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January 2011 News

Motohistory Quiz #88:

We have a winner!



Wow, this quiz was like I set off the Christmas Tree and when the light clicked green, we had a winner!  In fact, we had three correct answers in a matter of seconds, and Lindsay Brooke, the winner, was faster than Russ Collins.


And, speaking of which, Russ Collins is the rider in our quiz, and his three-engine Honda was called “Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,” no doubt because it had the noise and power of a freight train. 

To read Collins’ official Motorcycle Hall of Fame bio, click here


Congratulations, Lindsay, your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is coming soon.


Motohistory Quiz #88



To win this month’s Motohistory Quiz, be the first to tell us who is pictured here and the name of his motorcycle, a special drag bike that ran like it was on rails.


If you are the first with the correct answer, identifying both the rider and the bike, you will become our first Motohistory Know-It-All of 2011, an honor that will leave your friends breathless.

Send your answer to Ed@Motohistory.net


Jeff Willis:

Go-to guy for castings



Jeff Willis stands in the middle of his shop near the small Ohio River town of South Point.  Around him is a vast array of machinery, whole and partial motorcycle frames, engines, tanks and fenders, steel bar and tube stock, tools, and stacks of documents.  Two of his guard dogs—Morgan and Calvin (named after Cal Rayborn)—are rolling around on the floor, harassing and slobbering all over each other.  Another, Ariel, lies dozing on a pile of bedding under a lathe.  Earlier, they met us with convincing snarls, but now that they have decided we belong there, none of them has the slightest interest in guarding anything except maybe his food dish.  Across the room from Willis, on a surgically clean work bench that sits in striking contrast to the clutter of the rest of the shop, is a beautiful Indian factory racing frame, primed and ready to paint.  Describing his situation, Willis declares, like a man down on his luck, “I haven’t worked since 1980.”


Jeff Willis was born in Huntington, West Virginia in 1956, just across the river from South Point.  He grew up right across the road from his shop in a house where his sister still lives.  His father, Herman, rode motorcycles and gave Jeff his first rides at the age of two, holding him between his arms on the gas tank of his Golden Flash (pictured below).  Jeff says, “Of course I don’t remember, but they claim I would try to twist the throttle.”  In 1961, Jeff's father and several of his buddies built Harley bobbers, mostly from military surplus parts.  When Jeff was 13, he wanted a mini-bike, but his father would have none of it.  He said, “Let’s get you a real motorcycle,” and bought a 1969 90cc Kawasaki.  Jeff explains, “That bike’s how I became a mechanic.  It was terrible.  All I did was work on it.”  


In fact, all of Jeff’s technical skills are entirely self-taught.  He didn’t even take a shop class at South Point High, where he graduated in 1974, but at the age of 14 was working with his father as a Volkswagen mechanic.  Jeff explains, “Dad (lower row, third from left in the photo below) learned to work on air-cooled engines in the Air Force.  He could have stayed safely on the ground, working on B17s, but before shipping out for England he volunteered for flight duty and ended up as flight engineer and top turret gunner on a B17.” 

Jeff continues, “He flew 17 missions and came back alive. On one of his early missions, someone put a bullet right through the top turret, next his head, but he was never injured.”  He concludes, “When Volkswagen’s got popular, my dad knew how to work on them, and for a while that became a really good business.  I helped him, and we were very busy.”  But Jeff still found the time to build an Indian at age 15 and a Harley chopper when he was 16.


After high school, Jeff got a job as a millwright at Allied Chemical in South Point, but that ended when the company moved out in 1980.  About this time, Jeff started collecting old motorcycles, and discovered that many of the parts he needed for restorations were impossible to find.  Of course, when Jeff could not find a part, that meant a lot of other guys couldn’t either, so when Jeff fabricated a part from scratch, he made a few more to sell.  He honed his skills in pattern and mold making, creating precise replicas of frame lugs, pedal cranks, and other steel parts needed for early motorcycles, and aluminum parts for later models.


Jeff explains, “Making an accurate and useable part is not as easy as it looks, because of shrinkage.  Anyone can pull a mold and make a casting, but they’re going to end up with a part that is slightly smaller than the original.  Some people make and sell these parts, but I think it is unacceptable.”  Willis pulls a mold from an original part to make an epoxy pattern.  Then a test part is cast from the pattern and carefully measured against the original part.  “There is always shrinkage,” Willis say, “and it depends on a lot of things.  It depends on the size of the part, the thickness of the metal, and even the curves and contours.  It isn’t just a uniform and predictable shrinkage throughout.”  Compensating for the shrinkage is when science turns to art.  Willis continues, “At this point I study the part for a long time.  I handle it and measure it and think about it for days.  Then I cut it apart to ‘expand’ it; to bring it back to its original size (pictured above).  I have to fill in the cuts and reshape and re-contour the epoxy pattern.  When I finally have it right, I’m ready to cast the part in its original material, which may be brass, steel, or aluminum.”  He adds, “I am fortunate to be near a foundry that will do 86/20 and 41/40 steel, and this gives you a replica much stronger that the original.”  Willis has also begun to make molds for unobtainable rubber parts, which he replicates in Neoprene.   


