Motohistory Quiz #91:
We have a winner!
Our Motohistory-Know-It-All this month is Nick Jeffery, of Buckinghamshire, England, who identified the photo as that of a Francis-Barnett, made in his native country. This, I believe, is the third time Jeffery has won our quiz.
In the Twenties, Villiers’ proprietary two-stroke engines were known for speed and stamina. During 1927, several world records were set by British Francis-Barnett and French Monet-Goyon machines, powered by the Wolverhampton factory’s 175cc single.
In that year, Francis-Barnett launched its Model 10 Pullman (pictured below) with Villiers’ first twin-cylinder engine. Built for smooth power delivery rather than velocity, the unusual tandem twin has cylinders set one behind the other. The bores are in a shared iron casting, topped by a one-piece aluminium cylinder head. At 57.15 x 67mm, bore and stroke are the same as in the 175cc singles, giving a capacity of 344cc. The longitudinal crankshaft is supported by three plain bronze bearings in a crankcase unified with the hand-shifted three-speed gearbox, primary drive being by worm gear and pinion. A Villiers carburettor supplies piston ports on the left side, while a tidy cast aluminum box collects the exhaust on the opposite side. Lubrication is by Villiers’ ingenious automatic system, harnessing crankcase pressure to feed the roller-big-end bearings from a sump reservoir. A flywheel ignition magneto is at the front of the unit.
Like all F-B frames of the period, the tube work (pictured right) bolts together in such a way that damaged sections can be readily replaced. ‘Built like a Bridge’ was a company slogan.
Praised in press tests for its civility and comfort, the 55mph Pullman failed to find buyers. Possibly fewer than 10 were sold. The twin engine, also supplied to Monet-Goyon, La Mondiale in Belgium, and Sun in England, was discontinued after 1928. A more conventional 500cc parallel twin sampled by Brough Superior also flopped, but Villiers’ capable 250cc and 350cc twin-cylinder engines were used by a number of marques in the Fifties and Sixties.
Quiz winner Jeffery opined that many others in the UK could have provided a correct answer, had they not been watching the royal wedding at the time. Fair enough, you royals watchers, you lose! Nick, you win. Your Motohistory Know-It-all Diploma is on its way.
Our special thanks to Mick Duckworth for providing the photos and research for this quiz. The motorcycle pictures is from the collection at the National Motorcycle Museum UK. For more about the NMMUK, click here and here.
Jerry and Ted's Excellent Adventure:
Motorcyclepedia opens to the public
The much anticipated opening of the new Motorcyclepedia Museum took place in Newburgh, New York on April 16, 2011, attracting 900 visitors to the 85,000 square-foot facility not far from the scenic Hudson River. The new motorcycle museum, developed by the Gerald A. Doering Foundation, is a major installation that presents more than 430 motorcycles and countless pieces of historical memorabilia to the public. Father and son Jerry and Ted Doering cut the ribbon at precisely 10 a.m. to the sound of revving engines of several antique motorcycles positioned in front of the museum.
The Doerings have spent most of their lives involved with motorcycles, especially of the antique and historic variety. Jerry, who was an electrical contractor until the mid-1960s, began riding in 1944 on an Indian 101 Scout and bought his first collectible--also an Indian--in 1949. Since that time he has amassed a collection of hundreds of machines, pursuing a goal of acquiring an example of every model year that Indian was in business.
Ted, born in 1949, has always had motor oil in his veins. He rode minibikes as faer back as memory serves him, and at the age of 13 bought his first big-wheel bike, a Simplex. Ted came along at just the right time to catch onto the custom bike culture of the 1960s. He built his first while in high school, terrorizing the streets of Newburgh on The Red Barron, an Indian-powered sidecar rig sporting a 30 caliber air-cooled machine gun. Ed Roth liked the bike and published it on the cover of one of his magazines, and with that high endorsement Ted embarked on custom building as a profession.
Father and son opened a retail store called Tedd Cycle in 1968, and Ted quickly figured out that providing parts and custom culture accessories was more lucrative than the time-consuming profess of building and trying to sell complete custom motorcycles. At the same time, he began to assemble a collection of custom bikes and memorabilia that would eventually include iconic works by builders like Arlen Ness, Ron Finch, and Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth.
As the parts business grew, V-Twin Manufacturing was formed in 1977, building aftermarket Harley parts, specializing in non-current parts and parts for antique motorcycles. Today. V-Twin is one of the top three parts distributors for the v-twin niche market in the nation, and recently acquired the Sifton brand. In the mean time, the retail store was closed, but the property retained. What was once the retail store has become what seems like an acre of storage buildings housing the Doerings' collections.
Joking about the course the business has taken over the last four decades, Jerry Doering says, "It started with the son working for the father, and now it is the father working for the son." About his vast collection of antique motorcycles, most of which are unrestored originals, Jerry says, with a grin, "We sell chrome and I buy rust."
