Daytona Auction 2012
is good to go
For a quarter century, one of the favorite events during Daytona Motorcycle Week has been the J. Wood Motorcycle Auction, conducted for many years at the old Daytona Armory, but more recently at the Stetson University gymnasium in nearby Deland. In late 2008, it was announced that Bator International had acquired the event, with auctioneer Jerry Wood continuing as a consultant.
Heretofore, no announcement has been made about a 2012 event, and rumors grew over the winter that the famous Daytona Acution was dead. But not so. To the pleasure of many, Jerry Wood (pictured above left) has announced that a 2012 event, which will be its 25th Anniversary, is on. In cooperation with Garner Auctioneers, LLC, J Wood and Company will host the event at Volusia County Fairgrounds in Deland on March 16, with preparation and consignment taking place on the 14th and 15th.
Wood explains, “Our company has worked with Garner for many years, and I am pleased we will have the opportunity to team up again to keep the great tradition of a Daytona motorcycle auction alive. We are grateful for the support of all parties who have worked to make it possible.”
Preserver of memories
Within the sea of curiosities that is the Davenport swap meet, Jon Szalay’s booth is perhaps the most curious. A crude robotic head for which you can make the jaw work and the eyes move right and left; a heavy hand-held electrical gizmo used clothing manufacturers to cut layers of fabric; an ancient motorcycle carburetor that looks like it might be better suited for making sausage; dilapidated mechanical toys that still function as well as they did when made more than a century ago. And buttons and banners and photos and all kinds of odd things big and small that can command your attention for hours. People walk up, see something that triggers a personal memory from long, longago, and smile. Or laugh. Or even shout. Jon Szalay preserves memories.
Szalay (pictured above right) was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey in February, 1963. Frank, his father, ran a small engine repair business, sold lawn mowers, and had a franchise as a Bronco minibike dealer. Szalay says, “I was one of six children, and we were aboard Broncos from the age of 6 or 7. I learned about mechanical things in dad’s shop, including an appreciation for small engines.” This learning would serve Jon well in later years, but it was not the most powerful influence in the formation of his career. He explains, “One of the big events in my life was reading Eric Sloane’s “A Reverence for Wood.” Written in 1965 and now out of print, Sloane’s book kindled in Szalay a passion for wood working and a love of early American furniture and wooden artifacts. By the age of 12, he was restoring furniture, professionally. Szalay relates, “I loved this work, and I was very motivated. I knew it is what I wanted to do to earn my living.”
When the Szalays moved from Perth Amboy to South Jersey, Jon found himself in an area that thrived on tourism. He developed a good business of restoring and repairing furniture for dozens of local antique shops, and building cabinets for the kiosks on the board walk. He recalls, “Some of my high school teachers were my best customers. When school was out for the summer, many of them were involved in small businesses catering to the tourist trade. I built a complete set of showcases for math teacher.”
By 17, Jon had earned enough to buy his own building, an abandoned bank that had been built circa 1915 in Barnegat, on the South Jersey shore (pictured left). Szalay explains, “This bank had been abandoned a long time, and one day it came up for auction. My dad and I decided to check it out, and I ended up buying it for $37,000!” He adds, “I couldn’t even sign the papers. Dad had to do that for me, but I paid for it and it was all mine.” The interior was a wreck, and Jon set about making it habitable. He relates, “We turned the president’s office upstairs into a living area. It even had a fireplace. There was a lower level that I turned into my shop, and the lobby became a showroom for my work.” Jon wasn’t even out of high school when he moved into the bank. He jokes, “I finished high school in 1981, then the only other classes I ever attended were at the University of Hard Knocks.”
Szalay got more involved with antique motorcycles in the 1980s. “Dad dragged me to a flea market,” he relates, “and I really liked some of the bikes there. But I didn’t feel I could afford a big Harley or an Indian.” Rather, Jon was drawn to small, rare, and early engines. He says, “In the early years, when a motorcycle fell apart, the farmers kept the engines. That’s what survived. For the really old stuff, the late 19th century stuff, usually the engine was the only thing left.”
Jon began to use his fabricating skills to recreate accurate motorcycles around such engines. One example, a gorgeous 1901 Thomas, was selected for one of the Guggenheim The Art of the Motorcycle Exhibitions (pictured above right). He has restored several Thomas’s and currently has a 1912 Thor, a 1912 Emblem twin, a 1909 Colorado—the only one known to exist—and two pre-1915 Indians as works in progress.
From his restoration of these early machines, Szalay has spun off yet another specialty business . . . carburetors (pictured left). “Missing or irreparable carburetors are often what stands in the way of finishing one of these machines. So I started making early and functioning replica carburetors.” To build carburetors, Jon had to develop his own sand-mold and casting process. “I will only start with an authentic, original carburetor to make my molds," he says. "I can do aluminum and bronze, but I am still trying to learn to do cast iron.” His production includes racing carbs for eight-valve Indians, and Orient and Curtiss carbs, in addition to the aftermarket Pokorney carb used by Thomas and other early brands.