Jeff Willis is the invisible man behind many highly visible projects.  For example, he cast the carburetors, the pedal cranks, front end parts, and control linkage for Paul Brodie’s famous 1919 overhead-cam Excelsior project.  The replica Indian factory racing frame that sits finished on his work bench is the 14th he has built.  He says, “I only build what other people are not making, and I won’t build down to a price.  I fabricate for accuracy and authenticity, and that can get very expensive.”  When a customer asks Jeff to make a part that has not been previously replicated, he will be paying hourly rate for the whole process, including the tedious and time-consuming task of “expanding” the pattern.  “It’s cheaper in the long run,” Jeff asserts, “If the lugs are cast wrong, no amount of cutting and welding is going to fix it.’”


Thanks to his attention to quality and accurate scale, Willis has become the nation's leading supplier of antique motorcycle pedal cranks, the wax patterns of which are pictured above (below are the steel castings, showing the size from the mold above and the sectioned and lengthened final product below).  In addition to the U.S. market, he has sold cranks to builders in six foreign countries.  He says, “Pedal cranks are my main product line, and I guarantee them not to break, thanks to the fact the are 41/40 steel.”  He adds, “I've never had to make good on the guarantee.  I have yet to have one returned to me.”


For a man who has not held down a job since 1980, Jeff Willis is terribly busy.  He says, “If I stopped taking orders today, it would probably take me two years to get through the backlog, and I would really like to have more time for my own projects.”  Jeff’s projects sit in the garage behind his shop, in the loft above, in a truck body sitting out back, in his basement, and even at his sister’s house across the road.  They consist of hundreds of motorcycles, ranging from hulks to fine restorations that have earned the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s Winner’s Circle Award.  He confesses, “I tend to jump from one to the other, getting something new started before I’ve finished something else.”


When you listen to Jeff talk about the kind of parts he fabricates for a living, you might get the idea the he is part of the Harley/Indian old guard who couldn’t care less about anything built after 1945.  But if you lift the door on one of his storage facilities, you come away with a different impression.  Jeff’s interests in motorcycles are incredibly eclectic, and his range of knowledge is vast.  In addition to the many Indians and Harleys in his collection, you’ll find a Ducati Darmah SS, a bunch of big-head Enfields, a Maico ISDT bike, Bultacos, and even a Bridgestone.

In progress you will see in his shop a frame rebuild and a restoration of a Moto Parilla (above left), and some of his completed projects include a concours-winning Harley Sprint CRS, and the 1966 CRTT road racer used by Freddie Nix at Lacona in 1967.  His current project is a Kawasaki F9R (above right), one of the only three works machines built from the 350cc Kawasaki Bighorn engine to compete with the dominant 250cc Yamaha twins in the 1970s.  Not only is it as rare as hen’s teeth, but the bike Willis owns is the one ridden by Yvon DuHamel (how do you say “hen’s teeth” in French?).


Jeff Willis, the go-to guy for castings, works entirely through word of mouth.  He does not have a web site, and his marketing campaign amounts to handing out a few business cards.  And he's pretty stacked up for a guy who hasn't worked since 1980.  If you need an unobtanium part, you can e-mail him him at mccastings@gmail.com but you may have to get in a long line of other guys, a Kawasaki road racer, and a few other works in progress.  And you may have to get past Calvin first.

Photos by Mark Mederski. 

Historical photos provided by Jeff Willis.


A visit to Munich’s

Deutsches Museum

By Ralf Kruger



The Deutsches Museum in Munich is a museum about applied science and technology, and transportation in every form is included.  Its old venerable main building is located on an island in the River Isar, and is a place where you can learn about almost any technology that science has brought into existence.

There are areas dedicated to physics, optics, electricity and chemistry, as well as a planetarium and observatory on the top of the building.


The basement of the facility appropriately shows the history of coal mining, a technology which was all important to the delivery of the steam energy that made the industrial revolution possible.  In addition to the presentation about steam power engines, there are many early internal combustion engines on display, including the enormous early two-stroke and later four-stroke engines built since 1876 by Deutz.  Nicolaus August Otto, who founded Deutz in 1864, identified the importance of compression for engine efficiency, derived from physical analysis of Sadi Carnot's thermodynamic cycle.  He began experimentation with the new methods of operation in 1862, so he is seen as the inventor of the four-stroke engine.  Also on display is the first commercially working diesel engine built by MAN in 1897. Rudolf Diesel had invented this new kind of engine in 1893. Its energy efficiency was 26 percent, which was double the output of the best steam engines of the day. 