When the Doerings acquired an enormous former big-box store in Newburgh for administrative offices for V-Twin, they had ample space to put many of their collectibles on display, and this only naturally evolved into a dream to one day have a museum that would be open to the public. The idea became a clearer vision three years ago when Jerry and Ted accepted seats on the board of the newly-formed Antique Motorcycle Foundation. They helped the organization struggle through an early attempt to develop a relationship with an already established museum, and Ted, ever resourceful, saw these problems as an opportunity.
The Gerald A. Doering Foundation was formed to turn the V-Twin facility into a museum, and the Antique Motorcycle Foundation was invited to become a tennant with exhibit space of more than 5,000 square feet for a rental fee of only $100 per year. "Fast From the Past," the AMF's current exhibit was moved into the new museum last March as the Doerings began to renovate the facility and organize their own collections. The project kept expanding, and finally it was decided that V-Twin would move out and the entire property at 250 Lake Street in Newburgh would be dedicated to the new venture, by now named Motorcyclepedia.
Ted Doering explains, "Originally, we had planned to open some months ago. We thought we would open in stages with the ground floor first, then the lower level later. But the project kept expanding and new opportunities--such as a working wall of death--came our way, so we decided to finish the whole project before opening to the public." Doering adds, "The reaction we got on grand opening day shows it was worth the wait. We're thrilled with the results and the comments we heard." Jerry Doering concurs, "The turnout was beyond our expectations."
Indeed, the atmosphere of opening day was electric, and no one appeared to be disappointed, especially since an actual wall of death show was presented once each hour, featuring German motorcycle daredevil team Pit and Esther Lengner. In addition, guests were provided lunch and an opening day souvenir pin.
Consisting largely of the private collections of the Doerings, the exhibits currently include an Indian Time Line of 100 motorcycles representing almost every year of Indian production, police and military motorcycle displays, an extensive presentation of approximately 100 Harley-Davidsons from 1904 to the present, motorcycle engine-powered midget racing cars, more than 100 examples of early and now extinct American brands, a collection of 1960s choppers and three-wheelers, and a complete and operating wall of death indoors on the lower level of the two-story facility. There is also a maintenance and restoration shop, an area for library and archives, and plenty of space for meetings and catered dinners.
Jerry Doering's special contribution to the presentation is his awe-inspiring collection of Indians, which is likely the largest single collection of Indians in the world. Ted's personal touch is his collection of bizarre 1960s custom motorcycles, including the creations of big-name builders. And yes, his Red Baron is there, sporting its fearsome machine gun.
The Doerings' love of motorcycles in any condition is evident in the presentation, which ranges from barn fresh machines to beautifully restored show-stoppers. While the huge array of bikes is enough to overwhelm the visitor, there is also an equally impressive collection of period memorabilia with each of the various exhibits.
Motorcyclepedia, as the host museum of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, is also currently presenting "Fast From the Past," which showcases all types of historic racing motorcycles on loan from the collections of members of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.
This exhibit will be extended through the summer of 2012.
Motorcyclepedia is located at 250 Lake Street in Newburgh, New York. For more information call 845-569-9065. To read more about Motorcyclepedia, click here, here, here, here, here and here. For more images of the Motorcyclepedia exhibits, click here. To see a video of the Wall of Death performance at the Motorcyclepedia opening, click here.
Touched by Triumph
Bud Ekins may have done more than any other single individual to make young Americans fall in love with the Triumph brand. His larger than life achievements aboard the marque in both Europe and America created an aura of romance and adventure around the marque that undoubtedly sold countless numbers of the British twins. Ekins won the Catalina Grand Prix, the Big Bear Run three times, earned gold medals at the International Six Days trial, became the first America to earn a point in world championship scrambles competition, and was ranked first in Southern California competition seven times. Many of his achievements were aboard Triumph twins, as was his famous stunt-double jump for Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape." His running crew included the likes of Keenan Wynn and McQueen, who were often seen hanging at his shop.
Mike Crone (pictured above) was born in the San Fernando Valley in 1946 and spent his impressionable teenage years hanging out at the Ekins dealership, listening to the sounds of Triumph twins and the war stories of Ekins' Hollywood buddies. He recalls, "In addition to the new Triumphs in the showroom, Ekins had rows and rows of antique motorcycles, many of which he had brought back from England. Undoubtedly, this is where I got my love of Triumphs, but I think it is also where I got the idea that a motorcycle is a collectible, worth protecting and preserving."
Crone began riding a Triumph in high school, and after graduation he earned a degree in landscape architecture at California Polytechnic at Pomona. With the boom in popularity of golf in the 1970s, Crone began to supplement his landscape architecture work with golf course design and construction, and by the 1980s it had become a full-time business. Since then, the work has taken him to Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and finally to Florida, where he resides today. The lucrative nature of golf course construction also enabled Crone to take a look at motorcycles as investments and collectibles, and in the 1980s he bought his first collectible bike. No surprise that it was a 1968 T100C Triumph.
