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Motohistory Quiz #100:

We have a winner!
(6/30/2012)

 

This month’s Motohistory Quiz dropped like a fighter with a glass jaw.  Jerry Ficklin, of Sheridan, Indiana, immediately identified it as a Kawasaki W1. 

In 1960, Kawasaki Aircraft acquired an interest in the Meguro motorcycle  company.  Meguro, which was once Japan’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, held a license to copy BSA’s 500cc A7, which it produced as the Model K.

When Kawasaki took over Meguro entirely in 1963, it continued production of the motorcycle, refining it in 1965 with a stronger lower end and better lubrication as the K2.  In 1965, the K2 was increased to 625cc to become the W1.  Styling was improved as well, to appeal to the North American market.

The W1 is commonly thought to be a copy of the 650cc BSA A10.  This is not the case.  In its evolution from the K to the K2 and the W1, a short stroke design was adopted.  The Kawasaki has a bore of 74 mm and a stroke of 72.6 mm, whereas the BSA A10 is a long stroke engine with dimensions of 73 mm x 84 mm, giving the engines different acceleration and running characteristics.  The motorcycle was updated again in 1968 to become the W2 Commander,  then again in 1972 to become the W3.  Production ended in 1975.  By this time, the old British-base design was totally eclipsed for performance by many newer motorcycles, including Kawasaki’s own Mach III and Z1.

These motorcycles have become very desirable collectibles, and good examples are rare.  With their "old school" lines and chrome fenders and tank panels, they are more attractive than many other Japanese  motorcycles of their era.  Or at least this opinion has emerged over time.

The cutaway engine used for our quiz is owned by collector and fine motorcycle  broker Somer Hooker, of Brentwood, Tennessee.

By the way, our hint that it came from a country where they drive on the left side of the road was intended to mislead.  We hoped you would jump to the conclusion that the engine is British (they drive on the left side of the road in Japan also).  But you guys aren't that easily fooled.

Congratulations, Jerry, your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.


David Edwards discusses
communication, the role of print,
and his new magazine,  BikeCraft

(6/30/2012)

MH:  David, I expect our readers are familiar with your long-standing contribution to motorcycle journalism, but just to set the stage, why don’t you give us an overview of your career in the American motorcycle industry?

DE: Well, to borrow from my friend, former Cycle World publisher Jim Hansen, "First, the Earth cooled..."  It wasn't quite that long ago but I was hired at Cycle News in 1983, where I covered AMA flat-track racing, wrote feature stories and, of course, edited local race reports.  The latter should be required training for anybody interested in moto-journalism – it will either make you better or force a quick career rethink!

Eleven months into the Cycle News gig, Allan Girdler from Cycle World called.  They needed a new feature editor, was I interested?  Huh!  I said yes so quickly I didn't even bother to negotiate the salary, which wasn't a whole lot more than News was paying.  In fact, Girdler called me back the next day to say that management had instructed him to sweeten the deal – imagine that, enlightened and generous magazine management concerned with something besides the bottom line! Where are they now?

In 1988 I was promoted to editor-in-chief, a position I held until 2009.  That 21-year run, I'm proud to say, was the longest of any modern motorcycle magazine editor at the time, though Mark Tuttle at Rider has just passed me.  Cycle World is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and I'm equally proud of being part of that magazine for 26 good years.  

MH: The circulation of many magazine titles has fallen significantly in recent years.   People involved in digital communication like to think they are the cause, but I doubt it is that simple.  Can you tell us what has happened and why in the print industry?

DE:  Entire books could be written on that subject!  The rise of digital has certainly impacted print, but magazines themselves have not helped their cause, simply by not re-tailoring their coverage to deal with the new realities of how people get their information.  If we go back to the 1970s when I, like many Baby Boomers, became interested in motorcycles, the monthly magazines were the primary conduit for information.  There was no Internet, no Facebook, no 200-channel, 'round-the-clock cable TV – if motorcycles made it on television at all it was a delayed broadcast of the Ascot TT on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."  So the arrival of a favorite magazine was special, an event, something to be savored, read and re-read, photographs pored over, editorials pondered.

That's not the case anymore.  Between websites, blogs, forums, Instagrams and live or same-day TV programming, now information about new models, the latest race results, coverage of rallies, etc. is almost instantaneous.  A print magazine's lead time, even if the stories are slammed in, means they're 4-6 weeks old by the time the mag hits mailboxes or newsstands.  Riders interested in the new Kawasaki ZX-14, say, have already digested ride reviews, seen dozens of press kit photos in high resolution, watched onboard video and participated in online discussions about the bike – including on a magazine's very own website – by the time print stories show up.  Yet magazines continue to offer traditional coverage of a new bike as if it's "new" news.  No wonder that newsstand sales have dropped by half in the past few years.

MH:  You are certainly aware of the challenge of starting a new magazine in the current climate.  If we’re not getting into trade secrets here, what are you doing that will help you buck the trend?

DE:  BikeCraft has a big advantage in that it isn't strictly a start-up but more of a relaunch and refocus of Barnett's Magazine, which had been around for almost 15 years and already had a structure for printing and distribution.  I also believe that even as the large, we-cover-everything McMotorcycle magazines face challenges, there is room for smaller, well-targeted publications that deal with enthusiastic niche segments.  In BikeCraft's case, we cover custom motorcycles without regard to country of origin, engine type or even style.  Bobber, cafe-racer, street-tracker, chopper, big bucks or dirt cheap, if it's got a good story to tell we're interested.

Another factor in our favor is that custom bikes are one of the few growth areas in motorcycling right now, plus the bikes are attracting that elusive demographic, riders under 35 and in many cases first-time riders.    

MH:  In terms of content, how will BikeCraft bring the reader something different?

DE:  First is our nondenominational coverage – if it's cool, we'll be there with notepads and cameras.  Second, we want to get back to magazines being special again, something to look forward to.  Our list of contributing editors and photographers reads like a Who's Who of American Moto-Journalism, plus the stories will be given the space they need, photos played up big.  Our art director is Elaine Anderson, who for 26 years gave Cycle World its distinctive look.