On the first floor of the museum, you will see a presentation about early aviation, including a really large display of airplane engines, with excellent explanations about fundamental aerodynamic development.  Motorcyclists will easily notice that at this point in time—circa the end of the 19th century—that the engines for motorcycles and airplanes had a lot in common. Across the Atlantic, for example, think of the work of Glenn Curtiss, who was a leading pioneer in the development of both aircraft and motorcycle transportation.  For both forms of transportation, engines of light weight with high power output were required.  As for reliability, the motorcycle probably fell behind the early aero engines, but I suspect this was more a maintenance than design or quality issue.  Keeping an airplane operating properly was a matter of life or death, whereas motorcyclists could afford to be more casual about attention to maintenance.  Engines aside, later the things learned about aerodynamics would be shared by motorcycle designers as well.  The kinship of the two fields is undeniable.


So, during my all-to-brief visit to the Deutsches Museum, I ogle and learn things I find quite exciting.  For example, did you know that Daimler Benz built an 20 horsepower overhead-valve boxer aero engine in 1926, designed by Ferdinand Porsche ? (pictured below)  A later version—the F7502b—produced 24hp @ 3000rpm.  It features four-valve heads and looks a lot like a typical motorcycle engine of another German brand with its roots in Munich at the time.


While the car and motorcycle collection is rather small, it offers really nice examples of individual mobility.  More treasures are accommodated in a second building a few miles away from the main facility.  I was lucky because a special exhibition was being prepared about early transportation for cars as well as motorcycles alike, so I got to see some rare motorcycles that are not usually on permanent display. 


Take a look at the ever-charming 1922 Megola Sport.  Its flowing line is as beautiful as its technology is weird.  A front-wheel mounted five-cylinder drives the motorcycle.  There is no clutch or gearbox.  You just push it off and go for a ride, shutting the engine down when you come to a stop.  If you were brave enough, you could use it for racing, like Toni Bauhofer who won a German National Championship in road racing in 1924, beating BMW.  But typical customers were less sporty and complained about the absence of a clutch.  Thus, production ceased in late 1925, after only four years of manufacture.


A more traditional approach was taken by Arthur Schüttoff, from Chemnitz, Saxony, who earned a college degree in mechanical engineering at Zwickau.  His special knowledge was in machine tool production, and he worked for, amoungst others, Wanderer Machine Tool, Inc. where he came into contact with the motorcycle business.  He started his own machine tool company in 1909, and in 1923 established his Schüttoff motorcycle firm.  Many of German motorcycle manufacturers at that time did not make their own engines. They used Sachs or Villers engines for small motorcycles and predominantly English-made engines from Sturmey Archer or JAP for the big capacity classes.

Not so with Schüttoff.  He was convinced he could build engines as good as the best imports, and he manufactured under the motto: “Quality, quality, quality.”  Perhaps his best motorcycle was the Model F Sportmaschine, built in 1925.  It was a 350cc ohv that featured unit construction with a gear primary drive and a three-speed gearbox.  This was an utterly modern layout at the time, and it proved to be very successful in sales and reliability. His works riders gained national road racing championships in 1925 and 1926.  On display at the museum is a 1927 type H (pictured above), a relative to the F model, but with still higher specification.  Only a few were built, and the example seen is presumably the only one left.  It offers an overhead-cam head, driven by bevel gears and shaft.  But 1930 brought a rapidly declining economy, and late in 1931 the Schüttoff factory was taken over by DKW, then later by Auto Union.


If you wanted to break speed records in 1935, your best tool would have been the BMW Kompressor ridden by former racer Ernst Henne (pictured above).  On the flat Autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, his 750cc works bike achieved a new world record over a distance of one kilometer, with flying start.  His average speed was a fraction over 256 kph (160 mph), which was a really stunning performance.  This is even more surprising if you consider that the bike had no fairing at all, but only some very carefully modified bodywork developed in BMW's wind tunnel.  Here again, motorcycling learned from aeronautics, with excellent results.


Of course, if we want to talk about some real speed, we look to the NSU Delphin III on display, which stunned the competition at the Bonneville salt flats on August 4.1956  Rider Wilhelm Herz piloted the machine to 338kph over the distance of one kilometer, 339kph over a mile, and 328kph over the distance of five miles!  Powered by a 500cc engine, the motorcycle shattered also the records that stood in the 750cc and 1,000cc categories.  Its engine was an upgraded 500cc Kompressor engine used for German road racing in 1949.  Its origin is still based on the 350cc engine which debuted in 1938.  Maximum power is 110hp @ 8500rpm, but the secret for these high speeds was the machine’s efficient streamlining.