Interestingly, building golf courses also led Crone into another area of collecting. He explains, "A golf course's demand for water often dictates construction near rivers or lakes, and this is where Native Americans established their villages. When we began moving earth for a golf course, it was not unusual to find arrowheads, spear points, and other stone tools. I was amazed at the quantity that were out there, and I developed an admiring respect for the artistry, craftsmanship, and skilled labor that went into each and every one of them." Today, Crone is an expert on Native American artifacts and has a collection that rivals his motorcycles for quality and value.
As for his motorcycle collection, Crone relates with a smile, "It was slow and steady for awhile. Over the first twenty years, I accumulated about 20 Triumphs, but around 1995 things kind of got out of hand." He continues, "British bikes were really coming into their own among American collectors. I set myself a goal to get at least one example of each year of the Speed Twins and Thunderbirds, and I went after them with a vengeance." The pursuit resulted in many duplicates, it branched out into TR6s, and finally an example of every year of the T110.
Today, in Mike Crone's garage are 55 Triumph, and in other storage areas are about 40 more of the Meriden twins. With so many Triumphs, Crone explains, "I have begun to sell off post-war duplicates and look for pre-war models." His current pride and joy is an original 1938 Speed twin with 1945 Watsonian sidecar, and his holy grail is a 1939 Tiger at a reasonable price. He also has a 1945 Speed Twin, which he explains, " . . .is very rare because so few were built that year when civilian production resumed after the war. No one even knows how many were built."
Crone has won many awards with his Triumphs, and publishers often call upon him to allow his machines to be photographed for calendars. An especially notable achievement came in 2009 when his Thunder Blue 1950 Thunderbird won best of show at the Riding into History Concours d'Elegance. Today, standing in a sea of Triumphs, Crone remarks, "It is a very fulfilling hobby, but it is also an investment. I did not collect these motorcycles to turn over and make money. I do it for the enjoyment. Still, some of them will undoubtedly be sold as I move into my retirement years. But I don't think I'll ever sell them off. I may cull the herd, but I'll always be looking for rare and special examples to add to the collection."
After an afternoon of exploring and talking with Mike Crone about his collection, one cannot help but note conspicuous omissions among the marque. There are no singles; there are no triples; there are only twins. It would appear that having "Triumph" on the gas tank is not enough to satisfy Mike Crone. He is touched exclusively by the direct descendants of the singular genius of Edward Turner; the Speed Twin that evolved into the iconic design of British motorcycles. And we can't help but think that in his love for the twins, the shadow of the hand of Bud Ekins still spreads across Mike Crone's collection.
For a video of Triumph motorcycle history, click here. For a Triumph historical time line, click here.
Mecum, one of the very big players in the US automobile auction business, has moved into motorcycles. Its first auction to put two-wheelers on the block will be its big annual event in Indianapolis May 17 through 22. To check out the motorcycle consignment list, click here. To read more about Mecum's interest in selling collectible motorcycles, click here.
If Monty Python sponsored a motorcycle drill team, it might look something like this. Click here.
You'll enjoy this Wall of Death story on The Selvedge Yard blog. We're not lion. Click here.
BikeExif has had some great retro-style customs lately. For exmaple, cleck out the speedway-style Honda 100 pictured here.
For a wild speedway race, probably at Costa Mesa, California in the late 1980s, click here.
Many motorcycle collectors also like signs: metal signs, road signs, service station signs, old dealership signs. To check out the American Sign
Museum, click here.
The Antique Motorcycle Foundation has announced its new "Donatabike" program whereby individuals may receive a tax deduction for donating collectible and restorable bikes to the Foundation. For more information, click here.
Craig Vetter is hosting his Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge twice during the coming year, at the Quail Gathering in California in May and Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio in July. The Ohio event will offer a special award for the most efficient motorcycle built in 1966 or earlier. For more info, click
A collection of Steve McQueen trophies will be sold with no reserve at the Bonhams auction at the Quail Gathering in Carmel, California May 14. For more information, click here.
The Blue Ridge Pathfinders Motorcycle Club is celebrating its 20th anniversary on May 21 and 22. For more information about the club, click here.
Jared Zaugg, creator of The Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d'Elegance, continues to advance the cause of classic motorcycling with an article about Brough in the new Ralph Lauren on-line magazine. To read the story, click here.
Superbikeplanet has published a series of epic racing posters for its fans and fanatics. Click here, here, and here.
To read motohistorian Larry Lawrence's story about the fearsome and legendary Langhorne race track, click here.
Editor Dean Adams has republished his 2007 historical feature about Freddie Spencer on Superbikeplanet. Click here.
