Motohistory Quiz #94
We have a winner!
Our winner of Motohistory Quiz #94 is Bob Heywood of Dayton, Ohio, who identified this vehicle as an AMF Ski-Daddler (yes, someone probably got paid for that name) snowmobile.
In 1965, American Machine and Foundry entered the then-growing snowmobile business. Despite claiming that its Ski-Daddler was “the nearest thing to a Porsche you can ride on the snow,” it really was not a very good product. It was crude, boxy, unreliable, and difficult to control. It was powered by a JLO single-cylinder engine and manufactured in York, Pennsylvania, in the factory that would later become Harley-Davidson's assembly plant. Click here to see a Ski-Daddler in action.
In the meantime, AMF acquired Harley-Davidson (1969) and hoped to take advantage of the iconic brand by introducing an entirely redesigned Aermacchi-powered snow machine. The Harley-Davidson snowmobile, pictured below with the older Ski-Daddler, was introduced in 1972, which was the final year for Ski-Daddler sales.
Under the Milwaukee brand, the venture still was not very successful. There were just too many companies flooding the market. Furthermore, the energy crisis of 1974 discouraged recreational use of snowmobiles.
H-D snowmobiles remained on the market largely unchanged until 1975, at which time the product was abandoned. Today, the Ski-Daddler has become a kind of cult classic among antique snowmobile enthusiasts, with several internet forums devoted to its social network, maintenance, and preservation.
The snowmobiles depicted in our Motohistory Quiz are owned by former motorcycle dealer and Triumph racer Bob Sholly of York, Pennsylvania. Congratulations, Bob Heywood, for winning the quiz. I'll ski-daddle your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma to you right away.
Celebrating an American dream
In the late 1960s, United States OSSA importer John Taylor dreamed of an American-made motorcycle that would perform both off and on the road. He would call it the Yankee and build its reputation around innovation and quality. Racing great and chassis master Dick Mann was hired to design the frame, and the twin-cylinder, six-speed 500cc engine designed by Eduardo Giro in Spain was like nothing else on the market. News of the Yankee first appeared in a cover story in Cycle Magazine in April, 1968, but due to production delays, motorcycles did not roll off the line in Schenectady, New York until 1971. This passage of time, during a period when motorcycle technology was changing rapidly, left the Yankee a dream unfulfilled. Over a three-year period, less than 800 were built, and it can be argued that they left no permanent legacy in the history of motorcycle development. Yet four decades later, the appeal of the Yankee remains so strong that people will travel across oceans and continents to look at and reminisce about their Yankees, or the Yankees they once owned. That John Taylor's dream is still alive was proven in Cheshire, Massachusetts over the August 27 weekend where hundreds gathered for the first-ever Yankee Reunion.
Taylor wanted his Yankee to have unimpeachable handling, so he hired Dick Mann to reside in Schenectady for more than a year to design and develop the chassis. Mann and his wife Kay attended the Reunion, and one of his prototypes--#12--was on display (pictured above right). In retaining the services of Mann, Taylor gained a bonus that may have done more to publicize the capability of his company than the Yankee motorcycle itself. This was the OSSA DMR (Dick Mann Replica), a beautiful short tracker that won an AMA National Championship its first time out. Several restored DMRs, as well as a wide range of OSSA motocross and enduro models were on display. Perhaps a half-dozen were outfitted with the rare Joe Bolger long-travel rear suspension (pictured left). Paul Dean, who was service and warranty manager for Yankee Motors, had also flown in from the West Coast.
Taylor was a former Six Days rider, and he chose the punishing 1972 ISDT in Czechoslovakia to debut the Yankee in off-road competition. Most of his team were from proven New England riders, and some of them decided after extensively testing the Yankee that they would prefer to ride their lighter and more orthodox OSSAs. Charlie Vincent was one who stuck with the Yankee, and he still has that machine, complete with technical inspection markings intact, just as it came back to the United States in 1972. Vincent (pictured in the lead photo of this story) had that motorcycle at the Reunion. Other Yankee Motors riders on hand included Ron Webster, Dave Latham, and Don Cutler. Pre-Yankee New England stars at the Reunion included Bob Hicks and Joe Bolger. Hicks served as interviewer for video interviews made of the historic personalities on hand. Unfortunately, due to flight interruptions caused by Hurricane Irene, several racing greats—including Robert Lee and Barry Higgins—were unable to attend.
