Motohistory Quiz #85:
We have a winner!
Jean Roquecave, a Motohistorian in France who has won several quizzes, was the first to advise us that the engine pictured in our quiz is an EMC, built in Great Britain. EMC means Ehrlich Motor Company, and was founded by Austrian engineer Dr. Joe Ehrlich in 1948. Ehrlich fled Europe in 1937, bringing considerable knowledge about German two-stroke technology. He settled in Great Britain and continued to develop engines during the Second World War. His production street bikes, introduced in 1948, featured the split-single two-stroke design used by DKW in Germany and Puch in Austria. Sometimes called a “twingle,” the design features two cylinders sharing a single combustion chamber.
While it was hoped the EMC would provide reliable post-war transportation, British customers thought of two-strokes as suitable only for cheap communters, and never accepted the EMC as a viable road bike. Production ended in 1952, but Ehrlich continued to develop two-stroke racing machines, primarily in the 125cc class, as well as Formula 3 racing cars. He retired from EMC in 1967 and died in 2003 at the age of 89.
EMCs are rare because only about 1,500 were produced. The bike in our quiz is a 1948 MK1 250cc model. It is on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. For more information about Joe Ehrlich and the EMC, click here. To access the web site for the National Motorcycle Museum US, click here.
Congratulations, Jean, another Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.
Motohistory Quiz #84
Here we go, Motohistorians, with another Motohistory Quiz. Be the first to tell us the brand and nationality of this engine, and you will be declared our next Motohistory Know-It-All, complete with a personalized diploma that will bring you towering self esteem.
Here’s a hint: There’s content in this month’s Motohistory relevant to this engine. Here’s another hint: Watch it, the first hint can lead you astray.
So rush to your keyboard and send your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net.
Darmstadt: a German revival
of velodrome racing
By Ralf Kruger
Early in the history of the motorcycle, the idea of racing on roads, cinder or dirt tracks, and wooden bicycle tracks--called velodromes--caught on. This exciting activity spread from France to Germany and England, and on to America in a very short time.
Before the advent of chemical dust suppressants, dirt and cinder tracks soon gave way to motordromes--modeled after the velodromes--and larger board circuits as big as two miles in length. The era of board track racing proved relatively short-lived due to their susceptibility to weather, bringing concrete and other paved surfaces into favor early in the century (e.g the famous Brooklands circuit in England opened in 1907). By 1930, the era of board track and velodrome racing had passes into history.
But that great era has been revived by Hans Hug, of "Velociped Darmstadt 1899 eV," who has organized meetings for historic racing motorcycle on the paved velodrome in Darmstadt, Germany (pictured above and left). An idea inspired by VFV members Thomas Trapp, and Stefan and Thomas Bund, Hug's fourth hosting of vintage board track racing took place on August 28, 2010.
For a low entry fee of only five euros, many owners of ancient iron jumped at the opportunity to take laps around the Darmstadt concrete oval. To avoid total confusion on the track, the bikes were sorted mostly by age. It would have been nice to see the authentic early board track machines have a class to themselves, but because their numbers were so small, the class was padded with younger, but still awesome racing motorcycles.
Some 600 Darmstadt citizens came out despite threatening weather, and they were quite amazed not only by the rare and beautiful scene, but by the spectacle of unmuffled motorcycles rolling around the oval. It is likely that none had ever seen such a sight, since the last season for "Zementbahn-Rennen" in Germany had taken place in 1955.
The event began at 11 a.m. with presentation rides on motorized bicycles: The Velosolex (pictured above). These French front-wheel driven mopeds were a very popular mode of transport for students for several decades in Germany. Their price and cost of maintenance were low, and in stock condition their performance could be described as “sluggish,” at best. But, as seems to be the case with any motor vehicle, these humble machines were subjected to tuning by their owners, and these “hopped-up” models were the kind seen at Darmstadt. At best, a standard Velosolex might achieve about 18 mph, but the faster versions on display easily doubled that speed. One could not refrain from smiling to see at least 20 Velos competing and attempting to draft each other around the small, 1,000-foot oval, on bankings as steep as 30 degrees. I thought, “This is good, but for faster vehicles it is going to be a bit of a challenge.”
This proved true as the faster machine came onto the circuit, specifically the AWD machines presented by Thomas Bey--the grandson of builder August Wurring--and his friends. AWD stands for “August Wurring, Dusseldorf,” a company that built some small batches of road-going motorcycles, but mostly racing bike chassis. Wurring's vehicles achieved considerable success on the German racing scene for several decades.
For Darmstadt, Bey brought four specials, dating from the mid- '20s to the '50s (pictured above). Two of these AWD specials were powered by either a 1924 JAP 350cc twin-cam engine, or a 1930 250cc Sunbeam, both fine specimens of period racing machines. A unique 1950 AWD with DKW 3PS engine (pictured above), Bey was told, was a motorcycle built by apprentices at the AWD factory on personal time for their own enjoyment. Bey discovered it in bits and pieces only a few years ago in the attic of a barn in Schotten, and is especially proud to have resurrected an AWD with such an exclusive history.
But the most appropriate AWD for the occasion was an authentic board track machine from 1948, featuring one of the last JAP 250cc four-speed racing engines with aluminum head and cylinders (pictured above). Serious stuff, for sure. The craziest element of modification is its fuel tank, rotated 180 degrees and with extra pillow padding, which gives it a very odd appearance. Bey explained that under a fast rider, centrifugal forces on the wall were so great that the rider just needed the extra padding to keep from cramping. This machine, powered by a comparably small engine, was fast enough to run with the big bike class. Thomas Bey personally demonstrated with fast laps the racing ability and superior quality of the AWD brand.
Also in the field with the big bikes, in addition to the quickest AWD, was a 1929 500cc overhead-cam AJS M10 (pictured above). This beauty is not a true racing machine, but a nearly uncompromised sport bike of its day; and fast enough she was. Ridden by Andreas Raab, from Darmstadt, whose uses a 1925 350cc OHV AJS for his daily transportation and enjoyment.
