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November 2011 News

AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days 2012

and Wauseon on same weekend



The American Motorcyclist Association has announced that AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days 2012 will be staged July 20 through 22, the same weekend as the Antique Motorcycle Club of America National Meet at Wauseon, Ohio.  The venues for the two major vintage-oriented events are only 130 miles apart.  


Not only do Wauseon and VMD attract many of the same swap meet vendors, but both events will include half-mile dirt track races on the same Friday evening.  In response to a complaint from a rider, an AMA spokesman stated, “We are in discussions with all parties to move our race to Saturday night, July 21st.” 


How Matt Guzzetta

crossed America

on one tank of gas



Every American government administration since the mid-1970s has stressed the need to reduce dependency on foreign oil, but four decades later very little has been accomplished in regard to transportation fuel conservation.  More efficient commuter cars have grown in popularity, but the gas-guzzling SUV is still the symbol of middleclass status.  And with flagging interest in motorcycles among younger customers, the motorcycle industry has chased an aging adult customer up-market with motorcycles that are ever bigger, more powerful, and packed with luxury features.  What motorcycle designers might have accomplished was demonstrated nearly 30 years ago when Matt Guzzetta and a team from Motorcyclist magazine traveled from sea to shining sea, through all kinds of weather, at legal highway speed, aboard a little Suzuki that achieved more than 200 miles per gallon without once stopping to take on fuel. 


Matt Guzzetta, a man who takes on every task he encounters with youthful enthusiasm and a desire for excellence, was born in Vallejo, California in January, 1942.  He bought his first motorcycle while in high school – a 500cc AJS – but became keenly interested in the sport after he joined the Army and was shipped to Germany for two and a half years.  He recalls, “I started attending the Grand Prix road races in Europe, watching riders like Jim Redman and Luigi Taveri on the works Hondas, and Ernst Degner, the East German who rode for MZ then defected to the West to ride for Suzuki.  Watching these guys got me very excited about motorcycles.”


After his stint in the Army, Guzzetta returned to California to study transportation design at the Art Center in Los Angeles.  As a class project, he built a Triumph-powered four-wheeled streamliner for land speed record competition at Bonneville (pictured above and below).  Don Brown, who was Sales Manager at Triumph importer Johnson Motors at the time, became Guzzetta's mentor and later helped him secure a position with BSA in England. About his Bonneville Triumph, Guzzetta says, “I made it so small and narrow, my helmet was jammed against the aluminum bulkhead (pictured below right), and the vibration was so intense I literally could not see.”  Securing the driving services of a diminutive drag racer named Roosevelt Lackey, who fit nicely into the tiny liner, Guzzetta saw his creation achieve 137 mph against a class record of 142.  Unfortunately, the down-course run was late in the day, and the Triumph was not able to make its required return run.  Guzzetta laments, “I think if we had had another day, we could have taken the record.”


After Don Brown moved to American Suzuki, he worked with Guzzetta to design a Suzuki-powered Formula IV racing car (below left).  Though the project never saw competition due to a rule change that outlawed Japanese engines, establishing a relationship with Suzuki would pay dividends for Guzzetta later.  From Suzuki, Brown returned to the reorganized BSA/Triumph and in 1969 helped Guzzetta secure a three-year contract at the British Company’s design shop in England, at Umberslade Hall. Guzzetta stayed a year, then returned to the U.S. to work for a California design firm.  He explains, “I didn’t like the direction the company was going, and didn’t see a lot of future there.”  His instincts were correct, because BSA went into receivership within two years of his departure.


Guzzetta met legendary speedster Don Vesco shortly after Vesco broke the motorcycle world land speed record at 251.66 mph in 1970.  They became friends and experimented with one of Vesco's 350cc Yamaha engines in Guzzetta's liner.  Within a year, Vesco and Guzzetta became business partners at Vesco Products in El Cajon.  Guzzetta says, “It was a great relationship.  We worked well together and ran the business for more than two years before we ever put a word on paper by way of a partnership agreement.”  The partnership continued until 1984 when Guzzetta bought out Vesco to take ownership of the company, where he produced the Rabid Transit fairing line. 


In 1980, Craig Vetter, who had by now made his name with motorcycle fairings and other stylish examples of modern industrial design, launched a high-mileage rally to demonstrate what can be accomplished with small motorcycle engines and the science of aerodynamics.  The first Craig Vetter Economy Run was a bigger success than anyone expected.  Interest was high, and the press responded with positive and enthusiastic stories about the event.  Honda had an official entry in the rally, which did not go unnoticed by Suzuki. 

Guzzetta was summoned to Suzuki headquarters and asked to design a motorcycle for the next year's rally (the four pictures above and three below show the machine from sketch to completion).  He explains, “Suzuki had just introduced its GN125, a four-stroke single, and wanted to promote its fuel efficiency.  They told me I could not change the motorcycle in any way.  They just wanted me to enclose it withproper streamlining.”  Guzzetta continues, “At the ’81 economy run we achieved 152 mpg, but were disqualified from the official results because the Suzuki's stock speedometer was so inaccurate that we failed to finish within the time limit.”


