Motohistory Quiz #95:
We have a winner!
This was an interesting quiz. Response was heavy, and every single incorrect guess was the name of a French brand. The correct answer was Puch, and it came in from a French motohistorian, Jean Bourdache of Paris. Indeed, our quiz bike is a 1910 500cc Puch owned by Marcus Demetz from Munich, Germany.
Johann Puch's factory in Graz started making bicycles in 1899 and rapidly expanded over the next decade into cars, trucks, and even locomotives. Engine production began in 1901, and automobiles came in 1904. In 1909, a Puch automobile broke the world speed record with 130.4 kph. Puch became known for quality of workmanship and materials, and provided custom-built sedans for the Austrian imperial family and the American market. Early Puch motorcycles were also exported to the United States, as witnessed by the advertisement for the Princeton-based distributor depicted below. As early as 1912, Puch was producing 16,000 bicycles and 300 motorcycles a year, and after 1914 the company decided to concentrate strictly on bicycles and motorcycles.
The Puch engaged in competition early on, and after 1923 made a name for itself with its novel split-single engine design from Geivanni Marcellino. It won the German Grand Prix in 1931 and convinced DKW that the split-single, or “twingle,” was the design of the future. Puch constantly updated the concept for the next 50 years, sticking with it until the early 1970s.
Puch merged with Austro-Daimler in 1923 to become Austro-Daimler-Puchwerke, which merged with Steyr, the Austrian subsidiary of Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, to become Steyr-Daimler-Puch in 1934. As the buildup for war began, SDP shifted all of its production to weapons, the demand for which justified the building of a second factory in 1941. Managing Director Georg Meindl is credited with pioneering the use of slave labor for war production, a practice that was soon adopted by many leading German industrial firms. Puch workers were transported from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp until Meindl convinced the Nazis to build a prison camp near the factory to improve security and efficiency.
After the Second World War, Puch motorcycles, branded as “Allstate,” re-entered the American market under the distributorship of Sears Roebuck. The line included models from a 50cc Moped to a 250cc Twingle road bike, as well as a 125 single and a 175cc twingle. Puch sold through Sears through the late-1960s, and in the early 1970s launched its own distributorship, focusing on off-road bikes and mopeds. For a time, Puch excelled in motocross and enduro competition with first its own two-stroke and then with Rotax engines. Puch’s Maxi moped became the world’s most popular, with sales of 1.8 million units during the 1980s.
From 1987 through 2001, the SDP conglomerate was broken up, with its various manufacturing segments sold off to other firms and private owners. Puch had always been better at manufacturing and product development than at sale and marketing. In 1987, its remaining two-wheeled products were acquired by Piaggio.
Puch’s so-called "Einserwerk", its first production plant in Graz, shut down in the early 2000s, and its assembly hall was declared a national industrial monument. When Graz became the European Capital of Culture in 2003, a Puch museum was opened at the facility.
Congratulations, Jean, for knowing a Puch when you see one. Your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way to Paris now.
American motocross pioneer
Bryan Kenney was racing motocross in Europe before most Americans had ever heard the term. He finished in the top four (with Dick Mann and Malcolm Smith) at Wilseyville, California the day in 1966 when Torsten Hallman made his American debut. He was in the international top five and battling for top American when the AMA moved to take motocross mainstream in 1970, he won the Florida Series and the first Daytona Supercross in 1971, was the first American to win F.I.M. motocross events in Europe, and was the first American to finish in the top ten in the Grands Prix in 1972. Arguably, few people have more right to recognition as an American motocross pioneer. Today, after a successful second career in motorcycle sales, Bryan Kenney lives quietly in an 1805 farmhouse in Litchfield County, Connecticut where he and his artist wife, Ann Mallory, work together to create public works of art.
Bryan Kenney (pictured above today and at right at age 16), born in Cleveland in July, 1943, got his first motorcycle ride astride the gas tank of a neighbor's Whizzer. He declares, “I was in love. You didn't have to pedal.” With paper route money, he got his own Whizzer—a $40 non-runner—at age 11, learned how to work on it, and got it running. He recalls, “Turning the wrenches came naturally to me, and from ages 11 to 14 I became kind of a neighborhood Whizzer dealer. In that period I must have bought, fixed up, and sold more than a dozen Whizzers.” At 14, he bought his first real motorcycle, a Triumph Terrier. A year later, Kenney got a 1948 Norton International for the road, then a 350 Royal Enfield for enduros (pictured at right intact, below left broken in two). Aboard the Enfield he won his class at the Little Burr Enduro at the age of 17. The Enfield also carried him 497.2 miles into the Jack Pine 500 Enduro, at which point, while another first-in-class was virtually wrapped up, the bike succumbed when its frame broke in two. About his Jack Pint ride, Kenney admits, “Somewhere early on in the 500-mile event, an experienced rider on a Triumph twin invited me to just stay on his tail for the rest of the enduro. I managed to do just that, which meant I was regularly nailing the check points, far more frequently than a young rider with my experience would have done on his own. Turns out, the helpful mentor was the legendary Eugene Eposito!” Kenney adds, “This type of goodwill--which I experienced with virtually all the racers I competed with over the years--is one the great qualities of the motorcycle community.”
By now, Kenney was immersed in British motorcycle magazines where he found an article about how to convert a Norton International to a Manx. Just for comparison, before building it into a road racer, he decided to see how fast the International would run. He picked out a rural stretch on the Ohio Turnpike, took the baffle out of the megaphone, and headed down the turnpike while the Smiths speedometer worked its way up to 110. It just so happened that the Norton's top speed was confirmed by a state highway patrolman, for which Kenney paid by losing his driving license for a year. By 18, he had his home-built Manx ready for competition, and went racing. About the Norton, Kenney says, “It was a terrific road racer. I took it to Mosport in 1961 and had a series of battles, swapping the lead with a little French Canadian aboard a Gold Star. I was holding my own toward the end of the final when I hit a downed rider's oil patch, crashed and broke my jaw. After he won, the little Canadian—Yvon Duhamel—came over to my pit to see about this old Norton that had been taking the lead from him everywhere but on the long straightaway."
That autumn, Kenney took his wired-up jaw and went to Atlanta to attend Emory University, where he majored in English. After 1964, his Junior year, he took a year off to travel in Europe. He and a friend each bought a Matchless G80CS in England and headed for the Continent, where Kenney got his first exposure to motocross. He was immediately swept away just watching as a spectator, and wanted to do nothing else in the world. In order to extend his stay in Europe, he entered the University of Grenoble, studied French, converted his Matchless to a motocross machine, joined a local club, got an FIM international license, and launched his international motocross career (pictured above right is the Matchless in motocross trim). He says, “I did quite well in my first national races in France. Then, with the help of a friend named Franc Lucas, I secured entries and starting fees for international motocross events. At that level I met the likes of Dave Bickers, Jeff Smith, and Les Archer.” At one competition in France, Kenney blew off the lot of them with a hole shot. In the pits he introduced himself to Archer, which developed into a valuable and lifelong friendship (pictured left, Kenney at Tarrar, France).