MH:  How do Motohistory readers subscribe to BikeCraft?

DE:  We do have a website, http://www.bikecraftmagazine.com, but rather than competing with the print product its main goal is to support the magazine, with previews of stories, a Facebook log and a way for readers to sign up.  Go to the home page navigation bar and click on the Subscribe button.

MH: Any closing thoughts about your new venture?

DE:  To me, the history of customs is the history of motorcycling in America. Whether it's a styling trend or a technical innovation, chances are it was tried first by someone in his home garage before a big corporation came along to adopt it. Custom motorcycles are fun, sure, but they're also important.  Our goal is to make BikeCraft the kind of magazine that custom bikes and their builders deserve.

MH:  David, thanks for your time.  I especially like your thought that the history of customs is the history of motorcycling in America.  We wish you the best of luck in your new venture.  I think there will always be a place for print.  At least, I hope so.


Tony Nicosia:
Made fast in Japan

(6/28/2012)

Some say that perception is reality, but this is not always the case.  For example, when you meet championship drag racer Tony Nicosia, you sense a very large presence.  At 75, he has the energy of a 20-year-old and a big smile that fills the room, and it takes a studied look to grasp how really small he is.  Tony is 5’ 4” and never topped 120 pounds in his life.  In his heyday of racing, he had to eat hearty to break a hundred, and he had to fib a little to be accepted into the U.S. Air Force.  It was during his military service, while stationed in Japan, that Nicosia got and grasped the opportunity to become a championship motorcycle racer.  He became a big presence in Japan, and an even bigger presence when he returned to America.  There, he became famous in an era when the Japanese manufacturers came into their stride with street performance machinery like the world had not previously seen.  It was Tony who helped them develop and market some of those awesome machines.  A small man perhaps, but with a very large shadow.

Tony Nicosia, born in Ybor City, Florida in April, 1937, is of Italian stock—the Russottos—who arrived from Sicily in 1901.  His father died when he was two, leaving Uncle Leonard Russotto his male role model.  Uncle Leonard had a repair shop and was willing to work on the foreign motorcycles that were beginning to come onto the scene in the late 1940s.  Tony learned about engines and how to work with his hands.  He also craved a motorcycle of his own, and by age seven was selling newspapers on street corners in downtown Tampa to earn the cost of a bike.  He says with a grin, “I learned pretty quick that if I dressed raggedy, I would get more tips.”

It was clear from the beginning that Tony’s career would not be in academia.  He explains, “I actually got kicked out of kindergarten.  All I wanted to do was play and have a good time, and I refused to come in from the playground.”  He continues, “In grammar school I was held back twice in the first grade.  I was out selling newspapers before dawn, then I would go to school and sleep.  When I wasn’t sleeping, I was talking too much.” 

Having fun was important to Nicosia.  Tony says that at two and a half (pictured above right), when he got a pony ride he knew then he would have rather been astride a motorcycle.   At the age of 7, he told his grandparents, “When I get older I’m going to get a motorcycle and a girl to sit on the back.”  When they questioned why, he explained, “Because that looks like the way to have fun.”

At 14, Tony got his bike, a 1952 Vespa (pictured below left), sold by Sears under the Allstate brand.  He recalls, “My mother had to co-sign for me to buy it, but it was paid for with all my own money.”  It wasn’t long before Tony realized that a scooter has certain limitations, and he soon moved up to a 175cc Sears Allstate (Puch) motorcycle which he immediately began to drag race and hop up with his limited tools and experience.  He relates, “I milled the head for better compression by rubbing it on sandpaper on the sidewalk.”  He adds, “Maybe I shaved it too much.  My friend Joe Ruiz and I rode it all the way to Miami—300 miles—for a scrambles race.  It seized during the race, then it started seizing on the way home.  We would ride it, then push it, all night long.  Finally, near Ft. Myers at about four in the morning, a bread truck heading for Tampa picked us up and let us put the bike in the back with the bread.” 

Nicosia’s formal education ended in the eighth grade.  By then he was working at a gas station and garage, doing brake work and other routine repairs.  He relates, “They must have liked my work, because they made me assistant manager, even though I was still in junior high school.”  In addition, Nicosia had a job delivering bread, which got him up in the middle of the night.  He recalls, “We delivered fresh, out-of-the-oven Cuban and Italian bread to households.  My boss had a Willy Jeep that had those wide flat front fenders.  I sat on the fender, and he would drive along and slide bread across the hood for me to catch.  Then he would slam on the brakes and I would slide off and run and deliver the bread, then run back and hop back on the fender of the moving Jeep.”  After finishing his route, Tony would go to school and sleep at his desk.  He says, “The teacher understood my situation.  She would just let me sleep.  By then they had given up on me.” 

By now Tony had graduated to a Cushman Eagle, a Tiger Cub, and a Mustang.  He laughs as he recalls, “One time my buddies and I rode over to Tampa to attend an AMA Gypsy Tour.  They turned us away.  They said that the Gypsy Tour was canceled because of people like us.  I guess they figured we were the guys who were giving motorcycling a bad name.”

At 17, Tony and his 15-year-old girlfriend Janice ran off to Waycross, Georgia to get married.  However, the police caught up with them before they could tie the knot, and held them in custody until Janice’s father arrived.  Back in Florida, Tony went before the Judge who advised him that he could be charged with statutory rape for taking an underage girl across the state line.  The Judge said, “You have a choice, you can go to jail or go to the service.”  Tony says, “I stood up straight and saluted him!” 

Incidentally, 33 years later, after Tony and Janice had lived through other marriages, Tony returned to Tampa, found her, and they were married and still art to this day, having recently celebrated their 25th anniversary.

The Navy was Nicosia’s choice, but he tried and failed three times to join.  He explains, “I couldn’t make the 105 pound minimum weight.  Finally, the recruiter told me, ‘Look, kid, don’t come back.  Go on over to the Air Force; they’ll take anybody.”  Tony took the advice.  He says, “I drank a lot of water and ate a ton of bananas and went for my Air Force physical and told them I weighed 105.  I tipped the scales at 103, they looked the other way a bit, and signed me up.”