But this did not dampen Guzzetta's or Suzuki's interest in the project.  Just to see what streamlining had done for the top end, Don Vesco took the bike to El Mirage and turned 82 mph, running stock carburetor settings at the dry lake's 4,000 foot elevation.  Suzuki cut Guzzetta loose to make modifications on the bike, including the tuning services of Fujio Yoshimura.  Guzzetta relates, “The mechanical changes were surprisingly minor.  I had Rob North increase the steering rake three degrees for handling, and I added three inches to the swingarm for improved stability and to move the center of gravity slightly forward.  Yoshimura installed a smaller intake valve, a cam from Suzuki's 125 ATV engine for better low-end torque, and a sixth gear to the transmission.  He experimented with a variety of carburetors, but settled on the stock Mikuni.”  Guzzetta continues, “I installed a two-gallon fuel tank because that was all we needed, and this allowed to rider to tuck in lower for better aerodynamics.  I added a sprag clutch to the rear hub so it would freewheel when not under power, like a bicycle.  That was it.  No fancy tricks or super tuning.”


Guzzetta's streamliner took fifth in the 1982 Vetter Economy Run, and third in 1983 (Guzzetta -right- is pictured here with Craig vetter - left - at the 1983 event).  During the first three years of the event, leading designs had advanced rapidly.  Some builders had created whole new machines from the ground up every year, and the leading contenders had moved afield from the concept of a practical day-to-day motorcycle.  Fully enclosed bodies had been designed where riders lay scrunched down under enclosed canopies and poked their feet out through spring-loaded panels when they came to stoplights.  The top two of the 1983 rally were such machines, designed and operated by Charles Perethian and Dan Hanebrink, who astonishingly achieved 372 mpg and 362 mpg respectively (pictured right is Hanebrink's radical streamliner Below left is Perethian's).  Guzzetta's bike, however, still relied on his shell built in 1981, designed so a rider could sit in a normal position and put his feet down when at rest, and easily climb on and off the bike.  Guzzetta says with a smile, “Heck, I used to ride it around in San Diego, although I noticed that its paint job sometimes attracted a little too much attention.” 


In November that year, Jerry Greer and Chuck Guy rode a 185cc high-mileage Yamaha special from Southern California to New York City.  Like the more radical high mileage designs, the bike had an egg-like shell with a canopy that slid shut over the rider, and small doors that the rider had to push open with his feet in order to touch the pavement (pictured below).  About rider comfort, Guy acknowledged, “It's awful close in there.”  It was Greer's hope to cross the country at better than 200 mpg, and they almost made it, averaging 196.5 mpg over the 3,000+ mile route.  Greer and Guy's adventure generated a lot of positive press coverage, which did not go unnoticed in the motorcycle industry. 


Guzzetta and his brother-in-law, journalist/photographer Gerald Foster, talked about the Greer feat, and figured Guzzetta's high-mileage Suzuki could do better, and they thought it would be a good idea to show that high-mileage motorcycles do not have to be claustrophobic or painful to ride.  Foster thought they needed a unique idea to distinguish a second cost-to-coast ride, and he wondered if it would be possible to carry enough fuel – something less than 15 gallons – to make the crossing without ever stopping for gas; coast to coast on one tank.  Guzzetta and Foster started talking the idea around the motorcycle industry and found a backer in Motorcyclist magazine publisher Dick Lague.  Monthly motorcycle magazines had become too much alike, publishing endless series of road tests, and Lague wanted an exciting project feature to promote Motorcyclist and set it apart.


In addition to financial backing, Guzzetta found in Lague a media-savvy strategist.  Lague proposed that they not just ride coast to coast and hope to be noticed, but that they stage a press-covered tank sealing ceremony in the shadow of the Star of India cruise ship in San Diego Harbor of a Friday--a slow news day--and arrive eight days later in Daytona Beach at the Saturday before the Daytona 200.  There they would have a press event to break the seal on the tank and certify the mileage, right in front of the Union 76 gas pumps at Daytona International Speedway.  In addition to covering travel expenses, Motorcyclist also provided a chase van and journalist John Stein to travel with the team to document the ride.


In preparation for the trip, very little was done to the bike except to increase the fuel load.  Guzzetta retained the two-gallon tank because it was essential to the streamlined design, but crafted a 10.4 gallon horseshoe-shaped tank that encircled the front forks inside the shell (pictured above left).  The increased fuel load added roughly a hundred pounds to the weight of the machine, but this increased weight in the nose proved beneficial.  Guzzetta explains, “All we had to do was pump up the air shocks a bit to compensate for the weight, and we found that handling and stability were improved.  The increased mass made the bike less susceptible to crosswinds, making the bike handle better at the beginning of the trip than at the end.”


The idea was to depart with a full fuel load and the filler cap on the tanks sealed.  The team would burn up the main (two gallon) tank, then use a small electric pump to move fuel from the reserve (10.4 gallon) tank to completely refill the main tank.  In this way they could tell throughout the crossing exactly how much fuel they had used. 


