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Ed Youngblood's News and Views
April 2012 News

Motohistory Quiz #98:

We have a winner!
(4/30/2012)

This Motohistory Quiz got a lot of response, and it took almost 24 hours to receive a correct answer.  Our guesses included everything from Zundapp to Puch to Yamaguchi.  But it was Thad Wolff of Newbury Park, California, who finally correctly identified the bike as a Bridgestone, made in Japan.  Specifically, it is a 1964 Bridgstone Deluxe Super 7 (pictured below left).

Bridgestone was founded in Japan in 1945 by Soichiro Ishibashi, whose name translates literally as Stone (Ishi) Bridge (Bashi).  Initially, Bridgestone was a bicycle manufacturer, so it was no large leap to move into Japan’s starved transportation market in 1950 with a small engine to clip onto Bridgestone bicycles.  In 1952, Bridgestone offered a26cc moped, and in 1958 its first real motorcycle, a 50cc two-stroke with three-speed gearbox.  Versions of this model were known as the “Champion” range, which, when exported to America in 1963, was renamed the Super 7.

Bridgstone was distributed in the U.S. by Rockford Motors, of Rockford, Illinois.  To better sell in American and European markets, Bridgestone moved up-scale with 175, 250, and 350cc twins, all featuring a rotary disc valve system that was unique among the Japanese brands.   

Bridgestone’s success with both motorcycles and tires overwhelmed its manufacturing capability.  However, the motorcycle division had always been treated as a sideline, with its profits plowed back into the parent corporation.  When faced with the decision to invest in new manufacturing space or better use what it had, it made sense to hand available space over to tires and get out of the motorcycle business.  This decision was heavily influenced by the fact that the Japanese big four motorcycle brands had all become huge buyers of Bridgstone tires for OEM installation.  Bridgestone made the strategic decision to abandon the motorcyclebusiness in 1972.  Remaining production was sold into the 1973 model year.  For more about Bridgestone, click here.

The lovely little Super 7 in our Motohistory Quiz is owned by Thomas Zuccaro of Dubuque, Iowa, and is currently on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. 

Many of you will recognize the name of our new Motohistory Know-It-All.  Thad Wolff (pictured right) is a well-known racer whose report of the 2010 Catalina Grand Prix Revival was published here (see Motohistory News & Views 4/22/2011).  Congratulations, Thad, your Motohistory Know-It-All Diploma is on its way.

 

Carl Hungness:
Renaissance man on a Vincent

(4/28/2012)

Born in Lake Forest, Illinois in 1943, Carl Hungness fled an intolerably abusive and dysfunctional family at the age of 15, and has been living by his wits, talent, determination, and boundless curiosity ever since.  He has battled large corporations to protect his intellectual property, and struggled with physical adversity that stood in the way of his greatest aspirations.  He is a sculptor, a craftsman, a designer, a publisher, a musician, and created one of the best-selling motorcycle posters in history.  For these achievements he has been called a “Renaissance Man.”  It is a high compliment indeed to be compared to the likes of Leonardo, and Michelangelo, yet Hungness goes them one better.  For daily transportation, he rides a Vincent!

Carl Hungness was born to parents who held child-rearing theories that now seem cruel and bizarre.  They believed that the best way to raise a strong and independent person was to not nurture him in any way.  After providing adequate food, parental duties ended.  There was no play, no nurturing, and no encouragement.  More often, Carl was lectured in the many ways he was incapable or inadequate. 

To make things worse, at the age of ten, Hungness fell on a broken Coke bottle, severing the tendon to his right thumb, leaving it inoperative.  It became something in the way of the many things Carl wanted to do with his hands, and doctors said there was no way to repair it.  “Having an inoperative thumb is like having a hand and a half,” Carl relates, “Most things people do with ease were done slowly and with great effort, and many basic things just couldn’t be done.”

At 15, Carl could no longer tolerate his home situation, and he and two of his friends ran away.  He recalls, “They caught up with us in Amarillo, and the other two guys gave up and returned home.  But I kept going, on my own.”  Hungness had a sister living in New Orleans, so that’s where he decided to go.  There he landed a job with Meyer the Hatter, selling hats to a mostly black clientele.  He was good at his job, and earned the status of Number Two salesman in the nation for the Stetson brand.  This was an especially high achievement since Carl spent only a half-day selling, and the other half attending school. 