Likewise, the Oswald family rode their NSUs with full commitment. Martin brought a 1930 NSU 500SS with sidecar outfit, with which he chased his son around the course (pictured right). The younger Oswald was aboard an early 1937 NSU OSL 251 that he had modified with a closed valve-train head, which was a variation NSU applied later that year for an additional charge, before it became standard configuration (pictured below and in the lead photo for this story). He did this with his own handiwork, and even though the bike was no longer original, it ran like a "pricked pig," which clearly justified his modification.
A third NSU on the track was a very rare and beautiful 1928 251S (pictured below right), which was the first twin-cam OHV sports machine built by NSU. Introduced in the spring of 1928, the motorcycle produced ten to 11 horsepower, running at a low compression rate of 6.25:1. Featuring oil circulation by an external adjustable pump, unit construction, and a three-speed gearbox, it was the most advanced and modern NSU of its time. It could be easily modified to produce 15 hp with simple tuning to become a serious contender in the 250 class at German national racing meets. Its classic lines are still elegant today. Wonderful!
The oldest machine was also an NSU--the NSU Pfeil, meaning “Arrow”--dating back to 1902 (pictured below left). It has a Swiss engine of 211cc that produces 1.25 hp, bought from the company Zürcher & Lüthi, in Neuchatel. This machine still corresponds with the first model of NSU produced in 1900, except that it offers .25 hp more. In addition to the generally successful construction, with engine mounted low in the frame, it has a particularly interesting front brake. For you American motohistorians, this would make a great pre-1916 Cannonball bike!
Astonishingly fast, a French Motobecane (pictured below) dominated the belt-driven motorcycle class. It had a four-stroke engine, but not the normal little 175cc side-valve engine with unit construction three-speed gearbox that Motobecane sold in it's small Model B22, introduced in 1931. Rather, settled into the standard frame of Motobecane's first motorcycle--the 175cc two-stroke 1924 Model MB1--was a modern OHV engine, estimated at 250cc, with an Albion two-speed gearbox, driven by chain on the left side. Its crankcase with the flywheel located outboard, seems similar to the two-stroke, even down to the magneto drive on the right side of the engine. It is plausible that an original two-stroke engine was converted into a four-stroke engine, because the camshaft and tappets are housed in a small compartment behind the cylinder, driven by a gear, which normally is an idler gear connecting the crankshaft with the magneto. This is a very clever and simple solution. Two short pushrods actuate the bare, parallel valves through rockers. A typical oil-pump is attached to the outer casting of the drive too, and other than an oil feeding pipe into the crankcase, I could not detect any return hoses to the oil-tank. This little machine is big surprise for me, and I suspect it is an early special racing machine from Motobecane. You can bet this unusual jewel is going to drive me to more research!
The absolute gems of the whole event were the big American motorcycles of Thomas Trapp and the Bund brothers (Pictured here). These men are avid admirers of board track racing, and have been involved for more than 15 years. Thomas Bund has even written a book about board track racing history in France, England, Germany, and America and about his beloved American Excelsior brand. Thomas and Stefan Bund, and Trapp, have earned their title as “The German Wrecking Crew” by virtue of their ownership of a 1925 750cc Excelsior board tracker and a whole stable of Harley-Davidson racing motorcycles. The oldest is a 11K from 1915. Painted in Renault gray, it was the Motor Company's first works production board track racer. It was available to the public, but at a price that few people could afford.
Only one year younger is Thomas Trapp's 1916 OHV 8V Twin, a truly awe-inspiring motorcycle that combines speed and beauty, and that gave many Indian and Excelsior racers of the period a serious challenge. Just as impressive is the beautiful 1917 Pullman Coach green racer with yellow striping (called pea-yellow, I hear). Its powerful engine is mounted in a special frame, called the short coupled frame. The fourth in the bunch is the racing machine of 1920 with a Keystone frame, still featuring an IOE engine, but with enclosed exhaust valve stems. Unfortunately, the 1927 Cleveland in-line four (pictured right) present was not put on the circuit. Given the time available on the track, our German Wrecking Crew simply had too many motorcycles to choose from! Perhaps they could have asked me to help out.
The stylish beauty and effectiveness of the technical design of all these machines is a testimonial of the quality coming out of America during the early days of the industry. Even though they were designed 'only' to win in fierce competition with their unruly power, there is no denying the sheer lust for life that these machines communicate. They must have convinced many early fans that they could not live without a motorcycle of their own.
It was the same nearly a century later at Darmstadt. When the time arrived to start these big V-twin engines, it was clearly THE moment that everyone had been waiting for. The whole place was filled with the matchless sound of the big American machines running on open exhausts. The spectators came instantly to absolute attention, listening to the music as well as watching the progress on the track. I believe there was no one who was not overwhelmed by the spectacle, and I suspect others got goose bumps, just like me.
Sadly, this stunning show was much too short, because the big American twins ran for less than ten minutes. But they were wonderful while they were out there. What can I say about the event as a whole? The "bring what you ride" attitude of the program made for a very mellow atmosphere. Unlike the traditional Hockenheim Classic, for instance, it did not intimidate casual spectators by featuring only the great racing machines understood by the insiders of the sport. The opposite was true; it really was a Fest for Darmstadt citizens, who conspicuously had a great day.
There were similar opportunities to see the board track racers this year at Solingen and Bielefeld. Both cities were the hosts of events on old banked bicycle ovals, too. To read more about the great era of board track racing, click here. For a video of Darmstadt, click
here. For a video about the Soligen races, click here.
Photos by Ralf Kruger and Thomas Trapp.
Pistol Pete’s love affair
with the Honda Gold Wing
Lawrence Boody, born in Marshall, Michigan in 1941, was a member of the last generation of Americans not raised on television. When he was a child, families with leisure time clustered around the radio. Kids listened to “serials,” including “The Shadow,” “The Green Hornet,” and “The Pistol Pete Show.” “Mom would tell me when it was time for The Pistol Pete Show,” Boody recalls, “and I would run to my room and put on my chaps, boots, vest, hat, and six gun, and lie down on the living room floor in front of the big Philips radio to listen to my favorite show.” Naturally, everyone started calling him Pistol Pete, and that was just fine with him.