But they failed to account for expansion.  Just after leaving San Diego on March 2, Guzzetta and the motorcycle ascended the 2,000-foot Crestwood Summit.  This, and a series of 3,000-foot ranges west of the Imperial Valley would be the only imposing ascents along the southern route they had chosen through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and on to Jacksonville.  The Suzuki struggled up the grade, and warm temperatures plus an overheating engine inside the enclosed shell caused the fuel to expand and pour out the vent hose.  This was unacceptable, so Guzzetta and Foster stopped to let the bike cool while they plugged the vent hose.  Then they carried on.  


The next day, they reached Wilcox, Arizona, giddy with excitement about the performance of their small machine.  They had covered 500 miles and had still not emptied the two-gallon main tank!  By Sunday, March 4, their elation began to turn to confusion as they approached Demming, New Mexico.  They were now 600 miles into the ride, and still running on the main tank.  Something was wrong.  It was discovered that with the vent sealed shut, the fuel system was syphoning gas from the big reserve tank into the main tank, automatically.  With more nearly 2,000 miles yet to go, they realized they were flying blind.  They had no idea how much fuel had actually been used.  From here on, high-mileage science was gone and they were traveling on a hope and a prayer. 


In Texas, side winds buffeted the bike and whipped up dust that reduced visibility to less than 100 yards.  The storm became so violent that the team pulled into a truck stop to wait it out, hoping the winds would die down toward evening.  They made it on into Van Horn that evening, but found the winds still blowing the next morning, only now the bad weather also included snow.  As the road became dangerously slippery, the team decides to load the motorcycle into the van, and continue on, keeping track of mileage that would have to be deducted from the mileage claim.  They were concerned that with down time both Saturday and Sunday due to weather, they might not arrive in Daytona on schedule, so they had to press on.  Fortunately, only about 30 miles passed before the storm subsided enough to return the Suzuki to the highway.  Foster got behind the bars to give Guzzetta a break from pilot duty, but discovered that the bike—built to his brother-in-law’s smaller dimensions—was not so comfortable for him.  To complicate matters further, he was wearing a full riding suit over thick wool clothing due to the continuing low temperatures. 


By Tuesday they had arrived in Louisiana, and hailing waves from drivers on the highway and pedestrians in small towns were becoming a regular occurrence.  They learned that their trek had been covered on national news, and during coffee breaks they had fans want to be photographed with the motorcycle.  At one point, Guzzetta was signaled to pull over by a State Trooper.  No sooner had he stopped than other cop cars began to pull in around him, causing the team to wonder what the hell they had done wrong.  Turns out it was just a crew of four Staties who wanted a group shot with the motorcycle.  This, Guzzetta figured, must be that famous Southern hospitality, of a sort.


On Thursday morning, March 8, the team departed Pensacola in high spirits.  They had finally found that gorgeous Florida weather that makes bikers flee the North every March, and they were more confident that their fuel supply would be sufficient.  Guzzetta says, “We could roll the bike back and forth, and hear and feel the fuel sloshing in the bottom of the reserve tank, and it sounded like there was plenty left.”  As they crossed Florida, more and more touring motorcycles sped past them, and they could tell by the turning heads and exuberant waves that many had heard about their cross-country ride. 


On March 9 Guzzetta rolled into the pits at Daytona International Speedway, elated with relief and success.  He and Foster had traveled 2,451 miles.  The seals were broken on the gas tanks and 11.38 gallons were pumped in.  Guzzetta grins, “We almost could have made it Miami!”  A quick calculation revealed that the little Suzuki had achieved 215.4 miles per gallon!  The Guzzetta/Motorcyclist team had surpassed Jerry Greer’s cost-to-coast record by a significant margin, earning due recognition in the “1988-89 Guinness Sports Record Book.” 


Before the end of the decade, Matt Guzzetta sold Vesco Products.  The motorcycle industry was in a downturn, and sales were in decline for Vesco’s aftermarket products.  Government regulation alone, that restricted riding in the California desert, cost the company 40 percent of its sales.  With sale of Vesco, Guzzetta left the motorcycle industry for good.  He had been commissioned to design high-tech hunting bows for Easton Archery, which he did for several years, but his real future opportunity turned out to be Vesco’s next door neighbor in El Cajon, Taylor Guitars. 


Guzzetta and Bob Taylor had become friends, and once a month Taylor would host a party for employees and friends to which Guzzetta and his employees were invited.  After Guzzetta completed his work with Easton Archery, Taylor hired him on a consulting basis to design some special tooling, which led in 1992 to a full-time job at Taylor where today Guzzetta is Senior Machine and Tool Designer.  It is a critical responsibility for a company that has grown from 35 to 550 employees, and is Number One in the industry, producing 500 guitars a day.


The little Suzuki went into the San Diego Automotive Museum at Balboa Park (pictured above right), where you can still see it today (as pictured below left with Guzzetta and his wife Sandy).  Guzzetta explains, “It must be a very popular exhibit.  Originally, I agreed to lend it to them for three months. They requested that I extend the loan, and it’s been there now for ten years.  I guess you could say it is on permanent loan.”  He adds, I am very glad to see that is recognized as an important piece of American transportation history.”  