After 18 months in New Orleans, Carl quit school near the end of his junior year and went to Golden, Colorado, where his mother lived.  He completed his senior year there, but was not allowed to graduate due to not having completed his junior year. 

Hungness got involved with motorcycles in Colorado.  He had an old 1954 BSA, then bought a new Vespa scooter.  He says, “I still wanted a good motorcycle, and every Saturday I would hang out at Fay Myers Honda Fay Myers Honda in Denver.”  During this period, Carl bounced around from 10 to 12 jobs, but finally landed at Kenz & Leslie V-8 Service.  Despite the problem with his thumb, he worked there for 18 months, learning about engines and racing cars.  This job, plus his interest in motorcycles, began to form the arc of his life.

Kenz & Leslie’s claim to fame was development and ownership of the first streamliner to travel 200 mph at Bonneville.  With such resources at his disposal, Hungness and his friend Duane Helms built a slingshot-style dragster (second photo, above right).  Later, Carl built and raced his own Kurtis Kraft and Grant King midgets (above left and right) .

At 21, Hungness tried to enroll in the University of Colorado, but was not allowed admission because he did not have a high school diploma.  He monitored classes for no credit, yet ranked first in his class in journalism.  The Dean of the Journalism School arranged for Carl to take and pass his GED exam, after which he was given credit for his classes as well as a Bachelor Degree. 

During his senior year, Carl and his friend Art Fein published a weekly motorsports tabloid called “Speed Wheels.”  In addition, he served as track reporter and announcer at Continental Divide Raceway, and there he met officials of the then-prestigious United States Auto Club.  Carl was convinced that his “Speed Wheels” was much better than “USAC News,” the official newsletter of the Auto Club, and he prepared a proposal and drove to Indianapolis to present his ideas to the USAC Board.  They approved the idea of changing their newsletter to a full-size tabloid, and eight weeks later Hungness was living in Indianapolis and publishing “USAC News.”

In 1970, Hungness proposed to publish an Indianapolis Motor Speedway official yearbook, but IMS declined.  As a result, he created his own, entitled “Carl Hungness’ Indianapolis 500 Yearbook.”  Still, each year he renewed his request to publish an “Official” yearbook, and in 1973 the Speedway finally agreed.  Hungness owned and printed the yearbook for 27 consecutive years, and earned “Best Book of the Year Award” from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association.  His company also published “The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500,” “The Mighty Midget,” “USAC Sprint Car History,” and “GO! The Bettenhausen Story,” all of which have won the AARWBA best book award. 

Hungness’s successful publishing firm was bankrupted in 1998 in a dispute with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when, in 1995, IMS tried to buy his company and take control of the yearbook for a price that Hungness claims was less than four percent of his assets. In the process of breaking him, IMS revoked Carl’s press credentials.  Carl recalls, “A top IMS official said, ‘Sorry, Carl, but in business sometimes you gotta hurt the other guy.’”  And hurt him they did.

In the meantime, Hungness had embarked on another creative adventure.  Despite the burden of his useless thumb, Carl began to sculpt, creating in clay and casting in bronze.  He explains, “I have my work professionally cast, but I took a class in mold making so I could understand the process.”  His first iconic piece was “Wheel of Life,” a captivatingly simple but dynamic sculpture of a racing car steering wheel with a driver’s hands gripping it at one o’clock and seven o’clock (abover).  The day he finished the work, he sold three copies for $7,500 each.  Better still, he learned from a client of a doctor who could partially repair his thumb, resulting in 50 percent usage.

Carl was so excited about having some use of his thumb that—in addition to redoubling his sculpting—he approached the owners of the Casa del Sol violin shop in Indianapolis and asked to be taken on as an apprentice. Within two years, not only was Carl an accomplished violin maker, but he had created a copy of a 1707 Stradivari.  Carl explains, “After hearing Yehudi Menuhin play the violin, I burned with the passion to build one, and to learn to play.”