The name stuck so well that when his first grade teacher called the roll on the first day of school, Boody (circled above) sat there with the other students, waiting for Lawrence Boody to answer. Finally, the teacher singled him out and said, “Aren’t you Lawrence Boody?” and Pete replied, “No, my name is Pete.” Even today, many of the Japanese motorcycle collectors and enthusiasts who know and deal with Pete Boody think this is his given name.
Like many of his era, Boody’s first two-wheeler was a Cushman scooter, and over the years—before the arrival of Japanese motorcycles—his rides included a Velocette, an AJS, and a BSA, among others, such as the Royal Enfield pictured here. After graduating high school in 1959, Boody joined the Army, was trained as a surveyor, and landed a job with Kellogg’s in Battle Creek after he returned to civilian life, apprenticing in metal fabrication. It had been his long-range plan to get out of Michigan and move south, and in 1969 he accepted a position with Acraloc Corp, a machine shop and fabricating company in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that did a lot of work for the Oak Ridge nuclear facility. Boody progressed from fabricating to the engineering department, and eventually became Chief Engineer of a new subsidiary company, which developed a line of conveyors and machinery for the food processing industry.
In 1975, Boody bought a Honda GL1000 Gold Wing and fell in love. He says, “I’ve had a variety of bikes, but there is nothing like the GL.” Boody was so fascinated with the fine quality and revolutionary design of the motorcycle that he became an expert at tuning and maintaining GL1000s and GL1100s. In the mean time, several years after the arrival of the GL1000, a visionary Japanese motorcycle enthusiast in Indiana named Jim Townsend founded the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, and Boody joined up in 2002. He immersed himself in the VJMC as a volunteer leader, serving as its president from 2004 through 2008 and directing three of its national rallies, from 2003 through 2007.
By then, Boody had become known for his skill in maintaining early GLs, specifically for rebuilding their carburetors (pictured below), which were the heart of the performance of these machines and often confounding to non-technical owners. His responsibilities had grown at his day job, his sideline business as a carb re-builder was taking off, and something had to give. He explains, “It was like having three jobs, so in 2008 I dropped out of active volunteer work for the VJMC, though I am still a member.” Now, Boody is retired from Acraloc Corp, but rebuilding GL carburetors and gauges—plus restoring the occasional GL from the ground up—has become a fulltime job, driven by word of mouth and the internet. To date, he has rebuilt more than four-hundred sets of Gold Wing carburetors.
Owning an early GL can be a wonderful or a troublesome experience, depending on the state of its carburetion. Boody’s mission and business is to turn troublesome into wonderful for as many Wing owners as possible. He says, “My reputation is based on the fact that I rebuild carbs to as good as, or better than when they were new. Then before shipping, I install them on a test engine for synchronizing and balancing. After that, the best advice I can give my customer is, ‘Don’t use dirty fuel in these carbs!’” He reckons that a well-running 1000 or 1100 is as good a road bike as has ever been built, even though they are now three decades old. "It was built to be a long-distance rider’s machine, and it still is," he says.
To Boody’s mind, restoring a first-generation Gold Wing as a collectible—only to look at—is a loss of good fun and a waste of a lot of potential, and he reinforces this opinion with his own behavior. He says, “I like to ride aggressively. I think a GL works great in the turns, and I love to wind it up on the straight and listen to the old girl sing.” While he has a high opinion of the newer six-cylinder models, he believes a GL1000 can equal them for useful performance, and maybe even surpass them in some respects. He says, “I’ve come to the opinion that a modern rider doesn’t really need anything else. The old Gold Wing will provide all.” Perhaps Maggie Mae—Boody’s beloved yellow GL—proved this when he thrashed it through the Dragon, pulling 300 pounds of trailer, as pictured below.
Pete Boody explains, “When I was younger, I had a list of what I wanted to achieve. It included marriage, family, and successful career. I call this the American Dream List, and I achieved a lot of it.” He continues, “But most young people have this list, and now, with age and maturity, I have created a Bucket List. This list is just for me; the things I want to do while I still have time.” Pete will not reveal what his list contains, but he says that one or more of the 28 Gold Wings he now owns figures prominently on the list. Riding the Iron Butt Rally, pulling the tail of the Dragon, and racing a Wing around the high banks of a NASCAR oval are three of the items he has already ticked off the list. He has also had the pleasure of piloting a futuristic Pulse GCRV (ground cruising recreational vehicle, pictured above) on the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. Boody adds, “I must credit Venita, my wife of 26 years (pictured below with Pete), for sharing our American Dream List, and now supporting me as I work on my Bucket List.”
Boody also wants to bring as many people as possible into the ranks of GL1000 and GL1100 ownership. He says, “Sadly, Japanese motorcycles are still considered a second-class collectible in some circles, despite the fact that they routinely brought a standard of design and workmanship that had been unthinkable among British, American, and most European brands.” He continues, “I want to erase this misconception, and the best way to do this is to continue to promote appreciation and ownership of the four-cylinder Gold Wing. Within the high build standard of Japanese bikes as a whole, it introduced design ideas and a standard of workmanship that took things to a whole new level. Now, with the passage of time and the restoration of early GLs, this fact has become even more evident. The Gold Wing is an irrefutable argument for the legitimacy of Japanese motorcycle history, restoration, and collecting. I believe it is just a matter of time until the whole of the antique motorcycle community understands and hopefully can come to appreciate this.”
To visit Pistol Pete Boody’s web site, click here. To learn more about his bucket list, click here. To read our previous feature about the press reaction to the introduction of the GL1000, go to Motohistory News & Views 9/29/2006.
Appreciation to www.us129photos.com for Pete’s Maggie on the Dragon photos.