For a Reader’s Dime interview with Matt Guzzetta, click here.  For a story about his high-mileage bike on SuzukiCycles.org, click here.  For more at Café Racer Blogspot, click here.  To read about Craig Vetter fuel economy projects, click here.  To read about Don Vesco Rabid Transit Fairings, click here.  To read more about Jerry Greer’s cross-country economy ride, click here.  To read about Easton Archery, click here.  To read a history of Taylor Guitars, click here.

The feat goes on

Since Matt Guzzetta's coast-to-coast record ride almost 30 years ago, Craig Vetter has continued to develop high-mileage motorcycles, promote demonstration events, and encourage the work of other designers.  His most recent event was a 173-mile run on Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Barstow, California on the 20th of this month.  After displaying their motorcycles during the Motorcycle Hall of Fame weekend, five riders embarked on the test.  The winner was Fred Hayes (pictured above), who achieved 133.2 mpg aboard his diesel-powered streamliner.  We note that the vehicle follows the design philosophy used by Guzzetta.  In other words, it features conventional motorcycle ergonomics with a streamlined shell that enables the rider to easily mount and dismount the vehicle.  For more about the Vegas-to-Barstow ride on Craig Vetter's web site, click here.  To read more about Fred Hayes' diesel motorcycle development, click here.

Most photos provided by Matt Guzzetta. 

Fred Hayes photo from Craig Vetter's web site.


Bob Mitchell Indian wins

Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Dave Mungenast Memorial Concours



Bob Mitchell's black 1947 Indian Chief topped more than 100 entries to win best of show at the 2011 Motorcycle Hall of Fame Dave Mungenast Memorial Concours d'Elegance held November 19 at the Red Rock Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Not only did Mitchell take top award, but his 1932 Indian Four took runner-up behind the Chief in the class consisting of American brands up to 1953. 

The event, which raises funds for the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, is held each year in conjunction with the Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductions.  For a list of other class winners at the Concours, click here.  For a story about the Hall of Fame weekend and those inducted in 2011, click here.

Photo provided by AMA.



Motorcyclepedia offers repeat

wall of death performance


The Motorcyclepedia Museum, which opened in Newburgh, New York last April, is the only motorcycle museum in the United States—and possibly the world—that features an indoor, operable wall of death thrill show facility.  In addition to the more than 400 rare motorcycles on display, this feature was the hit of the weekend last April during the museum's grand opening when German daredevil “Kamikaze” Pit Legner staged performances. 

Legner returned on November 19 for four performances, drawing more than 200 fans to the noisy and exciting event.  Motorcyclepedia, an 85,000 square-foot museum operated by the Gerald A. Doering Foundation, is also the host museum of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, which is currently presenting an exhibit of classic racing motorcycles entitled “Fast From the Past.”  For a video of a Pit Legner performance, click here.  For more information, click Motorcyclepedia Museum here.  For video tours of the Museum, click here. 

For more photos of the recent wall of death performances, click here

Photo provided by Motorcyclepedia Museum.  


Chamarro prevails



Last month, we reported that George Chamarro would enter the Ironman Class aboard a 1983 Honda XR500 at the Starvation Ridge 24-Hour Off-Road Marathon to raise money for the Mountain Trail Vehicle Riders Association Legal Defense Fund (see Motohistory News & Views 10/20/2011). Chamarro finished the event, broke his Honda worse than himself, and raised $215.00 for the Fund.  We’ll let George, pictured below with Over the Bars Gang President Scott Doubravski, tell his heroic tale in his own words.  Here's his account of the event:


There were 33 Iron Man entries and 67 team entries for a total of 100 riders on the 18 mile course.  We started at 10 a.m. with a mass Le Mans style start where we ran about 300 yards to our motorcycles.  Race conditions were perfect blue sky.  The night was cold, but no rain or fog.


After two laps, my XR500 would run for a few miles and then act like it was running out of gas and stop.  I would wait 60 seconds, and all was fine.  We checked everything at the pits, but the problem persisted.  Finally, I figured if the bike ran fine for two laps then maybe there was some weirdo gas fuel shutoff problem, so we filled the gas tank and problem went away.


I got a front flat at around 3 p.m.  Luckily, I had borrowed a set of wheels from a friend and my buddies at Pirate Riders Racing helped quickly change the wheel.  The course was starting to get very rough around sunset at about 6 p.m.  I changed engine oil and all looked good.  Another friend lent me a helmet light to augment my headlight on the Honda, and I continued oninto the night.  I usually eat every hour, and one thing I remember is having peanut butter and jelly on a friggin' Jalapeno bagel!  Not a good combination.


Around 9 p.m., I hit a huge rock at around 30 mph and crashed hard.  I got up and realized that my shifter was bent so it was stuck in gear and my clutch perch was broken.  I spent 15 minutes trying to get it started and finally fired up and I rode back to the pits in third gear.  The pit crew bent the lever back to "normal," and duct taped the clutch and all was good.