So how did this all begin?  The Deutsches Museum shows us.  In 1817, Karl Friedrich Drais, a German forest superintendent, invented the "Draisine."  This wooden "walking machine" was the precursor of the bicycle.  You had to sit on a cushioned saddle and paddle forward with your legs. While it is certainly not the most elegant way to travel, as we know today, at the time it impressed nearly anybody who saw the advantage of this simple vehicle.  The museum also has many successors on display, partly simplifying the original design.


The oldest motorcycle on display at the museum is a Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, which was built in 1894 to become first motorcycle which was mass-produced.  The bike on display features some different specification from all the replicas and original bikes I have previously seen.  Its four valves for breathing are not arranged parallel and standing, but the two exhaust valves are lying at a 90° angle to the standing automatic inlet valves. So, the valve actuating mechanism is completely different from most of the other H&Ws that still exist.  Also, the machine on display did not feature that big tank that wraps around the rear wheel, doubling as a fender.  There are some other slight differences with this motorcycle, indicating that there were upgrades with the passage of time.


In 1919, the first scooter built in Germany was sold to the public.  It was produced by industrial giant Krupp, after he purchased a license from the American Autoped, the original inventor of this little bike.  At the time, the ordinary customer was not sure he could handle the loud and monstrous-appearing vehicle called the motorcycle, so small vehicles like this scooter seemed to make sense.  It offered ease of operation with the lowest possible cost for the customer.  The Krupp Autoped was an instant success, but not for long.  Its production was ended after only 3 years as the disadvantages of the design became evident.  It offered no comfort for touring, which was becoming more and more popular.


Finally, I want to note a newer motorcycle, developed in the 1970s.  This is the Hercules Wankel 2000.  The bike on display is the original development prototype from 1972, which differs significantly from the series bike.  While the prototype does not differ too much in its motor, it features shaft drive borrowed from an early BMW.  The biggest problem of German motorcycle production as a whole at that time was cost, so when the Hercules Wankel appeared in showrooms in 1974 (it was sold under the DKW label in some countries), the tidy shaft drive had been replaced with a chain.  Taking into account that this low production bike was neither cheap to produce nor as refined as touring enthusiasts would like, it is a wonder Hercules did not quit production immediately, but tried to sell it until the late ‘70s.  It even appeared in off-road competition at the ISDT, which impressed no one.


The Deutsches Museum in Munich is a true dream for the technically-minded as well as people who want to learn just a little about the fast advancing development of applied science.  It opens one's eyes to the difficulty of achieving technical break-throughs and developing new and practical products.  But it shows in equal degree the joy of successfully bettering "last year’s standards" when engineers take a fresh idea to new horizons in every direction of technical development.  It shows that technical progress is often the work of Sisyphus, but that the rewards are well worth the effort.  When you are next in Munch, come and see!


To access the multilingual web site for the Deutsches Museum, click here.


Marcus Dairy;
the end of an era

Early in the 1960s, a group of BMW riders began to gather on Sunday mornings at the Marcus Dairy Bar and Restaurant in Danbury, Connecticut.  Little did they realize they were starting a tradition.  By the early 1980s on a typical summer Sunday, as many as 1,000 motorcyclists would converge on the eatery on Sugar Hollow Road that had become widely known as "Marcus Dairy."  They came to kick tires, have breakfast, hang out, and depart for rides into the scenic countryside.  Marcus Dairy had become an East Coast biker's mecca, similar to California's Rock Store.  But now, nearly 40 years of tradition is coming to an end, pushed out by the relentless pressure of what developers call "progress." 


Around the turn of the last century, Harry Marcus started a dairy farm and home milk delivery business.  As business grew, he set up his headquarters in Danbury.  The operation expanded into the Stamford market, and in 1924 his son Jack took over the growing family operation.  In 1946, the Marcuses sold their cows to concentrate on processing, packaging, and distribution of dairy products, and a year later opened the Marcus Dairy Bar and Restaurant on their ten-acre property.  As motorcycle sales in America began to boom in the 1960s, the restaurant became a favorite gathering place for the two-wheeled set.  The expanding operation was passed on to Harry's grandson Michael in 1970.


Sean Marcus (pictured left), the current manager and fourth generation of the family business, explains, "I think a lot of the attraction to bikers was because they were welcome.  Motorcyclists in the 1960s and '70s were sometimes regarded a rough crowd, and some restaurants would not serve them.  My grandfather didn't care.  He regarded a customer and customer, no matter how he arrived at our door."  He adds, "Also, we had big picture windows, and motorcyclists liked the fact that they could keep an eye on their bikes while they had a cup of coffee or a meal."