As much as Jon loves early Americana, including motorcycles, he does not regard himself a big-time collector. “I am a restorer,” he says. “I restore other people’s property, and if it is mine I will eventually sell it.” This is the perfect mentality for the kind of professional who has become known as – thanks to a hit television show – a “picker.” In fact, Jon Szalay and television picker celebrity Mike Wolfe have been friends for more than ten years, long before Wolfe became famous and “picking” became a household term. Jon says, “He’s a great friend. When he is working on the East Coast, he sleeps on my couch. And when I go out west for the Davenport meet, he and I would go picking up and down the Mississippi River.”
Playing on the fact that he built his business in a defunct bank, Szalay calls it First National Antique Restorations. However, over the ensuing three decades, he has become so skilled and well-regarded that his clientele is indeed national. He holds membership in the leading professional guilds, and is currently doing work for clients as far west as Minneapolis. He says, “The bad economy has slowed things down a bit, but I still need about four of me to keep up with my commitments.”
Szalay reports that it is not unusual to put in 16-hour days, which is too easy to do when your job is just through a doorway from your home. “But,” he says, “I love it and I am still very motivated.” He continues, “You walk into the shop in the morning and see five or six different projects. There’s a stain that you put on a desk the night before, and you can’t wait to see how it has turned out. Or a carburetor casting to break out of the mold (below right). Or furniture you have glued that is ready for the next step (left). You can just go from one fascinating project to the next, and it never gets old.”
But you would be wrong if you conclude that Jon Szalay is nothing but work. Late in 2010, for example, he managed to break away long enough to participate in the famous pre-1916 Cannonball Motorcycle Rally with a 1911 Harley-Davidson. Expecting that the odds were against a 1911 completing the 3,000-mile route (the motorcycle of choice was the two-speed 1915 Harley), Szalay outfitted his van with a mini machine shop, including a lathe. It proved a smart plan, because he spent many sleepless nights making parts for his bike—he broke two rods—and the bikes of other contestants. Szalay explains, “I was out of spare rods, but I found a fork lift rod that was exactly the right length, but everything else was wrong about it. It was a big, beefy thing that I had to shave down, and I had to make a bushing to down-size its lower end.” He continues, “I made it all the way to Santa Monica, but I don’t think I got a night’s sleep during the whole run. Usually you were up all night just trying to make the bike run all of the next day.” He concludes, “It was the most grueling yet exhilarating experience I have ever had.”
Slazay’s description of the Cannonball sounds more like a nightmare, but a true devotee of early Americana like Jon considers it a dream. He asserts, “The dream’s not over! I’m getting ready for the next cannonball. The bike I plan to ride is in my shop right now.” Then, with a smile, he adds, “Well, its only a frame right now. Actually, its still half a frame.” While Szalay continues working long days to preserve other people’s memories, today he has at least begun to find time to make some memories of his own.
To access his web site, click here. To see a video of Jon Szalay on the Cannonball Rally, click here.
Mecum steps into
motorcycle auction arena
For several years, leading auction houses from the world of art and automobiles, such as Bonhams and RM, have taken an interest in the custom and classic motorcycle markets. But now, America’s largest collectible automobile auctioneer, Dana Mecum, owner of Mecum Auctions, has stepped into the ring, and intends to make a major statement later this year by auctioning—as a single lot—what is arguably the largest private collection of MV Agustas in the world.
About a year ago, Mecum, which generates approximately 60 percent of all automobile auction sales in the United States, teamed up with Motorcycle Hall of Fame Member Gavin
Trippe to explore opportunities in collectible motorcycle sales. Trippe (pictured below right), as head of Mecum’s new motorcycle division, is no stranger to large-scale special events. It was his company that organized America’s first Motocross Grand Prix at Carlsbad Raceway in 1973, maintained the event as a major fixture for more than a decade, and secured regular coverage on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. In motorcycle road racing, he developed AMA national championships at Laguna Seca and the old Ontario Motor Speedway, and co-promoted the Trans-Atlantic Match Race Series that helped bring a generation of American riders onto the world stage.
Mecum’s competitors, such as RM, appear to be pursuing a strategy to drive traditional and less well-funded motorcycle auction companies out of business, as evidenced by RM’s decision earlier this month to run a motorcycle auction on the same weekend and in the same city as Mid-America Auctions, a company that has developed a leading annual motorcycle event in Las Vegas. Bonhams hosted a competing event as well, and both companies learned that trying to beat Mid-America at its own game may not be an easy task.
Mecum, it appears, will follow a different strategy. Rather than organize motorcycle-only auctions, Mecum has begun to bring motorcycles into its well-established automobile auctions. Trippe explains, “We’re not trying to take over the business of motorcycle auctions. Veteran motorcycle collectors know where and how to get bikes, and it would appear they are quite comfortable dealing with the companies they have patronized for many years. Rather, we are introducing motorcycles to our traditional automobile customers. When they catch onto the idea that they can own six or ten fine collectible motorcycles for the cost and space of a single car, they begin to take a serious interest.”
Trippe adds, “Automobile collectors are used to spending more money also, and they find the prices of collectable motorcycles attractive and very affordable.” As evidence, he points to the fact that at Mecum’s January auction in Kissimmee, Florida, a 1975 Harley-Davidson XR750 dirt track racer sold for $27,000, and a Harley-Davidson Sprint Scrambler went for $9,000 (pictured below left). Both sales, he points out, are significantly higher than such motorcycles likely would have earned at a traditional motorcycle auction, and were bought by a collector who had come there to buy cars.