The rest of night went well, and then at around midnight my 28-year-old forks started hurting me, or maybe it was my 44-year-old arms trying to feel 300 pounds of Honda.  Everything else was fine, except that forearms felt like a couple of 2x4 boards.  I had a few more minor tip-overs, and then around 3 a.m. I high sided into an embankment, and my shifter stopped working correctly.  I ended up riding the rest of the race in third gear.  The sun came up around 7 a.m., and I parked the bike at 9 a.m. and waited until 10 a.m. to finish the race.  The bike was more hammered than the rider, and I hope not to ride the XR for a long time.


Thanks to all who donated and also left me tips!  I had invested about $100 to prepare the 1983 Honda XR500, and the tip money helped with gas, food, and lodging ... and proved that you can have a ton of fun on something old and that the cost per mile goes down significantly when a person rides for 24 hours!  I was lucky to have great friends who let me borrow parts, helmet light, fed me, and put up with me when I screamed at them!


I rode 367.9 miles, finishing fourth out of 33, the rest of which looked like they were all under 30!  If you want to see some of the terrain we covered on YouTube, click here

Photos provided by George Chamarro.




Think you can't get enough of Richard Thompson's “1952 Vincent Black Lightning?”  Let's find out.  For performances by Thompson, click here, here, here, here, here, and here.  To see Thompson sing it with Nanci Griffith, click here.  To see Grandpa Banana's beautiful rendition, click here.  To see it performed with a clawhammer banjo, click here, or on a Ukulele, click here.  By Cristy Jefferson, click here.  By Julia Haltigan, click here.  By Miranda Russell, click here.  By Mary Lou Lord, click here.  By Zoe Mulford, click here.  By Butch Hancock, click here.  By Dan Wilde, click here. By Guy Forsyth, click here.  By Steve Jones, click here.  By the Anderson Family, here.  By the Drunken Swimmers, click here.  By MilkDrive, click here.  By MilkDrive with Grant Gordy and Dominick Leslie, click hereBy the Piffle Brothers, click here.  By Doc Bones and the Rattlesnakes, click here.  By Grass Monkey and the Vandement, click here. By Jeff Lang, click here.  By Jim Henry, click here.  By Sam Pacetti, click here.  By Stan Denski, click here.  By Ted Humphries, click here.  By Reckless Kelly, click here (very nice!).  By Del McCoury with a Bluegrass twist, click here.  And again and again and again and again, click here, here, here, and here (this one is raucous as hell).  By the Bean Creek Bluegrass Band, click here.  By the Appalachian Troubadours, click here.  By Spare Rib and the Bluegrass Sauce, click

here.  By the East Dixie Boys, click here.  Had enough?  Well, let us apologize now for the dozens more we left out.


The Fall 2011 issue of the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies has been posted.  To access motorcycling’s only on-line peer reviewed scholarly journal, click here.


Jared Zaugg, the father of the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance, is now working with Bench & Loom, which offers some extremely cool retro riding gear.  To read more about the venture on The Vintagent’s blog, click here.


Gasoline Cowboys is still making woolen racing jerseys, as they have since 1922.  They are available with Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Antique Motorcycle Club of America logos

For lots of old and sometimes strange motorcycle adverts (like the one at the left), click here.


There’s always a lot for the motohistorian at Larry Lawrences’s blog, The Rider Files.  Recent examples include news from the US Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction weekend, a story and photos about the Greg Sickmeier’s road racer collection, and a fascinating story about the defunct Greenwood Raceway


Recently, Cycle News published an excellent story about the recent relocation and expansion at the National Motorcycle Museum.

Cycle News reports that dirt track legend and Bonneville speedster Chris Carr has retired. Here's the story withs a video of Chris reflecting on his final season.

There's a museum in Berlin dedicated to motorcycling in the DDR during the years whe Germany was a divided nation.  


Artist David Uhl has created an oil of the 1936 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead (right) that was raffled this year by the Wheels Through Time Museum.  For more information about Uhl’s work, click here.


Kudos to student and researcher Michael Rhodes for locating a web site about the Killinger & Freund motorcycle that had not previously come to our attention.  Our previous coverage of the revolutionary German K&F can be found at Motohistory News & Views 4/30/2010 and 3/31/2010.


The Vintagent has been providing excellent motohistory for five years now.  Recent outstand stories include about Buddy Holly's Ariel, England's National Motorcycle Museum, history’s earliest depiction of the motorcycle, and an excellent history of the use of the Wankel engine to power motorcycles.  We wish a happy fifth anniversary to The Vintagent.


BikeEfix has outdone itself lately for beautiful retro treatments, such as this 1980 Honda CB750 café treatment, or, this café Yamaha Virago, or Bobby Sirkegian’s dirt track style Triumph Thunderbird, or this minimalist BMW R100RS.


The Petersen Automotive Museum has created a scooter exhibit entitled Size Does Matter.  Clever, huh?