Carl continued his sculpting, producing several more works that sold well to auto racing enthusiasts, then was commissioned to commemorate Roger Penske's 1988 achievement of putting three cars on the front row at the Indianapolis 500 (above left).  Heretofore, Carl’s sculptures had been proudly displayed at the executive suite at IMS, but these also were removed during the Speedway’s attempt to force him to sell his publishing company.

Hungness had also produced a poster about the history of Harley-Davidson, and two about Ford.  In the aftermath of the battle with IMS, He was reduced to selling posters door-to-door and at old car swap meets.  He also published a licensed comic book called “Harley Rider” and a poster for the Motor Company’s 100th anniversary.  This product—still in print—has sold more than 40,000 copies to date.  Carl reports, “This got me off the street for awhile, and I am doing sculpture again.”  Hungness has also designed a pool hall, a stained glass pedestrian walkway for downtown Indianapolis, and is working on a book about Carl Fisher, the man who created the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and later drained a swamp to create Miami Beach.

After 20 years of partial use, the tendon in Carl’s thumb snapped again.  He says, “I had been learning to play the violin, and I was devastated,” but adds, “I learned that a lot of medical progress had been made in the mean time.”  Hungness located in Louisville Dr. Joseph Kutz, the man who performed the world’s first complete hand transplant.”  Kutz transplanted a tendon from Carl’s arm, giving him better use of his thumb than since he injured it at the age of 10.

Now 68, Hungness says he is still flooded with ideas of things he wants to achieve.  His current focus is on the creation of a quarter-scale replica of the legendary 1955 Indy Sumar Special, (above right) and his violin lessons.  This time Hungness is working with fiberglass instead of bronze, and estimates that he has 1,500 hours in the Sumar car project.  Two have already been sold and a third is nearing completion.  As a violinist, Carl has earned “Intermediate” status and is optimistic about soon taking a chair with the Hanover College Community Orchestra.

Even Carl’s Vincent—his daily ride—is a product of his Renaissance mentality.  He explains, “I’ve done many modifications to make it a modern, suitable daily rider, without hurting its appearance or character.”  For the benefit of fellow Vincent fans, these mods have been published on the Internet.  Hungness has also created a gorgeous Vincent poster, produced in 2008 in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Philip Vincent.

To order Carl’s books and posters, click here.   

 

Carl Hungness

and the Sumar Special


We usually limit our motohistory to two, and sometimes three wheels.  But this time we are making a rare exception to delve further into the Sumar Special, a brave but ill-fated Indy car from the 1950s that has dominated Carl Hungness’ agenda for more than the last year.

The Sumar Special, designed by Frank Kurtis and Chapman Root, was a privately-funded project of Root and a Terre Haute banker named Donald Smith.  The car got its name from the names of their wives, Susan Root and Mary Smith.  With enclosed wheels and a streamlined body—including a bubble canopy—that made it look more like a LeMans racer than an Indianapolis roadster, the 1955 Sumar Special was built on a conventional Kurtis-Kraft chassis, powered by an Offenhauser engine.

Root’s money for racing came from family businesses that included the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, and Associated Coca-Cola Bottlers, which held franchises in several states and grew to become the largest bottler of Coke in the nation under Root’s chairmanship from 1951 to 1982.  The Root Glass Company, which Root sold to focus on Coca-Cola and other financial interests, designed the original wasp-waste Coke bottle, which it manufactured.  Incidentally, Root and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman shared a business interest beyond racing in that Hulman also owned Coca-Cola bottling companies.

Jimmy Daywalt, 1953 Indianapolis Rookie of the Year, was chosen to drive the radical Sumar Special when it was unveiled in 1955 (pictured left).  He didn’t like it.  In no time at all, the plastic cockpit bubble was removed.  Daywalt said it was claustrophobic, and he claimed that air rushing over the Plexiglas created and electrostatic charge that caused dust from the cockpit to adhere to the inside of the canopy, obscuring his vision.  Even worse, he found the fendered body unnerving because he could not see his front wheels when he drove into the turns.  Furthermore, in this era the driver was responsible for monitoring tire wear on the open-wheel roadsters, which could not be done with the tires fully enclosed.