Some of the impetus behind the Yankee motorcycle concept was the fact that large-bore two-stroke singles had cooling and reliability problems. Husqvarna also experimented with a 500cc twin for the same reason that Taylor pursued the concept. However, during the Yankee's protracted development period, companies like Husqvarna, CZ, and Maico learned how to build large singles that would not fry their pistons, and such an engine was lighter, cheaper, and easier to build than a twin of comparable size. When Taylor realized that the big-twin concept had been overcome by events, he aggressively pursued development of a big single (pictured above right), hiring engineer Ovi Puiu at the Swiss company Motosacoche to design such an engine. Puiu at the Reunion, having flown in from Switzerland for the event (pictured left are Jim Hoellerich, Puiu, and Taylor). Another international guest at the Reunion was Australian Ken Smith of VMX magazine.
Taylor's big twin spawned other development unrelated to the American-made Yankee. As early as 1973, Taylor was experimenting with engine tuning suitable for an on-highway version, and as late as 1977, the Yankee engine was used by OSSA for a 500cc street machine. One of these rare collectibles, owned by Bob Fornwalt (pictured below right), was on display at the Reunion. In addition, a “double Yankee” was built in Spain for possible use in road racing. Two prototypes of this four-cylinder monster were ordered by Taylor for testing in the United States. About its torque and brutal power, Taylor says, “It would have been like selling someone a loaded gun. It took very little testing to decide that offering such a machine to the public would not be wise.” One of these two prototypes was on display at the Reunion (pictured below left and right).
The idea of a Yankee Reunion was born in 2007 when OSSA was commemorative marque at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in Lexington, Ohio. John Taylor and “Yankee Bob” Fornwalt discussed the idea then, but it lay dormant until earlier this year when Forwalt and OSSA engine expert Alex Snoop decided that too much knowledge was being lost with the passage of time, and action needed to be taken. They contacted Taylor who agreed to the August date. One of the best components of the plan was the choice of Jim Hoellerich's Massachusetts farm as the venue. This was the site of the spectacularly successful ISDT Reunion in 2003. Not only does it have the necessary space and facilities, but it features Hoellerich's Vintage Dirt Bike Museum, which contains his spectacular collection of more than 100 motorcycles and thousands of pieces of memorabilia. It is a monument to Spanish brands, the ISDT, and the history of New England trail riding.
Fornwalt says, “We had no idea what we were getting into. Once we had John's buy-in, we met with Bob Hicks and Jim Hoellerich, then we put up a web site. The response was instantaneous, indicating a clear demand for the Reunion.” Clearly, the reunion—despite the threat of Hurricane Irene—was a spectacular success, attesting to the fact that the myth of the Yankee motorcycle remains as strong today as John Taylor's dream that caused it to be built some 40 years ago.
To read a history of the Yankee motorcycle, click here. To read about the Yankee motorcycle at Wikipedia, click here. To read about Yankee at the Hemmings blog, click here. To read the first story to appear about the Yankee motorcycle, in Cycle Magazine, April 1968, click here. To read about the Yankee in Popular Science, 1972, click here. For a test of the Yankee street bike in Motorcyclist, 1977, click here. For the Yankee Reunion Page on Facebook, click here. For the Yankee Reunion web site, click here. For a video of Jim Hoellerich’s Vintage Trail Bike Museum on YouTube, click here.
Cleveland artist Campbell
with “Born to be Wild” benefit
On October 15, the Cleveland Artists Foundation will host a benefit entitled “Born to be Wild” in honor of artist Shirley Aley Campbell (pictured left).
Campbell, a distinguished and internationally renowned artist, educator, and recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize, created from 1973 through 1981 a series of 13 paintings called Motorcyclists of the Seventies that has influenced the theme of the benefit, which will take place from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Van Sweringen Arcade at the Landmark Office Tower, 101 West Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.