To read the Vintagent's recent feature about Sylvester Roper, click here. For more about steam cycles in general, click here.
For historical photos from 1967 to 1976, check out the Allan Engel project on Superbikeplanet. Click here.
Found: an original Thor board track racer. Click here.
To see BikeEfix's 2010 top ten, click here.
The Harley-Davidson Museum will host the Knucklehead Motorcycle Club annual reunion and bike show on July 9 and 10. This year's gathering will include a wall of death. To access the H-D Museum web site, click here.
We reported earlier about Dave Roper's plan to ride a 1911 Indian TT replica at the Isle of Man this summer (see Motohistory News & Views 12/26/2010). For the latest information on this project, click here.
It may not be about motorcycles, but there is an amazing fixture at the BMW Museum in Munich that you have to see to believe. Click here.
Huffington Post, which mostly follows political news and current events, recently published an article about board track racing. To read it, click
here. The story was republished from the prestigious Smithsonian Magazine. Click here.
To see a golden Goldie that is lean and elegant, click here.
The Spring 2011 issue of the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies has arrived. To read the only peer-reviewed on-line scholarly journal about motorcycle culture and history, click here.
For old-fashioned flattrack racing on a cushion track, go to Marion, Ohio this summer. For a schedule of events, click here.
Bator International, which has run the Daytona auction for the last three years, has been acquired by RM and Auctions America. For more information, click here.
Last month, with our feature about Evan Wilcox (see Motohistory News & Views 3/31/2011), we reported on the restoration of Jack Silverman's rare 1955 works Ducati GP bike. So see and hear it running, click here and here.
For more about this machine on BikeExif, click here.
Return of the Catalina Grand Prix:
By Thad Wolff
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Catalina Grand Prix, let me first give you a little history lesson. I’m sure all of you motohistorians know about the famous Isle of Man TT that was, and still is, such a famous motorcycle road race. Well, here in the United States, we racers were a bit more dirt-oriented. Here in California, many riders enjoyed riding and racing in the deserts and mountains, and we had some very popular races, like the Greenhorn and the Big Bear.
With this background in off-road racing, in 1951 our answer to the Isle of Man was to hold a race on Catalina Island, just 26 miles off the coast from Los Angeles. For eight years, racers loaded their bikes on a barge, hopped on the Catalina Steamer, and traveled to Cataline where they raced on a 10-mile course that went through the streets in the town of Avalon, then out into the hills on dirt, fire roads, and horse trails. I've talked to a lot of the America’s top racers from that period, and most of them were just trying to follow the AMA circuit and make a little money racing at their local fairgrounds. You have to remember it wasn’t easy to travel all over the country, and most guys had jobs and families to worry about. So, Catalina became a race that a lot of locals looked forward to every year. It was not just a race, but a festival where fast guys like Bud and Dave Ekins, Dick Mann, Ed Kretz, Preston Petty, and others earned fame. But, motorcycle outlaw types--the so-called One-Percenters--came to party too. This the people of Catalina didn't like, and after 1958 they decided the motorcycle community was no longer welcome. End of history lesson.
My story begins when I was born the following year in Los Angeles. I grew up riding, then started racing dirt bikes. I became an AMA-licensed road racer, and even competed at the Superbikers race at Carlsbad that was televised by ABC Wide World of Sports. I guess that makes me a versatile and well-rounded motorcyclist and racer. I’ve also built all kinds of bikes, but until last year I never built anything of British origin. As I learned more about the Catalina races, I decided to build a BSA 650 Catalina Scrambler “Twin Special.” I found a 1958 Super Rocket early in 2010. I thought it would look pretty cool as a street bike with upswept chrome straight pipes, big knobby tires, and, of course, that neat Catalina Scrambler logo on the gas tank (pictured left)!
The bike was almost finished when, lo and behold, it was announced that racing would return to Catalina Island. Was this meant to be, or what?! I pulleds off the lights, gave it longer suspension travel with Honda forks with Race Tech internals and Works Performance rear shocks, a 21 inch front wheel, Dunlop knobbies, a 58 tooth sprocket, and number plates. Suddenly, I had a bike that fully qualified as an Open Premiere Twins Catalina racer! Oh yeah, and one thing all of you Brit purists will cringe at: I used the rear brake crossover shaft to bring the shifter over to the left side of the bike. Sorry, but I’ve spent my whole life shifting on the left side, and during hot competition at Catalina was not the time for this old dog to learn new tricks.
When I showed up at the dock in Long Beach to load the bike into the container to be shipped to the Island, the helper kids took one look at the vintage BSA, with its beautiful chrome gas tank, and asked me if I could load my own bike. I did, but I have to admit that I was a bit worried about walking away from my racer, which now looked like a sardine in a can among all the other bikes. Now I had three days to wait before getting reunited with my bike at the impound area just outside the town of Avalon. I couldn’t think of anything else while I waited, so I kept busy riding my different bikes. I knew most of the course was going to be over fire roads, so I rode near my house on trails that I figured were going to be similar. I’ve been riding these same fire roads for over 40 years, and when someone asked me if I was any good at fireroadin’, I replied, “I better be!”
