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Motohistory Quiz #99:
We have a winner!
(5/31/2012)

Turns out, Motohistory Quiz #99 was like shooting Koi in a barrel.  We quickly got a dozen answers identifying the motorcycle as a Rikuo—the “Japanese Harley”—and not a single incorrect answer.  The first reader with the correct answer was Charles Lecach from Nice, France.

Alfred Rich Child was an independent businessman who became an exclusive agent for Harley-Davidson in the Orient in 1923.  He developed a good business for Harley-Davidson in Japan, selling the big Milwaukee twins mostly for military, police, and escort duty.   That business began to erode with the arrival of worldwide depression and buildup for war in the late 1920s.  With devaluation of the yen in 1929, the price of a Harley-Davidson shot up to ¥1,890, which was the equivalent of almost two years of a working man’s wage (about ¥90 a month).

By 1932, Harely-Davidson had plenty of problems in its home market as well.  Annual sales were down to about 4,000 units, which could be easily fulfilled with a shortened work week.  The assembly line was often idled, a lot of tooling sat unused on the shelf, and it was clear that the Japanese market was playing out.

Child’s proposed solution was to sell H-D tooling to a Japanese company, and license it to build Harley-Davidsons in Japan.  These would not be knock-offs.  They would be motorcycles built from actual Harley-Davidson patterns, plans, and tooling.  It is reported that Walter Davidson was appalled by the idea, but it made a lot of sense under the dire economic circumstances.

A deal was struck with Sankyo Seiyako, a pharmaceutical company, which created Sankyo Nainenki (Sankyo Motors) for the purpose of building motorcycles.  The Japanese Harley was named “Rikuo,” which literally means “Land King,” which can be understood to mean “King of the Road.”  The licensing agreement was for three years, during which Harley-Davidson earned about $30,000.

When the licensing agreement expired in 1936, the company Rikuo Nainenki was created to continue building motorcycles, whether Harley-Davidson liked it or not (By the way, Ford, GM, and Chrysler suffered the same treatment at the hands of the Japanese).  Child’s credentials as a foreign business agent were revoked and he returned to the States in 1937.  Originally built in 750cc capacity, subsequent Rikuos were available in 1,000 and 1,200cc capacities.  Rikuos were produced in military trim during the War, as solo and wheel-driven sidecar bikes.  It is estimated that between 1937 and 1942, 18,000 Rikuos were built. 

After World War II, Rikuo continued production.  Interestingly, as Harley-Davidson styling evolved, Rikuo aped those styling changes, sometimes awkwardly.  With somewhat gentler curves and more bulbous shapes, by the end of the 1950s, the Rikuo still looked like a Harley-Davidson, but more of a cartoon Harley-Davidson.  

With Honda entering the American market in 1959 and a stronger consolidated Japanese industry holding high hopes for worldwide sales of modern, well-built, small motorcycles, the Rikuo was indeed a dinosaur from the past.  Its production ceased in 1962.

In America, you can see examples of the Rikuo at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum  in  Birmingham, Alabama, and the National Motorcycle Museum  in Anamosa, Iowa.  The photos used here are of the Rikuo at the National Motorcycle Museum.

Congratulations, Charles, your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma and your Roeder/Rall Rivalry poster are on the way.

 

Dennis Craig:
Dedicated to the cause

(5/29/2010)

Anyone who visits the Craig abode near Lakeland, Florida could get the idea that he likes gardening, Indians, and Studebakers.  They would be right.  Having relocated to the Sunshine state after more than 50 years in New Jersey, Dennis has outfitted a shop to carry on his restoration projects, and after only one season he and his wife Sandy are gleaning most of their vegetables from their own property.  And he seems blissfully happy with his new base of operations from which he can continue his long years of service to the antique motorcycle community.

Born in 1953 in Orange, New Jersey, Dennis Craig (pictured above left) claims he cannot remember when he was not a motorhead.  He relates, “I always liked motorcycles.  I built a couple of minibikes when I was a kid, but it was a long time before I owned a big road-going motorcycle.”  Craig explains that his love of engines and fast vehicles was channeled first toward cars, thanks largely to the influence of his brother.  He relates, “Joseph, my brother, was nine years older, and was into drag racing.  He was my hero, so I naturally followed him by putting my efforts into fast cars.” 

But as Craig matured, drag racing lost its edge for him.  He says, “It actually got boring.  You put a lot of work into a car, and you can take it out for a couple of passes a couple of times a week.  The enjoyment is pretty short-lived.”  He continues, “Looking for a new interest, at 21, I bought a Harley-Davidson Sportster.”  With a laugh, he adds, “And it’s been downhill ever since.” 

Craig credits motorcycles with shaping his life.  “Motorcycling is seven days a week.  Not only do you enjoy the bike, but you meet people.  Motorcycling ties everything together, and it leads to lifelong friendships.”  In Craig’s case, one such is his wife Sandy.  Ironically, they had attended the same high school in the same graduating class, but had never met each other until later, when the connection came through someone who knew someone who knew someone, all of whom rode motorcycles.

Craig became a certified automatic transmission mechanic, and landed a job at a shop in Fairfield, New Jersey.  “My boss, Russ Fisher,” he explains, “was an antique vehicle collector.  He bought a bunch of vehicles from an estate sale, and it included a 1946 Indian Chief.”  Fisher had little interest in the Chief, but Dennis could not take his eyes off of it.  He recalls, “It sat around the shop, and I was simply mesmerized by it.  I had to have one.”  Craig bought a ’48 basket case and spent three years putting it together. 

Reinforcing his point about the social influence of motorcycles, he says, “Through that bike I met my lifelong friend Bob Courboin, and that led to meeting other old bike owners all over northern New Jersey.”