Summarizing the summer of '65, Kenney says, “It was a wonderful and colorful time in my life.” But, now it was time to return to finish his degree at Emory. Kenney laughs, “I studied French before at Emory and made Ds. After a year away, I walked back into the classroom with the same French teacher and became a straight-A student. She couldn't believe it.” As soon as Kenney finished at Emory, he bought a BSA Gold Star scrambler and one of Les Archer's long-stroke Manx Nortons, which Archer shipped over from England (below right, the Archer Norton in Nature's workshop). He recalls, “I loaded both bikes in a VW bus and headed for San Francisco State, where I diligently began a graduate study in journalism.” Coincidentally, however, he had placed himself—probably not accidentally—at the epicenter of one of the great hotbeds of American motorcycle racing.
The Wilseyville Hare Scramble, started in 1949 and run annually ever since, is a tough and prestigious race in any given year, sending riders through six 12-mile laps of rugged, mountainous terrain. Wilseyville 1966, however, was something special because it was the American debut of World Champion Torsten Hallman, who had come to the United States to demonstrate his fluid, acrobatic European motocross style aboard his world-beating Husqvarna. Bryan Kenney was there as well, aboard his Manx Norton scrambler, as were Dick Mann on a BSA and Malcolm Smith aboard a 250cc Husqvarna.
Hallman and Mann set the pace, with Mann dropping back after the third lap and finally dropping out with a failed gearbox. Kenney, who had been ranked as a B rider because he was new to the area, ran third throughout the race, then moved into second, before having to re-rail a stretched drive chain. Smith battled with Kenney and took top honors in the small-bore class. Wilseyville '66, a muddy and rain-swept ordeal, was historic not only for the stunning performance of Torsten Hallman, but because three riders—Mann, Smith, and Kenney—had proven they could compete at a world-class level (left, the Norton after the muddy Wilseyville race).
The following spring, Kenney left San Francisco State, boarded a freighter for England and hooked up with Les Archer in preparation for the 1967 FIM motocross season. Archer had given Kenney a job and an unheated room over the family garage at Aldershot. Kenney recalls, “It was what I described as 'a pound a day and a place to stay.' During the winter I about froze, using a little gas hotplate to try to stay warm.” From this base, Kenney lived motocross for the 1967 and '68 seasons. During 1968, he raced his only GP behind the Iron Curtain, in the DDR. He laughs, “There was a lot of tension in the atmosphere. They put us up in a military barracks, and the next day I learned that I had slept on the floor above a whole room full of Viet Cong who were there to learn how to blow up Americans.”
By now, the big Norton had become uncompetitive, and Kenney started campaigning on a Cheney BSA. He says, “Turns out, this was going from bad to worse. The reliability and the suspension was really not up to the demands of international motocross where the two-strokes were coming into their own.” Kenney chose a twin-pipe CZ for the 1969 season, about which he states, “It was a good, reliable bike. I had some promising finishes, but seems like I spent a lot of time reconstructing smashed expansion chambers.” A single-port CZ followed, then Kenney switched to Husqvarna for the 1970 season, with support from Competition Accessories, back in Xenia, Ohio.
Stateside, everything had changed. After Hallman's 1966 debut, Edison Dye's Inter-Am Series triggered a fervent enthusiasm for European motocross. Kids were taking to it by the thousands, and a new regime at the AMA had thrown off its policy of isolation and joined the FIM as the official U.S. Affiliate. From this position, the AMA launched its own international series—the Trans-AMA—in the fall of 1970, with strong backing from BSA and Suzuki, who sent over their best talent, including Jeff Smith, Dave Nicoll, John Banks, Joel Robert, and Sylvain Geboers. America's age of motocross had begun, and Bryan Kenney returned to the states to enter the Trans-AMA fray in both the 250 and 500cc classes. Though the BSA wrecking crew swept the series, Americans Dick Burleson and Bryan Kenney finished fourth and fifth overall. With Burleson's Top American score just under 4,000 points, Kenney fell only 165 points behind when his handlebar broke at Saddleback before the final round of the series (above right, Kenney circa 1971 at the beginning of the American motocross era).
But he redeemed himself a few months later. He won both the open class AMA Florida Winter Series and the first-ever Daytona Supercross. He says, “I got really good press from those wins, and with the help of Dan Gurney's and Kim Kimball's American Motocross Team funding group, I returned to Europe in the spring of 1971. My big goal for the AMXT that season was to be the first American to beat the European riders at their own game." And that happened in July at an International Moto-Cross at Montfort-le-Rotrou in France (below right, Kenney at Montfort). Later that year, as captain of the AMXT, Kenney put together the first American team to compete the Motocross des Nations at Vannes, France (above left, the AMXT VW bus transporter with Hotshoe, the mascot, checking out the roof). It consisted of Kenney, Gunnar Lindstrom (who by then was living in the States), Barry Higgins, and a last-minute replacement for Brad Lackey, John Barclay. The course was unusually rocky and led to lots of DNFs, crashes and wheel/tire/rim failures, including Higgins and Barclay, and even DeCoster, whose Suzuki was rendered un-rideable. Out of the 60 riders entered, Lindstrom finished 25th and 23rd, while Kenney finished 20th and 19th. Nothing to write home about, but America was clearly getting into motocross on the world stage.
Upon his return to the U.S. for the Trans-AMA that autumn, Yamaha offered him what was supposed to have been a factory ride. But on the Yamaha the Trans-AMA did not go well for Kenney. Yamaha provided a stock RT2MX that was simply not ready for top level competition. He recalls, “I was installing CZ pistons just trying to make the thing run a complete moto, which it virtually never did.”
In 1972, Kenney returned to Europe and picked up a ride with Maico. He states, “It worked out great. The bike handled and had beautiful power, and the Maico factory was very supportive." He won some international competitions, and then found himself in a race with Mark Blackwell, Billy Clements, and Bob Grossi to be the first American to score a point in a Grand Prix (pictured below with Mark Blackwell and Bob Grossi). He chalked up two 11th place over-all finishes in two of the 500cc GP's, but finally, on July 16th at the West German Grand Prix at Beuern, he actually finished in the top ten 500cc class riders to become the first American to garner a point counting toward a motocross world championship. Less than a month later, at the Luxembourg GP, Billy Clements also slipped into the top ten for a GP point."
Again, back in America later that season, the news was not so sweet. Although he finished 6th American, the Maico importer failed to provide adequate support or meet his financial commitments to Kenney during the '72 Trans-AMA. Kenney says, “It just wasn't worth it. I was approaching 30, and I wasn't in the mood to continue giving it everything I had without decent, high-level support.” Kenney retired and returned to Atlanta, holding a works Maico that his departing Maico factory team riders (Ake Jonnson, Guissippee Cavalero and Serge Bacou) gave him as hostage hold until the U.S. Maico importer paid the money he owed.