The last afternoon at home, my wife, Jody, and I rode down to the beach. We sat at one of our special spots on the sand to relax and gaze across the water at the mythical island. We had seen it thousands of times, of course, but this time it was different. The thought of racing my bike on that island, in what could be a very historic race, set loose a flock of butterflies in my stomach.
The whole Catalina experience really started to ramp up when we boarded the Catalina Express alongside hundreds of other racers and spectators. Everyone was so excited. I knew a lot of people on the boat and it was neat to meet new friends and just check out everyone’s choice of apparel. I was wearing a vintage Castrol jacket, a Bud Ekins t-shirt, and a "BSA, I Love You" hat. I was representing the vintage thing and it was fun to tell people I was going to race a ’58 BSA. As the outline of the island and then Avalon’s famous casino (pictured below) began to magically emerge from the fog, people got out their cameras and cell phones to take the first of many pictures. It would be interesting to know how many photographs were taken on that memorable weekend. It must have been in the millions.
After checking into our hotel, we walked up to the impound area where we found a sea of more than 800 motorcycles, all grouped together. What a sight to see the variety of classic race bikes. I found by Beezer parked next to John Hateley’s Triumph, and there was a crowd around them, taking pictures. I was proud to answer the oft-repeated question with, “Yep, that’s my bike!”
After confirming my bike was there, safe and sound, the next thing on my mind was the course. We hiked up to the starting line, where there was a flurry of activity. There were tractors at work, a water truck, volunteers putting up ribbons and hay bales along the course, people walking and riding mountain bikes around the course, Red Bull and other sponsors hanging banners, flags, and all kinds of colorful race stuff. Wow! I couldn't wait for the following morning.
The following morning, I was looking at my alarm clock at 3:46. It was set for 5:30, but already my eyes were wide open. There was no possible way I was going back to sleep, so I went walking in the pitch dark streets of Avalon, where the only sound I could hear was the squeak squeak squeak of my hand squeezer. As it started to become light, I figured it would be a good idea to scope out the beginning of the race course. There was no practice, so I thought I would at least look at the first few corners. The rest of the track was going to be a surprise. I noted a steep downhill with a tight right, left, then straight back up to a steep uphill. I didn’t know if my starting position would be the first row or last, but if it's last, there would probably be a huge bottle-neck, pile up here. Who knows, I guess I would find out soon enough.
It became time to put the helmets on. I got a good-luck-I-love-you kis from Jody, and heard the clack of kickstarters and the sweet roar of vintage engines coming to life. John Hateley lit up his Triumph, and I responded with the straight pipes of my BSA. You could see everyone saying, “Man, those British twins sound sooo good!” I think such a big partof the Vintage Bike races is that sound. I couldn’t help but recall being at places like Ascot, listening to Aldana’s BSA, Romero’s Triumph, Nixon versus Lawwill.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric! Fifty-two years earlier, they were lining up in town and ripping down the streets before going out into the mountains, but with lawyers and lawsuits these days, all we got to do was a sedate parade lap down to the boardwalk and back up to the starting area. But that was so much fun. There were thousands of people waving and clapping, hooting and hollering. Most had cameras and cell phones, capturing this special moment. Truly, the bikes had finally returned to the Island!
Suddenly, a guy with a homemade cardboard sign saying “Go Lupo!” jumped out of the crowd right in front of me. It was my old racin’ buddy Richard Chambers. When we were in Italy, they nicknamed me “Lupo” (that’s “wolf” in Italian). I give him a big high five as I went by, and a howl like a wolf.
I didn’t want that parade lap to end, but off to the starting line we finally went. I ended up on the fourth row where I was at the tail end of the expert riders on the largest, oldest bikes. Premiere Open Twins Expert was my class, with the newer vintage bikes in front, like early 1980s CRs and YZs. These guys had almost twice the suspension travel and about half the weight of my BSA. And I was glad to have a bandana over my face because the CZ in front of me was running way too rich.
At the start, I decided to totally roost my buddy, Andy Reid. I couldn't believe he lined up right behind the new knobby of the big BSA. Hey, he’s a funny guy. Maybe he wants the Old Beezer to pelt him. Everyone started with their left hand on the rear fender, and when the green flag flew, I got a killer hole shot! Can you just imagine the sound those straight pipes made going through the gears up that first straight? I had nobody close behind me, and I set my sights on catching the guys up ahead as we came into the first motocross section. I wanted to hit the first jump at a speed so I wouldn't fly too far, but then I saw that it was a double. I’m looking down, knowing that when I hit the face of the next jump on this 355 pound bike, I’m going to bottom out big time.