Seven-times ISDT rider  Dane Leimbach (left) died November 16 of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  He was a member of the Penton clan (John’s nephew), co-owner of Penton Racing Products, a director of the Penton Owners Group, and very active in his local motorcycle club and community. For more about Leimbach at the Cycle News web site, click here.   


Motorcyclepedia, the host museum of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, got a good pop recently on the Ride Connecticut web site.  In addition, there are some great photos at the Adventure Rider Forum.


Jay Duchin Productions has released a video about the Yankee Reunion that took place in August.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, plans to open a motorcycle exhibit entitled “Steel Ponies” on Marcy 10, 2012.  There will also be a Motorcycle History Day on June 9.  To learn more about the Eiteljorg Museum, click here


The DuPont family motorcycle collection will be offered at auction by Bonhams in Las Vegas on January 12.  Nearly 50 motorcycles, many of which are Indians, are on the list.

Sometimes you can push an idea way too far.  The classic board tracker has become the inspiration for many custom motorcycles in recent years.  But with a jet engine?  Actually, we think jet motorcycles are pretty dumb, even when they don’t try to look like a board tracker.        


Ever wonder where those giant insects at Barber Motorsports Park came from?  They’re from the hills of Pennsylvania and the studio of an artist named Bill Secunda


Bernd Tesch, a motorcycle adventurer and historian, has collected more than a thousand books in many language4s about motorcycle adventure touring.  His web site contains a listing of his impressive library.  Tesch plans to travel South America this coming year. 


Lee Hartung sale
defies the recession:
$4 million change hands!

By Jerry Wood

Lee Hartung, who was brought up in the Great Depression, started collecting when he moved to Glenview, Illinois in 1950.  Hartung (pictured left) had a hauling business, and found many treasures while cleaning out old barns and garages.  It was said that said Lee was reluctant to sell anything because he didn't want to see anyone make a profit on him.  He passed away last May, leaving an amazing collection of unrestored early American motorcycles, cars, engines, license plates, and parts as well as a large amount of collectables, some neatly displayed.  The main building, set up as a museum in 1970, was packed.  The floor was dirt and the building had no heat or insulation, so much of the collection suffered from the elements, showing rust and corrosion.  This collection—described by the New York Times as “a hoard,” went to a public auction conducted by Auctions America by RM November 3 through 5.

With almost 2,000 lots to sell, the auction was spread over three days.  The first day they sold toys, collectables, and many hit and miss engines.  The second day was reserved for the motorcycles and parts as well as a very large license plate collection.  Three-hundred lots of license plates were sold, with many containing 40 to 70 plates.  They started selling for prices that seemed reasonable at $75 to $500 per lot.  Then the prices went straight up to as much as $26,000 per lot!  And keep in mind that there was a 15 percent buyer's premium, plus nine and a quarter percent sales tax for any non-motor vehicle, resulting in a cost almost 25 percent higher than the hammer price.  In many cases, estate auctions can be exempt from sales tax, but it was reported that the village of Glenview insisted on collecting sales tax, even from licensed dealers, as a condition for issuing the auction permit.  At lease the Illinois Attorney General's office ruled that all motor vehicle sales were private, and for these no sales tax would be collected.

Among the motorcycle parts on sale, there were at least seven engines.  The most interesting was an engine catalogued as a Henderson four with an aircraft conversion, but knowledgeable collectors identified it as a rare Ace engine (pictured above right) with a splash oiling system.  It sold for $6,750.  The first motorcycle sold was a 1930s Henderson four basket case (above left).  The parts that were still there were rusty and corroded, yet the hammer price was $24,000, resulting in a final price of $27,600 with buyer’s premium.  At this point, most of us in the business knew that this auction would very likely have an impact on the fair market value for early American motorcycles.

The first of the featured bikes sold was 1936 Indian upside-down four with 1933 engine numbers that sold for $40,000.  The bike (pictured above) was catalogued as having original paint, but I have an original paint 1936 Indian from the DuPont era, and it doesn't look at all like this one.  I thought that it might have been 1970s-era rattle can gold.  These days, even non-original old paint bikes are very popular.  A 1938 Indian Four had a correct 1938 engine number and it sold for $56,000.  A Matching number 1941 Indian Four, mostly there but in poor condition, brought $40,000.  A very attractive 1915 Harley single (left) with a lightning bolt painted on the tank sold for $50,000.

There were some original paint bikes that were absolute treasures, and the high bids reflected that fact. A 1913 Flying Merkel (below right) topped the charts at $175,000.  A knockout 1912 Harley-Davidson belt drive single brought a whopping $100,000.  A very well preserved 1911 Pope single sold for $72,500.  A 1912 Sears twin sold for $57,500 and the buy of the day might have been the rare, very well preserved 1911 Indian belt drive single (below left) at $45,000.  And don't forget; you can add a 15% buyer's premium to those prices!