Daywalt also complained that the car handled badly in the turns, which team members at first dismissed as a “wind problem.”  However, through consultation with an engineer from Allison Aircraft, Root learned that the streamlined body was probably creating lift in the rear, which would cause the poor handling.  Power, it appeared, was not a problem, because while the body of the Sumar Special added 200 pounds to the weight of a comparable roadster, the car had plenty of speed.

Following Daywalt’s concerns, the fenders and side panels were removed from the car, which left it looking rough and unfinished (pictured above right).  One writer described it as “a fugitive from a jalopy race.”  However, the change reduced handling problems and improved Daywalt’s confidence enough that he qualified in 17th position, in mid pack.  He finished the 1955 Indy 500 in 9th, which was a creditable performance under the circumstances.  A Sumar Special name would continue to appear at Indy in subsequent years, but it was by then a more conventional open-wheel roadster.  By this time, “streamlining” had been written off as a failed experiment that brought no competitive advantage over the old tried-and-true front-engine roadsters.

Sadly, the bad fortune of the 1955 streamliner did not end.  It was rebuilt in 1958 and taken to Daytona International Speedway for a record attempt.  On February 10, 1959, NASCAR driver Marshall Teague drove it to a speed of 171.821 mph.  On the 11th, during an attempt to break 180, Teague spun and crashed in the third turn.  He was thrown out of the car, seat and all, and died instantly.

The restored 1955 Sumar Special is now on display with the Root Family Collection of Americana and Coca-Cola at the Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences.  Years later, Don Smith commissioned a full scale running replica of the car—complete with correct Kurtis chassis and Offy engine—that was unveiled at Indianapolis in 2010 .  It is now part of his extensive collection of cars and racing memorabilia.

Carl Hungness has known Smith for many years, sometimes using Smith’s bank to finance his publishing and printing ventures.  Smith has bought some of Carl’s bronze sculptures, including his iconic "Wheel of Life," and asked Carl what it would take to create a quarter-scale bronze of the Sumar Special.  Smith thought the cost too high, and the two discussed other media, including fiberglass.  Hungness recalls, “I quoted a fiberglass replica for better than $10,000 below the cost of the bronze.  I didn’t account for the incredible amount of time and expense that would have to go into things like quarter-scale stainless steel fasteners, grille and vent frames, patterns for the gas filler and wheels, and a transparent canopy.”  He adds, “But these are all things that don’t have to be duplicated for a second sculpture, so the idea is to make your profit on additional editions.”

Hungness got help from draftsman and model builder Bob Clidnst, who has compiled a collection of hundreds of drawings of Indianapolis cars, including the Sumar Special.  Working from those drawings, Hungness began to build templates to govern the shape of the body.  With these, he used the tried-and-true Detroit method of applying clay over a foam core.  Hungness explains, “No matter how good your drawings are, end the end it art, not science.  Ultimately, you are working by eye.  I had to do the rear fenders of the car a dozen times before I got it right.”

Tiny screws and fasteners where machined to quarter scale, then stuck into the clay in their correct locations.  Once installed, they were removed so there would be a small hole in the clay that would become a tiny post on the inside of the fiberglass mold.  Once the final fiberglass shell was laid, these would appear again as small holes into which the screws and fasteners could be inserted.

From the completed clay model, a female fiberglass mold is made by a specialty supplier, then in this mold the fiberglass is laid up to form the completed body shell.  Hungness explains, “Once you have a correct and clean body, more than a hundred hours of work will go into installing small parts, such as fasteners and plated pieces.”

Sophisticated machinery was used to make three-dimensional scans of complex parts such as the fuel filler cap and the wheels and tires.  From this data, these parts were 3-D copied from hard plastic, then spray chrome plated.  Stainless steel grilles for the fender vents had to be discarded because they were too hard to conform to a complex curve.  They were recreated in copper with a photo-etching process, shaped to the curve of the fenders, then plated.  The buck for the canopy was shaped from wood, then plastic was vacuum formed over it.  Hungness relates, “This was another part that I had to do more than once before I got it right.”