The greening of the two-stroke
By Ralf Kruger
The engineering debate between two-stroke and four-stroke has raged for a century. By the end of the 1970s, the two-stroke was generally dismissed as unsuitable for everyday road use, but it remained viable in racing where air emissions and fuel consumption—within reason—were not such a big concern. For decades, the two-stroke prevailed in both motocross and road racing, but by the mid-1990s the leaders of the sport—manufacturers and governing bodies—were refocusing on environmental issues, both in a real sense and on a symbolic level to the extent that the racing game should not promote “old” and “dirty” technology. Yamaha was already testing its four-stroke prototypes after Jacky Martens proved in 1993 that his four-stroke Husqvarna was capable of winning a World Championship, and in 1998 introduced the YZ400F as a competitive serial production motocross machine. In road racing, the rule book dealt the two-stroke a death blow with the advent of MotoGP in 2002.
So, is the two-stroke finally dead for good? Certainly not for Bill Gates, who reportedly has invested $23.5 million in a concept called OPOC, meaning “opposed piston, opposed cylinder (pictured above).” Twenty-three mil is some vote of confidence in a mechanical device that consumes fossil fuels from a guy who is inexorably associated with tiny, environmentally-friendly electrons zipping around squeaky-clean microprocessors. Specifically, Gates has invested in EcoMotors International, a Troy, Michigan based firm that is pioneering this “revolutionary” concept.
While we are the first to applaud this kind of responsible development, if there is one thing we Motohistorians know, it is that there is nothing new under the sun! Indeed, the opposed piston engine was actually patented by Ferdinand Kindermann in Germany in 1877 (78 years before Bill Gates drew breath, incidentally). The original design works in a traditional two-stroke mode, but the most unique feature is its two pistons, which approach one other on the up-stroke to form a common, central, disk-like combustion chamber in the middle of the cylinder. No cylinder head or “normal’ combustion chamber is needed. This fact alone saves about half of the revealed surface that is exposed to hot combustion, which provides thermodynamic advantages. All such engines work with “uniflow” scavenging, which means that the inlet port is under the control of the first piston and the exhaust port is operated by the other. Flow of gas is always in the same direction, from the inlet port of one side to the combustion chamber in the center of the cylinder, where the gas is burnt, to the exhaust port on the opposite side, making it fairly easy to control the unwanted mingling of fresh and burnt gasses. On the mechanical side, the opposed piston engine provides splendid mass balance for smooth running.
To explore the advantages and disadvantages of such a motor, we can review the history of technical development by DKW, one of the great proponents of two-stroke design. With the Second World War approaching, in 1939 and ’40, DKW continued to develop the supercharged U-shaped two-stroke “twingle” for racing purposes. This engine, after all, was a first-degree relative of the Kindermann-type opposed piston engine (see Motohistory 3/31/2009 for our historical overview of the two-stroke).
A selected successive design was Richard Küchen's true opposed piston engine working on a single crank, dating back to 1936 (pictured above). But various problems, related mainly to mechanical friction of a crank with many pivoted links, proved the idea to be no fast solution for a new motorcycle engine. A second version was designed by employees of mechanical engineer and racing department boss August Prüssing in 1939. It featured two cranks located on either side of the engine, and also was supercharged. These prototype engines, of 250cc and 350cc capacity, were even installed in chassis, but like many great ideas of the era, diminished into obscurity at the outbreak of war.
After the war, the designs re-emerged in a research and development center in Serpuchov Russia,where the opposed piston machine eventually was built (pictured above). Called S2B, the engine was supercharged like the last U-shaped US-type (called S1A in the Soviet Union) DKW pre-war engine, i.e. no pre-compression of the fresh fuel charge in the crankcase was needed. An exhaust piston running about 15 degrees ahead of its counterpart facilitated supercharging (pictured below). The outcome was a 250cc engine with an output of 45 hp! The main advantage of the opposed piston—versus U-piston—design was a smaller combustion chamber, no hard to cool down central cylinder-liner between the pistons (as in the U-shaped design), and better mechanical balance. The drawback of both designs was very high fuel consumption (25-30 Liter per 100km, or 8 to 9 mpg), which was undesirable even for a racing machine.
A second weakness of the blown opposed piston engine was overheating, because there was no device for cooling them on the underside. This could have been avoided if a four-stroke-type oil circulation system had been incorporated in the design. The motor design with two crankshafts on the far ends of the engine also resulted in more friction and additionally rotating mass far from the motorcycle's center of gravity.
The only remaining motorcycle of this design (a 250cc version) surviving in Germany after the war was examined at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Professor of Mechanical Engineering Bert Breuer and one of his students, in cooperation with the old machine’s owner, studied it in 2001. Using current knowledge and modern materials, they improved its output from 45 hp to 65 hp! Their work also resulted in improved reliability, suggesting what DKW might have achieved given more time.
One solution for better fuel consumption would have been direct injection into the combustion chamber at the point in time when the exhaust port was already covered by the exhaust-controlling piston. This idea was even scheduled by DKW, but never realized. It had already been done in 1933 on the Jumo 205 Diesel aero-engine by Junkers (pictured above). The frequency and exact amount of injection under high pressure could not be achieved at that time, at least not for a rev-happy two-stroke motorcycle engine. For the slow running, much bigger Jumo 205 Diesel engine it did, because an aero-engine is operated mostly with nearly constant engine speed, and a diesel engine is much less sensitive to varying lean mixtures.
Today, with high pressure injection pumps and very fast modulating injectors, developed for the economical direct-injection diesel cars that have become so popular in Europe over the past two decades (as well as as recent direct injection gasoline motors), the OPOC engine begins to shine, because the limiting factors of the pre-war era have mostly been overcome. Delivering pure air for scavenging via a supercharger, combined with a separated oil circulation system, means there is no longer any need for a “dirty” air/fuel/oil mixture. If some of the charge is lost into the exhaust port while scavenging, it is pure air and not wasted fuel. This means the effectiveness and cleanliness of the new engine will depend mostly on complete combustion.