With professional motocross behind him, Kenney returned to road racing in his spare time during the next decade, racing WERA and occasionally AMA Superbike (rights, Proline frames ready to ship; below, racing a Maico at Daytona). He opened a bike shop and founded Proline Racing to provide modified frames and swing arms, while creating some unusual machines, including his very successful GP and Superbike versions of the GT-750 Suzuki, and a Maico 400 road racer. The business grew. Bryan became a Maico dealer, bought out a Suzuki dealership, then took on Honda, plus Kawasaki and Ducati. He built a 16,000 square-foot building to house his business, and between 1985 and 1990 often ranked among Honda's top dealers, placing third in the nation for ATV sales. Success was his again, but, looking back, Kenney relates, “It was 80-hour weeks, almost year round. After more than 15 years of it, when Hertz became seriously interested in leasing my property, I sold my franchises and became a landlord.” With that, Kenney bought a sailboat, headed out to the Bahamas and started his own charter business.
In 2003, during a gallery opening in an art studio in Connecticut, Kenney overheard the artist say she was looking for someone who could do some special welding on her kiln. Curious, he asked what was needed, and soon found himself deeply involved in the world of three-dimensional art (right, Kenney and Mallory with the Archers; below left, in Mallory's studio). In 2005, Kenney and the artist, Ann Mallory, were married. Ann is a Stanford University graduate who works in ceramics, bronze, and iron. What a former motocross star might have to share with such a person is more than you would think. Kenney explains, “I still enjoy the process of figuring out how to build something better, just as I did when building expansion chambers and fine tuning my race bikes. Now I have fun using my old metal-working skills to help turn Ann's creative imaginings into reality. Her latest work, commissioned by a corporation in California, required a 52-foot wall sculpture consisting of more than 1,100 sections of 2-inch square tubing welded end to end. That one kept me on the torch for a while!”
Bryan and Ann live in an early 19th century farm house, and ride the scenic western Connecticut countryside aboard their Honda Pacific Coast and Triumph Sprint, when time permits. And while Bryan's days as one of America's pioneers of motocross have long since passed, he still keeps his edge on the dirt aboard his 2002 KTM 520.
To read about the 1970 Trans-AMA Series at Wikipedia, click here. For more about the 1970 Trans-AMA, click here. To see the 1971 Daytona Supercross on YouTube, click here. To see latter-day videos of the Wilseyville Scramble, click here and here. To read about Ann Mallory's work, click here. To visit her web site, click here.
A visit to the Motorcycle and
Bicycle Museum Amneville
By Ralf Kruger
We all know France is a country that takes pride in, maintains, and protects its cultural heritage. Since 2000, this has included the Maurice Chapleur motorcycle collection, which has been declared a "national treasure" by the French government which in 2002 built a museum in Amneville for its preservation (pictured above). Since Chapleur's death in 2005, the Museum has been directed by Jean-Baptiste, his grandson. Inside the walls of this institution is a truly unique collection of 60 pre-WWI vehicles.
Maurice Chapleur (1912-2005) came from Maix, a small village near Luneville, in the Meurthe-et-Moselle region. He bought his first motorcycle, a Monet-Goyon, in 1929, and his love for motorcycles led him into the business as a mechanic, working for several motorcycle dealers. Often, old motorcycles that no one else was interested in were offered to him, and soon he had a small collection of old machines. After the second World War, Chapleur (pictured left) opened his own Motobecane dealership in Luneville. Because he had earned a reputation as a good mechanic capable of working on many domestic and foreign brands, a good service business grew out of his shop.
Due to his friendly nature and contact with many customers, his collection of disused motorcycles continued to expand, and by 1968 he had so many collectible motorcycles that he purchased an old post office near the Baroque castle of Luneville, and this became a museum where others could enjoy his treasures. In 2002, when the collection had grown to more than 200, it was moved just 100 kilometers north to its new and current home of Amneville, where about 170 are on permanent display.
Chapleur's collection is almost entirely from French-speaking countries, such as Belgium and Switzerland in addition to France. Because these are so little known or placed on display in other countries, the motorcycles are extremely rare and of unusual importance in the greater context of European motorcycle history. At the beginning of a tour through the Museum, one sees examples of the earliest days of engine-driven mobility, such as the 1895 tricycles (pictured above right) made by DeDion Bouton, an 1897 water-cooled example of the Chenard & Walcker (above left), and a Givaudan (1900).
The first “real” two-wheeled motorcycles are arranged in a replicated repair shop of the era, nearby (right), beginning with a Belgian 1 1/4 horsepower 1902 FN , which houses its engine above the bottom bracket of a bicycle frame (left). By contrast, the French Werner of 1901 is credited as the world's first motorcycle to carry its engine between the front frame tube and seat post tube. This so-called "keystone" design, which was very sophisticated for its time, provided a very low center of gravity by making its engine an integral part of the frame (right). This would become a standard feature of subsequent generations of motorcycles.
Of course, one of the world's most famous motorcycles is the four-cylinder, four-stroke FN of 1904 constructed by Paul Kelecom (left). Seen here in an early version in very good original condition. Its silky smooth engine greatly impressed Maurice Chapleur, and it continued to be his favorite motorcycle for regular use even in his old age. Equipped with shaft drive, this advanced machine is legendary and became the template for many similar machines in Europe and North America (such as the Pierce). The Museum contains several versions of the FN Four, all from different ages.
With the FN single-cylinder models on display (right), the range starts in 1902 and goes to its more powerful sister of 1904, both with belt drive, as well as a single-cylinder machine from 1913, which features a shaft drive. So, the Museum displays all the major types of FN from before the First World War.
Next, we step into the main room of the museum and discover the really rare motorcycles from France (left), including some unique models. There are brands like Panthere, Lurquin Coudert, Bruneau, Magnier or Rochet. Do these sound familiar to you? This is the moment I realized how much I needed an audio headset, which is, sadly, not offered by this museum. I suspect only a small minority of visitors, including experienced motorcyclists, have the knowledge to knowledge to really understand these gorgeous motorcycles. Certainly, great design is self-explanatory to a degree, but I was keen to learn much more about these motorcycles and their designers!
The tour of the room begins with a single-cylinder Peugeot Type C from 1902, and a Type D from 1904 (right), which, incorporating a Truffault front fork, certainly was one of the most modern machines of its era. The MD 2 Twin from 1912, standing nearby, is everything as impressive, but with a more powerful engine.
Next we see is a single-cylinder Alcyon from 1906 (above left). It features a special articulated-axis fork. A 1909 Motorette #2 of Terrot, from Dijon (right), and a sound 1905 single-cylinder side-valve Ariel (left) tells the story about how quickly the British brands caught up with their early French competitors. This little Ariel is one of the few British machines in the collection, but it speaks to the unbelievable scope of the motorcycles that are on display.