But a welcoming attitude was not the only reason Marcus Dairy continued to grow as a rider's destination.  The weekly party got a huge boost in 1983 when the New York Times published a story about the restaurant, and celebrity publisher Malcolm Forbes and his Capitalist Tool Motorcycle Club began to show up.  Then, in 1985, a shopping mall was built near the dairy, and a new off-ramp was added to Interstate 84 to accommodate increased traffic.  Sean Marcus says, "Exit 3 practically dumped into our parking lot, improving the convenience for motorcyclists to travel from greater distances."   Now the Sunday crowds were numbering 500 and steadily growing.  While Marcus Dairy was not yet close to its zenith of popularity, Exit 3 was also the beginning of the end, though no one could have known it at the time.


In the winter of 1988/89, Kawasaki introduced a national advertising campaign about great motorcycle gathering places, and Marcus Dairy was featured in one of its ads.  It was a huge boost to business, and Michael Marcus, Sean's father, met with Kawasaki executives about hosting special events three or four times a year to raise money for local charities. Sean was put in charge of these events, which drew as many as 12,000 people.  Sean recalls, "They were great events, and over the years we raised more than half a million dollars for charity, but, truthfully, I enjoyed much more the atmosphere of the normal Sunday gatherings." 


In the meantime, the neighborhood was changing, making it ever harder for Marcus Dairy's core business of milk processing and distribution to function.  Sean explains, "This was an industrial neighborhood.  Our next-door neighbor was a welding shop.  After the arrival of the mall and the new off-ramp, manufacturing began to give way to retail, and taxes kept going up, up, up."  By 1995, it was apparent to the Marcus family that the end was coming.  Marcus continues, "We simply could no longer afford to run the business from this location.  First we got rid of our processing plant, then moved our distribution operation and corporate headquarters.  Finally, there was only the restaurant, which was always just a sideline to what we really do.  We simply could not earn enough to keep it going."


Sean Marcus, who is himself a motorcyclist, confesses that he and the family as a whole have been terribly conflicted.  Paraphrasing the famous Joni Mitchell song, he says, "This isn't about 'paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.'  We don't want it to happen, and we've been struggling to avoid it since 2008 when it was first announced that the restaurant would close."   But finally, the decision has been made.  The Marcus Dairy Bar and Restaurant will close on February 6, and its contents will be auctioned on February 27.  A great motorcycle institution will come to an end. 


To access the Marcus Dairy web site, click here.  To read more about the closing at MotorcycleCruiser.com, click here.  For nearly a decade of Jerry Molaver's photographs from Marcus Dairy gatherings, click here

Photos by Jerry Molaver.  


Carl Nelk’s

Motor Coaster

Perhaps the discovery of one of American motorcycling's rarest machines began the day in 1991 David Hartwick was rear-ended on his bicycle, knocked 30 feet, and left unconscious by the road for 30 to 40 minutes before someone stopped to help him.  Left with multiple traumas that included separated vertebrae in his back and neck, and a severe head injury that caused long term memory loss, Hartwick, now 45, had to relearn everything, from walking to reading.  It was a year before he could speak somewhat normally, and it took three years for him to relearn to read.  He says, “Some doctors said I would never be normal again, but I wasn’t about to settle for that.  I just kept working to relearn my basic living skills.”  As a motorcyclist, he had a small library of motorcycle books, so what better place to begin his rehab.  He reports that in the early days of his come-back, it took a full day to read a single page.


In the process of regaining his reading skills, Hartwick redeveloped his passion for the forgotten brands, especially those built in California.  Everything that caught his eye was assigned to a folder for future reference.  Over time, he compiled an impressive archive of information about marques such as Duck, Fagan, Manson, Pansy, and Nelk.  His searches include patent records, newspapers, magazines, obituaries, birth, death, and marriage certificates; court and police records; libraries, museums, privet collections, graveyards and much more, where he discovers bits and clues about the lost brands and the people who made them.  In the case of motorcycling pioneer Carl Nelk, Hartwick discovered his childhood home, the houses he lived in, where he was educated, the people he worked for, where he conducted his business, and finally, his rarest creation, the Nelk Motor Coaster.  Hartwick had heard of references to the machine, but no one knew whether one had actually been built. 