The degree of efficiency could even be enhanced if the engine would work as a diesel motor, eliminating the choking throttle valve, which is a big draw-back in supercharged design where a permanently driven impeller—running from the crankshaft—can waste a lot of energy when working against a partly closed valve while under partial load. But the new OPOC engine uses, even more cleverly, a combination of an exhaust gas-driven turbo-charger and an electrically-driven impeller to avoid the mechanical loss mentioned above. So, the blower's drive is not critical to fuel consumption, although it still uses a throttle valve.
The combustion itself, in this case in a nearly ideal disk-like chamber between the approaching pistons, is a key factor regarding power, efficiency, and cleanliness for any engine. Precondition for a complete combustion is an even distribution of the air/fuel mixture, which hopefully is achieved by the high-pressure injection and accordingly high turbulence. Bear in mind that there is no "premix" in the crankcase like a conventional two-stroke, and the time for injection and distribution is very short, because the piston has already moved across and closed the exhaust port. To be fair, modern direct injection four-strokes have similar conditions because of valve overlap, and they require an injection only with every other turn of the crank. Still, current high-speed injectors should have no problem in meeting the demands of a two-stroke running up to 8,000 rpm.
Because the OPOC engine is run with gasoline, the positioning of the sparkplug is the additional critical point of concern. The charge can't be ignited from its center to spread out evenly toward the cylinder's wall for a fast combustion (because there is no cylinder head in which to install a spark plug), but the flamefront must make its way from one side to the other side of the combustion chamber. If this can be solved, perhaps with a ring of spark plugs around the combustion chamber, there is no reason why the age-old two-stroke cannot “go green.” At least Bill Gates and more than $23 million seem to think so. When Gates and the guys at EcoMotors achieve the desired results and celebrate success, let’s hope they remember to kindly raise a glass to Ferdinand Kindermann, who created this idea more than a century ago.
The Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance, to take place on Hilton Head Island early in November, is an upscale event where vehicles are shown only by invitation. Some of the dozen or so motorcycles selected to appear will be John Druss’ Indian Scout, Jack Wells’ Brough Superior with sidecar, and Alan Singer’s Triumph Tiger 100. For more information about schedule and location, click here.
John Parham, the President of the National Motorcycle Museum who suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, was saved earlier this year by a lung transplant. John has paid back to motorcycling in many ways, and now he is paying back to the medical community by distributing a video testimonial about the need for all of us to become organ donors. To see the video, click here. To read our previous coverage of Parham’s health crisis, go to Motohistory News & Views 8/31/2010.
Morgan is still in business, and will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2011. Now run by a third generation of the Morgan family, Morgan builds about 600 cars a year. To see examples of its traditional designs, plus some truly gorgeous "modernized" models, click here. And, Morgan is re-launching its famous three-wheeler, featuring a Harley-Davidson engine and Mazda five-speed gearbox! Click
Film and television star Perry King will host the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Las Vegas on November 19. Inductees will include legendary two-stroke engine tuner Eyvind Boyesen, dirt-track racer Don Castro, sidecar roadrace champion Larry Coleman, off-road rights activist Clark Collins, AMA 250cc Roadrace Champion David Emde, off-road gear pioneers John and Rita Gregory, desert racing champion and team manager Bruce Ogilvie, and championship team owner Mitch Payton. Bob Hannah will also be honored. For more information, or to buy tickets, click here.
The Wheels Through Time Museum annual raffle drawing will take place November 13. The prize this year is a 1947 Harley Knucklehead. For more info, click here.
For close-up shots of historic Honda works racers, click here.
The duel between Ack Attack and the BUB Number 7 streamliners continues in their quest to become the fastest wheel-driven motorcycle on Earth. Ack Attach has just upped the record to 376.363 mph with a recorded trap exit speed of 394! To read pilot Rocky Robinson’s description of the run, click here.
Marty Tripes hosted a vintage motocross weekend earlier this month. For a couple of videos on YouTube, click here.
Terry Rea, who helped found the British Columbia Coalition of Motorcyclists, has been named the 2010 recipient of the Bar and Hedy Hodgson Award. Presentation will be made at the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Banquet on November 6. For more information, click here.
End of Empire, an exhibit about the collapse of the British motorcycle industry, will be showing at The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition through November 7. To read our previous story about this exhibit, go to Motohistory News & Views 2/8/2009. The next exhibit, opening December 1, will be Made in America. For more information about The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition, click here.
The Kurland Rally 2011, held in one of Latvia’s most scenic and historic districts, will take place July 14 through 17. First conducted in 2003, this rally has evolved into a truly international happening with participants from as many as a dozen countries. If you have a classic rider and are up for 650 kilometers of scenery, 12 castles, nine fine meals, and three concerts of the world’s finest music, this could be the rally for you. For more information, click here. To read about Latvia’s Motormuseum, click here.
Johnny O’Hannah, the self-proclaimed “Uncle of American Motorcross,” reports that for the coming season, with the exception of JT Racing and FMF, all of the motorcycle manufacturers and apparel companies have offered him huge salaries NOT to ride the 2011 season. For a WMXTV interview with O’Hannah, click here. To meet Johnny on Facebook, click here.
For a heart-warming story about two brothers who secretly restore their father’s Norton for his Christmas gift, click here.
There’s a web site—in English—about the Russian Vostok road racing Grand Prix motorcycle. Click here.
American readers who are interested in turning back the clock with a new Dnepr sidecar rig should click here.
Never heard of the BMW R1232? Click here. Sure bet you could light up that little back tire!
The theme of the National Packard Museum’s upcoming annual motorcycle exhibit will be “Motorcycles on Main Street.” It will run from January 8 through May 29, 2011. To access the National Packard Museum web site, click here.
Mike Seate, editor of Café Racer magazine and host of the new show, “Café Racer TV,” will be the special guest at the Classic Swap Meet in Medina, Ohio on November 7. For more information, click here.
What do you do for a man who has everything, including a supercharged GL1000? How about a set of hand crafted Evan Wilcox side covers? To see more of Wilcox’s incredible work, click here. To see a video of Randakk’s blown Gold Wing, click here.