He continues, “Most of our group had Pans, Knuckles, and Indians.  I guess we weren’t collectors in the strict sense of the word, because we rode our old bikes.  We rode them a lot.”  In 1976, the group rode together to an Antique Motorcycle Club of America national meet in Fort Mott, New Jersey, and decided they should form a club and see what it would take to organize an antique meet in North Jersey.  The Tank-Shifters Motorcycle Club was formed in 1977. 

In 1982, they applied for and received a charter from the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, becoming the Colonial Chapter of the AMCA.  Dennis served six terms  as chapter President for a total of 12 years, and Sandy was editor of the “Kicker,” the chapter’s newsletter, for 11 years.  The Colonial Chapter earned the right to host an AMCA national meet in 1984, and continued for 24 years, until it joined with the Hudson Valley, Big Sandbar, Yankee, and Seaboard chapters to form the Rhinebeck Supermeet Coalition in 2008.

Then-AMCA President Dr. Earl Chalfant was mightily impressed with how the young Colonial Chapter organized its national meet, and at one public gathering declared it a model that all AMCA meets should emulate.   Some of the club’s national leaders urged Craig to submit his name for consideration for the national board of directors, and in 1985 he was elected to the board.  By virtue of the reputation the Colonial Chapter had established as a meet organizer, Craig was named AMCA National Meet Coordinator, in charge of scheduling and compliance with the clubs rules and standards.  He held the post for 16 years, served a time as International Coordinator, then in 2002 was elected AMCA Treasurer.

In the mean time, he was developing his own collection of gorgeous Indians.  Today he owns a ’38, ’48, ’51, and ’53 Chiefs, a 1940 Four, a 1913 Thor, and an original ’37 Harley Knucklehead.  All of the Indians (pictured above right) have earned AMCA “Winner’s Circle” status, and several of them have appeared in leading museum exhibits, including the Guggenheim’s The Art of the Motorcycle Exhibition.  

Craig also has a complete and all-original 1965 Harley-Davidson Panhead, a 1954 Studebaker Starlight Coupe (pictured below right), and a 1963 Avanti R2 with Paxton supercharger (pictured above left).  He explains, “I have a soft spot for Studebakers.  My father always drove Studebakers.  I bought the ‘54 to build a sleeper street rod, but it was so good, I decided to keep it original.”  Now, thanks to Florida’s car-friendly weather, he frequently uses it as a daily driver.  The Avanti’s restoration is complete except for paint and some interior work.  Craig says with a smile, “I take it out around the neighborhood just to listen to the supercharger.”

In cataloging the Craig family’s fine antique vehicles, we would be remiss to not also mention Sandy’s 1968 Dart GT convertible.  Dennis readily warns visitors to the Craig homestead, “Don’t call that my Dart!  That’s Sandy’s and she’ll be the first to set you straight.  She loves that car and she’s a bit of a hot rodder when she gets behind the wheel.”

For both bike and car restorations, there is very little Craig cannot do or chooses to job out.  He does almost everything himself in a machine shop that is just about as ancient and collectible as his vehicles.  It includes a 1927 Taylor & Fenn vertical milling machine, a 1942 Rotorex surface grinder, and a 1975 Rockwell lathe (pictured below left).  He takes pride in the problems he can solve with these tools, but he regards painting his greatest love and challenge.   He explains, “Most people never do their own paint.  It is just too difficult, but I love it.”  He adds, “It’s almost like a Zen experience.  I really get into a zone when I paint.  Almost like meditation.”

Dennis Craig served on the board of the AMCA for 24 years, and for the last five years was the club’s Treasurer.  When the Antique Motorcycle Foundation was formed in 2007 as a charitable sister organization, Craig became one of its founding directors, then after one year resigned from the AMCA board in favor of service to the Foundation.  He was elected President of the Foundation in 2010, a post which he holds today.  Concurrent with his recent move to Florida, Craig retired to have more time to devote to his restorations, gardening, activities with Sandy, and service to the Antique Motorcycle Foundation. 

Dating back to his involvement in the formation of an AMCA chapter in 1982, Dennis Craig is currently completing his 30th year of uninterrupted leadership service to the cause of antique motorcycling.  As he said before, motorcycling shapes one’s life; it is seven days a week.

 

Autographs of America’s
top pioneer riders found

(5/25/2012)

Professional collectors John and Debby Arcand have come across at a flea market in northern Illinois a trove of documents from Chicago’s old Riverview motordrome that contain the signatures of America’s greatest motorcycle champions, circa 1912.  And the Arcands hint that there are more where these came from.

The Arcands (pictured below left) are collectors of Americana and artifacts from popular culture, and the owners of Northern Illinois Hobby Retailers, a chain of 14 sports memorabilia stores.   Recently, at a swap meet in St. Charles, Illinois, they found a 150-piece collection of business documents, dated 1912, from the Riverview Park motordrome, a venue were the nation’s best riders of the board track era competed before crowds that sometimes numbered as many as 10,000 fans.  The documents include score sheets, pay slips, and receipts signed by the riders.  The Arcands say the source of the collection is connected with the family that once owned Riverview, and they hope that more documents will become available.

John Arcand confesses that his deep knowledge is in other areas of sports memorabilia, and that he did not know a lot about motorcycle racing of the era prior to the 1920s.  However, the Arcands are professionals in their field, and it did not take them long to identify Daniel Statnekov, Stephen Wright, and other experts in the board track era.  Arcand says, “We knew we had made a significant discovery when experts in the field fairly lit up at the news of our find.  We found tremendous enthusiasm among these men, and good guidance in where to find authoritative information about the board track and motordrome era.”  He adds, “Riverview, we learned, was one of the great hotbeds of professional motordrome racing.”

Chicago’s Riverview Park was one of the leading “trolley parks” of the era, built for easy access via a trolley line to what was at the turn of the century a suburb of Chicago.  Built in a German neighborhood, it was originally a 22-acre area called Schuetzen Park – or Sharpshooter’s Park – but was expanded into a full-blown amusement park in 1904 and renamed Riverview Park.  Before its demise in 1967, Riverview grew to 74 acres, had four roller coasters, and was notable as one of the leading entertainment destinations in the nation.  It is said that Walt Disney's fond memories of childhood visits to Riverview helped form his vision of the modern American theme park. 