Thank God for Works Performance and Race Tech, but my race prep didn’t look too good when my bars slipped in the clamps, all the way down! I yanked them back up and told myself it’s going to be a very long race. I don’t know if any of you have raced with loose bars, but it’s not good. But there was nothing I could do about it then, so I made the best of a bad thing. Even with loose bars, on the fire roads I learned that the bike handles great. It has the same frame as the legendary Gold Star, and it slides bitchin’.
By now I was catching and passing people, and I can tell what they’re thinking when they hear the sound of that bike coming up behind them: "Maybe it would be a good idea to kind of get out of the way." On the second lap, I started feeling real good in the fast, smooth stuff. There was one corner where no spectators were allowed. The turn was marked with arrows, skulls, and crossbones. I came in there too hot and all sideways, but I figured it would be okay after I hit the little berm where there was one guy standing there with a camera. I went down, and so did the handlebars. I looked back at the guy and waved, yelling “HELP!” I found neutral, and he started helping me push. I hopped on sidesaddle and the bike just barely started. Now I’m running along side the bike, bars still all the way down, levers pointing straight up and I almost crashed as I tried to hop back on. That could have been very bad.
But I got back into the race, and I was wondering if I could find the strength to yank the bars back up. It took all of my might, and I almost fell off the back of the bike. But I was still okay, and now it was time to settle down and bring her on home. Later, I was surprised to see on my timing sheet that my last lap was my fastest, despite this mishap. As a matter of fact, there were only nine guys in the whole race who had a faster lap. In fact, I won my class!
Now it was time for the post race fun to begin. Dan Gurney (pictured above left) was there to watch his son Justin race. He told me I was going pretty good out there, with an emphasis on "good." Hearing that from a guy like Gurney really made me feel great. Hey, lets all gather around for more pictures!
The rest of the races for modern bikes went off without a hitch. All the city folk loved us being there, and we are all hoping the town wants us back next year. As Jody and I relaxed on the boat ride back to Long Beach with the big First Place trophy in the seat next to us, we contemplated just how this weekend will go down in the history books. Only time will tell, but it sure felt good to know that we were part of what was quite likely a very significant event in motorcycle racing history.
The Catalina Grand Prix is back!!
Editor's Note: Thad Wolff's writings about the Catalina Grand Prix 2010 have also been published on line at The Beesagent (click here) and in print in the March/April issue of Motorcycle Classics (click here). For complete Catalina Grand Prix results, click here.
George Yarocki is one of the leading personalities in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, the foremost expert on Indian early production, and a dedicated fan of the legendary Indian 101 Scout. Larry Barnes wrote about George in Motohistory 5/30/2009. That story has been republished by the Antique Motorcycle Foundation as part of its "Antique People" series. To read it, click here.
by Speed Briscoe
Rick Kocks, curator of the late Speed Briscoe Archives, shares with us this rare photo of Gene Romero and Jim Rice, circa 1971, performing their duties as celebrity spokesmen for the newly-formed Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Uncharitable detractors--possibly affiliated with the Harley-Davidson Motor Company--claim that their actions contributed to the demise of BSA/Triumph.
Max Bubeck, RIP
Small in stature but larger than life, Max Bubeck, who was one of the true characters of the American motorcycling community for most of the past century, died on April 8 at the age of 94. Max was noted for and proud of his exploits aboard Indians, so we asked Jerry Hatfield, America's foremost Indian historian, to provide a remembrance:
I met Max in 1980. I saw him with Sammy Pierce, "Mister Indian," at an antique motorcycle show. Sammy was easy to spot, as he was big, tall, and always wore red one-piece coveralls. I don't think I recognized bearded Max because I had only seen pictures of him when he was young and clean-shaven. We did the intros. I still remember the first thing I said to Max: "No man who won the Greenhorn Enduro on an Indian Four can be all bad."
Around 1982, Max restored a 1930 Indian Four. A couple of years later, he restored his bought-new 1939 Indian Four. He and I rode together often. I think we took at least thirty motorcycle trips together over the course of 25 years. Most of these trips were from 1982 through 1991, before I moved from California to Texas. To the antique motorcycle community, Max and I seemed inseparable.
When there wasn't an official run, Max would make something up. Thus, around 1986, the prototype year "zero" Death Valley Run for antique bikes, which consisted of me and Max. The first official Death Valley Run was a year later, and it's been going on ever since. Another year, Max organized a Greenhorn memorial run. With Dewey Bonkrud along, that made three of us, all riding Indians of course. We launched our Greenhorn after breakfast in Saugus, just like they did it in the old days. We actually rode a bit over the open Mojave Desert, along a utilities company one-lane dirt road. We climbed Greenhorn Mountain, and in general we did a pretty good job of replicating the Greenhorn. Another treat Max organized was a run over the old ridge route, along the hill tops from Los Angeles toward Bakersfield. That was another Max-Jerry event, Jerry aboard the a 1929 Indian Scout and Max riding his 1939 Indian Four.