To visit the web site of L'Épopée de la Moto in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec, click here.
For a Yamaha time line, click here.
The ISDE is coming up in Mexico early in November. To view a video produced by IGNITION3 of American team members Kurt Caselli and Tim Weigand at Piru MX Park near Valencia, California earlier this month, click here.
For a ride on a Munch Mammoth, click here.
The Bud Ekins collection is going to auction at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles November 13. Included are memorabilia from Steve McQueen and bikes and cars striped by Von Dutch. For more information, click here.
Swapping through the recession:
By Ed Youngblood
Recently, a friend in the publishing business posed a series of questions related to the current state and future of vintage motorcycle organizations and the vintage motorcycle community.
Specifically, he wondered if motorcycle swap meets had suffered from the convenience of internet selling. Although I am not aware of any historical “record book” for vintage motorcycling, there are some sources we can turn to determine the health of vintage motorcycling as a hobby and industry. Google Trends, for example, can provide some very interesting data.
By the numbers:
If you run the term “vintage motorcycles” through Google Trends, you find a graph that shows a gradual—but not alarming—downward trend from 2005 to 2007, at which point it begins to bear upward, reaching a high point in mid-2009, then appearing to level off to the present.
Interest in the topic at mid-2009 does not approach it historic high point (2005, before which no reliable Google Trends data is available), but the trend certainly does not suggest any significant loss of interest.
Search data for the term “motorcycle auctions” gives us a somewhat different trend. Notwithstanding seasonal peaks and valleys, the graph goes gradually and steadily downward, with 2010 below the three previous years.
I confess that I do not follow auctions closely, but friends who do tell me that high-end bikes are still strong, but that the middle-range is definitely off. This is not surprising in an economy where the rich get richer, and everyone else struggles. The internet may well have impacted live auctions, but mostly in the mid-range and less expensive machines, which are more likely being sold on line. These more plentiful bikes may not be worth the cost of extensive travel to live auctions, so the internet at least provides convenience. And, let’s keep in mind that live and on-line auctions are not mutually exclusive, because almost every professional auction company now allows on-line bidding.
While Google Trends is an excellent research tool, it does not take us far enough into the past to see really long-term trends. Unfortunately, I know nothing that will provide a look over decades. Google started the service in 2004, and data does not become dense enough to provide useful graphs until about 2006 or 2007.
For a closer look at what is happening on the ground (literally), we can look at some statistics from a couple of the leading AMCA swap meets, specifically Wauseon, Ohio, and Davenport, Iowa. Vendor spaces at the Wauseon National Meet have grown steadily since 2006, as follows:
2006 463 vendor spaces
2007 526 vendor spaces 13% increase
2008 536 vendor spaces 2% increase
2009 589 vendor spaces 6% increase
2010 658 vendor spaces 11% increase
Davenport also has grown, but we must be careful to compare apples to apples. Wauseon (above) has reported its statistics in terms of “vendor spaces.” Davenport (below) has reported “vendors,” many of which rent multiple spaces. Davenport statistics are as follows:
2007 418 vendors
2008 436 vendors 4% increase
2009 495 vendors 13% increase
2010 476 vendors **
** Davenport would appear to have experienced a decrease in 2010, but because the data is reported as “vendors,” not “vendor spaces,” this is not the case. Wanda Schumacher, a principal organizer of the Davenport meet, explains, “This year, repeat vendors wanted extra spaces, so we did not have any more vendor spaces and had to turn vendors down unless they could find a friend to vend with. Vendors claimed they had a very good year! People were really buying.” So, with Davenport, demand has exceeded the space available. Based on these examples, it would appear that the internet has not seriously impacted live swap meets. In fact, promotion through the internet likely has helped.
Speaking of demand exceeding space, we should note that vendor space at the Barber Vintage Festival sold out in its first year. So, while vendor activity has been unable to grow at Barber, overall attendance records tell a story of remarkable growth, despite the current economy. Below are estimated attendance figures for the event.
Very little in our economy is recession-proof, but it would appear that antique and vintage motorcycle activity has held its own and perhaps grown in some sectors. The status of some of the leading organizations may reinforce this hypothesis. For example, the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club and the Antique Motorcycle Club of America have maintained their membership numbers over the last three years. And we previously devoted an editorial to the remarkable performance of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association, which has improved its financial health despite a bad economy and the attacks of former friends (see Motohistory News & Views 6/25/2010). Incidentally, early this month at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Festival, AHRMA had the largest entry list in its history, larger than records previously set at Daytona and Mid-Ohio. This resilience of antique motorcycling has been noted more than once in the mainstream media. For example, an article that appeared in May 2009 in the Los Angeles Times declared, “Vintage Motorcycles Find Traction in a Soft Economy.”
Economic and psychological factors:
Why would the vintage motorcycle community appear to be holding its own when the modern motorcycle industry has been brutally battered by economic recession (sales were down again, more than 18 percent in 2009)? Here’s where we move from data into speculation, but I have a couple of opinions on the subject.
Recently, I ran across an article reporting that the hobby of running, including marathon participation, has boomed during the recession. Just a little research turned up dozens of articles on this subject, and most led to the same conclusion. In general, when people have time on their hands because they are out of work or have reduced hours, they turn to their hobbies. Specifically, among young urban professionals—the bedrock of the running set—running provides a sense of accomplishment and relieves stress. It is also free when you can no longer afford an expensive gym membership. One article explained that most runners dream of finishing a marathon, and those who are out of work now have time to seriously train for it. In 2009, two-dozen marathons were added to the more than 470 that are run in the United States (which have doubled over the last decade), and a record number of more than 465,000 people realized their goal of finishing a marathon, up 10 percent over 2008.