Nicosia volunteered to go to Japan, got orders to go to Iceland, and complained so much that they sent him to Japan.  He says with a grin, “I think I made an enemy.  My roommate was slated for Japan, and they switched us and sent him to Iceland.”  Within days of arriving at Yokota Air Force Base, Tony sneaked off base and went down the street to a pawn shop where he bought a 175cc Japanese Abe-Star  motorcycle on a layaway plan.  He says, every week I would go down the street and give them a little money until I had paid off the $35 tab.” 

Nicosia had no place to keep the motorcycle, so he just leaned it against the fence outside the entrance to the base.  Theft, he recalls, was simply unheard of in post-war Japan.   In not time, he realized the tired little Abe Star would barely top out at 55 mph.  He says, “I was always obsessed with going fast, so I would ride it up a big mountain near the base, the ride back down flat out, and I could get it up to almost 60.  I would lay out, just like Rollie Free did at Bonneville.”  He continues, “I got called in and chewed out for acting like that on public roads, and I was told to go use the scrambles track down at the other end of the base.  I didn’t even know there was such a track, but from then on, if I wasn’t on duty, I was down there from dawn to dusk.”  He adds, “The Abe Star had no power and was a terrible scrambler, but I got my technique worked up so well that I could beat guys who were riding 250s.”

Tony’s next motorcycle was a used 250 single overhead-cam Hosk that he bought from a friend.  Hosk was a state-of-the-art design built by Yamarin, a company that had begun importing Ariels early in the century, then later the German Horex.  In 1949, Yamarin began to build its own motorcycles, branded Hosk and heavily influenced by Horex design.  Hosk were the best high-performance machines on the Japanese market at the time.  Nicosia, as guileless as usual, went to Hosk and asked them to speed tune is motorcycle because he intended to win at Mount Asama, one of the most important races in Japan.  He recalls, “When they quit falling down laughing, they told me the head of racing had gone to lunch, and I would have to go outside and wait.”

Nicosia explains, “A lot of the American service men were very arrogant and rude to the Japanese, always impatient and demanding.  I always tried to be polite and courteous.”  Nicosia sat waiting on the front steps of Hosk headquarters for six hours, and it was getting dark.  Finally, late in the evening, an old man approached, walking with two canes and being helped along by an assistant.  It was old man Yamarin himself, and he asked Tony what he needed.  When he heard the story, he was so impressed with Nicosia’s patience and courtesy, that he ordered his racing department to prep the motorcycle. 

Indeed, Nicosia won a trophy at Mount Asama, and he brought it back to Hosk headquarters and gifted it to them.  Yamarin was dazzled, and gave Nicosia a factory ride, their top of the line 500cc twin.  Tony began to drag race the motorcycle, and he traded his old Hosk for an AJS 7R.  He relates, “I had no idea that the 7R was such an important motorcycle.  I just thought it was beautiful.”  But when he learned more about its purpose and its history, he started road racing the AJS.  He says, “I raced at Hamamatsu, and no one could touch that bike.”  Now, Nicosia was making a name for himself in every aspect of the Japanese motorcycle sport.  He says, “I got quite a bit of respect.  They started calling me Tony San.”

Tony San was also noted for his sartorial style.  Early on, the only riding jacket he had was a flashy black biker jacket with white trim, reminiscent of the garish coat that comedian Andrew Dice Clay would later wear on stage.  Nicosia explains, “I brought it with me from the States.  I bought it at J.C. Penny’s in Tampa. (Nicosia is pictured above right in the fancy jacket, scrambling a street stock Hosk.  Above left, aboard a Japanese Cabdon.  Below right, with accumulated trophies.)

In the Japanese market, Horex and BMW were the big rivals for people who could afford luxurious European motorcycles.  Yamarin, wanting to take advantage of Nicosia’s talent, arranged a match drag race with the BMW distributor, who pulled out all the stops by bringing a works machine and factory mechanics in from Munich.  Clearly, there was a lot at stake, but Tony crashed hard while practicing the day before the big event.  He recalls, they took me back to Hosk and brought in a nurse to patch me up.  Then they took me to a massage parlor and had me worked over so I might not be as stiff and sore the next day.”

He continues, “The mechanics spent the whole night putting the motorcycle back together, and I had a pretty rough night also.  The next morning I was still dizzy, and they wanted to call it off.  I said, ‘No way.  You worked all night to fix that bike, and I am going to ride it!’”  About the race, Tony says, “The BMW guys made a big mistake.  They had some American guy riding who easily topped 200 pounds.  We blew them off every pass, by five or six bike lengths.”  He adds with a smile, “When I won, old man Yamarin shouted and threw both of his canes up in the air.”

By the end of his four-year enlistment, Nicosia was having such a fine time racing motorcycles in Japan that he didn’t want to leave.  He says, “I decided to sign up for a second tour, which would get me a $400 bonus.  But I wanted to buy a Horex Regina 350, which cost $750, so I raised the money by signing up for another six years.”  He continues, “I volunteered to be stationed on a miserable little island of the coast of Korea for seven months.  It was above the 38th parallel, and the Chinese shot mortars at us every night, which fell in the ocean a few miles short of the island.  I guess they just wanted us to know that they knew that we were there.”  In return for volunteering for this duty, the Air Force agreed to return Nicosia to Japan for the remainder of his tour, this time to Tachikawa Airfield. 

At Tachikawa, Nicosia was closer to the epicenter of motorcycle action in Japan.  He was near Toma Tech Raceway and Honda R&D (pictured above, testing a Honda CR250R).  He was also a member of the Tokyo Allstars, an AMA-chartered club with very exclusive rules.  A member had to be one of the seven top American riders in Japan.  Tony was now riding Hondas.  He relates, “I made some aluminum struts for the rear of a CB72, took the seat off of it, and rode it about 40 miles over a very rough road to a drag race in Tokyo.  I beat everybody’s butt.  I beat some of Pops Yoshimura’s bikes, bad!”