Each painting in the series (one of which is pictured below right) measures five by seven feet. The paintings are on display September 17 through October 14 at the Convivium33 Gallery, 1433 East 33rd Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets for the October 15 benefit range from $150 to $2,500. For reservations call 216-227-9507 prior to October 7.
The Cleveland Artists Foundation, founded in 1984, is committed to its mission to preserve, research, collect, exhibit, document, and promote the significant visual art and architecture of the Northeast Ohio region. Proceeds raised from the benefit are an essential means of accomplishing this goal. For more information about the Cleveland Artists Foundation, click here. For more about Shirley Aley Campbell, click here and here.
John and Kathleen Panek:
Bikes, Bed, and Breakfast
In 1952, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that contributed eventually to 99 percent immunity to the polio virus, which had been the cause of the most dreaded childhood disease epidemic in America during the first half of the 20th century. John Panek, born in Chicago in 1940, was one of the generation born a bit too soon. The same year that Salk created his vaccine – but three years before it went into extensive distribution – Panek contracted poliomyelitis. But it did not seem to keep him from enjoying a normal and active childhood. Though he walked with a full leg brace and a crutch, and had partial paralysis in his right arm and hand, Panek became an expert marksman and by 14 was riding a motorcycle.
Panek relates, “I was not from a motorcycle family. I lived in the country and was a gun person, and I became an accomplished competition shooter. I got my first Stevens 22 rifle at 14, and at 15 I bought Ruger 357 Magnum.” But Panek's interests expanded when a friend showed up on a Triumph Speed Twin. He explains, “It wasn't long before I had traded the 357 for a 1947 BSA single.” He continues, “I was a game kid. I learned to start the bike standing off at the side. Because my right leg was okay, shifting the British bikes was no problem, and I had enough strength and dexterity in my right arm to work the throttle and front brake.” Panek adds, “Polio did not slow me down. There are only two things in my life that I wanted to do that I could not because of the disease; I wanted to join the marksmanship unit of the Marine Corps, and I wanted to be a state trooper. Those were the only dreams I could not pursue.”
But motorcycles were another matter. John learned to work on them, and because he had plenty of garage space at his disposal, his place became Motorcycle Central for his friends and fellow riders. They were a like-minded bunch who gravitated toward the exciting British and European brands that had grown in popularity following the Second World War. About his years of riding motorcycles with a physical disability, Panek says, “I was cautious. I always wore a helmet, maybe because I was so powerfully influenced by seeing the pro racers on my first visit to Santa Fe Speedway at the age of 15.”
Santa Fe – the legendary short track in the Chicago suburb of Willowbrook, Illinois – was a revelation for Panek. The excitement of watching the big 750 Indian Scouts and Harley WRs on a quarter-mile oval was thrilling. Soon, when AMA rules downsized the Expert class to 250s on quarter-miles, the racing became even more exciting. Panek recalls, “Tom Cates shows up on a little BSA single and immediately broke the lap records held by the big 750s.” Panek wanted to get involved. He explains, “I had a friend named Larry Cameron who was a yellow-plate pro and raced a Royal Enfield. It was forever blowing up and breaking something, so we came up with a plan where he raced and provided the Chevy El Camino, and I wrenched and provided the bike.” Pictured above right are Cameron and Panek on Panek's wedding day.
Panek's hero was Dick Mann, so he concluded that a BSA was the way to go. He explains, “I had read about BSA making a special competition Gold Star, and I went to Morris Gauger, our local Brit bike dealer, and he agreed to order me one. My crowd and I had brought him a lot of business, and he said he would sell me one at cost. He said, 'I won't even open the crate. There's no paper work or registration. You just come and get it and pay me $700.'” Panek concludes, “It really was a sweet deal. I learned later that recommended retail for the bike was just shy of $900. When I opened that crate and started assembling the bike, I was the happiest guy in the world. It had alloy gas tank and racing oil tank, a close-ratio gear box, and magneto ignition.”