With motorcycle racing at a feverish level of popularity throughout America, Riverview added a one-third-mile circular motordrome to its entertainment features in 1911.  Indian, Excelsior, Reading Standard, and other brands supportive of the sport assigned their top riders to the venue.  These included Ray Seymour, Eddie Hasha, Charles Balke, A.G. Chapple, Morty Graves, William and Theo Samuelson, Joe Wolters, Johnny Albright, Dave Kennie, Erle Armstrong, and others.  The signatures of all of these legendary riders appear on the documents acquired by the Arcands.

The documents include a results list prepared by a track official (pictured above right), a corresponding pay slip with prize money, signed off by each rider (above left), and receipts signed by the riders, such as the lead illustration to this story signed by Eddie Hasha, and the example pictured below right signed by Charles Balke.

Charles Balke’s name, scribbled in pencil, is especially prominent on results sheets, perhaps attesting to the fact that during the 1911 and 1912 seasons, he won 48 races in a row at Riverview, resulting in a near boycott by local riders that forced Indian to put Balke on the road to appear at other venues around the nation (To read our precious feature about Balke, go to Motohistory News & Views 2/8/2007). 

It is also a bit chilling to see the signatures of Eddie Hasha and Johnny Albright, dated June 1912.  Within three months they would be dead from one of America’s most horrendous racing accidents.  Hasha’s infamous crash in Newark, New Jersey took the lives of four spectators, in addition to both riders, and cast a chill over the popularity of motordrome racing in America. 

Without a doubt, this recently acquired Riverview collection is a significant find that will help motohistorians flesh out additional detail about one of the greatest venues and greatest eras of motorcycle racing.

 


(5/23/2012)

The Heart of American Motorcycle Enthusiasts will host their 2012 Rally on June 3 at the Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

You can see Jeff Decker’s customized Vincent Black Lightning at the National Motorcycle Museum.  Check it out when you are there for their annual Vintage Rally.

Motorcycle racing pioneer
Mary McGee will be honored at the AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference  in Carson City, Nevada July 26 through 29.

This month – May 17 – was the centennial of Francisco X Bulto's birth.  Happy birthday, FX . 

Mallory Park will host Triumph's 110th Anniversary celebration August 31 through September 2. 

Here’s a little history and a lot of humor.  

 

The Seventh Annual Bikes on the Bay Vintage Motorcycle Show will take place June 24 at Capitola, California.

Early bird tickets are now available for the Seventh Annual Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Banquet in Montreal on November 3.

The AMA Vintage Dirt Track National Championship Series will include a round at the legendary Peoria TT circuit August 24 through 26. 

The Bikes on the River Vintage Motorcycle Show will take place in Girardeau, Missouri on June 9.

Here’s how the bad guys raced back in the day.

The results of the Quail Gathering Economy Challenge have been posted on the Vetter web site, and Fred Hayes does it again (pictured left).

Nine times AMA Grand National Champion Scott Parker will be the special guest at an AMA Vintage Dirt Track National at Square Deal Raceway at Harpursville, New York on June 29 and 30.  Don Miller of Metro Racing is rebuilding the bike on which Parker got his first short track win in 1980 for the occasion.

From now through September 30, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is in extended summer hours.  The Museum is open 10 through 6 Monday through Saturday and noon through 6 on Sunday.  It will be closed July 4. 

The 7th Annual Redneck Rumble for pre-1968 rods, customs, and motorcycles will take place in Lebanon, Tennessee on September 14 and 15.

We say “Happy Birthday” to the Motoclassica Barcelona Museum, which is celebrating its first anniversary on June 10.

 

The AMA has announced the Moto Armory will be the presenting sponsor for the 2012 AMA Vintage Motocross Grand Championships, taking place in July at Vintage Motorcycle Days.

Speaking of AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, Craig Vetter has been named Grand Marshal for the event.

Look at what Shinya Kimura can do with an MV Agusta

An auction of Gary Nixon memorabilia will take place a Locust Lane Mill and Park, 545 East Locust Lane, York, Pennsylvania on June 16.  The auctioneer is Bob Sholly, a friend and Triumph-racing contemporary of the late Grand National Champion.  To learn more about items available, go to Auctionzip.com.

The Curtiss Classic motorcycle event will be held at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York on August 4.

 

The Los Angeles Calendar Concours d'Elegance will be held July 22 at the Calabasas Country Club. 

As always, cool stuff this month at Bike Exif. Remember the Rokon Trail-Breaker?  And there’s more about Jeff Decker's Black Lightning (pictured right).  Check out this Freddie Cooper Triton or this scale model Yoshimura GS1000R Cooley/CrosbyLooks real, huh?

Want to win a Hodaka Combat Wombat?  Click here 


Photohistory by Tom Mueller

 

This photo is from a muddy motocross in the early 1980s...and that's when I knew I was totally engaged in the sport.  Even mud races were fun!  I'd suit up in a two-piece rain suit and house my FE and FM Nikon bodies with garbage bags.  It was about getting in close and depicting the action on film; Cycle News West editor Charlie Morey was the one who turned me on to shooting tight in the turns with either a 50mm lens, or many times a 28mm. I enjoyed featuring as many riders as possible in news reporting.  This photo captures Michigan Mafia rider Denny Bentley (25) while the rider pulling lead duty is the other Sun - Ron Sun (24). I can't remember how this moto concluded, but what really matters is that the image remains!

 

Motohistorians can see this image an more at my Retro Motocross blog.