The fact that Mecum has chosen a different approach and plans to tread lightly into collectible motorcycle sales does not suggest that the company is going to keep a low profile. To the contrary, they intend to make the world community of vehicle collectors sit up and take notice. Trippe explains, “At Monterey this coming August, we are offering a collection of 75 MV Agustas as a single lot. No one has ever done anything like this before. Most auctioneers feel lucky to have a single MV cross the block because with 64 world championships and more than 3,000 race victories to its name, MV Agusta is one of the most prestigious brands in the world.”
He continues, “Our offering will include a representative of every model year back to the birth of MV in 1945, as well as one of the first Grand Prix works bike, the 1953 125cc Single that the Late Les Graham rode to victory at the Isle of Man that year, helping MV collect the FIM Manufacturers Cup. Carlo Ubialli used the same bike to win the World Title the following year. It’s an absolute gem of early Grand Prix mechanical art.”
Trippe believes that Mecum’s involvement in motorcycle sales will benefit the business as a whole. For example, Mecum’s auctions, he points out, are regularly carried by the Discovery’s new Velocity Channel, which has developed into one of the largest television audiences in the world. He explains, “Discovery is seen in 200 countries. That’s exposure that the classic motorcycle collecting community cannot buy at any price.”
In support of its interest in the collectible motorcycle market, Mecum is opening an office and show room in Laguna Beach, California, which will be managed by Trippe. To learn about Mecum and its schedule of events, click here. To read Gavin Trippe’s official Motorcycle Hall of Fame bio, click here. To reach Trippe concerning Mecum motorcycle consignments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Miles claims he was raised by wolves and enjoys running with scissors, but this does not seem to get in the way of his being a fine motorcycle artist. He clearly likes BMWs.
I really miss the smell of printer's ink, so I am pleased to announce that very soon we will launch a regular column entitled "Motohistory in Print" in IronWorks Magazine.
With all the attention to electric vehicles these days, engineers in Speyer, Germany recently created a working replica of history's first electric car, built by Englishmen William Ayrton and John Perry 130 years ago. Wait a minute, it has three wheels. By Jove, the world’s first electric car was not a car, it was a motorcycle!
Will Stoner is hosting one of his Classic Swap Meets at the Medina, Ohio County Fairgrounds on February 18. If you enjoy Will’s meets, be sure to make this one. He says it will be his last before he and Kit retire to spend more time on their motorcycles. Here's information.
Jerry Hooker, author of “Motorcycling Through History During the Golden Age of Post cards,” has put some of his collection of post cards and posters up for sale on eBay. To purchase his book, click here.
Surely, the Megola qualifies as one of history’s most curious and fascinating motorcycles. Watch it run.
Todd Rafferty, author of major standard reference works such as “The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Motorcycles, has launched Motojones, a web site a website devoted to motorcycle art in studio and action photography from the earliest days of the 20th century to the present.
Here’s a lovely video of classic BMWs.
The registration deadline has been extended for the 2nd Annual International Journal of Motorcycle Studies Conference, scheduled to take place in Colorado Springs June 7 through 10. Here’s how to register.
A rocket-powered motorcycle is ready to make history at Bonneville. Read about it at Rocky Robinson’s "Salt Addiction."
There’s a documentary film about Ron Finch in the works. You can watch a trailer and even help fund the project. To read our feature about Finch (pictured left), go to Motohistory News & Views 5/31/2010.
The National Motorcycle Museum will have a booth at the Chicago International Motorcycle Show February 10 through 12. For more information, click here.
Did you know that Ariel is alive and well, and living in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Their web site has a nice history section as well.
Not long ago we published an interview with Louis Rocket Re, a well-known Knievel tributeer (see Motohistory News & Views 7/10/2011). Now you can read more about him at the Motorcycle Classics web site.
Bonhams reports that the DuPont family collection of motorcycles an parts recently fetched $1 million at auction.
Kevin Schwantz will headline the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Breakfast at Daytona International Speedway on March 16. Tickets are $75. Click here to get yours now.
Last month we reported on the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum (see Motohistory News & Views 12/10/2011) in Warwick, Oklahoma. Here’s a news report on Oklahoma City's KFOR.
The Wheels Through Time Museum is celebrating its first 2012 weekend opening February 3 through 5.
The Antique Motorcycle Foundation web site has republished our 2009 Motohistory feature about motorcycle poster artist Don Bradley.
Here’s how to make motorcycles from tiny watch parts.
Wall of Death: watch it on Vimeo or hear Linda and Richard Thompson sing about it.
Last month we reported on the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum (see Motohistory News & Views 12/10/2011). Here are more pictures.
There’s no reason your garage door has to be boring.
Here are pictures from the Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum in Miami, Oklahoma.
Read about John Cooper and his Moon-eyed influence at SuperbikePlanet.
Watch Don Vesco and the Silver Bird at Bonneville, 1975.