I discover a Moto Reve (right) from Switzerland and a French Rene Gillet (left) Both are twins. The Rene Gillet's magneto is housed in a compartment of the fuel tank, which gives it greater protection from water and dust, and is driven directly by a shaft from an extension gear of the crankshaft. Thus, the engine looks remarkable "clean" and verifies that styling was a priority even to early designers.
Next, there are three rare Griffon motorcycles to gaze at (right). These include a 1904 three horsepower single and two v-twins, both from 1907 but featuring different front short-swing-arm forks. The French Griffon brand quickly became one of the most popular machines for sport riders, illustrated by a poster of a Griffon Twin racer climbing famous Mont Ventoux (left).
The real core of irreplaceable motorcycles in the collection begins with a 1901 Magnier, featuring a side-valve engine, a demountable head, and an early version of a float -bowlless carburetor! Ignition is by battery and coil because the innovative high-current magneto was not yet invented (right).
I was particularly fond of two Rochet from Paris: One machine is equipped with a tandem-twin (left), the other―a 1908―equipped with a single cylinder made by Bruneau with a water-cooled head! Also, it had primary drive by gears instead of a chain (right). Such a bold design to which I know of nothing comparable from Germany from this era. These unique designs stress that the machines from European French-speaking countries are machines "par excellence," a position they would retain until about 1910, at least on the old Continent.
In addition, the exhibition shows a 1921 Bleriot twin with a side-valve engine (left). The arrangement of the valves in front of and behind the cylinder allowed for a cross-flow head. It also had a three-speed gearbox in a compact design; in summary a very progressive engine compartment! But it doesn't end there. Take a look on the solid disc wheels which enhance aerodynamic efficiency. This is clearly the signature of an experienced airplane builder.
The 1925 Koehler-Escoffier, Mandoline Tourisme, is a wonderful motorcycle (right).I ts evident qualities, such as an over-head valve drive from a centrally-mounted camshaft in the V of the cases, or a cleverly designed front fork and all chain drive, reminds me of great brands from England or America. The big Koehler-Escoffier is as beautiful styled as it is technically designed, and it must have been a joy to ride. I am sure, despite being designated a "Touring" model, that it was was fast and provided a very sporting experience.
This certainly true as well for the Alcyon racer of 1905 (above). Its huge 1300cc v-twin was made by Buchet and uses ported cylinders, which was also quite common to American board track racing machinery at this time.
My favorite early 1930s motorcycle on display, however, is the impressive, exhilarating, lovely four-cylinder Motoconfort T7 (right). Even if you can find some design elements of a German Windhoff, it is still a unique and beautiful motorcycle, featuring "French Chic.”
There is also the "wall of bicycles" which presents all imaginable technical designs that occurred with the passing time (left). And there is a special nook reserved for those that made use of an auxiliary engine. In addition to the many previously unknown auxiliary engines for bicycles from France, there is a particularly striking engine with friction roller for front wheel drive that caught my eye. It was made by Cyclotracteur in 1920 (right). Assembled here in a Peugeot bicycle, this construction was a precursor of the popular "Velosolex" of the 1960s and '70s.
Obviously, I cannot discuss all of the many vehicles on display at Amneville, and while I can praise the museum's display and modern layout and 1,600 square meters of space to show off its gems, I am hard-pressed to explain the atmosphere that these fine old bikes produce. It is quite impressive. Whether you visit by car or have the joy of traveling to Ameville by motorcycle, this collection is well worth the time and trouble it will cost you. Those looking for an insight into the history of early French motorcycle will find it here here. It should be a "must" on your to-do list.
Au revoir. Un salut au Collection Monsieur Chapleur! (Goodbye. A compliment to Mr. Chapleur's collection!)
For travel information to Amneville, click here and here.
Photos by Ralf Kruger.
grows in popularity
Now in its fifth year, Rice-O-Rama, a vintage motorcycle event held near North Brookfield, Massachusetts, is growing in popularity and getting a lot of good buzz. It may be the organizers, or the bargain price, or a combination of the three that is drawing spectators and participants in growing numbers and causing positive word-of-mouth throughout the Northeast region.
Although still drawing less than 3,000, some who attend readily compare it to Vintage Motorcycle Days. Comparisons go only so far, however, because in terms of value Rice-O-Rama may be even better than the grandaddy of all vintage motorcycle events. Admission is only $5.00 for adults, and children are free. If you want to sell and swap, a group of four can attend, have a booth space, and get advertising plugs over the public address system for only $50. Little wonder that traffic backed up a quarter-mile from the entrance to the facility.
There's also a local and homey style to the eats, which include apple crisp and clam chowder. For a beer, you even get change back from a two-dollar bill. There's a swap meet, a vendor's row, and judging—with trophies—for more than a dozen classes, plus a friendly and fun vibe from open to close at this one-day event. Contrary to what its name seems to imply, this is not an event for Japanese bikes and enthusiasts only. All kinds of machines, brands, and riders are welcome, but the event does speak well to the growing popularity of collectible and antique Japanese motorcycles.
For more about Rice-O-Rama in the Springfield, Massachusetts newspaper, click here. To read about it at the on-line motorcycle journal “Throttleyard,” click here. To access Rice-O-Rama's web site, click here.
Photos by Roger Smith.
AMA Vintage Dirt Track
2011 year-end report
By Don Miller, AMA Vintage Dirt Track Technical Advisor
The 2011 season started off with four great races beginning in the South on March 5, including the prestigious Daytona Speedway short track, and didn't stop until the 13th race at Oakland Valley Raceway Park in Cuddebackville, New York on September 18.
The whole year was exciting and we visited some great tracks. Championship battles in all 12 classes were good throughout the year, and in some classes the championships weren't determined until the last lap of the last race. In the 750 Hotshoe Class, Craig Alcantara (pictured right) and Jeff Hogan went down to the wire, with Hogan coming out on top by only five points. The 500 Masters Class had only three riders separated by seven points at the end, with Dennis Goyer winning over second-place Steve Bromley and third place George Richtmeyer. Not to be outdone, the Fifty Plus Class was a nail-biter, with Pete DeSantis (below left) barely edging our Craig Alcantara by only three points.
Nine champions were crowned in 12 classes, with only three repeats from last year. Jeremy Eischen, Pete DeSantis, and Don Miller were the returning champions. The other six are first-time champs this season. DeSantis and Eischen are the only multi-class champions this year. All in all, I think this year was a success. We've built on the first year's series and seem to be gaining momentum for an even better third season. Joe Bromley, Ken Saillant, and I are all working on a schedule to get us to some great tracks for an even better series in 2012. We're hoping to be able to announce the program prior to the Thanksgiving holiday so there will be plenty of time to make travel arrangements for the coming year.
Awards and prestigious Number One plates will be presented in Las Vegas at the awards banquet and Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction November 18 through 20. For more event information, click here. For series standings information, click here.