 

Riding into History 2012
(5/21/2012)

Over its 13-year life span, the Riding into History Concours d’Elegance has established itself as one of the leading antique and classic motorcycle shows in the nation.  Attracting each year between 350 and 400 fine motorcycles, it draws thousands of spectators from throughout the Southeastern United States.  While there is little doubt that the gorgeous setting of the World Golf Village near St. Augustine, Florida has contributed to the success of this event, it is more likely that the real key is a coalition of organizations who provide the tireless volunteers who produce a weekend worthy of its fine surroundings. 

These include the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Northeast Florida, the Historic Motorcycle Society, the Chrome Divas, the Christian Motorcyclists Association, the Outriders, and the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.  In addition, one thing that has set this event apart is its striking trademark logo (pictured above right), created anew each year by artist and motorcycle enthusiast Don Bradley. 

Riding into History kicks off on Friday evening with a dinner honoring the Grand Marshal, who,  this year was Mitch Boehm (pictured above left), a racer journalist, and motorcycle historian.  Mitch has been involved in moto-journalism since 1985, has been a contributor to leading publications, editor-in-chief of Motorcyclist Magazine, and now publisher of  Moto Retro Illustrated, a glossy, large-format periodical that focuses on the rich motorcycling era of the 1960s through the ‘80s.  He also served for a time in American Honda’s Product Development Department.

This year’s main events—a charity ride and the Concours d’Elegance—took place on Saturday, May 19.  For the concours, the motorcycles are positioned around the large mirror-like circular lake at World Golf Village.  It is a spacious and shaded layout that enables attendees to promenade around, taking photographs and enjoying the motorcycles.  Many of the bike owners provide placards containing historical and educational information about the machines.  This year’s event included also a stunning display of antique bicycles as well as a very popular theme exhibit of military motorcycles from several nations.  At an admission fee of $10, it is cheap but classy entertainment.

Motorcyclists who participate in the charity ride depart on Saturday morning from the BMW motorcycle dealership in Jacksonville, and proceed as a group to World Golf Village.  During its decade of existence, Riding into History has raised more than a quarter-million dollars for various charities.  This year’s beneficiary of the event was the Wounded Warrior Project. 

To learn more about Riding into History, click here.  To see more hotos of this year’s event at the Cyril Huze Blog, click here.  To learn about the Wounded Warrior Project, click here.  To read our previous feature about Don Bradley, go to Motohistory News & Views 4/30/2009.

RIH 2012 Results:

Best in Show: Thomas Kerr, 1934 Ariel
Chairman’s Award: Peter Brady, 1981 Kawasaki S1
Best Japanese Motorcycle: Robert McMahon, 1962 Honda CB92R
Preservation Award: Mike Crone, 1953 Triumph Blackbird
American Antique, pre-1946: Marty Megregian, 1938 Indian Chief
American Vintage, 1946—1967: Kirby Johnson, 1953 simplex
American Classic, 1968—1985: Bill Oremovich, 1972 H-D Superglided
American Modern, 1986 on: Ciro Castro, 1993 H-D FXLR
European Antique, pre-1950: John Landstrom, 1947 Condor
European Antique, 1950—1969, Jason Ramey, 1962 Ducati Falcone 50
European Classic, 1970—1984, Alan Singer, 1973 Moto Guzzi V7
European Modern, 1985 on: John Zawicki, 1997 Bimota YB11
Japanese Vintage, 1946—1969: Ron Dale, 1961 Honda CB72
Japanese Classic, 1969—1980: Mark  Adams, 1971 Suzuki T125SR
Japanese Modern, 1981 on: Geno Ploeckelmann, 1991 Kawasaki ZX7R-K1
Competition Antique, pre-1950: Robert Batsleer, 1947 Norton
Competition Vintage, 1950—1968: Davidson Harrison, 1966 H-D Sprint CRS
Competition Classic, 1969—1984: Gary McGoron, 1970 Yamaha XS650
Competition Modern, 1985 on: Royce Eaton, 1989 Triumph Triton in ’64 Norton frame
Competition Off Road: Buck Griffin, 1973 Bultaco Alpina
American Special, 1946—1967: Robert Sinclair, 1970 H-D XR750
British Special: David Stuart, 1968 Triumph TR6
European Special: Tom High, 1952 BMW R68
Japanese Special: Jason Michaels, 1968 Honda CB450
Scooter Antique, pre-1950” Duke and Fay Waldrop, 1947 Cushman
American Scooter, 1951 on: Len and Jim Edgar, 1957 Cushman
International Scooter, 1951 on: Jack Wells, 1963 Fuji Rabbit Superflo
American Custom: Tom Bodwell, 1969 H-D Shovelhead
International  Custom: Steve Spudic, 1978 Honda Gold Wing
British Antique, Pre-1950: Jack Wells, 1938 Brough Superior SS100
British Vintage 1, 1950—1963: James Thomas, 1962 Matchless G12CRS
British Vintage 2, 1964—1973: John Snead, 1967 Triumph Bonneville T120R
British Classic, 1974—1985: John Snead, 1975 Norton Commando
British Modern, 1986 on: David Carter, 2002 Royal Enfield

The opposite ends of technology

When you’re riding into history, any form of conveyance is acceptable.  We spotted this unlikely pairing in the parking lot, representing technology from two centuries.  To the left is a new Lotus Elise, arguably the sexiest set of wheels currently available.  To the right is a Ural sidecar rig.  Who cares if it is new; it always looks old.  One has the latest four-valve DOHC technology, with supercharger available.  The other is a pre-WWII design, confiscated from Germany.  One will go from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds.  The other will go from 0 to . . . well, we’re not actually sure it will reach 60.  But we wager that both are equally loved by their owners.