Carl Nelk was born in 1870 to a German immigrant couple in Williams, California (then called Central, California).  His father had a wagon shop where Carl likely got his interest in engineering and transportation, and it is known that he built an engine at the age of 18 that he demonstrated at a county fair.  He went to Stanford University where he studied engineering, and around 1905 started building his own motorcycle, which evolved into an elegant and sophisticated liquid-cooled machine.  Nelk built conventional motorcycles until 1912, and in that year took his idea of personal mobility in an entirely different direction.  This took the form of his Nelk Motor Coaster, which was basically a motorized push-scooter, probably based on an existing model sold in the bicycle shop in Palo Alto where he worked at the time. 

In early 2009, Hartwick was visiting a Northern California historical collection and archive for a project that had nothing to do with Carl Nelk.  While exploring warehouses that he likens to the last scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," he stumbled upon a gold mine of pre-1920 motorcycles which had not been touched since at least 1965.  He recalls, “They ranged from 1905 to 1915, and among them I found this Rube Goldberg contraption with shredded tires, covered with decades of grime.”  On its engine, which perched above the small front wheel, was a brass plate, and on the brass plate was inscribed "Nelk Motor Coaster."  Eureka, Hartwick had found it.

Like the Autoped, which came somewhat later (1915-1921), the Nelk Motor Coaster is like a push-scooter whose operator stands on a low, flat platform between front and rear wheels, holding a set of handlebars with throttle on the left and spark advance on the right.  There is no seat for the operator, and its small engine is mounted above the front wheel.  On the Nelk, the fuel tank was placed between the handlebars, and power was delivered through a belt to a pulley, then from there via chain drive to the front wheel.  Hartwick explains, “I’ve since found a photo of Nelk riding one of his earlier motorcycles on the Palo Alto campus.  We don’t know whether he had any commercial aspirations for the Motor Coaster concept.  It seems to have been his personal motor vehicle, probably in early stages of development.”

Hartwick’s studies of Carl Nelk and his motorcycles have produced enough new knowledge that it is currently being compiled in a book.  Hartwick says, “Every time I set a deadline to complete the project, I turn up something new, which I need more time to pursue.”  However, he is optimistic that the project can be finished in another six months.  Any Motohistorians who have information to share about the Nelk motorcycle or Nelk Motor Coaster are encouraged to contact him at nelk.history@yahoo.com.

Photos provided by David Hartwick.



To view the mother of all hill climbs, click here.

For a panoramic tour of the Honda Collection Hall, click here.

For images of the Coney Island Motordrome, click here.

Want to hear a Gilera Four or a Guzzi V8?  For vintage bike videos and sounds, click here and here.

Need a retro helmet to go with your retro motorcycle?  Metro Racing has DOT approved open face Bell 500s in a range of colors.  For more info, click here.

To see Rapide’s new Vincent web site, click here


Rocky Robinson’s “Salt Addiction” has an outstanding story about speeders Jon and Nancy Wennerberg.  Click here

Craig Vetter began promoting motorcycle fuel economy 30 years ago when he hosted his first economy challenge in 1980.  He will be organizing several challenge events in 2011.  For more information, click here.

For a tour of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, with witty commentary, click here


For a four-hour video history of the Isle of Man TT, click here.

Artist Amir Glinik creates 3D computer images, including many imagers of classic American motorcycles.  To visit his web site, click here


More than $2.4 million changed hands at Bonham’s first Las Vegas motorcycle auction on January 6.  Stand outs were the 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller for $161,000, an Indian claimed to be a 1901 for $121,500, a 1939 BMW R51RS factory racer for $130,200, and a 1929 Harley-Davidson Peashooter factory racer for $125,500.  For the complete list of sales, click here.  To read the Vintagent’s extensive coverage of the Bonham’s Vegas auction, click here, here, and here.  To read Brian Slark’s report, click here.

Bonhams is also hosting its third Quail Lodge Motorcycle Auction in Carmel, California on May 14.  One of the headliners at the sale will be the 1971 Husqvarna Cross believed to be the same bike on which Steve McQueen appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August, 1971.  Individuals wishing to consign bikes to the auction can click here


In honor of the 40th anniversary of “On Any Sunday,” Rob Phillips of Husky Restorations has restored a Huaqvarna 400 Cross.  To check it out, click here

The Gus Kuhn web site has been redesigned, and packed with lots of great history.  Click here.

To read Doug Klassen’s coverage of the 2011 Phoenix Euro and Brit show, click here.  Also, check out Klassen’s “Radical Ride, 1977” about Doug Bingham’s street-legal kneeler.  Click here.

For great black & white images from Donington Park 1980 on Superbikeplantet’s wayback machine, click here.

To access author Tim Hanna’s web site, click here

The motorcycle auction business in America gets more and more competitive.  First, Bonhams went up against Mid-America in Los Vegas.  Now, Gavin Trippe, race promoter and motorcycle hall of famer tells us he will head up a new motorcycle division for Mecum, one of the biggest car auctioneers in the country.  He hints that Mecum will soon announce sales at Indianapolis in May and Pebble Beach in August.  To access Mecum on the internet, click here.