Photos from Donzzilla’s photostream, Flickr.com.
Seventeen-year-old Ken Roczen has made history as the first German to win a motocross world championship in 43 years! The last was Paul Friedrichs, who took the title in 1966, '67, and '68. Roczen's goal is to come to America and become a supercross champion. To read more about him, click here.
And speaking of making racing history on the race track, Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Shayna Texter―after making it to the podium of the AMA Grand Championship amateur final at the Springfield mile in 2009―became the first woman to win a professional dirt track race. To see a video of her performance at Knoxville, Iowa on September 10, click here. For stills at The Rider Files, click here. To access Texter's web site, click here.
While we’re on the subject of Firsts, we note that Rocky Robinson’s latest edition of “Salt Addiction” is about Paul Thede, the first man to break 200 with an electric motorcycle. To read the story, click here.
Hodakaman Paul Stannard is selling a couple of his bikes, a 1968 ACE 100 and a reed valve Combat Wombat. Contact him at Paul@StrictlyHodaka.com.
The Motorcycle Kickstart Classic, organized by the staff of American Iron Magazine and RoadBike, will be a two-day ride from the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina to the Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. The event, departing the Museum at 10 a.m. On October 6, is open to any make, model, and year of motorcycle. Kick-start bikes will ride up front, electric-starter wimps to the rear. Best yet, there is no registration and no fee. Just show up and ride. For more information, click here.
Speaking of the Barber Vintage Festival, we hear there are seven entries for the Race of the Century where 100-year-old motorcycles take to the track. To read about it on Facebook, click here.
AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days 2012 will be held July 20 through 22. For more information, click here.
Bonhams will be holding its annual California Classics Auction at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles on November 12. For more information, click here. As for Las Vegas 2012, it appears to be shaping up as motorcycle auction madness, with three companies—Bonhams, Auctions America by RM, and Mid-America Auctions all hosting sales on the same date—January 12.
For photos of the 2011 Davenport AMCA Meet, click here.
The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies Conference will be held in Colorado Springs June 7 through 10. For more information, and to read the latest edition of IJMS, click here.
The famous Hartung Collection is going to auction. To read about it, click here.
The Washington State Motorcycle Hall of Fame Dinner will be held on the evening of October 23 in Auburn, Washington. To learn more or to order tickets, click here.
If Hurricane Irene kept you away from the Yankee Reunion, you can still get your t-shirt or poster. Write Bob Fornwalt at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read our feature about this landmark event, go to Motohistory News & Views 8/30/2011.
Our story about the Yankee Reunion featured a lead picture of Charlie Vincent with the Yankee he rode at the Six Days in Czechoslovakia in 1972. Charlie and his wife Gail are now in the cattle business at Sunnyside Farm in Warren, Maine. Check out their web site. While it is about farming, they also have devoted space to Charlie’s significant racing career. Click here.
Two of the National Motorcycle Museum entries—an Aermacchi Chimera and a Maserati—won their classes at the Quail Gathering Concours d'Elegance. They are now sitting proudly in the foyer of the Museum. To see photos, click here.
To read about Randakk’s vintage Honda racing team 2011 season, click here.
On the subject of the Quail Gathering, see and hear a 1955 concours Moto Rumi at Jay Leno's Garage. Click here.
There's a lovely street legal Aermacchi road racer at Bike EXIF. Click here.
To watch Kenny Roberts ride his 1980 Yamaha YZR500 at Laguna Seca, click here.
For images of Laguna Seca 1981, click here.
Cannonball Endurance Run II will take place September 7 through 21, 2012. This time motorcycles up to 1930 will be allowed. To read more about it at the Cyril Huze Blog, click here.
On September 12, Moto Museum and the Triumph Grille hosted Motoeuropa Vintage Bike Night in downtown St. Louis. For photos of the event, click here.
Indian production has already begun at the Polaris Spirit Lake, Iowa factory. Click here.
For a story about the Cycle World Rolling Concours 2011 at the Vintagent's blog, click here.
Has his switch to Ducati spoiled Valentino Rossi's chances of ever surpassing Ago's record of 122 GP victories? To read about it at SuperbikePlanet, click here.
The Motorcyclepedia Museum, in Newburgh, New York, is seeking volunteers for various tasks, including cataloging the Museum's archives. Interested parties can contact email@example.com. Upcoming special dates for the Museum include a Wall of Death show on November 19 and Volunteer Appreciation Day on December 10. The Museum has offers a membership for $40 per year. Members receive 10% off on admission and all special shows.
It's that time of year to start looking for your 2012 wall calendar, and the Penton Owners Group has already delivered. Get lovely Pentons to look at every month with this 8 ½ x 11 wall calender. To order before they're gone, click here.
A Brough Superior has set a class record of 124.98 mph at Bonneville, breaking the record set in 2005 by an Indian. To read more about it at the Vintagent's blog, click here.
The other big 'un.
In our storyast month about the Yankee Reunion (see Motohistory News & Views 8/30/2011, we said, “the twin-cylinder, six-speed 500cc engine designed by Eduardo Giro in Spain was like nothing else on the market.” This is true if you place emphasis on “on the market,” but in fact, out of Sweden in the same period came a bike of technical kinship, based on the notion that if a 250cc single could be fast, a 500cc twin could be damned fast. But what Edison Dye hoped to sell as the Husqvarna Baja Invader, never made it to the showroom floor.
A story about the Yankee, including photos and specs of its prototype, appeared in Cycle Magazine in April, 1968. As early as 1966, a privately built Husqvarna twin, mating 250cc upper ends to special-built cases, appeared in road racing events in Sweden. It was promising enough by the end of the year, the Husqvarna R&D department got involved. Rolf Tibblin and Torsten Hallman tested the machine in 1968. Hallman deemed it not suitable for motocross, but in the hands of Gunnar Nilsson it won a new FIM series for big-bore bikes (up to 750cc) in 1969. The same year, a prototype won the Baja 1,000. American importer Edison Dye thought the motorcycle had great promise as a desert racer, and made plans to introduce a production version to the public in 1970 as the Baja Invader.
Husqvarna agreed to a production run of 100, but only ten engines were ever built, and no complete motorcycle was ever offered for sale. Like the Yankee, which finally went into production in 1971, the big Husqvarna twin had been overcome by technical development. Big singles had become more reliable, and they were lighter and cheaper to build than twins. In fact, Yankee had committed to rapid development of a 460cc single in Switzerland while it was still selling its big twin.
A big Husky twin, owned by a Swedish collector, is currently on current loan to Tom White's Early Years of Motocross Museum. White is pictured in the lead photo for this story. To read the full story about the Husqvarna Baja Invader, go to Motohistory News & Views 3/28/2006. To access the web site for the Early Years of Motocross Museum, click here.
Willy Oesterle and the
development of the Oepo Twin
By Ralf Kruger
When I read the moving article about the Yankee Reunion on Motohistory last month (see Motohistory News & Views 8/30/2011), not only did I envy those who were able to attend, but I immediately recalled Willy Oesterle (pictured below left) and his Oepo motorcycle, built in the early sixties.