By now, Nicosia was licensed to race in international competition, and so he could get as much track time as possible at Toma Tech, he assembled a stable that included a 50cc Tohatsu, a Pointer, a Honda CL 250, and a CB77 305 for the open class.  Honda also gave him a CR110 road racer, which he equipped with knobbies and different handlebars and used for scrambles.  He grins, “Actually, they didn’t give it to me. I think a couple of bottles of Johnny Walker Red and some cigarettes changed hands.” (above right, pictured fourth from left, lined up with several Japanese national champions. Left, scrambling at Toma Tech.)

Tony’s near-decade in Japan finally came to an end in 1965.  By this time, the Japanese manufacturers were in their glory years in the American market.  Nicosia’s reputation among all the companies was so well established that he would have no trouble pursuing a career in the motorcycle industry back in America.  But he had a very hard time leaving Japan behind.  He relates, “At the end of my tour, I had built up three months liberty.  I was at Dover, Delaware where I could hop free flights to Japan, and I spent the whole three months going back to see my friends and race motorcycles.  I was really homesick for Japan.”

Then, the diminutive man, who is almost always talking and smiling, falls silent and looks pensive.  He is looking over a stack of awards and diplomas brought back from Japan (pictured right).  A moment of sadness crosses his face, and he says, “I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten over being homesick for Japan.” 

In America, Nicosia would go on to establish upwards of 200 titles and records in drag racing, road racing, and Bonneville land speed competition.  But this is another story.

 

The 32nd Ibbenbüren

International Motorcycle Rally

(6/25/2012)

By Ralf Kruger

Ibbenbüren, Germany is not only the location of an excellent motorcycle museum but the venue for an annual international motorcycle rally for pre-1939 motorcycles.  Over the weekend of May 25, I visited the 32nd edition of this long established rally (since 1981), organized by AMC Ibbenbüren, to enjoy old motorcycles in action.

Great weather greeted attendees and guests, which seems to have become one pleasant trademarks of the meeting.  Riders from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Holland, and Switzerland found their way to Ibbenbüren and were officially welcomed with a flag parade in the old track and field stadium on Saturday morning (pictured below right).  

About 300 participants congregated on the cinder track in theprestart area to be individually introduced to the public by moderator Wolfgang Prause (pictured below left). Then, they were sent on their way to execute their first task: A 40 kilometer (26 mile) circuit ride on rural, small roads, interrupted only by a lunch break on the old marketplace of Ibbenbüren,where the locals could gaze at the diverse and amazing scene of ancient motorcycles (pictured below right).

While 40 kilometers may not seem like much of a challenge for bikes built after, say 1910, I have to admit I was a little concerned about the capabilities of the oldest bikes, dating back to as early as 1903.  But to my and the owners' satisfaction, all riders returned within the time limitallowed.

The afternoon was used for the next competition which was a timed evenness-run. In this event, riders circle the cinder track two laps at a self-determined speed.  They are compared for variation in their times, and the one with the smallestvariation from declared speed is the contest winner.  Here, you could see many motorcycles in action that had not participated in the 40-kilomoter road run. 

There were two Czech-made Laurin & Klement motorcycles from 1903 (pictured left) and a 1904, a 1902 French Clement (below right), a French 1903 Peugeot (below left). a 1906 British CoventryEagle (below right),and many more.  What a spectacle they made!

Of course, such a meeting is not only about riding and competition, but for "talking gasoline" as well.  Many attendees knew each other from other meetings, and the "newbies" are greeted with gladness and great delight. 

I, as a newbie to this event, learned a lot of details about rare motorcycles from the past.  Their owners were always willing to share knowledge and tell stories with a proud grin on their face.  A fabulous day ended when the sun set, but it seems there was stillburnt a lot of midnight oil among participants, with a few small parties going on for hours.

Sunday came with a new challenge for the riders.   This was the main 100 kilometer (62 miles) ride through the countryside south of Ibbenbüren, along the lovely river Ems for about 15 kilometers (9.4miles).   After a lunch break in Hembergen, which brought a pause for one and a half hours, the next meeting point was the Ibbenbüren Motorcycle Museum.

From the Museum (pictured below left), it was not far to the finish, just 4 kilometers (2.7miles) back to the old sport stadium in Ibbenbüren.  As I expected, the layout of the course was well planned.  In part, it ran on roads closed to public traffic so the eiders could enjoy every mile of thecourse without worrying about the presence of modern, faster vehicles. 

The event yielded many surprises and interesting discoveries.  For example, at this event on German soil, I saw more British boxer twins than BMWs!  There was a "nest" of eight beautiful British Douglas motorcycles, all brought by our friends from Holland.  Four of them were quite early models built between 1912 and 1914!  A 1914 Lady's model (pictured below right) especially caught my attention.  It is rolling proof that William and Edward Douglas were not only collecting Isle of Man TT Replicas for their Bristol-based firm, but that they had a serious interest in promoting greater participation among female motorcyclists in what was widely regarded a man’s activity.  This was quite a bold move when you consider that the Victorian era had ended only a decade before.

Another amazing sight was a "midget" boxer four-stroke engine –this one a product from Berlin-Neuköln, Germany – mounted in a Wanderer bicycle (pictured left). This 126cc auxiliary engine (40 x 50mm) was built from 1921 to 1924 by Lorenz/Wittig & Co.  It was an excessively complex design that was killed by high manufacturing costs and the after-effects of hyper inflation in 1923. It must have been a dream-engine for the "upgraded" bicyclist, providing the famous Douglas layout in a Lilliputian format!  Can you imagine such a fantastic design of a machine for propelling bicyclists in 1921?  Like the "original," it had cam-actuated intake-over-exhaust valve configuration (pictured right).  In addition, it had aluminum pistons (how “cool” is that?) and delivered a healthy 1.2 hp @ 3000 rpm.