 

Gratz is back, Jack!
By CHess
(5/20/2012)

Back in the late-1960s and into the early-1970s, the Flying Dutchmen of Pine Grove, Pennsylvania promoted District Six sanctioned sportsmen events on the Gratz half-mile.  The Saturday night events often preceded TT scrambles at the Dutchmen's track near Rock, Pennsylvania the following day, making for an exciting two days of racing for the weekend warriors of that era.  The Gratz half-mile was (and still is) a limestone sulky track; easily the fastest sportsman track on the very active and competitive AMA District Six schedule.  The track always attracted well over 200 riders divided amongst the 11 classes that competed at the time.  In this photo (above) taken on July 17, 1971 we see Bultaco riders Bill Knox (54) and Bob Monk (93) setting the pace in the 200cc expert heat.

 

More than 160 riders seeking to rekindle old memories and make new ones returned to Gratz on May 19 for a racer’s reunion organized by promoter Candy Baer.  The white wooden fencing is now gone from the infield and most of the perimeter of the track.  Also gone is the back stretch lighting. The Flying Dutchmen events at Gratz during the late-sixties and early-seventies were evening/night events. The reunion and the two races that preceded it (2010 and 2011) were afternoon events because of the lack of lighting around the track.

 

Doug Bowers (pictured right above), who once rode a 500cc Triumph at Gratz, and came all the way from Alaska for the reunion, explained his willingness to travel such a distance: "There was no place like Gratz.  It was the one track you had to run.  Even Nixon came to Gratz.  There were all kinds of tracks around District Six back then.  There were scrambles, TTs, all with their own quirks, but Gratz was the jewel.  Gratz was the one to win."   Triumph 650 rider Joe Park (pictured left above with Bowers and photographer CHess) concurred: Everybody ran Gratz.  Eves and Schaeffer, Gary Deel, Serbu, Bowers, Johnny Ward, Gary Fisher, the Varnes, the Texters, Bob Holmes, Luke Zechmann and so many other guys. Everybody had a story and everybody wanted to win. It was what we all lived for."

 

The event brought out not only old Gratz fans,  but also legendary machinery.  For example, Don Johnson showed up with a genuine 1975 Shell Thuett 750 Yamaha, just like Kenny Roberts rode to the AMA Grand National Championship title.  Johnson found the bike in upstate New York where it had been stored in a barn for more than 20 years following a second career in ice racing.  It still had the studded tires.  He and Jim Varnes spent a week getting it back into proper flat track trim, just in time for Doug Bowers to ride at the Gratz reunion (pictured above right). 

 

Former Gratz riders were introduced to the spectators throughout the day.  One, who had been a Gratz regular during its heyday, said, “Truthfully,  the competition is not as close and hot as it was back in the day, but that’s to be expected.  Everyone is having a good time, and we’re all hoping we’ll be coming back in future years. 

 

Photos by CHess and Michael Quick. 

 

Great Rall/Roeder rivalry

commemorated on
2012 Wauseon poster

(5/15/2012)

 

The vintage dirt track races at this year’s Antique Motorcycle Club of America National Meet at Wauseon, Ohio, scheduled for July 20 at the Fulton County, Ohio Fairgrounds, are being promoted with a striking poster that commemorates the great Rall/Roeder rivalry that dates back to the 1960s.  Because they were friends—not enemies like the Hatfields and McCoys—George Roeder and Ronnie Rall chose motorcycles instead of rifles to decide who was top gun.  What else can you do when two of the nation’s best dirt track riders end up living in the same state at the same time?  Their legendary rivalry continues today between their sons George Roeder II and Chad Rall.  Their hammer-and-tongs battle last year at Wauseon is what gave Bike Days promoters Scott and Staci Brown the idea for this year’s poster.

 

They explain, “The poster was a lot of fun to create.   It started with the idea of using the highlight of last year’s show, the "Roeder - Rall" match race, featuring young guns George Roeder II and Chad Rall.  We connected it to the heritage of the Ronnie Rall and George Roeder era of half-mile racing for our theme.  Researching and using google is interesting and educational, but it doesn't compare to talking and collecting information from the people who were really there!”  They continue, “On a phone call to George Roeder II, while we were discussing the theme for the 2012 Wauseon National Race, George said he remembered his father talking about the battle he and Ronnie had at the 1963 Hiedelberg National.  He said that lap after lap they were neck and neck.”  From that phone call, the Browns also learned that Ronnie Rall’s sister, Kathy Estep, was the go-to gal for historical photographs. 

 

Brown says, “We had met Kathy at Chad's wedding last summer, so I gave her a call.  Kathy had the photos from the last three laps of the Heidelberg race, plus some shots of Ronnie's ABC television interview, but most importantly she was there! Kathy was a great help on getting the details correct, such as helmet colors, bike colors, leathers designs etc.”  Pictured above are Roeder (94) and Rall (52) at Heidelberg 1963 with two laps to go. 

 

Noted motorsports artist Roger Warrick was chosen to bring the idea to life.  Brown explains, “He is able to take what's in your mind and put it on canvas.”  The Roeder-Rall image will also grace this year’s commemorative t-shirt.  Riders who pre-register for the Wauseon National will get a free one. 

 

To read our previous feature about Scott Brown, go to Motohistory News & Views 6/26/2011.

 

Funding plan announced
for new John Penton movie

(5/12/2012)

Todd Huffman, head of Pipeline Digital Media, has announced a grass-roots funding plan to produce “The John Penton Story,” a movie about the legendary off-roader and entrepreneur whose ideas about what an off-road motorcycle should be helped revolutionize the American motorcycle market.  The fund-raising plan, using Kickstarter, a proven successful internet funding site, will enable Penton fans and owners throughout the world an opportunity to participate in raising the $275,000 needed for the project.   

Huffman, noted for his critically acclaimed “The Motocross Files,” has been working on the project for more than a year.  In additional to historical footage, it will include interviews with as many as 50 noteworthy sportsmen and industry personalities.  Motorcycle enthusiast, Penton owner, and country and western star Lyle Lovett has signed on to narrate the film.