To see some crashing and tumbling at the 1957 Catalina Grand Prix, click here.

The Eddie James estate, an incredible inventory of BMW parts, will be sold at the Bator International Daytona Auction.  To review what is for sale, click here.

Okay, here’s a great project for those long winter days when you are going crazy with cabin fever.  Just build yourself a motorcycle from a cheap cigarette lighter.  To learn how, click here.  Sorry the directions are in Chinese.  The pictures should be self-explanatory. 


For a video about Shinya Kimura and his extraordinary interpretation of a Knucklehead, click here.

To watch the 1967 Isle of Man, click here.  To see Part II, click here.


Want to see Mamie Van Doren get off on a Honda, circa 1964? Click here. Note Mamie and her friends in safe MSF-approved lane positions.

All of us know that motorcycling is good therapy. But few have stated it quite as well as regular Motohistory reader Des Molloy. Click hereTo acquire Molloy’s epic motorcycle adventure “The Last Hurrah,” click here.

Maisch family members are re-acquiring Maico intellectual property, and rumors abound in Germany that they are going back into the motorcycle business. Some say the company will introduce off-road bikes of retro design made in China, and others say the company will bring forth a serious, modern electric bike for the German market. Their web site is registered, but still under construction. To access it, click here.

Photographer and motorhead Rick Kocks reports from Inglewood, California’s Garage Company, “Think Vintage Motorcycle Days squeezed in two very into two large garages . . .a very cool place and worth the stop.”  To access Garage Company’s web site, click here


Need parts for vintage Italian motorcycles. Larry Wise at Cosmopolitan Motors still has lots of them. To access Cosmo's web site, click here.


Speaking of vintage parts and artifacts, we hear the Cam Roos has an enormous inventory and has conducted over 5,000 transactions on ebay with a 100% satisfaction rating. Click here.


Münch is an age-old brand that invokes power. Powerful engines, powerful brakes. They're still at it, but now have harnessed the power of AKH electric motors to capture two electric-powered world motorcycle titles. Click here.




The July 2010 issue of BMW VMCA News contains a very interesting article about the restoration of a BMW R73, a hybrid model built after the Second World War by the French company CMR, using a large supply of spares left in France by the defeated Germans.  As chassis and sheet metal were depleted, CMR began to build its own parts in which to install the surplus military R75 engines.  CMR eventually morphed into a company that was acquired by Ratier, which continued with its own line of boxer twins built primarily for police use.  There are also stories about vintage BMWs at Bonneville and the Maxton Mile.  The cover story is about the late James Shaw, a popular BMW VMCA member and music promoter.  BMW VMCA News cannot be found on the news stand, but is available through membership in the BMW Vintage Motorcycle Club of America.  For more information or to join BMW VMCA, click here.



Packard exhibit

has record opening



On January 7 the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio opened its eleventh consecutive winter motorcycle exhibit, drawing an opening night crowd of more than 300 people.  This year’s theme, Motorcycles on Main Street, was curated by Bruce Williams and Daryl Timko, and supported by the Lake Erie Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.  The annual exhibit, which attracts upwards of 10,000 visitors during its five-month run, is clearly the most popular seasonal exhibit at the museum.


Thanks to the completion of a recent expansion from 8,000 to 19,000 square feet, the facility was able to accommodate 30 motorcycles while still keeping 25 classic Packard automobiles on display.  Some of the notable motorcycles in “Motorcycles on Main Street” include an original paint 1970 Triumph TR6 with 104,000 miles, a recently restored Crouch that is one of only four known to exist, a rare German Imme, a 1976 Honda 750 Four with only 500 miles, and a one-off custom with fuel-injected Ford 60 V8 and Moto Guzzi transmission and final drive.  Jim Sedor, the machinist who created the bike, even built the fuel injection from scratch. 


For information about the National Packard Museum, click here.  When “Motorcycles on Main Street” comes down in June, the museum will feature a special exhibit of micro-cars, including a Crosley fire truck. 


Photos provided by Ric Stewart.



Former Pennsylvania dirt tracker Bob Sholly and promoter Tom McKee are planning to put together a reunion of old racers at the 2011 Mountainfest, scheduled for July 28 through 31 in Morgantown, West Virginia.  For information about the racer’s reunion, call Bob at 717-938-2960 or 717-309-5821, or Tom at 304-789-2810.  For more information about the Mountainfest, click here.