The Panek/Cameron team had their first big outing to the road race national championship at Laconia in 1961, and that's where Panek learned that even a “competition model” Gold Star fell short of top tier racing requirements (pictured above left is Panek's Gold Star set up to race at Laconia). He states, “Cameron was coming down a long straight, and when he braked for the turn his rear wheel locked up. The standard brake shoes had literally melted and balled up inside the drum.” Furthermore, if they were going to campaign the machine at the dirt tracks around the Midwest, they also needed a rigid frame, so it was back to Gauger to get some help. Panek recalls, “Gauger hooked me up with this guy up in Racine, Wisconsin, who was supposed to know everything about Gold Stars. His name is Bob Hansen, and when I walked into his basement, I was overwhelmed. Sitting in a neat line in his spotless shop were four orange and white Gold Stars; two set up for dirt and two for road racing. They were the most beautiful bikes I had ever seen. And one side of the room had floor to ceiling shelves of every kind of racing part you could ever need for a Gold Star.” Hansen set Panek up with a rigid frame and everything else he needed to support a serious racing effort.
Panek's career as a professional bike builder and team co-owner only lasted two years. “I graduated high school in 1959 and went to work for a printing company, doing camera work and composition. We were both holding down full time jobs, and racing every Wednesday night at Santa Fe, then somewhere within a few hundred miles on the weekend, plus maintaining the equipment, was really wearing us down. And it was expensive!” Furthermore, Panek got married in 1963. His wife brought one child to the marriage, and soon the first of four more was on the way. When the demands of home and hearth took the place of a racing career, Panek converted his competition Gold Star to a street-worthy machine and continued to ride it for several years.
Panek's first wife, Sheila, died in 1973, and in 1975 he married Kathleen, a West Virginia girl who had come to Chicago for work. John had always shown artistic ability, and in 1978 he started classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago after being laid off in a company shut-down. Kathleen was a data processing supervisor at Northrop Grumman. She recalls, “I was raised up in the panhandle of West Virginia on a farm that was five miles from everything. I couldn't wait to get out of West Virginia, but in Chicago I learned that I couldn't wait to get back.”
John and Kathleen often traveled to West Virginia to visit family, and a dream for their empty nest and retirement years began to take shape. They began looking at houses during their visits. Kathleen wanted something suitable to open a bed and breakfast, and in 1994 they walked into a property for sale in Shinnston, and Kathleen said, “We can stop looking now. This is it!” John retired that same year, Kathleen turned in her resignation, and in January 1995 they left Chicago. They opened their B&B in 1996 and joined the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association, where Kathleen has served as Marketing Chair, President, and still serves as Legislative Chair. Their B&B – called Gillum House – is also the official information center for the City of Shinnston.
Over the years, John had not given up his shooting hobby, but in 2003 he began to experience post-polio syndrome, a condition that attacks more than 25 percent of polio victims with further muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. Panek recalls, “I was shooting in competition, and I started feeling very tired, then I almost lost my balance and stumbled. I knew something was wrong.” After diagnosis, he walked away from shooting for good. He says, “I knew it was no longer safe. But it didn't bother me to walk away. I just got deeper into my art.” (above right is Panek at his drawing board; following are examples of his work) About his work he adds, “Norman Rockwell said an artist should paint what he likes. I like motorcycles!”
Another of John's great heroes is Carroll Resweber, and the first time he chose a motorcycle as the subject for a painting, it was Resweber's Harley-Davidson KR dirt tracker. It was so well received that it initiated a series of motorcycles and famous racing machines which, each year, the Panek's display at the West Virginian MountainFest at Morgantown. Panek says, “It's really the only show I do. I get enough commissioned work from the one exhibit that I stay more than busy.” Panek's paintings are so technically correct -- right down to the spoke pattern in the wheels -- that he rarely completes more than three a year. Plus, there's also plenty to do at the B& B. Panek says, “I'm the dishwasher and run the vacuum in the downstairs. Sure, we could hire this done, but it is part of my therapy, and I'm going to continue to do it so long as I am physically able.”