Through Kickstarter, individuals can donate $1 to $10,000 to the project.  Premiums are offered for various categories of contribution.  To learn more about the project and how to support, and to see a promotional “trailer” featuring Lyle Lovett, click here.  Huffman reports that if the funding goal is met, the film will be ready in 2013.

 

From the Archives: June 18-20, 2010
Visiting Hutte Helvetia,

Festival of the Fives Rally,

Seneca Rocks, WV

By Todd Trumbore

(5/10/2012)

 

 

It's no secret that West Virginia has some of the best riding in the mid-Atlantic region, if not the whole east coast.  The Slash Five BMW Rally just gave me another excuse to spoil myself for three days.  As a further enticement, Karl Duffner told me to take his highly coveted, recently restored and one of a kind 1970 BMW R75/5 (pictured above). He said it needed some exercise and I was more than honored and happy to do so.  Karl not only has an amazing collection of motorbikes, but he is not afraid to ride them AND....Ride them he does!

 

I left shortly after 6 am on Friday, wanting to make some headway before the rush hour traffic.  I worked my way west before dropping south into Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, then West Virginia once more.  I stopped at Bob Evans for breakfast and gave Karl a call to let him know how things were going.  I told Karl the bike is running great, the weather was wonderful, and the only thing missing was him riding as co-pilot.  These trips just aren't the same without him.

 

I arrived at my destination, Yokum's Vacationland Resort, earlier than Expected, with a broad smile after carving through many mountains and valleys.  For this rally most riders would camp, and a few of us had reserved rooms at the lodge.  I was one of those.  At $35 a night, how could you go wrong!

 

I'll tell you how!   It was early afternoon and I just arrived after several hundred miles of riding in some very warm weather.  I was ready for a quick shower to cool off and relax.  So I turned on both the hot and cold valves to the shower and waited, but there was nothing but drip.....drip.....

drip.....d..r..i..p!  Huh?  This is not good, but I'm patient and not one to get too rattled.  I wait 10 to 15 minutes with both valves still fully opened and low and behold I finally have enough pressure to quickly lather up and rinse off.  Afraid to take any chances, I'm in and out in 3 minutes. It reminded me of those showers back in Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.

 

Ok, now I'm feeling a little better and as I am drying off and changing into some fresh clothes, I thought I'd turn on the TV and catch up on the news. The TV must have been 40 years old.  It had no remote.  I had to manually switch all three stations myself.  Welcome to West Virginia.  Oh, and then there was the sign on the wall above the bed.  "Please excuse us for the stains on the sheets....Due to the high iron content in the water."  Whew, I thought I was about to read something else!

 

Ahh, what do you expect anyway from such a class resort..........cell phone coverage?   I wasn't receiving that either.  In fact I had to ride 25 miles north to be able to call home to Laura and then later to Karl.  A 50 mile round trip to make a phone call, but they were 50 WONDERFUL miles!  All the locals will tell you, too many mountains, too little population, too few cell towers, AND the Green Bank Observatory cancelling out every signal for a two-hundred-mile radius, or so it seemed.

 

After resting for a half hour, I felt better.  And now it was time for a late Lunch, so I headed out to see what my options were.  Not many! Seneca Rocks consists of lots of rocks, rivers, mountains, a couple farms and homes, but not much of anything else.  I found a cafe on the second floor of a camping/hiking supply store.  My turkey sandwich came with home-made potato salad and pickles.  It was all I needed, because the view from the second floor patio of Yokum's Seneca Rocks Cafe made for a pleasant experience.

 

I wandered downstairs and was hanging out at Yokum's General Store when I noticed lots of Harley riders stopping in to stretch their legs, looking for refreshment or a smoke.  One of the Harley riders pulls up with a smile, and we start to chat.  It was late Friday afternoon and he just got off work as a coal miner where he worked for the last 30 plus years.  He told me there is nothing he enjoys more than a nice long ride after spending the day inside a dark and dusty coal mine.  We chat some more, I ask a lot of questions, and then he asked me what I'm riding.  I show him Karl's bike, and he said, "B M W, I've never seen one of those."  "Are those made by the same folks who make the automobiles?”  I smile and nod accordingly.

 

It was still early and only a few slash five riders have arrived.  I introduce myself to everyone, exchange a few stories, then decide that there is still time to explore some of the finer roadways in the area.  I quickly noticed how remote this area is.  You do not want to pass on ANY opportunities to top off your fuel, even if you do have an eight and a half gallon Heinrich tank, like I had.  I returned just before dark, narrowly escape running into a deer that was positioned at the edge of the road, waiting to dash to the other side. This deer must have been corn fed.  It looked more like a draft horse with those stout, muscular legs.

 

The next morning I arose early again because I wanted to climb to the top of Seneca Rocks before it got too hot.  It's a nice hike and if you push yourself you can make the climb in 45 to 60 minutes.  A wonderful view of four valleys awaits you atop a wooden landing at the peak.  Just beautiful.

 

More and more riders are arriving, but there is no formal agenda for this rally, so a couple of us decide to go for a nice ride.  With some recommendations and advice, we laid out a 250-mile loop.  I skip breakfast because I'm saving my appetite for a special destination. Ninety twisted miles later we arrive in this very remote and fascinating Swiss/German village called Helvetia, pronounced Hel-vay-sha.  It’s Latin for Switzerland. This village was settled in 1869 by a group of Swiss and German Americans because they were captivated by the beauty of the mountains.  It reminded them of "The Fatherland.”  

There are shops, studios, Inns, churches, schools, halls, and museums, but our destination in Helvetia was the highly acclaimed and very unique Hutte Restaurant.  This stop alone would have made my trip worthwhile.  I'll admit that I'm no restaurateur or a pioneer of the palate, but the food and the atmosphere was something special.  Eleanor is the proprietor and she keep herself very busy running this place.  On Sundays, they offer a real Swiss delight called "Bernerplatte.”  If you plan on attending this country brunch, you may want to call first for reservations as they can only seat 48 guests. (304-924-6435) Oh, by the way, their beer is served in real steins and they have a local micro brew that is very refreshing.  I was so impressed with Hutte's that I plan on making this an annual stop.