For his latest Women of Harley series, artist David Uhl has chosen the perpetually lovely Gloria Tramontin Struck. Read more about it at Cyril Huze Cyril Huze.
Throttleyard has a nice story about the wartime Welbike that was later civilianized to become the Indian Papoose.
The new Rickman Metisse book is available in the United States from Motorsport Publications. To read our review of this book, go to Motohistory News & Views 11/12/2011.
As usual, great stuff recently in Larry Lawrence’s Rider Files, such as a piece about the old Marlboro Motor Raceway and an ugly picture from The Rock showing why motorcycles no longer race there.
Outstanding German two-strokes
we shouldn't forget:
Part Four, the 1950s
By Ralf Kruger
Editor's Note: For Parts One through Three of this series, see Motohistory News & Views 6/20/2011, 7/15/2011, 10/18/2011 respectively.
The postwar years in Germany prior to 1948 were characterized by the recreation of democratic political institutions to overcome the chaos of millions of homeless and to set requirements for reviving a collapsed German economy. Due to fuel shortages, individual transport by car or motorcycle was banned with only a few exceptions. Mobility was by train or, more likely, an old, leftover bicycle. But most simply walked to reach their workplace. With implementation of the new German currency—the Deutsche Mark—in June 1948, the German economy picked up speed, creating the opportunity for many German motorcycle brands to restart production of mostly proven and updated prewar designs.
But not all agreed with this obvious and economical approach. Norbert Riedel, who was a senior designer with Ardie prior to the Second World War, and known for designing the Riedel two-stroke boxer starter-engine for aircraft turbines built by the Victoria motorcycle factory (pictured above left), envisioned a new design for a small motorcycle under his own brand name. In 1947, he began to envision a simple but innovative motorcycle, the Imme R100.
His task was to combine a modern technical layout with cost effective production, considering that any kind of raw material like steel and aluminum, or semi-finished goods like steel tubes, were still in short supply. His technical layout was bold and innovative, and simplicity was paramount. When the Imme (pictured right and below left) was presented to the public in 1948, its design turned heads, as it still does today.
The single central tube which forms the main frame and its headstock is of the same diameter. At its lower end it meets another cross-the-frame tube, which is the pivoting point for the complete drive train. This enabled the longish exhaust pipe to double as a single-sided swing arm for the rear wheel! The complete engine/exhaust/swing arm arrangement pivots around its mounting point on the frame and moves with the rear wheel when the rear suspension is compressed. A reinforced fender, the stay arms of the luggage rack, and the swinging arm form a kind of "cantilever" triangle and supports a single shock absorber spring against the main frame tube. The front brake's normal stay-arm is deleted and replaced by a single bolt which braces in a thick tube that is the single element of the front wheel's suspension. The front and rear wheels are interchangeable.
The Imme’s 98cc engine is a simple piston port two-stroke engine producing 4.5hp. Using a three-speed gearbox, the little machine can accelerate easily to a speed of 50mph. Under full load, the little engine hums like a feisty bee, hence the logo on the tank. Riedel further simplified an already simple design by eliminating a main bearing with a single-sided, overhung crankshaft. This was later altered with the Model D.
But the most impressive detail of the whole engine is its look. Germans call it "Kraft-Ei," which means “power egg," a look that Benelli and Motobi owners of later times certainly became familiar with. By autumn 1950, Riedel had sold an astonishing 10.000 copies for a very low price of 775DM, which would bring financial woes that forced Riedel to close his Immenstadt-based company at year end in 1951. A second version of his unique motorcycle, featuring a 150cc twin, was planned, but never put into production. Only three prototypes were built.
A successor company, ZMG, attempted to build a slightly modified 175cc twin (pictured below left), but only about 25 motorcycles were made before production ceased. By then, demand for such a simple, small capacity motorcycles had come to an unexpected halt. How quickly the times were changing is evidenced by the fact that 1951 Volkswagen had built its 100,000th Beetle, which would soon put manufacturers in a dire situation throughout Europe. But still, and into 1955, motorcycle sales boomed while larger and faster motorcycles were becoming more popular.
The reason I call the Imme outstanding is because of its unique approach to manufacturing a modern, ingenious, and affordable small motorcycle. It fit into a very difficult but short period of time when the purses of customers were very slim indeed.
Adlerwerke, from Frankfurt, has a rich history regarding bicycles and motorcycles, dating back to 1880. It was founded by Heinrich Ludwig Kleyer (born Dec.13 1853, died May 9 1932), who was a mechanical engineer with diploma from Technical University of Darmstadt. His first commercial motorcycle, the Model 1, was built in 1901. Adlerwerke became one the more successful motorcycle firms in Germany after the turn of the century, and its success continued until 1907, until the first buzz for motorcycles in Germany was over. But this is a story in itself and will be the subject of a future article.
While the oldest foothold of Heinrich Kleyer (pictured right), the bicycle, was continuing to be built, the production of Adler typewriters and Adler cars became more and more important from an economic point of view. The model #7 (left) is certainly the most famous typewriter from the Heinrich Kleyer Group.