All of the American old paint bikes sold very well, as this was a rare opportunity to buy unrestored, and in some cases unmolested original motorcycles that just can't be found very often.  The highest price motorcycle, which beat the highest price for any car, was the 1913 Flying Merkel twin that hammered for a whopping $175,000, with the buyer's premium more than that is over $200,000.  The highest priced automobile was the 1949 BMW Veritas that sold for $170,000, bought by motorcycling's own Dale Walksler for his Wheel Through Time Museum.  The automobile collection had some rare cars, but the majority were Ford model T and A’s.  Many of the Model A’s were prime real steel Hot Rod material that generally are worth more now as period Hot Rods than as antiques.

The auction was great fun to attend, even for us tightwads that didn't buy anything.  I think that we all had a good time being there for what surely was an important and historic event.  At the Hartung sale, there didn’t seem to be any recession, as evidenced by the exchange of $4 million for bikes, cars, parts, and memorabilia.

Other notable motorcycle prices include 1936 Indian Four, $40,000; 1913 Thor twin with sidecar, $47,000; 1904 FN Four (right), $48,000; 1915 Harley-Davidson single, $50,000; 1921 Excelsior twin, $42,500; 1912 Sears twin, $57,000; 1926 Excelsior twin with sidecar, $27,500; 1908 Thor single, $32,500; 1912 Indian twin basket, $15,000; 1928 Henderson four, $47,500; 1931 Indian 101, no engine, $10,500; 1908 Excelsior single (below left), $40,000; 1911 Indian single, $45,000; Henderson four rolling basket, $35,000; 1902 Wagner, possibly later frame, $28,000; 1934 Harley-Davidson VLD, $11,000; 1913 Flying Merkel twin, $175,000; 1945 Harley-Davidson WL, $12,000; 1911 Pope, $72,500; 1926 Henderson, no engine, 26,000; 1912 Harley-Davidson single, $100,000; 1913 Indian twin, running, $48,000; 1926 Henderson four, $55,000; 1938 Indian four, $56,000; 1912 Wagner, $12,500, 1936 Indian four basket $32,500; 1942 BSA M20, $6,500; 1958 Cushman Eagle, $2,250.

For complete auction results on the Auctions America web site, click

here.  To read a report in the New York Times, click here. To read coverage in “Old Cars Weekly,” click here. For an account on the Cyril Huze Blog, click here.  For more photos at Somer Hooker's SmugMug site, click here.

Most photos provided by Jerry Wood.




Derek and Don Rickman: The Métisse Story

Reviewed by Nick Jeffery


Motohistorians should need no introduction to AMA Hall of Famers (Class of 2007) Englishmen Derek and Don Rickman ... but just in case a reminder is needed, it was one of their Triumph-engined Métisse desert racers that was a favoured mount of the late Steve McQueen.  Easily distinguished from lesser productions by their nickel-plated hand-crafted frames, bronze-welded in Reynolds 531 manganese-molybdenum tubing and equipped with flawless Avon fiberglass-ware, their productions stand out in any paddock.


Of equal quality to their original bikes, the full story of their remarkable achievements has been told in “Derek and Don Rickman: The Métisse Story.”  Author Dave Gittins originally released a Rickman history some ten years ago.  He has now updated and vastly expanded this to bring the story right up to date in a beautifully produced large format (10 in x 13 in) cloth-bound 287-page hardback for which the superb dust jacket photo montage reflecting all significant phases of their life sets the tone for the contents.  It is little realised how multi-faceted and extensive the Rickman operation was, with substantial exports to the US and total production of nearly 11,000 complete machines, in addition to some 5,700 frame kits.


Internationally successful in moto-cross, the activities of the brothers tracked the vicissitudes of the British motorcycle industry when, increasingly dissatisfied with their production 'scramblers', they progressively evolved lighter, more functional Triumph, BSA and Matchless-engined four-stroke bikes fitted with their own lightweight frames.  Branded 'Métisse' they were immensely successful.  Ever-responsive, the Rickmans reacted to the two-stroke invasion by introducing a lithe Bultaco-engined 'Petite Métisse' then, as the British industry failed to innovate, their engineering skills encouraged them to embark on projects with Weslake Engineering with an eight-valve 700cc top end for the Triumph 650 motor and a 500cc big-bore kit for the 440cc BSA Victor 'thumper'. 


They followed this up by working with Lockheed to develop hydraulic disk brakes and, with their own frames, fork and wheel designs, these were highly successful in road racing as well as being fitted to marques as diverse as Horex, Royal Enfield, Velocette and URS.  Again moving with the times, enduro and moto-cross bikes used Montesa, Zündapp and Hodaka power units and, on the road bike side, the brothers capitalised on the deficiencies in handling of the early Japanese fours producing rolling chassis in large numbers for the Honda CB750 and Kawasaki Z1/KZ900.


As the motorcycle market changed Rickman diversified into producing motorcycle accessories then component car kits using Ford-based mechanical units.  The story is brought right up to date with a full account of Métisse Motorcycles' rejuvenation of the marque with a limited-edition production run of McQueen Desert Racer replicas and development of a new 1000cc parallel-twin engined range of machines.