Among the oldest machines participating in the Ibbenbüren contest (of at least 14 pre-1910 motorocycles) was a German 1905 Progress (pictured below left and below right).  This manufacturer wasamong the first brands which would form as early as 1900 a fledgling industry in Berlin and the surrounding state Brandenburg.

Progress, from Charlottenburg, was founded in 1900 by Paul Schauer (1870 - 1958).  Schauer was a designer and patent holder of many innovative designs.  He was a motorcycle racer and a companion of Otto Lilienthal (1848 - 1896), and was also founder of Cyklon motor works in 1901.  In a nutshell, he was one of the most influential and important designers in Germany at the turn of the 20th century.  Progress used self-designed engines from the beginning of the marque's existence, launching their first four-stroke single-cylinder model presumably in 1901.

As the brand's name implies, some technical specifications were special. One of these improvements was a slightly refined surface evaporating carburetor. This feels strange in a way because the spray carburetor had already been invented.  One advantage of the surface carb was that different fuels could be used without changing jets.   Additionally, there was no need for cleaning clogged jets.

The other improvement was the early use of a low-current magneto in place of the often unreliable battery for ignition.  The bad news is that Progress used "current collapse" ignition which required a special circuit breaker mechanism installed within the combustion chamber rather than a conventional sparkplug (otherwise, you would need a high current magneto to make the current jump the Sparkplug's gap, or a battery/coil ignition).  Of course, this was still an improvement over previous designs, such as "hot tube" ignition.

 

The 1905 3-horsepower Progress in attendance had been modified.  The owner has changed the ignition to a high current magneto in combination with a sparkplug and a spray carburetor, enabling him to ride his extremely rare motorcycle on a practical basis. Just the change of the surface evaporating carburetor to the spray type made the bike much moresafe to operate.  With the original surface  carb, a backfiring engine can create a fire quite easily. 

The engine of this pretty machine is a three horsepower, 352cc single cylinder four-stroke with an external flywheel and IOE valve configuration.  Another special design element is its cast iron crankcase.  The reason for this was that in early models up to 1903, the crank ran directly in the drill holes of the grey iron cases, without bushings.  After 1904, Progress altered the cases to contain brass bushings.

Progress earned fame for becoming the first German manufacturer to design a parallel  twin, introduced in 1905 simultaneously with Opel’s new parallel twin.  These motorcycles enriched the customers' choice, which had been dominated by V-twins in the large capacity class.  Sadly, no Progress twin is known to have survived. 

Two seldom-seen machines from France—Lurquin & Coudert motorcycles—were on hand at Ibbenbüren (pictured aboveleft).  I am fortunate enough to have seen one in the Moto Museum Amneville, France last summer (see Motohistory News & Views 9/26/2011), but to see and hear --put,put,put -- two of them running down the track can hardly be beaten.  This was an overwhelming experience.

Lurquin & Coudert was established in Paris in 1899.  Like so many manufacturers in France, Lurquin & Coudert tried to promote their bikes by attending races.  It is known that Mr. Coudert tried personally to win contests.  He was among the most well-known riders in the still young sport at the time, so it is no wonder that the firm offered special racing machines in its line.

The 1904 bike (pictured above right), which took part in Saturday's 26-miles run as well as Sunday’s 62-mile ride, was a touring model, of course.  Its engine, a 210cc four-stroke single, featured typical IOE design with an automatic inlet valve (pictured above left). At idle, it ran very smoothly without shaking the bike, which had a bicycle-type frame and could not have weighed more than 100 pounds.  Also, it purred along happily on the track and apparently the owner had a lot of fun riding it!

The second Lurquin & Coudert motorcycle was a 1906 (pictured right). It also had a small capacity engine of about 200cc (pictured below right).  But its magneto in front of the crankcase disclosed the bike to be younger than the battery/total loss type from 1904. This reveals how rapidly technical developmentwent on.

Another modern feature was the sprung front fork.  It is the French type of pendulum fork, which looks a bit adventuresome to me.   But at least it was a pioneering effort to create some comfort to motorcycling.  And take a look at that Zeppelin-shaped tank, which gives me the impression that it was a sport bike.

The reader will forgive me if I can't describe the other 395 very interesting motorcycles I saw in Ibbenbüren.  I don’t even have space to list their names here, but there is one more on which I would like to elaborate. 

All present got to witness the "re-launch" of a circa 1923 Satorius (pictured right). Originally designed and built by Paul Schubert from Bunzlau, Slesia (Boleslawiec, Poland today), its current owner did a tremendous job in getting it on the road again.  This took him ten years of research into this unique motorcycle.  As it seems that no other Satorius has survived, he could not compare his existing fragment with other motorcycles of the same type.  So he was on his own to rebuilt it, but the result is simply stunning.

The little Satorius is propelled by a 57mm x 70mm, 178cc two-stroke single with a flanged two-speed transmission and clutch next to the crankcase on the right side. The cylinder features the typical three-port layout of the time, controlled by a deflection-type, cast iron piston.  The head is detachable, which is quite unusual for the era.  The motor is fed by a 20mm Einhorn barrel-type carburetor and delivers a power output of 2.75 hp.  Ignition is by a flywheel magneto.  The crank is supported by ball/roller type bearings; only the piston pin is pivoted in a bushing.  So, it is a very modern layout for a 1920s motorcycle, especially for a "low cost" lightweight class motorcycle.

Even more interesting are the smoothly cast and accurate fitting cases, as are the evenly spaced cylinder fins as well.  No projecting excess material or even displaced joints can be seen.  There is speculation that it may have been built by an experienced engine manufacturer as a special order for the Satorius works. Additional questions about the origin of this engine arise from the fact that all threads are not metric, but imperial!  This is very unusual for a German motorcycle. So there is still a lot to find out about this lovely lightweight motorcycle.

When I pushed the starter button of my modern motorcycle to leave the scene and return home, a lot of thoughts swirled through my head.  Even if our today’s motorcycles are incomparably more powerful, reliable, and comfortable, motorcyclists of former times will have not missed anything.  Even the most primitive and pathetic bike creates an aura of challenge, adventure, and freedom. At least once it is running.  These are the thoughts that justified my visit to this wonderful event at Ibbenbüren event.  And I can tell you I will not have been the last time.

