 500cc world championship. Other motorcycles featured include a 1976 400cc works CZ, a pre-production model of the 1977 Sachs/Hercules 250MX, the 1977 OSSA 250GPIII Phantom, and more. There are stories about the German vintage enduro scene, twin-shock racing at Britain’s Farleigh Castle circuit, and American collector Jim Neill. For more information about VMX, click here.
In response to our story about the history of feet forward design (Motohistory News & Views 2/27/2010), Tosh Konya wrote:
Wouldn't the Dan Gurney Alligator be considered a Feet Forward design? I'm sure it does everything Gurney claims but being so low to the ground would make one all the more invisible to car and truck drivers.
Yes, Tosh, no doubt about it. Gurney’s Alligator (pictured above) is clearly an example of FF design. As we pointed out in our story, one of the advantages of FF is a low profile resulting in a smaller frontal area and improved streamlining. As you point out, one of the disadvantages of FF—at least in the real world traffic mix—is a low profile, making it less visible to the operators of other vehicles. To read more about the Gurney Alligator, click here.
Dan Whitfield, who assisted us with research for our article about FF design, wrote:
The Ecomobile won a plaque at the Rats Hole Show at Daytona! This is a real breakthrough! Last time I entered my Eco, they grouped me with the trikes carrying privies.
Well, Dan, I would point out that whatever you're riding, it probably improves your chances to get an award at the Rats Hole Show to dress up like space aliens (pictured above).
We got a lot of feedback to Ralf Kruger’s story about the mysterious Traub motorcycle (Motohistory News & Views 2/23/2020). Mike Vancil wrote:
The updates just keep getting better! I particularly enjoyed the piece about the Traub. I have a personal involvement with this machine because Mr. Tacchi gave me a ride on it in 1968, not long after he bought it from a south-side Chicago neighbor. Mr. Tacchi and his son Torello owned a motorcycle shop on the south-side of Chicago. We were at a motorcycle gathering at Soldier Field on a Saturday afternoon that just happened to occur the same time as the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was a great time, except for the riots that broke out downtown. We had plenty of vendors, lots of people, and great motorcycles on display, including the mysterious Traub. A group of Army Reserve troops was off in a corner of the parking lot doing whatever they do when they accidentally set off a teargas canister! The wind was blowing our way and it took the better part of an hour before anyone was comfortable again. Mr. Tacchi told me that a guy came into his dealership one day wheeling this baby-poop colored motorcycle, and said that he got suspicious about a walled-up corner in the basement of a house he recently purchased in south-side Chicago, not too far from Halsted Street where Tacchi’s shop was located. According to Tacchi, the man knocked out a couple of bricks and looked into the hole with a flashlight and spotted the motorcycle. The finder said he thought the previous owner of the house had a son who stole the machine, and rather than turn him in to the police the father meted out his own brand of punishment and walled up the evidence.
I am sorry that Mr. Kruger’s approach came to a dead end, for now. It might be a good idea to research the patent records for “Traub” and also for “Straub.” Census information shows that there were a number of Traub and Straub families living in Chicago in 1917. The Straub name was famously attached to a brewery.
Mike, the mysterious Traub gets more fascinating all the time. The story of its discovery has been reported previously, but now we learn that it also got tear-gassed on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention! Thanks for this amazing account!
We also learned that Ralf Kruger is not the only person whose imagination was fired merely by the appearance of the Traub. Sandy Panzardi wrote:
In October of 2000, I saw the Traub at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Mount Vernon, Illinois (its location before it moved to Maggie Valley, North Carolina). Since then, I have remained intrigued by its origin. In the last five years or so, I have sent a few suggestions to History Detectives on PBS, but they have never shown any interest. Today I sent another request and I included a link to your web site. I hope this attracts their interest. Thanks for the excellent publication.
And thanks for your kind remarks, Sandy, and your great idea to get a national television show involved. Let’s hope they listen to your suggestions.
Tor Kovaks wrote:
During my visit to Wheels Through Time, I had the pleasure of Matt Walksler—son of the founder—showing me some of his favorite motorcycles in the collection, including the Traub. To the best of my recollection, he thought that the motorcycle was built by someone in the Traub family with stove manufacturing connections. William F. Traub may be the person he referred to. He trained as a ‘moulder’, which I believe is now called a mould maker. That would explain his familiarity with machine tools of the era, as well as experience in casting and mould making.
The following is from “Biographies of Cook County Residents”
WILLIAM F. TRAUB is a prominent Chicago manufacturer, founder and president of the William F. Traub Range Company, located at 940 North Clark Street. Mr. Traub has also been active in fraternal organizations, particularly the Royal League, of which he is supreme archon.
Mr. Traub was born at Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 30, 1865, son of Lawrence and Katherine (Mahrley) Traub. He had only ordinary opportunities and advantages during his youth, had to be satisfied with a public school education, and when a boy served an apprenticeship to make himself self-supporting. He spent his time learning the moulder's trade and for about five years was an employee of the Michigan Stove Company. Mr. Traub in 1883 came to Chicago, and for several years was associated with the business of his brother, W. A. Traub, known as the Traub Range Company. Mr. Traub has had forty years of constant contact with the stove manufacturing business. Later he withdrew from his brother's establishment and started the William F. Traub Range Company, of which he has been the active head for the past quarter of a century. He owns a large and prosperous business and one that contributes to the general industrial prosperity of the City of Chicago.