Almost simultaneously with the fabrication of motorcycles, Adler began car production. Its output stood for about 20 percent of market share in Germany before the First World War. Among the most famous Adler cars of the inter-war time were the Adler Trumpf of 1932 (below right), designed by Hans-Gustav Röhr and the Trumpf Junior, built in 1934. These were advanced cars featuring front wheel drive and independent suspension on allfour wheels. Thus, Adler had become the third largest car producer in Germany. In 1935, the Adler 2.5 liter, known as the Adler Autobahn (below left), was developed by new chief engineer Karl Jenschke. Its streamlined shape was considered revolutionary at the time.
During World War II, Adler produced, among other things, machine tools and tank chassis and engines. To maintain continuing production, Adler employed forcedlaborers and concentration camp inmates after 1944. All told, about 1,600 such laborers were used, and those who survived up to 1945 were sent on a fatal death march to Buchenwald, or died at the camp itself. Today, a commemorative plaque recalls this sad history, mounted near the former main entrance of the Adler plant in Frankfurt.
Adlerwerke in Frankfurt (pictured right) was about two-thirds destroyed from bombing during the Second World War, and afterward four branch firms in the eastern part of the country were lost. In 1948, the remaining part of the Frankfurt factory was occupied by American forces, which would not allow production to be resumed immediately. When former CEO Ernst Hagermeier was released from internment in the summer of 1948, there was hope for a new beginning, but a setback came the following year when more than a thousand machine tools from the factory floor were confiscated as reparation.
Despite these problems, it had been possible to resume typewriter and bicycle production in 1948. As it became apparent that the former machine tool and Adler car manufacturing could not be revived, the idea of reestablishing the company as a motorcycle producer caught on. A team around director Hermann Friedrich and engineer Alfred Privatstarted with a clean sheet of paper to create the new Adler M100 motorcycle. Series production began in October 1949. The new Adler was priced at 845DM, and manufacturing successfully continued until 1955.
Many German motorcyclists who had bought 100cc or 125cc models during the late 1940s and beginning 1950s now dreamed of owning a 200cc or 250cc. This was a demand that Adlerwerke planned to address with a completely fresh design, the M200 twin (above left) (bore 48 x stroke 54). Next came the M250 in 1952, which was nearly the same bike with a larger bore. (54 X 54).
Even though the Adler twin is a piston port two-stroke, it is far from simple. The engine is loaded with progressive details which resulted in a straight forward design that is still impressive today. Its basic layout was good enough for a decade of service at least, enduring far into the sixties under the determined influence of successful tuners and racers.
To learn more about the secrets of an Adler twin, I visited the "Adlerhorst" (aerie) of Markus Voltz, a proud owner of several Adler motorcycles and who inherited his enthusiasm about Adler from his father. Markus presented a small fleet of Adler motorcycles (above right), and was so kind as to show me a dismantled M200 twin engine for its technical discussion for Motohistory.
If you step back to get a better look at the Adler twin motorcycle, you will notice its comparatively small stature, sitting low on 16-inch wheels. The overall styling is typically German for the 50s. The nice teardrop tank and the implied streamline of the engine's smooth castings, which includes the gearbox and is absent of any protruding components (even the carburetor is mostly hidden) gives it an extremely tidy look (pictured left). Big fenders and a stout double loop frame add to the impression that the motorcycle might be a good touring bike, which indeed, it is. While you may appreciate these qualities, you may run the risk to missing its true character, expanded and defined by its exceptional two-stroke engine. While the modest power of 11.4 hp for the 200cc engine and 16hp for its sister model of 250cc capacity was class-leading but not exceptional, the declaration does hyde the enormously detuned status of the engine package as a whole. We’ll look at some design details to better understand why.
The reason two-stroke twins were so few up to the time is mainly because of sealing problems between the two halves of its single crankshaft, which is needed to gain separate pre-compression on each cylinder. Additionally, the alignment of a "built" crankshaft was not easy to mass produce. To address these concerns, engine specialist Felix Dozekal designed a rigid tunnel crankcase with an inner longitudinal separation that houses the middle main bearing of the crank (above right). Both crankshaft halves wereinserted from either side, then connected by a single screw. To make torsional movement between the two halves impossible, and to guarantee good alignment, a self-centering Hirth gear tooth coupling was
used (pictured left). But the most interesting detail of the crankshaft is its connection with a screw. The single inner side of each crankshaft-half is bored out hollow, the left hand part includes a female thread for the bolt, and the right side the screw itself.
But how can you tighten this centrally located screw since the crank web covers access? Look into that additional hole in the right side's crank web (pictured right) and you will see the external teething on the bolt's head, which can be turned by a special tool, screwing both shafts in place! While the tread is a left-hand, you actually turn the special tool clockwise for tightening because the tool and screw mesh like two gears, making the driven part rotate in the opposite direction as the tool. Clever, huh?!