In the mean time, from her creative mind for marketing and business, Kathleen has integrated their personal interests into the B&B operation. She explains, “We like police, firemen, military, motorcyclists, and equestrians, and we've created programs for all of them.” For example, vets, cops, and firemen get a 15 percent discount at Gillum House during the season, and a 20 percent discount in the off-season. On the night of November 10, vets can book in for a free stay on the eve of Veterans Day. And for motorcyclists, Kathleen will create customized Inn-to-Inn packages where riders can travel throughout West Virginia and neighboring states with pre-arranged B&B accommodations which include a box lunch and a custom-planned scenic route for traveling between Inns.
It is clear that Kathleen and John are a matched set; a partnership of two enthusiastic and highly creative individuals who have found a way to bring all their interests together for a good life in a state that describes itself as Wild and Wonderful. To learn more about John Panek's motorcycle art, click here. To learn more about Gillum House, or to plan your visit, click here.
The Wheels Through Time Museum has been hosting a promotion called “30 Bikes in 30 Days,” firing up one of their rarest machines each day for a month while creating a video record of the event for the Museum's web site. For more information, click here. WTTM takes pride in the fact that over 90 percent of the hundreds of bikes in its collection are in running order. They don't call it the Museum that Runs for nothing.
Even Vladimir Putin rides a motorcycle. To check it out, click here.
The BMW Veteran Motorcycle Club of America will host its annual Midwest meet near Manchester, Ohio on September 16 through 18. There are RV hookups, hot showers, shelter, and plenty of firewood and camping space. BMW VMCA membership is not required. For more information, click here or call Richard Sheckler at 419-288-3420.
For coverage of Canada's Ormstown Vintage Off-Raod Festival, click here.
The Louisville Concurs d'Elegance is coming up October 2 at historic Churchill Downs. For more information, click here.
Restoration Werks, of Louisville, Kentucky, is hosting Speed Union on October 1. For more information, click here.
There's a yet-untitled movie in the works about Ed “Iron Man” Kretz. To learn more, click here. What you wanna bet they'll call it “Iron Man?” Oh wait, that's already been done a couple of times already.
Many will remember Biker Broadcasting with Mr. Z. Matt Zanoskar is back, but this time with new technology. To learn how to access his newpodcast, click here.
There will be four Wall of Death performances at the Motorcyclepedia Museum on November 19. Museum admission is $10. The Wall of Death show is also $10, and there is room for only 100 people per show. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Jeff Fredette (pictured right) has just competed in his 31st ISDE! For in interview conducted by IGNITION3, click here. To read our feature about Fredette, published in 2007 when he had only 27 ISDE rides to his credit, go to Motohistory News & Views 12/28/2007.
To see a video Gary Nixon tribute on YouTube, click here.
Seems like often the Aussies can get more out of old British iron than even the Brits. To read about the world's fastest Velocette, click here.
And on the subject of old Brit iron, if you're still trying to hop up your Enfield, click here.
There are thousands of photos on photographer Phil Aynsley's web site. Click here. He has also produced a photographic tribute to Ducati. Click here.
Roger Decoster will receive special honors November 2 at the 2011 Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Las Vegas. For tickets, click here.
AMA/FIM official, Bonneville speed freak, and sometimes Motohistory contributor Drew Gatewood (pictured left) is the subject of Rocky Robinson's latest “Salt Addiction” blog. To read it, click here.
The Goodwood Revival will be held September 16 through 18. For more information, click here. Former British motocross champions Les Archer, Dave Bickers, Jeff Smith, Dave Curtis, Don and Derek Rickman, and Arthur Lampkin all will be present.
The first Indian has rolled off the Polaris-Indian assembly line at Spirit Lake, Iowa. For the story, click here.
Want an electric start for your old Indian? Click here.
Bikes from the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa won two awards at Pebble Beach. For the story, click here.
For coverage of the 2011 Cycle World Rolling Concours, click here.
Our feature about Florida collector Mike Crone, who boasts an exclusively Triumph collection of more than 90 motorcycles (see Motohistory News & Views 4/28/2001) has been republished by the Antique Motorcycle Foundation web site. To see the story, click here.