The Royal League was started in 1883. It is an insurance beneficiary order, and now has a membership in eleven different states. Mr. Traub was supreme scribe for several years and for the past four years has been supreme archon. The headquarters of the organization are at 188 West Randolph Street. Mr. Traub is a Knight Templar and thirty second degree Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner, is a member of the Medinah Athletic Club and Medinah Country Club, also belongs to the Steuben Club, the Rotary Club, Chicago Yacht Club and Chicago Association of Commerce.
He married, June 1, 1891, Miss Adela Watson. Mrs. Traub was born in Chicago but grew up in the State of Washington. In the business of the William F. Traub Range Company Mr. Traub now has the satisfaction of having as his associates a son-in-law and his own son. His daughter, Ethel, is the wife of George H. Estabrooke, manager of the range company. Mr. and Mrs. Estabrooke reside in Evanston and have three children. The son is Burl E. Traub, who is secretary and treasurer of the William F. Traub Range Company. ("ILLINOIS, The Heart of the Nation" by Hon. Edward F. Dunne, Volume IV, 1933, Transcribed by Kim Torp)
Thanks, Tor, for this useful information. It will give our Traub sleuths another path to follow in seeking the origin of this unique motorcycle.
Kovaks also shared another account of the discovery of the Traub that indicates that it was found in Cicero, not Chicago. To read this account, click here.
And Dr. Gary Winn, Professor at West Virginia University wrote:
Ed, regarding Ralf Kruger’s search for the builder of the Traub, you might consider checking the very thorough archives at Ellis Island. Since its complete refurbishment about a decade ago, they have a huge search engine that is reasonably quick, and it will return not only last names, but the incoming ship, place of origin, and possibly where the family is headed. I agree with most of Ralf’s conclusions about the machine being built by a tool maker or machinist. So, my second suggestion is Mr. Lindsay at Lindsay Technical Books (http://www.lindsaybks.com/). Here are hundreds and maybe thousands of books about every bizarre, obscure, and offbeat mechanical contrivance ever conceived. Lindsay takes books that are out of print and not protected, makes nice copies, and sells them at very reasonable prices. I have ordered a dozen over the years and usually drop about twenty bucks on him at Christmas for weird books for family members. Anyway, not only is he a font of the weird and wonderful, but he might be able to suggest the validity of Ralf's conclusions and premises. This is an interesting hunt, indeed!
Thanks much Mike, Sandy, Tor, and Gary. We’re pleased to see that Mr. Kruger’s story about the mysterious Traub stirred up such interest and thoughtful suggestions.
Our story about the Steve McQueen replica (see Motohistory News & Views 1/25/2010) is still generating feedback. Earlier (2/3/2020), a couple of readers reported on another McQueen Triumph that was once in the Trevor Deeley collection in Canada. We expressed hope that someone might send us a photograph, and Greg Kreuger followed through. Krueger writes,
I found a good photo from the Deeley Museum (pictured right) showing that the bike was not a Metisse, but a stock Triumph modified as a classic desert sled.
And Hugh Fleming, who managed the American Six Days program for many years, wrote,
I also have a Steve McQueen story. Back in the early 80s (maybe 1982), when I was attending the ISDT in Czechoslovakia, an older gentleman approached me and told me a story about working a checkpoint in an early 1960s ISDT (I believe it was in East Germany). He explained in broken English that he was at the checkpoint when Steve McQueen had to stop riding the event because of a broken leg. For caring for and comforting McQueen until they could get additional medical help, Steve took off his black Barbour riding jacket and gave it to the gentleman. However, just before he passed it over he took out a pocket knife and cut off the small American flag that was sewn on it, saying that he wanted to keep a souvenir of his trip.
The gentleman was wearing the jacket while he told me the story, and I could actually see where the patch had been. Because I had a pocket full of American flag patches use by our team, I took one out and tried it in the original spot. It fit perfectly. He had tears in his eyes as he said thanks and promised to keep in touch (I never heard from him again).
Hugh, this is indeed a heart-warming story, but I fear the fellow either was pulling your leg or suffered from an overly-vigorous imagination. McQueen rode as part of the American team in 1964 (pictured left). He dropped out after destroying his bike on the third day, not after breaking his leg. It was Bud Ekins who broke his ankle, but he did not require assistance on the course. He finished the day with the intention to try to continue riding, but knew it was pointless after he learned that McQueen’s bike was inoperable. Only then did Ekins go to hospital to get medical help. At right is a picture of McQueen helping Ekins leave the hospital.
The 1964 East German ISDT is one of the best documented events thanks to a fine book by Rin Tanaka and Sean Kelly entitled “Steve McQueen: 40 Summers Ago.” It contains wonderful photography from the event (both photos shown here are from the book), and was researched with the cooperation of all of the surviving members of the American team, including the Ekins brothers. This book reports, “Steve McQueen sold his Barbour suit and Bell helmet to an eighteen year old, Manfred Dudeck. Where are you now, Manfred?”
Whether your momentary Czech friend was truthful or not, it is still a fine thing that you gave him an American flag for his worn coat. There is no doubt this made his day and probably added new layers to his story.
Greg and Hugh, thanks for more information about the legend that is McQueen.