Serafin Hermana Ugarte writes from Spain:

I am looking for a brochure and the promotional poster that was produced on the occasion of the 45th International Six Days Trial hosted in Spain October 5 through 10, 1970.  We need it to include in a book about the history of off-road riding in Spain.  This was the first ISDT held in Spain, and it was a remarkable experience for us.  Any kind of reproduction of the original would be helpful, and we will pay reasonable costs.  Anything showing the logo, such as a patch or sticker will be helpful. I have included images of the original brochure and the logo.

Any Motohistorians who can help, please respond to Sister Ugarte at shermana@produban.com



Our frequent contributor on German motorcycle history, Ralf Kruger, wrote us about last month’s quiz, which stumped everyone (see Motohistory News & Views 12/31/2010).  Ralf writes:

I had no clue that the bike was a Puma, made in Argentina, or that it had a link to the German Göricke.  This quiz sent me to my books, where I found a Göricke Model 100K, which looks like the Puma.   Göricke motorcycles were founded in 1903 in Bielefeld, which was in one of the major centers of motorcycle production in Germany.  I am sending along a photo of a Göricke tank badge. 

Thanks, Ralf.  I must confess that until I ran across and started researching the Puma, I had never heard of the Göricke.  We live and learn.

Scottish BSA historian Myles Raymond writes about our tribute to the late Karl Duffner (see Motohistory News & Views 12/22/2010):

When I first went to Daytona in 2004, I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours talking to Karl Duffner about bikes and ‘stuff,’ especially his sensibly modified Gold Star.  I took a photo of UK Gold Star engineer Phil Pearson sitting on Karl’s bike inside the track at Daytona.  Like many, Karl had benefited from Phil’s Gold Star parts and modifications.  It was a great opportunity to photograph UK seller and US customer together.”

Thanks, Myles.  To read Raymond's blog, the Beezagent, click here.

Charles Finney, president of the Chief Blackhawk Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, responded to our editorial entitled “The Graying of the American Motorcyclist” (see Motohistory News & Views 12/20/2010) with the following:

I really appreciate this kind of observation.  From my perspective, it has been 25 years since bikes were explicitly aimed at expanding the base.  I presume that market analysis has indicated such to be a dead end.  The car guys are probably going through the same convulsions, and maybe airplanes and boats the same.  Average age is trending upward and participation is shrinking.  What does all this mean for clubs like Chief Blackhawk and the AMCA?  As the new president of Chief Blackhawk, this stuff haunts me.


Charlie, a lot of us are haunted by the graying of the American motorcyclist.  At this time, the Antique Motorcycle Foundation is discussing hosting a forum for a wide range of national clubs to systematically evaluate the situation and look for remedies, if there are any.


Also about the “The Graying American Motorcyclist,” a reader who chose to be known as Dieselpunk Jim in Dodge City writes:


I enjoyed reading your commentary on the demographics of American motorcyclists. I guess a number of us are kind of throwbacks to a time we remember or wish we did.  Recently, there was some discussion on Darryl Richman's Slash2 BMW list that highlights youth perception of us "old timers."   One of the list members noted how a youthful member of his family reacted when he saw him in his riding garb for the first time.  He had on Belstaff coat, pudding bowl helmet, gauntlet gloves, knee high boots and goggles.  The youngster cried out, "OMG you are totally Steampunk!!" Further discussion follows on whether this look that we all remember so well is actually Steampunk or possibly Dieselpunk.  The older folks were totally lost.  Yup... I had to look it up too....just click here.

Thanks, Jim, I will repeat what I said to Ralf above.  We live and learn! 

About our feature on the Abraxas Bultaco dealership in Ohio (see Motohistory News 3/31/2009) Douglas McKitrick, writes:

The story of the Abraxas Bultaco dealership is a story I knew very little about until  I found your article.  Those days were proud days for my late father. The inclusion of my dad’s part in the dealership history is much appreciated.  For dad, when those days ended, I think part of him died also.  I spent my childhood listening to my dad relive his life through stories of hardship and triumph.  That bike shop was truly a high point for him.  The times he shared with friends Bill, Dave, and Jeff will live on in my mind as if I were there also.  To this day those, memories still bring a smile to my face when I remember how happy my father was telling of his days of glory.  When he passed on, his final words were in tears as he spoke of his love for his kids and his friends.  I have enclosed my graduation photo with Doug on my right, taken in June, 1998.  I’ve also included an old race photo of Doug really twisting it on a 350 Pursang.


Douglas, we find it very gratifying when a reader tells us that one of our features has deep personal meaning.  In this case, we must give full credit to Jeff Thompson, Sean Ahern, and writer Karen Kentosh.  They articulated very well the joy and excitement of the American motorcycle scene during the 1970s.  We were honored to publish their story about Abraxas Bultaco.