Max wanted me to have an Indian Four, so he pulled out all the stops in his recruiting effort. Once, Max left his historic Greenhorn-winning Four with me for a week, and I putted around Orange County on it. How could I resist such a sales effort! Max managed the restoration process on a Four he found for me. I paid the going-rates for all the specialist work, but I paid Max a mere $100 for all his travel, coordination, management, and final assembly. Max insisted on the trivial fee, as he wanted to see what it felt like to work for ten cents an hour.
God speed, Max.
For more about Max Bubeck, click here, here, and here. To read his official Motorcycle Hall of Fame bio, click herel.
Photo provided by Jerry Hatfield.
Award for Excellence
The Antique Motorcycle Foundation has established a prestigious award to recognize the efforts of individuals and organizations that perform exceptional work in support of the American antique motorcycle community. AMF President Dennis Craig explains, "It is a mission of the Foundation to tell the great story of antique motorcycling to the public at large. To encourage others to participate in this process, we have created The Antique Motorcycle Foundation Award for Excellence to bestow on those whose actions achieve exceptional results in reaching the public with a positive image and story about the antique motorcycle hobby."
Craig reported that the first recipient of the Award will be announced later this summer, and that the AMF will soon publish a process whereby anyone interested can nominate individuals or organizations to be considered for the Award. The Award will be bestowed from time to time at the sole discretion of the Board of Directors of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation.
The Antique Motorcycle Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. It mission is to support the collection and preservation of antique motorcycles and motorcycle history, and to tell the story of antique motorcycling to the public at large. For more information about the AMF's mission and programs, go to here.
Veloce Publishing has added “Harley-Davidson Big Twins” to its Essential Buyer's Guide Series. As with other titles in the series, this handy little book explains where and how to buy a Harley big twin, how to assess condition--including how to spot a bad bike quickly--and how to select the correct model for your use based on an in-depth description of strengths and weaknesses of the various available models. There is market value data, a comprehensive inspection guide, and information on resources and support organizations. Written by Peter Henshaw, this 64 page book has more than 100 color images. It is available from the publisher for ₤9.99 plus postage. For more information, click here.
Motorbooks has published a value version of “The Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archive Collection” in paperback. This officially licensed book by Randy Leffingwell and Darwin Holmstrom was originally published in 2008, and has become one of the leading sellers among books about the brand. With 408 pages and more than 600 photos, it is available for only $30.00. The publisher states, “This book gives motorcycle enthusiasts an opportunity to pore over the bikes in Harley-Davidson’s collection, and to linger over every detail that made Harley-Davidson such an icon of American open-road power and performance. With exquisite, detailed photographs and histories of the motorcycles featured from Harley’s collection, from serial number one built in 1903 to the latest low-slung Softail high-revving VRSC and touring models, this book captures the excitement of the best-known motorcycles in the world.” For more information, click here.
The April issue of VJMC, the official magazine of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of North America, is off the press. There are touring stories and meet reports, and an interesting feature on how vintage Japanese motorcycles fared at the annual auction in Las Vegas last December, including a sale list. It is evidence that Japanese collectibles remain affordable, but that some are gaining significant value; e.g. the Kawasaki ZX7 Doug Chandler Replica that fetched $26,000. If you are interested in a vintage Japanese bike, one of this magazine's strong suits is its extensive classified advertising section. You cannot get it on the newsstand, but it comes with VJMC membership. To join, click here.
Once again, Norton returns, according to the cover story of the March/April issue of Motorcycle Classics. There are also features about the little 350cc Moto Morini, introduced in 1973; the 1967 Triumph T120 Bonneville, the 1983 Honda CB1100F, the 1949 Gilera Saturno Sport, and the Honda CB450 Police Special. For Indian fans there are stories about the Indian Dispatch-Tow and the Sport Scout. On the competition front, Thad Wolff describes his return to Catalina (a version of which is available, with permission, in this month's Motohistory). As always, photography is excellent and stories are well-written. To subscribe to Motorcycle Classics, click here.
The Spring 2011 issue of The Antique Motorcycle, official magazine of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, contains features about the Davenport, Iowa; Wauseon, Ohio; and St. Paul, Minnesota national meets. There is also a story about the legendary Excelsior Big Bertha factory hillclimber and a brief history of Ducati, plus technical features and an outstanding classified advertising section. Only members of the AMCA receive this excellent magazine, so you need to join. For more information, cick here.
The June issue of RoadBike contains a story about the museum at BMW Zentrum, the brand's manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Written by Pamela Collins, the article is illustrated with photos of mostly bikes, but also some of the historical cars on display. The museum is open 9:30 to 5:30 Monday through Friday. Admission is free, or you can pay $7 for a guided tour. To learn more about the facility, click here. To subscribe to RoadBike, a title of TAM Communications, click here.