Willy Oesterle, born in 1932, became a DKW factory rider at the age of 20. When DKW abandoned its motocross program in 1956, Oesterle switched to Maico, riding both the 175cc and 250 classes, but with emphasis on the bigger class. To spend as much time in the saddle as possible, he asked Engineer Ulrich Pohl (pictured below right), who was in charge of the development of both production and factory racing bikes for Maico, if it was possible to "overbore" a 250 so he could start occasionally in 500cc class races as well. His request was answered, and the engine was enlarged to 277cc, which was considered the uppermost reliable capacity with the given motor at the time. His new factory racing engine produced 27 hp, a gain of 12 hp over the standard Maico Blizzard 250cc bike, and two more than his 250 racing engine.
When Oesterle reviewed his performance at year's end, it clearly showed that he had been the fastest rider on the track in many races, but that his "win or bust" approach to racing had cost him the championship. Too often, while leading the pack, he had to retire after a self-inflicted heavy spill. In 1957, he rode with greater caution and won the the German motocross championship aboard his 250 Maico (below left). Furthermore, this important national achievement was highlighted with the runner-up position to his Maico teammate Fritz Betzelbacher in the European Championship the same year. His greatest single race victory took place in the prestigious Namur, Belgium round, which was even at that time a very demanding race venue, unforgettable for anyone who attended.
While riding the 250 class in both the German and European Championships during 1957, he learned that both prestige and start money were greater in the 500cc class, which had been elevated to FIM World Championship status that year. However, Maico did not yet compete in the 500cc class, and he was not allowed to use his “little” 277cc Maico for international competitions, where it would have been too slow anyway. However, while campaigning his 277cc Maico in German national 350cc contests, the time sheets revealed that he was not far off the speed of prevailing British motorcycles used for the 500cc class.
Still, even if national competition was nearly so intense as European Championship 250 class, it would have been a big challenge for German riders to compete in the 500 class where the big four-strokes still dominated, such as Bill Nilsson's AJS in 1957 and Rene Baeten's FN in 1958. While Oesterle wanted to compete at the top level, he could not do so with only the 277cc machine, and he was doing well enough with Maico that he did not want to leave and move to another team.
Riding for Maico again in 1958, he won the German 250 championship a second time, but he began to fall behind in international competition because Maico had gone bankrupt at the end of 1957 from overextending itself in an attempt to build a car, and had ceased motorcycle team development as a result. Oesterle even had to buy his works Maico in order to race the 1958 season. And by now, the bikes were too heavy and suspension, as well as the clutch and gearbox, were not up to contemporary standards.
In 1959, Oesterle competed as a privateer with his ex-works 250 Maico, and also entered the 277cc machine in several international races. He had improved it a lot with Norton Roadholder forks and Girling shocks. He was sure he could remain competitive at the national level, but knew he was at a big disadvantage in international races. Then, bad luck made his situation even worse. In addition to having to compete as a privateer aboard aging equipment, he also sustained a serious knee injury. Surgery could not entirely fix the problem, and by the end of the season he realized he would never be able to compete successfully at the highest level of the World Championship.
Having retired as a fulltime rider at the end of 1959, he decided to pursue an idea that he had been thinking about for at least two years, which was to build a full 500cc motorcycle from Maico parts. While racing his 277c Maico in the 500cc international class in Holland and Belgium, he learned that while it was less powerful and could not match the big four-strokes for speed and acceleration, it was on par with them for braking and handling.
Oesterle asked his friend Ulrich Pohl, the development engineer with Maico, about the idea of installing two well-proven Maico 250cc cylinders to a newly-designed crankcase. Pohl was instantly hooked by this idea, and over the 1959 year-end holidays, he drew up the proposed engine. Time was very short to build such a machine for the next season, and financing was also a problem. Because the two men knew that they alone could fund the venture, they decided their engine should be called Oepo, for Oesterle and Pohl. With such limited funds, they decided to build or order enough parts for only two engines. Big suppliers, such as Hoeckle, were not amused by the idea of casting and machining in lots of two!
But through sheer enthusiasm, Oesterle prevailed, and the new engine (pictured above right) became a reality in less than four month. The new 500 twin was never put on a dyno. The specifications from the Maico 250 were used for jetting, ignition timing, and expansion chamber dimensions, and the Oepo ran perfectly from the outset. With the Maico producing 27 hp, it was estimated that the big twin could produce 50hp, possibly as high as 54!
Problems arose with the design and production of a new frame, because Oesterle had no jigs other than those he could improvise from wooden timbers. Still, with a lot of help from friends, a frame was bent and welded, and when done, the engine fit perfectly (above). A well-used gearbox from a BSA was used, but proved to be insufficient for the power produced by the engine. Also, it was learned that the swingarm pivot was positioned too high in the frame, resulting in chain snatch and breaking.
With so much power at hand, Oesterle described the handling as “lively.” The back end bounced all over the place, and in the rare moments when the rear tire could be made to hook up, he found himself a wheely king against his own wishes. Frame geometry, it turned out, was all wrong, so while the 1960 season was instructive, it was not very successful. But hadn't he built his Oepo 500 to show the four-strokes his backside? He knew this goal was still possible.
Oesterle built a new bike for 1961. The motor was the same; why change what had proven to be the best part of his racing machine? Even if the engine was quite heavy, it was reliable and throttle response was both brisk and predictable. He focused on a new chassis with longer wheelbase and a lower swingarm pivot, which brought a big improvement in results. Whereas the Oepo had finished between fourth and 15th throughout the 1960 season, the new model placed third its first race of the 1961 season, and good results followed. Though there was no victory, the motorcycle earned many podium finishes (above right).
Significantly, his greatest achievement on the Oepo 500 Twin motorcycle came in 1961 when Oesterle changed tires for a hillclimb race on the streets of Freiburg and up the nearby mountain. The Oepo won the Mount Freiburg event, proving what it could do with enough grip to harness its power. This victory would ultimately lead to another project, the Oesera road racing motorcycle of the early 1970s.
Oesterle had now gotten people's attention, and he decided to manufacture some replicas of his 1961 Oepo (left). Four were built for the 1962 season, three were sold, and Oesterle kept one for himself. During the season, he began to phase out of active competition because he realized his skill and experience would best be used as a development rider, because there were still many things he wanted to learn about the strength and shortcomings of his machine. The big question was: Could the 500 twin actually be too powerful to be an effective motocross machine? The honest answer was -- maybe!
Oesterle's analysis identified two main problems. The high power of the engine forced the rider to pay too much attention to throttle control. And, the motorcycle―at 140kg (308 lbs)--was too heavy, forcing the rider to brake earlier than the riders of lighter motorcycles. It should be noted that riders for both Husqvarna and Yankee 500 twins arrived at similar conclusions within the following decade.