The Antique Motorcycle Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. Its mission is to support the collection and preservation of antique motorcycles and motorcycle history, and to tell the story of antique motorcycling to the public at large. To learn more about the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, click here.
achieves major event status
Seven years ago, a group of business people and motorcyclists in and around Morgantown, West Virginia launched MountainFest, an event intended to attract visitors to the scenic hills of the state at mid-summer, the best time of year to enjoy its wild and wonderful natural beauty. Less than a decade later, MountainFest is bringing in more than 70,000 people each year to enjoy a wide range of entertainment that includes a giant vintage bike show and some of the most popular names in country rock music. While other high-profile events – namely Sturgis and AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days – seem to have been on the decline, MountainFest has become one of the most popular summer biker venues in the nation.
MountainFest is not strictly a motorcycle event, yet those who arrive on two wheels make up 60 percent of its attendance. Nor is it strictly a vintage motorcycle event, yet its indoor display of more than 250 historic motorcycles makes it the largest temporary show in the nation; larger even than many permanent motorcycle museum exhibits. Theme exhibits this year included original paint motorcycles, military, Indian, Harley-Davidson, ACE Café, Italian, British (including a collection containing every model year of the Triumph Bonneville TT Special), German, and Japanese. In addition, the vintage features this year included American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association motocross and cross-country racing for the first time. So, while there is a dominant and unmistakable motorcycle theme, the non-riding public turns out in the thousands to enjoy a carnival atmosphere – complete with ferriswheel and helicopter rides – food, an outdoor custom bike show in addition to the big vintage bike display, and live entertainment that this year included Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, and Montgomery Gentry. And if this were not enough, on Sunday, following three days of non-stop entertainment and vintage bike racing, attendees can go into Morgantown for motorcycle races through the streets of the city. Where else in America do you see something like that?
When MountainFest began, its venue was a single hotel where there was music and a vintage bike show, followed by street races. With success and heavy promotion by the local Triple S Harley-Davidson, it has outgrown Morgantown and moved to nearby Mylan Park, a 300-acre entertainment center retrieved from a former coal-mining site. Perhaps its success derives in part from the fact that there is no driving profit motive, and its planners are more than happy to pour revenue back into making MountainFest bigger and better each year.
Mylan Park is owned and managed by a non-profit corporation, and MountainFest itself is a charitable non-profit, run entirely by volunteers. Last year, $160,000 was donated to Stepping Stones, a children's health charity, and Pace Enterprises, a non-profit organization that generates jobs and offers training to improve the skills of more than 300 handicapped workers. And clearly, the events original motive to promote tourism in West Virginia has been amply fulfilled. Economic Impact for MountainFest in recent years has been estimated at $10- to $14-million within a 50-mile radius of Morgantown.
To read more about MountainFest, click here. To learn about Stepping Stones and Pace Enterprises, click here and here. To access the web site of Triple S Harley-Davidson, click here. To read our previous feature about Tom McKee, one of the driving forces behind West Virginia MountainFest, go to Motohistory News & Views 6/30/2011.
The Fall issue of The Antique Motorcycle has arrived, and it is jam-packed with interesting features. The cover story is about the history and restoration of Gunga Din, the famous 1947 Vincent works road racer and speed record machine. The well-researched story is by Editor Bill Wood, with beautiful photography by Todd McLellan. The issue also contains a seven-page story about the new Motorcyclepedia Museum, a feature about the genealogy of a 1938 Indian, and an account of the recent Rhinebeck National Meet. As always, there are interesting columns, news stories, and plenty of classified ads. The Antique Motorcycle is not sold on news stands. You'll receive it quarterly with your Antique Motorcycle Club of American membership. To join, click here.
The August issue of The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Magazine contains part two of the “Nightmare Kawasaki,” the story of the restoration of a machine that gives emphasis to the old saying, “Let the buyer beware.” There are also stories about the VJMC mid-America meet, held in Columbus, Ohio; and the 17th Annual Vintage Japanese Los Angeles Club Death Valley Run, as well as meets in Mt. Vernon, Washington and Golden, Colorado. With pages and pages of classified advertising, this is the magazine for the motohistorian interested in getting into vintage Japanese bike collecting. However, it cannot be found on the news stand. It is included in your membership in the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of America. To join, click here.