 

Im Geiste von MZ
(6/22/2012)

Ninety years ago, motorcycle production began for DKW in Zschopau, Germany.  When World War II split Germany in two, Zschopau fell into the Eastern Sector, after which motorcycle production carried on with the MZ

(Maschinenfabrik Zschopau) brand.  With limited resources and a small budget, MZ made a name for itself in both off-road and road racing.  In the mean time, it produced more than two million motorcycles  for citizens of the DDR and other communist countries.

By breaking new ground with two-stroke technology, MZ established itself as a rival against the mighty Czechs and their Jawas at the ISDT, and against Japanese and Western powers on Europe’s road courses.  MZ went the way of communist East Germany, but pride in regional tradition remains strong in Zschopau, now the home of a new German brand conceived in the spirit of MZ.

ZP Moto has been formed is Zschopau by five local engineers, some of which came from MZ.  At a German vinduro event this month, they unveiled their new ZPsport 499.  Its spiritual roots are clearly depicted in its retro styling; note the white tank pane on blackl, the red seat, that large, angular exhaust system, and the Zschopau coat of arms, clearly reminiscent of the ISDT MZs of the 1970s.  But its technology is not retro.  Built around an overhead cam single supplied by Gas Gas, it features a frame, bodywork, and cycle parts that are all built in Zschopau and its region, Saxony. It will be a hand-crafted, limited production motorcycle, available to customers this coming October.  Full production, as of 2013, is projected at only 50 machines a year.

To access the ZP web site, click here .

Photos provided by Ralf Kruger. 

 


(6/20/2012)

July 5 through 9, the Wheels Through Time Museum is celebrating its tenth year in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.  The Museum relocated to North Carolina from Mount Vernon, Illinois in 2002.  It has grown significantly over the past decade, now showing more than 300 motorcycles.  Seventh-five percent of them are in original condition, and 98 percent are maintained in running order.

Former Cycle World Editor-in-Chief David Edwards has launched a new magazine entitled BikeCraft Magazine

Last month we reported on the 13th Riding Into History Concours d'Elegance (see Motohistory News & Views 5/21/2012).  There is an excellent story about this event in the latest "Ourpost," newsletter of the BMW Outriders.  It is also available on the BMW Outriders web site. 

July 14 the Harley-Davidson Mueseum will host its Wild Ones Weekend, a 1940s-type motorcycle rally that will include the annual reunion and vintage bike show of the Knucklehead Motorcycle Club.

Peter Starr’s famous “Bad Rock” movie has been re-released and is available on DVD from Strictly Hodaka for $19.95 plus $6.50 shipping and handling (overseas shipping is $12.50). 

The people at McKee’s Sky Ranch promise there will be something for everyone over the weekend of July 26 through 29.  Activities will include a dual-sport adventure ride, a rally for street bikes. Two AHRMA nationals, a swap meet, and a vintage bike show.  Plus, there’s the gorgeous scenery in and around Terra Alta, West Virginia.  For more information, click here. 

Harley VL guru Steve Slocombe has assembled five recreations of 1936 VLH California Highway Patrol police models.  His dream was to recreate a film about the motorcycles produced in late 1935.  For this film, he wanted them to all run 100 mph, and for that purpose he shipped them to Maggie Valley, North Caroling where Dale Walksler and his crew could lay hands on them.  Before finishing the engine work, however, he entered each of them in AMCA judging where they all earned more than 90 points.  You can find the whole fascinating story on the Wheels Through Time Museum web site. 

The National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa has opened its new exhibit about the history of drag racing.  With sponsorship from a major national insurance company, it is entitled the "Allstate Insurance Motorcycle Quarter Milestones".   It will run through May 2013

Steve Posson, sculptor of the Glory Days bronze statue at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, is currently completing a similar treatment of Shrimp Burns aboard an eight-valve Indian.  Number One in the series of ten is priced at $70,000.  For more information, contact Todd Rafferty at the MotoJones Gallery

We think you’ll find fascinating Earlymotor.com, an e-zine out of Adelaide, Australia.

Worn to be Wild,” an exhibit about the black leather jacket, the uniform of rebellion, is running June 16 through September 3 at the Harley-Davidson Museum.  Curator Jim Fricke will host a discuss on the evening of July 19.  Tickets for $15 for Museum members and $20 for just plain people.  Go to the Museum’s web site for more information.

The Vintage Motorcycle Alliance, LLC has announced that the 2nd International Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet and Bike Show will be held March 8 and 9, 2013 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Eustis, Florida.  For more information and photos of last year’s inaugural event, click here.

Isn’t new Crocker an oxymoron?

Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, and Ed  Kretz, Jr. will  be in Sturgis to help Polaris re-launch the Indian brand.

Eleven brand new, still crated 1975 Nortons have been found in Belgium.  Read more about it at the Motorcycle Classics web site

July 21 and 22 are the dates for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.  If the racing is as good as their graphics, it’s going to be a hell of a weekend.  

A collection of 30 motorcycles that have hung as adornment from the Eddie Rickenbacher Restaurant will go to auction on August 16 at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California. Bonhams has got the gavel.

It has been 25 years this month since Harley-Davidson went public on the New York Stock Exchange

Photohistory by Tom Mueller

Our photo this month, taken from Tom Mueller’s Retro Motocross Blog, is from the early 1980s. 

Mueller writes, “I was an editor at Cycle News East.   We had a test bike from the Montesa importer; I think it was a 360cc Open class bike.  What makes this photo interesting is that the test rider is none other than motocross legend Barry Higgins.  Barry was excellent at coming out and thrashing our test bikes in photo sessions.  I think this shoot produced a cover.  The bike was eventually awarded to Marvin McDaniel, a top regional pro from the Atlanta area.  Marvin and his crew (i.e. his brothers) worked over the bike with some modifications but could never get it to perform as required. . . so the Montesa went back to the importer and Marvin when back to his Yamaha YZ.”