 

After the lunch, we continue on our loop and the roads just get better and better.  It’s one sweeper after another with just enough shade from the tall trees to keep us cool even on this very warm day.  We work our way into French Creek, Rock Cave, Wheeler, Diana, and Webster Springs before turning eastward and into Valley Head, Mingo, and Snowshoe Mountain where we took a break and tried once again to call home.  Still no cell coverage. 

 

After a stroll through the village we saddle up and continue on to Cass, and pass by the scenic railroad station, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, then through Boyer Station, Cherry Grove, Circleville, and Judy Gap before landing back at Seneca Rocks just as a rain shower darkened the skies and dampened the ground. This 250-mile loop was filled with some of the best riding roads you will find anywhere, and for the most part we had the roads to ourselves.  It could not have been much better than that!

 

That evening was filled with lots of tire kicking and beer drinking around a blazing campfire. Karl's motorbike received most of the attention. One fellow was so impressed, that he got on his hands, knees, and eventually crawling on his backside to view the underside with a flashlight, admiring the handywork.  All attendees seemed very pleased they had made the trip.  Although the turnout was modest by most rally standards, the camaraderie was intense.

 

Sunday morning, I again arose early so I could have the time for a very relaxing ride home on rural roads.  I look forward to next year's rally, and the special side trip to The Hutte where I plan to order Karl's favorite: Sauerbraten with spatzel and red cabbage.  "Eleanor, would you save me a table for lunch, please?"

 

Mit freundlichen Grüßen, Todd

Editor’s Note: To read our previous features about the late Karl Duffner, go to Motohistory News & Views 12/22/2010 and 11/30/2009.

 

My top three
vintage motorcycle upgrades
By Robert Lobitz
(5/8/2012)

As a lover of vintage motorcycles I feel that there is a certain amount of respect that should be given to the craftsmen who built these beauties and the best way to do that is to use their creations for their intended purpose. Riding a vintage motorcycle is a unique experience that many more people should enjoy. That being said, we need to make sure that our rides are performing to the best of their ability and a few upgrades can make all the difference.

The first upgrade that I suggest is the addition of high quality headlights for all of your motorcycles, new and old. This can actually be quite the task because most old motorcycles won’t accept the newer and more efficient lights like those you can find at the Motorcycle HID Xenon lights web site. Instead of just buying the bulbs, you will likely need to buy a full kit and make some wiring adjustments. Motorcycle HID kits are not too difficult to install, but I suggest taking it to a professional if you have a particularly old model to ensure that any power conversion and wiring is installed properly.

The next upgrade I suggest is the tires. This is one of the quickest and easiest upgrades you can make to an old bike and the difference in performance you will experience is well worth the minimal effort. The newer tread designs you will find can help your handling as well as your fuel economy, a factor that is very important with less than efficient old motors.

The battery is one upgrade that many people often overlook. There are now lithium ion batteries available that are a fifth of the old lead-acid batteries that have been the standard for many years. The lithium ion batteries charge faster and offer more efficient power while being lighter than the old batteries. This is the simplest upgrade you can make and it’s one you won’t regret.

Editor's Note: Author Lobitz has a commercial interest in motorcycle lighting equipment.  However, this is not a paid article.  It has been published strictly for the merit of its content.

 

Motohistory goes to Eiteljorg
(5/6/2012)

I will be speaking at the Eiteljorg Museum  in Indianapolis, Indiana on the afternoon of June 9 as part of its Steel Ponies History Day.  My presentation, at 2:30, will present parallel timelines for Indian and Harley-Davidson with an explanation for why one iconic brand continued and one did not.  At 1 p.m., Matty Bennett, of National Moto + Cycle Company, will speak about this history of board track racing.  The Steel Ponies Exhibit, which opened on March 10, 2012, will run through August 5.

 

(5/5/2012)

Motorcyclist, which has been rolling off the press since 1912, is currently running a series entitled “A Century of Motorcycling.”  The June issue addresses the 1960s, but also contains a great deal more of interest to the motohistorian.  For example, there is a brief story about Cal Rayborn’s 1970 world speed record run for Harley-Davidson, a pictorial on the soon-to-be-released Honda  750 Four, reprinted from the June, 1969 issue of Motorcyclist; a story about the 250cc six-cylinder Honda RC166, Bill Brokaw recounts how his parents edited Motorcyclist during the late-1940s, and a feature entitled “Mann & Machine,” about how Dick Mann and Honda won the Daytona 200 in 1970.  All historical features, with the exception of Brokaw’s column, are by Aaron Frank.  To subscribe to Motorcyclist, click here


The July issue of American Iron Magazine contains Part IV in Publisher Buzz Kanters series about preparing his 1929 Harley-Davidson JDH for the Cannonball Coast-to-Coast Run, coming up early in September.  Kanter’s description of the problems discovered inside the engine helps one realize why the Cannonball is not an event for the faint of heart or the thin of wallet.  Editor Jim Babchak’s “American Iron Classic” feature this month is a 1919 Henderson Z2, restored by Eric Smith, who acquired it through a trade for a 1933 Harley-Davidson VL.  The VL was in good and running condition at the time, and even thought the Henderson had no wheels and a bent rear frame, Smith reckons it was an excellent transaction; especially now that the motorcycle is restored in olive green color.  This issue also contains a story about a near-original 1951 Panhead owned and regularly ridden by Jeff Ortiz.  To subscribe to American Iron, click
here