Of course, this layout has its limits and shortcomings. First, it is expensive to manufacture. And, the mechanical limits of the Hirth tooth system is the second concern. With its original M250 power output of 16hp @ 5,600rpm, later increased to 18hp @ 6,000rpm with the 1954 MB 250S and Sprinter series bike, there is no problem. The crankshaft will keep up "forever." The real save limit for the crank on the long run is about 26hp or accordingly 8,500rpm, which was the output of a 1955 water-cooled Adler RS production racer. There is even good reliability up to 28 -30hp @ 9,500rpm. These engines continue to be a favorite for extreme tuning, but I was told by former Adler racer Reinhard Scholtis thattoo much output can break the teeth off the crank's coupling at its base. His own Adler racing machine delivered up to 35hp and 10,500 rpm (double the engine’s original power at twice its intended speed). His last racing season on the Adler was as late as 1967, before he changed to a used Yamaha TD1B in 1968.
But let’s return to consideration of the 200 and 250 production engines. The complete crankshaft is supported by three main bearings, the outer ones in a separate bearing shield, which is bolted into the cases on four studs (left). All these bearings are roller type. The primary drive, located next to the left main bearing, has helical cut gears and reduces gearbox main shaft speed at a numerically high ratio of 1:3,44 against the crankshaft.
On the crankshaft's left side is the multi-plate clutch (right). This is an unusual location for this item, since it is typically found on the main shaft of the gearbox in most designs of other brands. But there is a reason for this: As the clutch turns with crankshaft speed, the effective torque per revolution is reduced by the same value as the primary gear reduction. The clutch diameter can shrink with a given friction plate number in comparison to a conventional design of a clutch on the main shaft. The added mass of 1.4kp reduces the likelihood of stalling unexpectedly because of too little flywheel effect.
The bare crank (left) weights only 4.5kp, and the clutch doesn't take away much of the spontaneous throttle response. On the right side of the crank, the alternator and ignition plate is mounted, which adds considerably to the overall width of the engine. The alternator is heat sensitive and tends to be the weakest design element of the engine. But to be fair, it must be said that the total closing behind the right side-cover without any ventilation provokes failure.
The gearbox is a four-speed unit of flawless manufacturing quality, reflecting Adler's knowledge about gear trains learned from machine tool manufacturing. Just like the crank, the gearbox's shafts are pushed into the cases from the side and fixed with another bearing shield. The gear ratios seem to be a bit weird today, with a low first, good graduation to second and third, but a big step up to the very long fourth gear. But in the 50s, this stepping made good sense because a low first gear preserved the clutch when starting from standstill with high load of a passenger or even a sidecar. Third gear of the M250 will achieve about 80kph in a hurry, so overtaking lorries or cars on a country road was easy and fast. The relatively long fourth gear was for cruising or Autobahn, where the Adler 250 could reach 120kph.
When you take a look on the crankcase from above, with removed cast iron cylinders (left), you will see the cast-in initial of the two transfer ports per cylinder. You can see the direction the gas stream is intended to flow: To the closed backside cylinder wall where it starts the typical loop of the reverse scavenging method. While this layout works with excellent results, one can't help but wonder what could be the results if the overall cross section of the transfers were enlarged to feed maybe four transfer ports in an adapted cylinder? Before you accuse me of delivering a tuning manual for Adler twins, I can tell you I have already seen Adler M and MB250 engines equipped with Yamaha DS6/7, or even more modern Suzuki X7, cylinders. Of course, this is not easily done -- but it can be done. It is necessary to machine the upper rear part of the cases and fill missing passages by welding on additional aluminum, because the original inlet section cast into the cases, is designed for a single carburetor only.
Take a look at this 1954 Adler MB250 with con-rods and pistons from a Suzuki GT380, as well as cylinders from a Suzuki X7, including its complete exhaust system. It imitates an MB250S with its up-swept mufflers. Of course, I only mention these examples of advanced wrencher's disease to underscore the enormous potential of the original Adler engine.
Adler fully exploited these built-in qualities of the M200 to the MB250 when the Adler RS (pictured right) arrived. Its initial development dates back to 1953 as an idea and conversion of Adler employee Helmut Hallmeier, whose work was executed without the knowledge of Adler business management. Hallmeier machined the crankcase for the adoption of two carbs, altered the exhaust port (ca23hp), and took part as a privateer in German road racing events. His good results soon came to the attention of Hermann Friedrich who gave the green light for the development of a batch of production racers. Engineer Kurt Grassmann was responsible for engine development and Willy Klee became official racing mechanic. The first M/RS type (above left), still an air-cooled 26hp version of a modified Adler M250, was sold by Adlerwerke in only 12 to 15 copies in 1953 and 1954.
A second version of the air-cooled RS made in 1954 (pictured right) got a new frame to get rid of the outdated plunger rear suspension. It featured a different front suspension as well. Another update that year included the development of water-cooling for the 1955 season (pictured below left), a feature that could be retrofitted to the 1954 racing machines. While the maximum power was not altered, reliability of the new two-ring piston was enhanced. Sadly, a problem with fouling plugs emerged due to over-cooling of thehead. So some racers like Scholtis preferred to use the air-cooled heads or came up with designs of their own. No complete racing machines were sold in 1955 and beyond.
Adler's biggest success came as late as 1958, when Dieter Falk won the German 250 national championship and got fifth in the WorldChampionship as well. This achievement took place one year after Adler had closed its doors in December of 1957.