The September issue of American Motorcyclist has an attention-getting cover with the screaming visage of Mike Wolfe, the man who has earned fame and fortune through the History Channel's “American Pickers.” In a story written by Editor Grant Parsons at Wolfe's new Nashville digs, Wolfe talks about how he got into and became successful in the business of finding trash and selling treasures, including antique motorcycles. Photography for the story is by Whitney Carlson. This issue also includes other items of interest to the motohistorian, such as profiles of Hall-of-Famers Terry Vance and Craig Vetter, and a beautiful photo spread about the first-year (1968) Penton. In this case, it is Penton V0003, owned by Al Born and currently on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio. American Motorcyclist arrives monthly with your AMA membership. To join, click here.
The October issue of American Iron Magazine contains a couple of features of interest to the motohistorian: there is a story by K. Randall Ball about the 1914 Yale twin, with photos by Markus Cuff; and a feature about Publisher Buzz Kanter's Harley Panhead bobber. This the kind of motorcycle that just a few years ago would have been considered “not kosher vintage,” but all of that changed since the Antique Motorcycle Club of America created a Period Modified judging class. Today, the building and showing of period modified customs has become one of the most popular activities within the AMCA. Kanter provides not only the words, but also the photography about his bike, which—built around a 1949 EL—features twin Linkert carbs and 12-volt electronic ignition hidden under its stock distributor cap. The Yale featured in this magazine is owned by drag racing team owner and former Harley-Davidson dealer Mike Bahnmaier. To subscribe to American Iron Magazine, click
Everyone Olive Drab with the WLA, but what about the bikes that were painted gray? The “Seasoned Citizen's” feature by Margie Siegal (with photos by Dana Shirey) in the September/October issue of IronWorks is about the U.S. Navy's version of the Harley-Davidson warhorse used during World War II. Motor Company records indicate that the 45 cubic inch WLA military motorcycle was never supplied in Navy Gray. Rather, the Navy purchased the 74 cubic inch version of Harley-Davidson's flathead (the Model U), which was usually linked to a sidecar for base and harbor transportation. In assembling his Navy Gray WLA, owner Parke Oehme, who is a member of a WWII reenactment group, created a story. He explains, “The Navy Seabees were know for stealing Army stuff. When I painted my bike, I made sure you could see a little green sticking out here and there. The effect is that of an Army bike stolen by the Seabees and repainted in Navy colors.” And, as long as Oehme had no intention of building a correct restoration, he threw a few WR racing parts into the engine while he was at it. Plus, he rides it out of uniform all the time! To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.
Earliest to the futurist on display
at Motorcyclepedia Museum
Motorcyclepedia, the host museum of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, located in Newburgh, New York, has opened two new exhibits that represent the temporal extremes of motorcycle history, from the earliest and crudest machines to a concept of the future that has not yet been built for practical use. From the past, the 85,000 square-foot facility presents ancient “pacer” motorcycles from the Paris Velodrome, and from the future a plasma-drive work of art inspired by the motion picture “Tron Legacy.” Neither of these representations of their time remotely resembles the motorcycles of today.
Before commercially-viable motorcycles arrived on the scene in the early 20th century, special motor-driven two-wheelers were constructed as “pacers” to improve the speed and performance of bicycle racers. Pacers, several of which are pictured above, were built with huge engines and were large and wide for a reason. When at speed, they were designed to break a large hole in the air and create a vacuum close behind where bicycle racers would experience less wind resistance. Thus, they were wide and tall, and the operator sat upright with his arms outstretched toward wide handlebars so that he and the machine could knock down as much wind as possible.