After additional tests in 1963, Oesterle decided to try a compromise. He would design a 400cc two-stroke single (above right), which he did a full two years before CZ came up with its lightning-fast singles that would rule the world championship in 1965. Before the end of 1963, he built a new engine, based on a Puch with a cylinder of his own design (left). In a nod to his rocket-ship logo, and very provocatively, he designated his new single the “V1”, the designation of a German lethal weapon of WWII. He thought his new "V1" could be the motorcycle that could finally defeat Maico on the battlefield of national motocross sport. Additionally, Oesterle just wanted to point out what Maico could have achieved in the World Championship against the four-strokes, if they had started to produce a similar motorcycle for the 500cc class back in the late fifties or early sixties.
As we all know, it was the big two-stroke single from a number of different European brands that at last achieved this goal. But this is another story.
To see a video of the V1, click here.
Motorcyclepedia Hosts 2,000
for 911 Commemorative Ride
An estimated 2,000 motorcycles arrived at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York early on the morning of September 11 to take part in a ride to Ground Zero in New York City in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The ride, organized by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), drew an estimated 4,000 participants, so staging was divided between Motorcyclepedia and Orange County Choppers, which are only three miles apart in the city of Newburgh.
Along with Motorcyclepedia President Ted Doering (below right), Harold A. Schaitberger (below left), President of the IAFF, was on hand to welcome the riders. Music and entertainment was provided by the Newburgh Actors Studio, and Duncan Donuts provided refreshments for the fire fighters and their fellow riders. The Discovery Channel was on hand to document the event.
From Newburgh, the group traveled south along the Hudson River Valley to New York City for the official commemoration ceremonies at Ground Zero. Ted Doering said, “It was a very moving experience. I got teary-eyed from the sight and sound of the thousands of riders who came to honor the memories of those lost from the terrorist attacks ten years ago. The riders were a clear statement that we should never forget.”
The 85,000 square-foot Motorcyclepedia Museum is at 250 Lake Street in Newburgh. It is directed by the Gerald A. Doering Foundation which was formed in 2010 to encourage history, safety, and tradition in connection with motorcycles, motorcycle development, motorcycle riding, repair, design, and fabrication, primarily through educational material, events, programs, historic and other exhibits, training courses, seminars, lectures, and gatherings. For more information, call 845-569-9065.
Motorcyclepedia it the host museum for the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. Its mission is to support the collection and preservation of antique motorcycles and motorcycle history, and to the the story of antique motorcycling to the public at large.
For more photos of the 911 riders at Motorcyclepedia, click here. For more information about Motorcyclepedia, click here. For information about the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, click here.
Potos by Scott Cavalari.
Engineer John Favill visits the UK
By Mick Duckworth
John Favill, the influential motorcycle design engineer who worked for Villiers, Norton, and Harley-Davidson, recently took a vacation in his native England. While there, he visited Birmingham’s National Motorcycle Museum to be reunited with machines he took a key role in designing: various versions of the Norton Commando and the experimental 500cc Wulf stepped piston two-stroke twin created with colleague Bernard Hooper in the 1970s. Looking around he said: “Amazing to think that I knew these when they were just marks on paper. It makes me feel ancient!”
From Birmingham, John travelled a few miles to Coventry Transport Museum, where he gave an illustrated talk about his industry career. Despite being on a wet mid-week evening, the event was well attended and those present included Peter Hooper, son of Favill’s long-time associate Bernard Hooper, plus ex-Norton executives of the Commando era, Bob Trigg and Mike Jackson.
In a fascinating presentation, Favill recalled the six-speed gearbox he designed for the Villiers Special ridden to third place in the Isle of Man TT (behind two Honda sixes) by Peter Inchley, and devising clutches with diaphragm spring operation for Villiers, Norton, and H-D. He talked about enlarging the Commando engine from 750cc to 830cc, cutting its emissions, and the knotty problem of devising a reliable electric starter. Of his time at Milwaukee as Chief Engineer, Powertrains, from 1979 to 1995, John said that as an English interloper he found he was able to implement significant design and production changes. The 1984 Evolution engine was one result.
To access the web site for the National Motorcycle Museum, UK, click here. To access the web site for the Coventry Transport Museum, click here. For more about Favill on the Coventry Transport Museum web site, click here. For more about John Favill and the Harley-Davidson Evo engine, click here.
Photo provided by the National Motorcycle Museum UK.
Octane Press has released a onew editin of David Gaylin's meticulously researched “Triumph Bonneville and TR6 Restoration Guide: 1956—1983.” In an 8 ½ x 9 ¾ inch format, this paperback book contains 276 pages in high-quality gloss paper. The content has been updated by the author, and there is an all-new interior design emphasizing old Triumph literature of the period. Priced at $29.95, it is available from selected specialty book shops and major online retailers. For more information, click here . To reach Octane Press, click here. We should note that Octane Press has donated 32 copies of this book to Operation Gratitude, which distributes reading material to U.S. Military personnel. For more information about Operation Gratitude, click here.
“The Book of the Classic MV Agusta Fours,” by Ian Falloon, has just been released by Veloce Publishing. It contains a full description of the model development of the 600s and 750s, as well as the American prototypes, and it examines the racing history that led to the creation of the myth of the MV. In hard cover, this large format book contains 240 pages and more than 450 pictures. The author, a leading historian of world motorcycling, had the cooperation of Arturo Magni, Albert Bold, and Dave and Mark Kay in the research and development of this book. The price of this beautiful volume is £50 UK and $100 US. For more information, or to order a copy, click here.
A few years ago I attended a discussion led by vintage BMW expert Craig Vechorik about how to select proper lubrication for antique BMWs from different generations of production. I left with my mind swimming, realizing that I is a far more complex and critical subject that I ever imagined. One of the messages I took away was that a wrong assumption can be very expensive. The topic has now been tackled in print with “Which Oil?: Choosing the Right Oils and Greases for Your Antique, Vintage, Veteran, Classic, or Collector Car.” While we must keep in mind that one of the most critical issues is liquid versus air cooling, surely this 128-page volume can be useful to the motorcyclist as well. It is published in soft cover and a handy “workbench” format, and author Richard Michell includes ample technical graphs as well as an index. It is £12.99 UK or $24.95 US from Veloce Publishing. Click here.
“La Moto Catalana” (Catalan Motorbikes, 1905 – 2010: Story of a Leading Industry) is a 70-page volume about the Spanish motorcycle industry published by the Moto Museum of Barcelona. The text appears in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, and unless you are steeped in the subject, you will read about and see pictures of many motorcycles you have never heard of. The histories of more than 190 brands are included. This book is beautifully designed with hundreds of images of motorcycles, logos, advertisements and posters, and historical photos. To contact the Moto Museum of Barcelona, click here.