Well, let’s not get carried away here about running, because Yuppie runners and vintage motorcycle swap meeters certainly derive from two different kettles of fish (their Carhartts versus Nikes would suggest this). Yet, indirectly, the comparison may be instructive. Many among the swap meet community are machinists, fabricators, painters, artisans, skilled craftsmen; men and women who work with their hands, either independently or for companies affected by the economy. If hours at the lathe are down, if orders have dried up a bit, if clients are cutting back on spending, what better time is there to tear into that pile in the garage or the back of the shop and sort out what you can haul to the swap meet, just as you’ve been planning to do for years? There’s a triple bonus in down time. You clean up your shop, you earn a little to offset what your day job is not currently providing, and you have a hell of a good time while you’re at it, kicking tires, telling lies, and looking for the parts you need to restore that bike you did not have time for these last ten years when business was booming.
I also believe that in worrisome times, nostalgia kicks in. We turn to the “good ol’ days” for solace. Never mind that the good ol’ days were probably never as good as we remember them. Nostalgia is an emotional blanket wrapped around a world that we are familiar with, that we understand, and that seemed a simpler and less stressful time. It is more than mere escapism. Nostalgia, when recognized for what it is, can carry us through a rough patch. We can restore a bike, go to an auction, or swap our way right through a nasty recession.
I know people who despise eBay. They are convinced that it has ruined the world of auctions and swap meets by driving prices upward. It is true that eBay brings people into the game who will pay top dollar for that last little part they need to complete a restoration. Even if this is the case, there are two factors that need to be considered. First, without world-wide on-line search capability, that part may never have been found. Second, even when paying top dollar, that person has been spared the expense of possibly years of travel in search of that obscure part at a swap meet. I’m not really convinced that on-line buying is the main factor that has driven prices up, but even if it has, it works both ways, for both the buyer and the seller. In my opinion, the internet has brought far more benefits than problems, and it would not appear that it has damaged the live show. To the contrary, many of the vendors you see keeping their hand in the live game are also selling through eBay and their own web sites.
I told my publisher friend that I think vintage motorcycling is alive and well, partially because of—not despite—the interent.
I would really like to use this for a Motohistory Quiz, but I can’t offer a quiz when I don’t know the answer.
The pictures of this very unusual headlight were sent to Motohistory by Gary McDonnell. It was discovered with a BSA Bantam basket case by an acquaint-ance of McDonnell. He would like to learn its age and what it came from, and, no, he has no intention of selling it.
I think this light is absolutely gorgeous, a true example of industrial art. Any Motohistorians who can shed some light (pun intended) on this mystery, please get in touch. Share your knowledge through Ed@Motohistory.net, and we’ll pass it on to our readers.
With three biker documentaries in the can (“Choppertown,” 2007; “Brittown,” 2008; and “The Harbortown Bobber,” 2009), Zack Coffman and Scott Di Lalla, the creative duo behind One World Studios, a Los Angeles-based indy film production company, recently grabbed their back packs and hit the road for a tour of Europe for showings of their films. Being film producers, of course, they took some cameras along. The result is “One World Tour, Europe,” a 90-minute travelogue about a six-week jaunt from L.A. to Chicago, then to Amsterdam, Hamburg, Stockholm, Helsinki, Munich, Neukirchen, Speyer, Barcelona, Paris, Venice, London, then back to New York.
Traveling mostly by rail throughout Europe, everywhere Di Lalla and Coffman (pictured below) stopped they were greeted enthusiastically by people who are fans of their films and biker culture. While the movie reveals small distinctions in style and taste among the nine countries visited, the scenes the travelers found are remarkably homogenous, deriving from British café racer design and the dominant American chopper and bobber influences. Common to all is a celebration of independence, non-conformity, an appreciation of the past, and respect for minimalism and making do by men and women who build rolling art from whatever is at hand.
The joy and excitement of it all is brought out through music, and the familiarity yet strangeness of viewing scenes of the European open road accompanied by powerful rockabilly music sung in German or Swedish is simply delightful. Sound track has been a very strong suit in all of Coffman and Di Lalla’s work, and it is here as well. Fortunately, in addition to the movie on DVD, the sound track also is available from One World Studios.
The DVD contains bonus material that includes interviews in Europe and brief films about premiers at Vancouver, San Diego, and Mid-Ohio Vintage Motorcycle Days. There is also a short tour of the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York, which just happens to be Coffman’s home town. While this film does not seem to me to have the depth and continuity of previous works (what the hell! Nine countries in 90 minutes!), it is a worthy addition to the body of work that One World Studios is developing, which, taken as a whole, is one of the best explorations of biker culture of our time.
To reach One World Studios on the web, click here. To read Motohistory reviews of previous films, go to Motohistory News & Views 6/16/2007 for “Choppertown,” 4/11/2008 for “Brittown,” and 12/19/2009 for “The Harbortown Bobber.”
The November issue of American Iron Magazine contains a feature about the special Indian sidecar rig built by legendary Jack Pine Enduro Champion Clem Murdaugh. The machine, still in original condition, is now part of the Wheels Through Time Museum collection. Murdaugh’s special is built around a 1930 Indian rigid frame with 1946/7 front forks. The engine is a 1932 Indian Four with Ace cylinders. It has optional power to the sidecar wheel, and rolls on automotive snow tires. There is an auxiliary fuel tank with electric pump in the sidecar, and extra oil in the left-side fuel tank. A snorkel to keep water out of the carburetor is routed through the right-side tank. When Walksler bought the machine two years ago, the rope the Murdaugh and his passenger Jacques Du Pont used to pull the rig out of sand washes via a special jack-shaft winch, and the hand axe they used to cut down pesky trees were still part of the package. The story is by Jim Babchak, and photography is by Buzz Kanter. For more information about American Iron Magazine, click here. To see an example of a Camel cigarette ad featuring Clem Murdaugh in 1948, the year he won the AMA hill climbing championship, click here. To hear the Murdaugh Indian Four running, click here.