What were considered huge engines for their day―many built originally for aircraft―were used to drive the heavy machines. With great power and torque, operating wide belt drives to the rear wheel, these engines could take a pacing machine from 0 to 60 mph without jerking, faltering, or pausing to shift gears. This smoothness was critical for the bicyclist, who had to ride a precise distance behind the machine in order to achieve peak efficiency. A roller mounted on a frame behind the pacer dictated this distance. The bicyclists had to ride with his front wheel as close to the roller as possible, but if he touched it he might lose control or crash. It was a rough-and-tumble activity that produced many injuries.
Featuring four authentic and un-restored pacers from the Paris Velodrome, the Motorcyclepedia exhibit includes machines powered by a 2,000cc overhead-valve Anzani V-twin, a 2,400cc MAG V-twin, and a 2,400cc BAC engine. Because they were capable of providing smooth and predictable acceleration, these early machines were used well into the 1920s. Ernest Hemingway saw them and wrote about them with awe and admiration in his book “The Moveable Feast.”
At the opposite end of history from the pacers, Motorcyclepedia presents a vision of the future based on the 2010 Walt Disney movie “Tron Legacy.” When “Tron” came out in 1982, Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn) and his fellow actors found themselves inside the virtual world of a computer where they could morph into motorcycle-like beings that could travel through the grid at lightspeed, executing instant right angles and other maneuvers that would be the envy of any real-world motorcyclist. It was one of the earliest movies to make extensive use of computer graphics, mixing animation with conventionally-shot images of the actors. “Tron” won a Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
Nearly three decades later, Kevin Flynn's son, played by Garrett Hedlund, enters the same virtual world in the motion picture “Tron Legacy” to discover that his father (played again by Bridges) is still living there. This time, the “Tron cycle” is so prominently featured that it becomes the main promotional image of the film, with full-size cardboard versions parked in theaters. Produced at a cost of $170 million, “Tron Legacy” grossed more than $400 million.
If fact, however, the motorcycles of Tron did not exist. They were depicted on the screen entirely through computer animation. This is a situation that Marc and Shanon Parker, owners of Parker Brothers Custom Choppers of Melbourne, Florida thought they should rectify. Their futuristic machine, powered in fantasy by a plasma drive―but in actuality by a Suzuki TRL 1000―is now on display at Motorcyclepedia, with other Tron artifacts, including the cardboard displays used to promote the film and drawings done by the Parker brothers to develop their concept.
About the two very different exhibits, Motorcyclepedia Chief Curator Ted Doersing says, “Our mission includes a very strong educational element. Together, and each it their own way, these exhibits tell a story about the concept of the motorcycle, from the earliest visionaries of the late 19th century to the designers of future motorcycles that do not yet exist.” Doering adds, “We have found these exhibits―and especially the Tron exhibit―to be big hits with children. Both, the very old and the futuristic, trigger their imaginations and obvious.”
In addition to the exciting new exhibits about pacers and Tron, “Fast From the Past,” sponsored by the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, is still appearing at Motorcyclepedia through summer 2012. Antique Motorcycle Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. Its mission is to support the collection and preservation of antique motorcycles and motorcycle history, and to tell the story of antique motorcycling to the public at large. For more information about the AMF's mission, click here.
For more information about Motorcyclepedia, click here. For more about motor-paced bicycle racing, click here. For more about “Tron,” click here. For more about “Tron Legacy,” click here.
Gary Nixon, 1941 – 2011
Two-times AMA Grand National Champion Gary Nixon died today of complications from a heart attack suffered July 29, 2011. Nixon was born in Anadarko, Oklahoma on January 25, 1941. He began racing motorcycles in his early teens, and became a professional in 1958. By 1960 he was competing on the national championship level, was runner-up to the AMA Grand National Championship in 1966, and earned the title in 1967 and 1968, riding for Triumph. Nixon became a world-class road racer and over his 30-year career had factory rides with Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha, in addition to Triumph. During his career he won 19 AMA national championship meets. Even after retiring from professional competition, Nixon remained an active vintage racer with the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association. He was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003. To read about Nixon on Wikipedia, click here. For his official Motorsports Hall of Fame bio, click here. To read about Nixon at SuperbikePlanet, click here. To read his official Motorcycle Hall of Fame Bio, click here. To see a video tribute on YouTube, click here.