 

Three new exhibits open
for National Motorcycle Museum
Vintage Rally 2012

Text and photos provided by
the National Motorcycle Museum
(6/15/2012)
  

Jam-packed with great things to do, Vintage Rally 2012 at the National Motorcycle Museum was a great motorcycle history experience for all.  Dirt trackers Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, and Dick Klamfoth (pictured right) entertained the crowds and signed free posters.  And the new “Allstate Motorcycle Quarter MileStones” exhibit opened, offering a look into drag racing's fascinating history.  Tator Gilmore and Ray Price stunned the crowds with a top fuel drag bike fire up.  Nitro fumes, thumping exhaust pressure, and thunder blasted from their monstrous V-Twin bikes.  The new popular culture feature exhibit “Then Came Bronson” opened, and Bronson devotees paid homage on their replica Sportsters.

 

The Vintage Rally bike show had everything from a rare early 1960s Ducati Elite 200 to a well polished Vetter Hurricane.  There was a tremendous array of other British bikes from the 1960s, a couple of classic choppers, and even some "bacon slicer" Moto Guzzis (pictured left). When the judges completed their difficult work, the Motorcycle Classics Magazine-sponsored Best in Show award went to a superb and well documented 1938 Triumph Speed Twin (pictured below right) owned by Randy Baxter of Baxter Cycle in Marne, Iowa.  Baxter also took home a copy of ACE Times, the story of the Ace Cafe in London, England.  The Cafe Racer class was won by Jim Cutting with his exceptional 1960s Triumph cafe racer. Jim was also honored as the writer, producer, and director of the Hogslayer documentary film.

 

Swap Meet vendors offered vintage and antique motorcycle parts, collectibles, and books and magazines, old and new.  S&S Cycle had a big display of their Flathead Power vintage parts and engines, and a very correct Harley-Davidson WLA featuring accurate reproduction parts from the S&S Cycle Flat Head Power line.

 

Nearly three dozen Motor Maids made the journey to Vintage Rally, with six of them sitting down for interviews and sharing fascinating stories of being on the road. 

  

We all remember the late 1960s television series Then Came Bronson, based on a portion of the life of Birney Jarvis.  Fans of the popular Bronson series made a strong showing at Vintage Rally 2012 (pictured below left) with seven fine replicas of Bronson's Sportster, one of the Harley Sprint producers used for off-road scenes, and a lot of great memorabilia as well. Inside the NationalMotorcycle Museum, a new exhibit on Then Came Bronson opened through the loan of memorabilia and information from series enthusiasts like Bill Weder.  Coincidentally, but sadly, Birney Jarvis, the man whose life the series was based on, died at his home during Vintage Rally. 

 

Museums are educational in mission and a panel discussion of experts led by northeast Ohio collector Ed Vanaman gave visitors some new information on motorcycle and memorabilia collecting.  Topics included how to avoid bogus motorcycles, what's hot now, what are the "sleepers," which models are most significant, and information on cataloging, insuring, and caring for your collection.  

 

The new documentary motion picture Hogslayer is a fascinating story about how T.C. Christensen and John Gregory teamed up to build a world beating  double-engined Norton drag bike. Jim Cutting, the producer and director of the film was on hand to introduce the film in the Museum's new theater space created in the Hall of fame.

 

Wrapping up the weekend was a vintage bike ride through the picturesque hills of east-central Iowa.  The route, laid out by Museum Director Jeff Carstensen, included curvy roads, a couple of tire kicking breaks, and a  great brunch at Teddie's Barn & Grill. Some modern bike riders brought up the tail end of the ride; they couldn't resist the opportunity to check out the roads and scenery and chase vintage machines out on the open road.

 

For more information about the National Motorcycle Museum, click here

 

Steel Ponies ride

at the Eiteljorg
(6/12/2012)

Continuing through August 5, “Steel Ponies,” at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana, explores the art, history, and cultures that have developed around the motorcycle.  The exhibit, covering 5,500 square feet of gallery space, features more than 20 motorcycles, each with a unique story illustrating the rich subcultures that have sprung out of motorcycling in America.

The exhibit provides a mix of stories about how the mobility of the motorcycle influenced the history of the American West, and a presentation of custom motorcycles built on Western and Native American themes.  In this way, it treats the motorcycle as both a cultural driver and a reflection of the culture it has influenced.   

 

Steel Ponies features Evel Knievel’s bike he used in many of his famous jumps, a chopper featured on the show American Chopper made for the Chippewa Nation, and several other custom bikes.  One is gorgeously trimmed in hand-tooled silver, like that seen on Western show saddles.

The exhibit depicts that the spirit of the West seems to be perfectly embodied in the motorcycle, representing the lure of the open road, freedom, and individual expression.  Steel Ponies, like the horses before them, are conveyances to adventure and achievement.

The exhibit has pulled together the best of the best, including rare motorcycles on loan from the Harley-Davidson Museum, Wheels Through Time, the National Motorcycle Museum, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and the Smithsonian.  Focused spot and flood lighting in an otherwise subdued environment makes the exhibits pop and emphasizes the excellent use of giant graphics. 

In addition to its exhibits, the Steel Ponies program has included a series of special events including a bike builders day, a motorcycle art day, and a motorcycle history day.  Upcoming are a ride-in motorcycle show on July 14 and a fund-raising for the Gleaners Food Bank on July 21.

For more information about the Eiteljorg Museum, click here

 

Les Archer writes

from the Imola Reunion

By Les Archer
(6/10/2012)

 

I’ve just returned from an amazing weekend, full of memories, at the Imola Moto Cross Grand Prix circuit where we raced 1948 to 1965.  Who would have thought that some fifty years after riding in my first Grand Prix there I would  be invited back to meet so many old friends and relive those wonderful times.   Indeed, only the Italians can show such enthusiasm for their racing heritage, so those who were able to accept their kind invitation were able to enjoy an incredible reunion and also to remember so many dear friends that we have lost along the way.

 

An excellent collection of old machines were on show together with several hundred historical photos (pictured below right).  Official receptions in the town were memorable, as were other organized attractions. 