Huge Motohistory Scoop:
H-D poised to enter world-class
Richer strikes again
Our sources deep inside the old brick walls at Juneau Avenue have leaked exclusively to Motohistory a report that Harley-Davidson is on the verge of launching
a heavily-funded program to take on the likes of KTM and BMW in world rally competition. Special machines have been built and contract negotiations
are underway with some of Europe's top riders. A source that chose to remain anonymous stated, "We're not only going to beat the Europeans at their own game, but we're going to do it with their best talent. Their budgets can't come close to what we are prepared to spend."
Furthermore, it is rumored that the works program will be timed to support the launch of a new model designated the XLGS Dakar, a prototype of which (pictured right and above) was seen recently in Florida, there possibly to be tested in some of America’s most unforgiving, sandy terrain. The anonymous source continued, "It will be the first time the Motor Company has entered the off-road and dual-sport market since it half-heartedly hung a high pipe on an Aermacchi Sprint 40 years ago." He added, "But there is nothing half-hearted about the XLGS.
It is going to be a big bike for big men, and it will make big news. It will be our flagship in appealing to the machismo within our customers who ride fast, live hard, and scoff at danger."
The idea would have seemed insane a few years ago, before the arrival of Mark-Hans Richer as H-D's chief world marketing officer. Richer (pictured below) is noted for his audacious and non-traditional approaches to marketing, a proven talent that has won him recognition in the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement. After joining the Motor Company in 2007, Richer inked a sponsorship deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship series that epitomizes the tough-guy image of Harley-Davidson customers, so taking the brand into the world's toughest off-road racing would seem the next logical opportunity.
Still speaking anonymously, our source told us, "Richer is a man who can excite his audience, and he won over a skeptical board of directors to this play by declaring, 'By our second year on the world rally circuit with works versions of the XLGS Dakar, I promise you, BMW is going to stand for Beware MilWaukee!'" The source concluded, "The damned guy got a standing ovation and a blank check from the notoriously tight-fisted Motor Company board. This is going to be even bigger than giving away Pontiacs on Oprah!"
When asked when the production XLGS would appear in showrooms, an anonymous source for Motohistory said, "Actually, nothing stated above has a word of truth in it. The bike shown is an owner-customized Harley, photographed at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America National Meet in Eustis, Florida early in March. We just thought it would make a fine story for April Fool's Day."
Now for the truth, and it's almost as outlandish as the lie. This piece of creative engineering is a modified 2003 1,200cc Sportster built by Doug Wothke of Laceys Spring, Alabama. He calls it his Dirtster. Modifications include KTM front forks and rear Progressive shocks. Wothke plans to depart at the end of April for a 35,000 mile ride through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Mongolia, and Asia. He will meet a friend from Moscow to take on the infamous Road of Bones. Otherwise, Wothke expects to be riding alone.
To read about the Road of Bones, click here. To visit Doug Wothke's web site, click here. And, if you want to read more about Mark-Hans Richer, a guy who just might do something like the April Fool fiction laid out above, click here.
Motohistory Quiz #90:
We have a winner!
We have a winner. Andreas Wehrmann, of Dohrenbach, Germany has earned his second Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma by identifying the motorcycle in our Motohistory Quiz #90 as the Russian PMZ, designed by Petr Mozgarov. Wehrmann scored previously in December, 2009 by identifying another Russian marque, the IZH (see Motohistory News & Views 12/2/2009).
The Russian firm PMZ was founded in 1931 to build clip-on bicycle engines, then went on to build BMW-style boxer twins and the 750cc V-twin pictured here. PMZ stands for Podolsky Mechganical Factory, but the motorcycles were so temperamental, riders joked that the initials stood for "Poprobuy Menia Zavedi," roughly translated as "How do you start it?" The engine and gearbox were inspired by Indian, and the chassis was copied from the BMW R16. The model pictured here was built for the Soviet Army. PMZ did not survive the Second World War.
With his winning answer, Wehrmann wrote about Russian motorcycles, "I've never owned one and I did not like them when I lived in the communist GDR. My preference is for the great American board track racers and the Brooklands specials. But I do like Vodka."
Wehrmann not only likes the board trackers, but he owns some. He is pictured here with his Harley-Davidson eight-valve. To learn more about Wehrmann's antique racing activities, check out his web site. Click here.
Congratulations, Andreas. You are not only a Motohistory Know-It-All twice over, but I think you have become our expert on Russian motorcycles. I may be sending some questions your way. But in the mean time I will place your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma in the post.
Images of the PMZ in this quiz are from "The Complete History of Soviet Motorcycles, Part I: 1924-1945" by Andrey Myatiyev." Our thanks to Peter Gagan for assistance with research.