The July issue of Racer X Illustrated contains a fascinating feature by Nick McCabe entitled “Brought to You by Big Hair, Blue Jeans, Cold Beer, and Cigarettes.”  That’s a damn long title for a story, but its subject matter, the history of commercial sponsorship in Supercross, is a long and winding tale.  Bill West, who promoted the first Supercross at Daytona in 1972, says, “Sponsors, they come and go.  That’s just the nature of these things.”  West is right, but one does not realize how many have come and gone until we read McCabe’s well-researched and illustrated ten-page historical review.  This is the kind of features that sets Racer X apart from other motocross rags.  “Time Travelin’” is an entertaining account by David Pingree of The Racer X Inter-Am Classic, a reunion of old riders on old bikes where men who should have mellowed out by now nevertheless have the opportunity to settle old scores.  Damon Bradshaw, for example, figured out the best way to get away with racing dirty is to wear Ron Lechien’s jersey.  Kevin Windham would not like our saying that he has been around long enough to become legitimate history, but we say that in a good way.  In “The Roads Taken,” Eric Johnson recounts Windham’s career, backed up by photos by Simon Cudby.  To subscribe to Racer X Illustrated, click here. 

We founds lots of motohistorical stuff in the July issue of IronWorks.  Rick Fairless offers an analysis of the new Polaris-backed venture to keep the Indian brand on the road.  As he admits, he is not a totally disinterested observer (Fairless is an Indian dealer and a consultant to the company), but I agree with his assessment that if anyone has the resolve, know-how,  and funding to break Indian’s long string of ill-fated revival attempts,  it will be Polaris.  Publisher Marilyn Stemp takes a look back in here 2012 coverage of Daytona with an article entitled “In Search of the Old Daytona.”  There are several stories about daily-ridden Panheads.  The Stemps, Marilyn and Vincent, team up with words and photography respectively to tell the story of Lucifer’s Hammer, the legendary road racer that has been endowed with a long and eventful life by tuner Don Tilley.  Margie Siegal’s “Seasoned Citizens” feature this issue is about the Harley-Davidson WR, an example of the everyman racer spawned in 1941 by the AMA’s Class C rule book.  Siegal’s subject is a 1949 model previously owned by racer/tuner Cliff Clifford.  More fascinating than the history of the machine itself are the colorful characters whose lives gravitated around it and similar motorcycles.  My own column this issue is about why and how the existence of great motorcycle museums in America exploded over the last quarter century.  To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.

 


(5/4/2012)

 

Former Canadian Motorcycle Association President and Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame Member Gerry Marshall writes:

 

Hi Ed, I enjoy your Motohistory and take a peek from time to time.  I came upon this photo of Hansen and Dick Klamfoth recently, and as you mentioned that Bob Hansen is 92 (WOW!), I thought I should pass it on to you.  I arrived at Laconia in 1953, my second year of riding on my 1940 Model 18 Norton from Halifax to see the first ever Road Race of my life. We could freely wander the "pits."  There to my astonishment was Dick Klamfoth, who won in 1952 on a Norton, going toward the starting line. I dared not speak, but silently took this photo.  I'm sorry I can't remember the name of Klamfoth's mechanic, walking with him.  It was years later that I first met Bob at Mosport with a G50, which I believe Yvon Duhamel was riding. I got to know him as the Team Hansen Kawasaki boss and later at the FIM we spent a lot of time together.

   

My first year at Laconia was quite an adventure, and the only rider I met personally was Sal Scripo, a fine rider from New England who had some connection with Nova Scotia. I remember shaking his hand and I don't think another hand that large ever came in contact with mine until I met Oscar Peterson in the mid-1970s.  God, the useless stuff we remember. Anyway, Ed Fisher won the ‘53 race on a Triumph, and in the spring of ‘54 I bought a new Triumph Trophy and won a couple local Trials.  The next year got a ‘55 Trophy (the swinging arm model), and have been having fun ever since.

 

I've decided this year to celebrate my 61st year of riding by seeing what's left of Route 66, and then going up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco.  Having never done that ride before, now that I am 76 and my "best before date" has long since expired, I believe it's time to point the K1300GT southwest.

 

I hope to meet up with you again.  See ya, Gerry.

 

Gerry, it’s great to hear from you, and thanks for the great photo of Hansen and Klamfoth.  Always believe that the stuff we remember is not useless.  It is what makes us who we are.  I envy your trip this summer.  Keep riding and keep celebrating.

 

Readers who want to know more about Gerry Marshall, click here.   

 

Antique Motorcycle Foundation
Leadership Forum set for July 19

(5/3/2012)

The Antique Motorcycle Foundation will host a leadership forum for organizations whose primary purpose is the promotion and enjoyment of vintage and antique motorcycles in Mansfield, Ohio on July 19.  This will be the third year for the meeting.  Its purpose is to provide educational opportunities and to give leaders throughout the vintage and antique motorcycle community an opportunity to network and share solutions to common problems. 

This year’s Forum will include discussions about club and event liability, communication, and membership marketing and retention.  Hal Johnson, Chairman of the planning committee states, “We’ve found the formal discussions led by experts to be most useful, but you cannot underestimate the importance of dedicated and likeminded vintage and antique motorcycle enthusiasts just getting together for networking and idea sharing.”  He adds, “Some of the most useful ideas have come out of informal, free-flowing discussion.”  A light dinner will be provided to facilitate discussion and social interaction.

While the meeting is by invitation only, the planning committee has sought ways to expand participation.  This year, vintage and antique motorcycle enthusiasts who may be hoping to create a club or organization are invited to apply to a member of the planning committee.  Also, local and regional vintage and antique motorcycle clubs and chapters are invited to apply.  There is no fee for participation.

For more information or to apply to attend, contact one of the following: Hal Johnson (roadcaptainhal@yahoo.com), Roger Smith (rsmith481@yahoo.com), Fred Guidi (fredguidi@gmail.com), or Ed Youngblood (Ed@Motohistory.net).   To learn more about the Antique Motorcycle  Foundation, click here.