In the September issue of Thunder Press, Kenzo, the paper's leading historian, writes about Indian Day at the Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, hosted July 17 in the Massachusetts city that was the home of the Indian Motocycle Company for more than 50 years. At one time, Indian Day was a tradition, organized by Charles and Esta Manthos, who owned a significant collection of Indians and memorabilia and a small museum located on the old Indian factory property. After Charles' death, Esta discontinued the event in 2005. With the opening of the new Springfield Museum, her collection was donated to the City, and Indian Day was reinstated last year. Kenzo reports that more than 1,000 attended this year, and he gives it his recommendation by vowing that he'll return next year. Thunder Press, which writes to the American V-Twin audience, is published in regional editions. For more information, or to subscribe, click here.
The very first line of Editor Richard Backus' column in the September/October issue of Motorcycle Classics knocked me out of my chair laughing: “For my money, part of the reward of owning a Norton Commando is getting to work on it.” Then I realized it wasn't intended as a joke, and that made me laugh some more. Richard, you and I have different ideas of what is fun, but I commend you for making and keeping this the best vintage motorcycle magazine in America and one of the best anywhere. This issue contains features about the mid-70s Honda CB750F Super Sport, BSA's immortal DEBD34 Gold Star, a 1933 Indian Four, David Ropers ride aboard a 1911 Indian at the Isle of Man, the little-seen rotary Van Veen, and much much more. As always, the editorial content is diverse and art direction and photography are excellent. To subscribe, click here.
From Down Under, VMX No. 47 has arrived! Features in this perfect-bound beauty include the 1979 Suzuki RM400N, the 1977 CCM 540, the 1981 Mugen Honda ME460, and the 1981 Husqvarna CR250. For me, the two most interesting articles in this issue are by Bryan Farnsworth. On is his much-awaited Part Two of “Sins of the Father (of Supercross)” about Mike Goodwin, the flamboyant American promoter now serving two life sentences for the murder of Mickey and Trudy Thompson. The second is a story about the development of an early-70s 450 Kawasaki SOHC dirt bike that never made it to market. The story of this motorcycle is fascinating enough, but Farnsworth also provides as background the unique and convoluted history of Kawasaki's distribution organization in America. To subscribe to VMX, click here.
Racer X Illustrated is about motorcycle racing today, with heavy emphasis on motocross. In content and style, it speaks to young people about what's new, what's trendy, and what's next, but Publisher Davey Coombs always keeps this mag in touch with what's important about the past. As just one example, the November issue contains a story by Eric Johnson, with photos by Paul Buckley, entitled “The Beginning of All Time,” about how Ricky Carmichael, his parents, and mentor Johnny O'Mara laid the groundwork in 1996 that would result 15 years later in the greatest motocross racing career of all time. Ten pages are dedicated to this significant historical feature. You'll not find motohistory in every issue of Racer X, but when it arrives several times a year it is invariably well-researched, well-written, and always interesting. To subscribe, click here.
The November issue of IronWorks contains two features of interest to the motohistorian; one about a gorgeously restored 1968 Harley FL, and the other about a 1907 Excelsior. The feature about the FL is primarily a pictorial, with words and photos by Editor-in-Chief Stephen Berner. The photos are many and excellent, but the story offers little significant about the machine from a historical point of view. The story about the 1907 Excelsior is one of Margie Siegal's “Senior Citizens” series that enhances each and every issue of IronWorks. Siegal's tried-and-true approach is to provide an overview of the history of the marque, address the history of the specific model in question—in this case the first year for the brand—then close with words about the current owner of the featured motorcycle. Her work is always well-researched and accurate. Berner also provides the photos for this story (this guy clearly earns his pay), and they are excellent. To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.
The November American Iron Magazine's “American Classic” feature is none other that the 1936 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead that is being offered by the Wheels Through Time Museum is this year's raffle bike. It's done in black and gold, which were offered as custom colors by the Motor Company in 1936. This issue also contains a couple of technical features for the motohistorian. Chris Maida presents Part Two in his series about rebuilding a Harley 45 cubic inch Flathead, and Matt Olsen's “Vintage Tech” column is about how to rebuild a star hub. His advice is start with the greasiest and dirtiest one you can find at the swap meet. Ugly outside probably means good inside. To subscribe to American Iron, click here. To see a picture and get in on the Knucklehead raffle, click here. The drawing is November 12, so don't fool around!
A Vincent on Ice
By Jeffrey Barkes
Editor's Note: Last month, our Motohistory Quiz #94 featured an AMF Ski-Daddler snowmobile, the predecessor to the AMF/Harley-Davidson snow machine (see Motohistory News & Views 8/31/2011). Motohistory contributor and Vincent expert David Wright asked if we had ever heard of a Vincent snowmobile, and of course we were intrigued. Wright sent us and secured permission for us to republish a story that appeared August, 1971 in “MPH,” official magazine of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club. Our thanks to Wright, author Jeffrey Barkes, the editors of “MPH,” and the VOC for permission to share this story with Motohistory readers.
As you are probably aware, ski-doos have become a very important winter sport here in Canada and the Northern U.S. Two winters ago, while talking at work with a ski-dooing enthusiast in search of an engine for his proposed racing snowmobile, I suggested a Vincent engine and it just so happened that a friend of mine had a spare set of Vincent casings slightly damaged in the gearbox area. He was interested in the relatively small size of the engine gearbox package but wondered if an engine as old as this would produce the kind of power and torque which he required (pictured here is the author on the Vincent snowmobile).
On our assurance, he bought the engine and began working on it. First the gearbox section was removed to be replaced by ski-doo type variable speed pulley and clutch of his own manufacture. The remainder of the engine was brought up to Shadow standards, along with considerable polishing of vital engine internals.
In spring, while waiting for parts and still wondering how successful the engine would be, we paid him a visit on a Black Shadow and gave him a small demonstration of Vincent power. Well, as you might have guessed, he was rather impressed with the fierce acceleration and endless torque.
With the coming of the first snow, the final touches were put on the ski-doo and it was taken out for a test run. There were a few problems with the fuel system, but after some very clever engineering, these were soon overcome.
At the first event in which the machine was entered, on a snow-covered lake near St. Agathe, Quebec, the weather was quite cold—about 5 below zero! Other ski-dooers looked at the home-built machine with its somewhat rough fibre-glass engine cover and chuckled; as they were buzzing around the course on their two-stroke powered machines, the Vincent was very slowly warming up.
Then came the first practice lap with a few experts taking part. The best time was 1.00 minute to cover the one mile track. Now it was time for the Vincent powered special! The roar from the Vincent twin straight through exhausts was somewhat deafening compared to the two-strokes as the machine accelerated down the first straight. Time for the first lap: 45 seconds flat!
Suddenly there was great interest in the strange black machine. The scrutineers came over and were rather fascinated by what they saw, but unfortunately disqualified the machine, saying the engine was too big, even though the race was billed as an unlimited class.
Poor losers, if you ask me!
To access the web site of the Vincent H.R.G Owners Club, click here.