The story of Chuck Palmgren, Yamaha’s first AMA dirt track star, is included in the November issue of Motorcycle Consumer News. Palmgren was once part of the Triumph wrecking crew that included Gene Romero and Gary Nixon, but in 1970 switched to a Yamaha privateer effort, developing his own engines and working out frame geometry with Ray Hensley of Trackmaster Racing Frames. Palmgren found making the Yamaha 650 competitive a daunting task, but toward the end of the season won an AMA Grand National at Nazareth, Pennsylvania aboard the machine. The following season Yamaha got involved and hired Dan Gurney to help Palmgren develop a better cylinder head. Not only did Palmgren end up working with Gurney for the remainder of his career, but the two laid the ground work that enabled Kenny Roberts to win the AMA Grand National Championship for Yamaha in 1973 and 1974. The story is by Scott Roussea, who has become noted for his excellent historical features. To read Chuck Palmgren’s official Motorcycle Hall of Fame bio, click here. To reach Motorcycle Consumer News on the web, click here.
The October issue of VJMC, the official magazine of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of North America, contains features about recent metric meets, restoring ’63 and ’65 Honda Benlys, two CB750 builds—one to stock and the other as a café racer—advice about the horrors of rotary-valve carbs, and a ride from Florida to Michigan, and back, aboard a Honda CB350. Looking for a Tohatsu RunPet Sport 50? You can find it in the classified section of this magazine. It is not available on news stands, but you will receive it as a benefit of membership in the VJMC. For more information, click here.
The July/August issue of Ride With Us, the official magazine of the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM), contains a very interesting feature about the birth an evolution of Observed Trials, which emerged from the Scottish Six Days Reliability Trial, which, originally, was an ISDT-type event. As the Six Days became international in 1913, the Scottish continued to evolve along somewhat different rules until 1931, when a rule about “footing” was introduced, setting it apart as an “observed” trial. Observed Trials did not spread from the British Isles to the Continent until after the Second World War, and an European Championship was not established by the FIM until 1967. FIM historian Marc Petrier’s text is supplemented by excellent period photos from the 1950s and ‘60s. Observed Trials today is addressed in this issue with a cover story about feet-up phenomenon Toni Bou, holder of fourteen indoor and outdoor trials world titles. To access the FIM web site, click here.
Rae Tyson did not submit his guess quickly enough to win our Motohistory Quiz #83 (see Motohistory News & Views 9/30/2010) that featured the Honda White Fox snowmobile, but he sent us a photo of an “unofficial Honda” snow-mobile, powered by a 160 Scrambler. This marvel of engineering is The Shrew, built by Nepelo, Inc. of Garfield, Washington. It was advertised to be “available for most popular bikes.” Boy, those front forks sure look like they have a lot of rigidity! Here’s an ad that ran in Popular Mechanics in November, 1971.
About the same Motohsitory Quiz, Bruce Williams writes:
Hi Ed, I have no clue about the quiz, but it reminds me of the Chrysler Sno-Runner (Pictured right).
To learn about the Chrysler Snow-Runner, which clearly is not one of the leading engineering projects from the guys who brought you the Viper, click here.
Rae and Bruce were not the only readers reminded of odd-ball snow vehicles by our Quiz. Leo Keller writes from Germany:
I don't know the answer, but it looks like a kind of an early snowmobile. Attached you will find a picture of a snow vehicle made by Hercules called the Motor Sledge.
It was driven by a 175cc, four-speed Sachs engine. It must have been built in the mid to late 1950s.
Thanks, Leo, this looks pretty cool if you don’t mind all that thrashing and whirling stuff going on between your lets.
About our story of the demise of Cycle News (see Motohistory News & Views 9/2/2010) and Ralf Kruger’s article about Maico street machines (See Motohistory News & views 8/25/2010), Tosh Konya writes:
One of the saddest parts of the demise of Cycle News, at least to me, is that it served as a step-up for fledgling writers who wanted to work in the industry, and I count myself among that number. It seems that for a time, it was an unwritten requirement that every magazine editor had done a stint at Cycle News in their recent past.
I loved Ralf Kruger’s write-up on Maico as so little is known about the street bike side of their business. Fritz Betzelbacher won the "250 Coup D' Europe" for Maico in 1957, prior to the FIM recognizing the class for world championship status. In the late-50s, Rolf Tibblin said Maico and Betzelbacher were at the top of the motocross ladder. By the time the FIM had accorded the 250s world championship status in 1962, Maico was overshadowed by Greeves, Husky, and CZ.
Carl Hess, who is a sometimes Motohistory contributor, and who regularly and faithfully reported on the eastern Pennsylvania scrambles scene under the pen name of CHess, writes:
Sad to read of the demise of Cycle News. The Cycle News time-line really parallels the Baby Boomers involvement in motorcycling, doesn't it?
CHess, I think you are right. I must confess that I had not noticed this historical connection, but I think the argument is pretty compelling. By the way, testimony to the fact that Cycle News was a leading conduit of talent into the motorcycle industry is the fact that there is now a Facebook page for Cycle News Alumni with 96 members, and growing. Click here.
Some months ago we wrote about “Dalniks,” the class of motorcycles with feet-forward design (see Motohistory News & Views 2/27/2010). That story included information about the Ecomobile and the X-Tracer, manufactured by Peraves in Switzerland. Dan Whitfield, a great Ecomobile enthusiast, writes:
HI Ed! Thought you might want to give a thumbs up to the "Dalnik" that won $2.5 million at the X-PRIZE last month. Peraves’ X-Tracer got an average of 177.5 MPGe and ran away with the Alternative Tandem Class.
Thanks, Dan. We have followed the Progressive Automotive X-Prize competition. Motohistorians can learn more about the class-winning battery-powered X-Tracer by clicking here.
In response to our story about the Bob Logue Honda Museum (see Motohistory News & Views 8/13/2010), former Big City Motorcycle Cop Gary Smith (pictured here) writes: Your article reminded me of the time I rode a Honda 450 on the LA freeways for awhile. It handled great, but was under-powered!
To read Smith’s full account of testing the Honda 450 police bike, go to Motohistory News & Views 2/12/2008. Smith also gave us a story about how Moto-Guzzi penetrated the U.S. police market. See Motohistory News & Views 1/31/2008.