Adler's famous twin not only propelled street machines and road racers, but there was also a Six Day model which took part in the ISDT in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1956. Works riders Willi Bilger, GeorgSteindl, and Walter Vogel (pictured above right) took away three personal gold medals and a fourth one for success as a team. Only about 20 of these ISDT machines were built.
Even a motocross Adler was designed in 1956 (pictured left). Its 20hp twinwas the most powerful engine in the Adler line, lacking power only in comparison with the RS. While success was only modest in the motocross sport, its talent shone at many grass track events. Here the revvy, powerful characterof the engine was put to good advantage (pictured below).
If there remains any doubt that the Adler was one of the great two-strokes of the 1950s, consider that it would soon be chosen by Suzuki and Yamaha as a model for their Colleda and YDS designs. This, I believe, stands as proof of its importance in the history of world motorcycle development.
Report: Las Vegas
By Jerry Wood
Vintage Motorcycle collectors and dealers had a lot of reasons to travel to Las Vegas this year. Twelve hundred motorcycles were lined up to be offered in three different auctions over a three-day period.
The first and most appealing to me, as well as a lot of other Collectors, was the Bonhams auction that began on Thursday morning. Bonhams were fortunate enough to have been consigned the DuPont estate. The DuPonts owned the Massachusetts-based Indian Motorcycle Company from 1930 to 1945. You could tell from the collection that these bikes were not just your average rich guy's toy collection. These people loved motorcycles.
The casual observer might think that the stuff was in terrible Condition, as the collection had suffered from being in a barn without the benefit of temperature control. Some of the bikes and parts had not only rust, dirt and grime, but had also suffered the indignity of birds nesting above them.
To a true enthusiast, it was absolute treasure, all being sold with no reserve! Prices of the parts quickly shot past the cataloged estimates. A Hedstrom carburetor that was booked at $400 to $500 sold for $2,600. An early Indian twin muffler that was estimated for $100 to $200 was bid to $3,000. Keep in mind that parts and memorabilia had a 25% buyer's premium, so the out-the-door price for the rusty muffler was a whopping $3,750.
Motorcycles were scheduled to be sold at noontime. A British auction is very different than the typical American auction. The British are quite civilized and polite; they don't chant. I found it refreshing for awhile, but it was just a bit slow. When they did get to the bikes they started with the DuPont collection.
Following the pattern set by the Hartung Estate in November, the rusty barn find prices went through the roof. A very tired 1940 Indian four with its magneto missing sold for a hammer price of $38,000. A 1953 Vincent Black Shadow (pictured above left) that had everybody buzzing sold for $105,000 bid price, add the 15% buyer's premium and that bike went out the door for $120,700. Consider that a mint restored 1953 Black Shadow (pictured above right) sold for $80,000 a few days later at the Mid-America auction and perhaps more folks just might leave more old bikes the way they found them.
When it came to the shiny bikes, much of the real excitement was over. If consignors had reasonable reserves, the bikes were sold. Bikes with high reserves went home with the people who consigned them.
Thursday night, Mid-America had its traditional dinner and auction of about 50 motorcycles and some memorabilia. The dinner was well attended and prices were very normal retail. Some bikes have dipped a bit during the hard times and some have risen. Early barn finds are very hot, as we discussed, but there were not many of those at South Point. The trend for the motorcycles to sell at retail prices continued for the next two days. When the reserve was set too high, the bikes went home with the original owners.
Auctions America had the same venue at the same times at the Rio just a few miles away, and I understand that that dinner was not very well attended, and the prices those bikes brought were absolute bargains. Auctions America had many motorcycles and collections
offered at no reserve.
I left my wife at South Point (Mid-America) and went over to the Rio to see what was going on over there. Many of the bikes consigned to Auctions America were collections of bikes that had not been run in some time, or needed work.
To say that the crowd was thin would be an understatement. At 9 a.m., you could count the warm bodies on your fingers. They started at 10 a.m. with an extremely thin crowd. In New England we had a term for an auction where no one showed up. We called it "Dollar day at the Bijou." The prices were way low but to Auctions America's credit, they sold most of the bikes regardless of price. As the day wore on, some of the dealers who were at South Point started showing up, but the prices were generally wholesale.
The bargains were even better if you knew what you were doing and studied the bikes. One machine was advertised as a 1961 Triumph Bonneville with rough bodywork (above left) and the estimate was $750 to $2,500. You could see the single downtube frame in the photograph, so I thought that it was probably a numbers mangled bitsa bike. Upon close inspection, I found the bike to be a correct matching numbers T120 with a single downtube frame and a generator. That, my friends, is a ‘59 Bonneville, the Holy Grail. It was the bargain of the day. Later on I saw the guys who bought the machine looking it over. I said "You know what that bike is don't you" They replied "Yes, and we noticed that you did as well." I was second bidder on the bike and don't even know why I braked so early.
I did get a treasure at Bonhams, though. The original DuPont 1952 Triumph TR5 (right) with 1760 miles on it was my favorite machine of the 1,200 offered, and it is now in my garage. And no, I am not going to restore it ever. It will be gently, lovingly relieved of the bird droppings and ridden at various meets as soon as I can get it in rideable condition.
For more about the big Las Vegas auction weekend, visit The Vintagent.