Don and Derek Rickman remain as enthusiastic as ever and fully supportive of the brand they created.  This book is ample testimony to their dedication to quality and demonstrates their rare skills set of innovation, flexibility, engineering expertise, riding ability and commercial acumen.  Lavishly illustrated with contemporary photos, catalogues, race programs, drawings and with a full listing of the frame numbers and despatch details of every machine produced it is available from Métisse.  To order your copy, click here

The April issue of Smithsonian contains a feature by David Schonauer about the era of board track motorcycle racing in America, and specifically about the work of former racer and pioneer photographer A.F. VanOrder to document the sport.  Schonauer, a former editor in chief of American Photo, is well-qualified to pass judgment on Van Order's work, but he has also proven a worthy motohistorian through his accurate research for the article.  The article is illustrated with three of Van Order's photos, including a two-page spread of the banks of what likely was Playa del Rey.  Van Order died in 1954, but the original negatives of his work are still in the possession of a member of his family.  Click Smithsonian to subscribe or for more information.


The "American Classic" section of the January American Iron Magazine features a 1962 Harley-Davidson Sportster, returned from a shabby chopper to near-stock condition by owner Pat Aiello, of New Rockville, New York.  Editor Jim Babchak's words are enhanced by excellent photography by Bob Feater.  Matt Olsen's vintage technical feature this month is about early intake-over-exhaust valve systems used in most American motorcycles prior to the mid-1930s.  There is also a feature about West Virginia Mountainfest that includes coverage of the antique motorcycle races through the streets of Morgantown as well as the presentation of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation's Award for Excellence to Motorcycle Cannonball, Inc (to read our prior coverage of Mountainfest and the AMF award presentation, go to Motohistory News & Views 8/12/2011).  For a limited time, individuals who subscribe to American Iron will receive $10 gift card from J&P Cycles.  For more information, click American Iron.


The January issue of Racer X Illustrated contains features about the Vets MXDN and the epic career of Mike Brown, who has ridden various disciplines at world-class for level for the past 20 years.  The Vets MXDN, held at England's famous Farleigh Castle circuit, is quickly becoming one of the world's best vintage off-road happenings, drawing crowds of 10,000 per day to see battles between the champions of yesteryear.  This year's race included Graham Noyce, Neil Hudson, Dave Thorpe, Jamie Dobb, Georges Jobe, Jeff Stanton, Jim Gibson, Scott Burnworth, Mark Eastwood, Brian Wheeler, Neil Prince, Chuck Sun, and many others.  The story about Mike Brown, recorded by Eric Johnson, is a first-person account of Brown summarizing his long career that includes world championship motocross, off-road, and AMA national title, and a silver medal at the G-Games.  Johnson summarizes, “Through it all, he has remained one of the most genuine and sincere motorcycle racers around.”  For more about Racer X Illustrated, go to RacerX Online.


Margie Sieghal's "Seasoned Citizen" feature in the January/February issue of IronWorks is about Frank Westfall's breathtaking 99.5-point 1912 Henderson, which Westfall explains began with the acquisition of a single rear wheel.  Westfall traded the wheel to the late Mike Smith, who completed the restoration, showed the bike in Guggenheim Art of the Motorcycle Exhibitions, then eventually sold the bike to Westfall (to read our prior feature about Frank Westfall, go to Motohistory News & Views 8/30/2010). This issue also contains a surprising number of nice customs built from antique Harley-Davidson engines, including a 1941 Flathead bobber, a 1946 74 Flathead, a 1966 Shovelhead chopper, a 1977 KLH bobber, and a 1965 Pan/Shovel hybrid.  There is also full coverage of the 8th Annual BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at Bonneville, as well as a story about the history of S&S Cycle featuring some great period black and white photos.  For more information or to subscribe, click IronWorks.  


A curious artifact

In preparation for a move of the Motohistory world headquarters from Ohio to Florida this winter, I have spent a lot of time lately sorting through the flotsam of having lived in the same house for 40 years. One of the most curious artifacts I found is a box of 20 commemorative Evel Knievel “rocket cigars.” A mirror black metal plate on the top of the box contains Knievel's engraved signature and a bronze medallion of the man himself.

Memory fails as to when and how I came by this collectible, but it might have been sent to me after Knievel and I had a long talk in the Bill France Suite at the Daytona 200 sometime in the mid-1990s. By this time, Knievel had battled hepatitis, lived in perpetual pain from the bad breaks of a hard life, and had lost most of his sharp edges. I was surprised at how mellow he was and enjoyable to talk to. Once a man who saw no good reason to thank anyone for anything, Knievel had become a person who spoke often of his gratitude for friendship and good fortune.

What does one do with something like this? The cigars are way too old and dry to smoke, and I don't smoke anyway. So I can't treat them like bottles of old and fine wine. I can continue to keep it, or make a few bucks on e-Bay. But I don't think either of these options would honor Knievel. Rather, I have decided to send them on to a journalist I know who may be Knievel's biggest fan. He's much younger than I, so I know they will be appreciated for many years to come. What happens to them next will be his problem. In the mean time, enjoy.