Sweden was well represented by Bill Nilsson, Sten Lundin, Gunnar Johansson, and of course Rolf Tibblin, who they brought all the way from Shri Lanka.  Who else but Jeff Smith should lead the UK contingent, with Don and Derek Rickman plus myself, who at 83, now always seems to be the oldest on parade (pictured below left).   They even got me to ride a Gilera!!!   Albert Courajeod from Switzerland and Carlo Molinari from France joined with many Italian riders led by the famous Omileo Osterero.

 

An amazing collection of action photos covered all these years, so who could forget riders like Auguste Mingels and his FN team rider Victor Leloup?  Also, Harold Lines and Basil Hall, with Bill Nicholsen, Eric Cheney, Phil Nex, John Draper, and so many others together, with of course Harold Taylor who as 'Colonel' led many teams to the Moto Cross des Nations. 

 

I feel unable to do justice in words to such a gathering, but hope the photos might help in some small way to indicate the amazing warmth of our reception in Imola that ran from May 24 through 27.

Finally, I must recommend the amazing book called  "Imola Mondiale 1948-1965,” by Luciano Costa and Piero Mita, which gives in English as well as Italian the full detail of this amazing period in moto cross history. 

 

We cannot thank Luciano and his Team enough for all the hard work.

Editor’s Note: To read more at Terry Good’s MXWorksbike.com, click here. 

 


(6/5/2012)

"How to Restore Large Frame Vespa Scooters," by Mark Paxton, has just been released by Veloce Publishing.   This book, aimed at the do-it-yourself enthusiast, investigates the reality of Vespa restoration in detail.  It is a step-by-step guide to complete renovation of your beloved Vespa, and features more than a thousand photos to facilitate your understanding of the task.  It covers two-stroke models for 1959 through 2005.  It is 160 pages in soft cover and retails for $49.95 or £24.99.  It is available now in the UK and will appear in the United States in August.

VMX has just published its 50th issue.  This is a significant accomplishment for any magazine that reaches a relatively small audience and survives on sheer quality andreadability.  Issue #50 features a 1974 ½ Maico GP440 on the cover, the first model where Maico changed rear suspension geometry by moving its shocks forward.  Other classic mounts covered in this issue include the 500cc four-stroke JCR Yamaha, one of only five built by Hollander Jan Nijhuys; Suzuki and Honda specials by Moto-X Fox, the TY250 Yamaha trials bike, the 1981 175cc SWM TF3, Vic Eastwood’s works CCM, and more.  There is a tribute to the Husqvarna 450 Desert Master, and a feature about Australian star Anthony Gunter.  And to celebrate its milestone, VMX has included a tear-Junout 50th Anniversary poster.  To subscribe to VMX, click here.   

The June issue of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Magazine contains restoration stories about a Honda CB750F2, a Kawasaki W2SS, and a Honda CT90.  There are also stories about meets and rallies, recent and upcoming.  On the technical side, there is advice on how to maintain your electrical system.  As always, there are lots of classified ads.  This magazine is not available on the newsstand.  It is a benefit of membership in the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club.  To learn more and to join, click here.

TheJuly issue of American Motorcyclist, official publication of the American Motorcyclist Association, contains items of interest to the motohistorian.  Its cover story is about the quest of Don Emde and Joe Colombero to rediscover Cannonball Baker’s transcontinental record route, then recreate that ride in 2014. (To read our interview with Emde about this project, go to Motohistory News & Views 6/24/2011.)  It’s an eight-page treatment with excellent graphics.  There are also Hall of Fame features about Scot Harden and Russ Collins.  American Motorcyclist is not found on newsstands.  It is a benefit of membership in the AMA.  To learn more, click here

The August issue of IronWorks contains an article by Margie Siegal about the Fourth Annual Quail Gathering.  Her “Seasoned Citizens” feature this time is about a 1911 Pope Single that was converted from a barn find to an exquisite gem by collector Don Behrens.  In discussing the motorcycle, Siegal traces the up and down business history of Colonel Albert Pope, builder of both motorcycles and automobiles.  Photography by Gary Phelps does justice to the gorgeous motorcycle.  My column this month is about Lenny Bauer, a man who attempted to set a cross-country record, but fell short.  Why write about a guy who didn’t make it?  It’s about the dream, not the results.  To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.

The Spring issue of Ride With Us!, the official magazine of the International Motorcycling Federation, contains a comprehensive history of the short-lived Formula 750 road racing program – 1973 through 1979 – penned by FIM archivist Marc Petrier.  The recount of each round in the seven-year period is useful history, but even better is Petrier’s placement of the series in its historical context.  He discusses the impact of Yamaha’s fine reading of the rules in the creation of its dominant TZ750, but also points out that surrounding the series was an era of large two-strokes that was equally brief.  Also in this issue is an excellent and inspirational story about Riders for Health, the international  charity co-founded by Randy Mamola nearly 25 years ago.  The quality of this magazine is excellent; an apt voice for the comprehensive and professional organization that the FIM has become.  For more information, click here.  

There is a lot in the August issue of American Iron for a motohistorian to enjoy.  Editor Jim Babchak’s column is an interesting history of Harley-Davidson paint and the art of color-matching for restoration purposes.  Cris Sommer Simmons provides a feature, with excellent historical photos, about the Motor Maids, America’s oldest all-women’s riding group.  Publisher Buzz Kanter offers Part V in his project to build a 1929 JDH for the 2012 Cannonball Coast-to-Coast Ride.  Dain Gingerelli tells the story of how Mike Tomas at Kiwi Indian built a 1945 Indian Chief U.S. Coast Guard tribute bike for this year’s Rolling Thunder gathering.  Truth is, as far as anyone knows, the Coast Guard never used motorcycles, but the idea was to display tribute motorcycles representing all five of the armed services.  Too bad they didn’t, because that red diagonal stripe on the white tank looks damned good!  Jim Babchak devotes his “American Iron Classic” feature to a hopped-up ’65 Cushman Eagle.  For more information about American Iron, click here