What is man’s best Friend?
Recently, the people who organize Canada’s motorcycle Supershows distributed a news release accompanied by an attention-grabbing photo of a Vincent Black Prince and a German Shepherd, each a study in grace and stateliness. For me, it raised the question, “What, really, is man’s best friend, a fine dog or a fine motorcycle?” I pondered the advantages and disadvantages of each.
They are similar in that both the Shepherd and the Vincent have a bark and a bite, especially for people who underestimate them or approach them casually. Both will follow your commands . . . most of the time. A dog is loyal, the Vincent not so much (she is a gold-digger who goes to the owner with the biggest wallet.) You don’t have to feed a Vincent (well, in a way you do). You don’t have to follow a Vincent around with a scoop (well, sometimes you do). A couple of fine Shepherds can make more fine Shepherds. You can park two beautiful Vincents in a lonely barn for years, and when you come back there are still only two Vincents. And you can’t train a Vincent to bring you your slippers.
It’s a quandary. I really like them both. To learn more about the people who distributed this fine photo, click here.
There’s a lot for the Harley-loving motohistorian in the March issue of American Iron. Editor Jim Babchak’s “American Iron Classic” feature is about the Harley 45; in general its history dating back to 1929, and specifically about a gorgeous 1945 example owned and painstakingly restored by Dwight Weisz. Part II of Donny Petersen’s “Techline” feature discusses the technical details of Shovelhead models from 1966 through 1985. Matt Olsen devotes his “Vintage Tech” column to early tires and rims. Finally, there is a feature about speedster Denis Manning, and man who has devoted his life to capturing and retaining the ultimate world speed record for motorcycles. It’s out of his grip now, but the article explains how he hopes to change that soon. For more information about American Iron, click here.
As usual, the January/February issue of Motorcycle Classics is chockablock with good stories and photos about classic motorcycles and vintage motorcycle events. “Chockablock” is Brit talk for how Americans might say “jam-packed,” but it seems appropriate since this magazine contains stories about how the Rickman’s made Japanese motorcycles handle, the joy of riding a Vincent Rapide, and a comparison review by Alan Cathcart of a classic Norton and the all-news Norton Commando 961. Continuing the Brit bike theme, the “tomorrow’s classic” feature presents the Royal Enfield Bullet (1952 through ’62), the AJS Model 18/Matchless G80 (1946 through ’66), and the Ariel VH Red Hunter (1832 through ’59). There are also features about the 1953 AJS Model 18S and how to convert your Norton to electronic ignition. But this issue is not all British. There are stories about vintage racing and the Honda 350 Four, introduced in 1972. To subscribe to Motorcycle Classics, click here.
In the March IronWorks, Margie Siegal’s “Seasoned Citizens” feature tells the story of the famous 1971 boat tail Harley-Davidson FX, the bike whose styling customers originally hated but that lived on to forever alter that image of the brand and open a new market niche that would one day become the largest selling niche in the American market. As always, Siegal delves into both technical and cultural aspects of the motorcycle, explaining how it—once its odd “boat tail” was replaced with more orthodox seat and fender—tapped into the desires of a generation that had been turned on to a two-wheeled version of the American dream by the picture “Easy Rider.” This issue also contains an account by Doug Mitchel of the recent Lee Hartung auction, which turned a lifetime of hoarding into a $4 million sale. (To read our account of the Hartung auction, go to Motohistory News & Views 11/15/2011.) To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.
The January issue of the Missouri/Southern Illinois issue of Thunder Roads Magazine contains coverage of a special event about this history of board track racing to took place recently at the Feasting Fox Restaurant in St. Louis. It was an appropriate venue for “Motorcycle Board Track Night” because the restaurant, built in 1913 by brewer Anheuser-Busch, is across the street from what was once known as Priester’s Park, one of America’s early, high-banked board track racing facilities. The evening include large-screen projection of photos and movies dating from 1913 to 1928, plus videos about board track history from Dale Walksler’s “Time Machine,” a project of the Wheels Through Time Museum.” Thunder Roads is distributed free of charge a places where bikers frequent. For more information, click here.
In response to our review of the Reading Motorcycle Club 100th Anniversary history book (see Motohistory News & views 12/4/2011), Rae Tyson writes:
By the way, Ed, I was delighted to see the piece on the new Reading (PA) Motorcycle Club book. I just completed a major story on the history of motorsports in Pennsylvania (for a history magazine) and had an opportunity to work with those guys. I was absolutely impressed with the job they did. Even if you didn't know the club - or the area - the 100th anniversary book represents an impressive documentation. I initially found about the club when I viewed an exhibition at the Berks County Museum on the history of motorsports in the Reading, PA region.
About our linking to various renditions of Vaughn Monroe’s “Black Denim Trousers” (see Motohistory News & Views 12/18/2011), Rick Stambaugh writes:
Your story about Vaughn Monroe (pictured right) in this month’s Moto-History shook a few cobwebs loose with memories of sitting in front of the old "black & white" with my mother and grandmother, watching him sign on with his signature "Racing with the moon." I remembered them thinking that he was quite the "hottie," as the ladies say today!
Interesting to find out what a dedicated motorcyclist he was.