Hungness estimates that 1,500 to 1,700 hours went into creation of the original sculpture, which of course included templates, bucks, and patterns that will be applicable to future editions. 

Don Smith appears to have been quite happy with his #1 Sumar scale replica, because Hungness reports that it had not been finished long when he received a message from Preston Root, Chapman Root’s son, who immediately commissioned #2.  That car was personally delivered by Hungness to the Root family in Florida this last March.

Number 3 has just been completed and is available for sale.  For your own quarter-scale replica of the 1955 Sumar Special, contact Carl Hungness.

 

Carroll Resweber update
(4/25/2012)

 

Editor’s Note: In this month’s “From the Web,” we linked to a story in Cycles News about four times AMA Grand National Champion Carroll Resweber having been injured in a motorcycle accident.  As he rode through Louisiana, motojournalist Dave Despain broke away from a long vacation ride into Mexico to visit Carroll in the hospital.  Here’s what Dave reports:

 

I visited Carroll Resweber today at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, and all things considered, he's doing well.  "All things considered" includes multiple fractures:  left tibia, right femur, right side ribs and a vertebra in his neck...plus left lung contusion. He's had surgical repairs as needed on the fractures and the plan now is to keep him in Lake Charles until he's well enough to be transported to Beaumont, close to his home, for rehab and physical therapy.  The best news, though, is his attitude.  He had just had a mondo pain shot when we arrived yet he was coherent, lucid, and only occasionally had little memory lapses.  He was smiling and laughing, making jokes about being "too old for this shit."  Perhaps the best part is his attitude about his neck...he's had it worked on before and has had pain as a result.  I asked him how bad the fracture is and he said, "Well, I think they're a little concerned about it but, y'know, that's hurt ever since I had it worked on before.  I think this will probably make it better."  Point being that if a positive mental attitude is really half the battle in terms of recovery, he's in good shape there.  I just hope when I'm his age—about 76—I have as much enthusiasm as Carroll Resweber.  What a guy!

 


(4/23/2012)

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

 

Four times AMA Grand National Champion and Hall of Famer Carroll Resweber has been injured in a motorcycle street accident, according to Cycle News.  He was traveling aboard his Honda Gold Wing from the New Orleans Supercross to his home in Port Arthur, Texas when the single-vehicle accident occurred on April 22.

Tom Rose has posted a great story about Bill Tuman and the Indian wrecking crew.

Gold Wing and CBX guru Randall Washington  has put the last three years into the building of a supercharged CBX.  He will unveil it May 12 at the 6th Annual Carolina Classic Motorcycle Show.

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

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

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

A Michigan FOX affiliate recently aired an interview with metal artist and iconic bike builder Ron Finch. To read our prior feature about Finch (pictured left).

Read about freedom fighter John "Rogue" Herilhy at American Biker Legends.

Pipeburn recently did a story (with video) about stuntman Louis "Rocket" Re.

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

We’re still following the progress of the Ed Kretz movie, for which release dates have not yet been announced.

We think you’ll enjoy Sideburn, which bills itself as the world’s best go fast—turn left magazine.

The world’s oldest original Indian changed hands for $155,000.  I would have expected more.

The Spring 2012 issue of the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies has just been posted on line.  Also, do not forget about the IJMS International Conference coming June 7 through 10.

Here’s a good history of the development of Yamaha YZ and DT models in the American market.

If you read German, you will like Klassik Motorrad which twice a year publishes a special off-road issue.  The latest contains a story about John Penton by our sometimes-contributor Leo Keller.

The digs of sculptor Jeff Decker were recently featured on the Cyril Huze Blog.

The 63rd Anamosa Hillclimb and Swap Meet will take place in Anamosa, Iowa June 3.  Vintage bike classes will be sponsored by the National Motorcycle Museum, which will be hosting its Vintage Rally over the same weekend.

How often do you get your choice of three Crockers?  Bonhams says it will happen at their Quail Lodge Sale during the famed Pebble Beach Car Week, August 16 and 17.

Sonny Barger is producing a movie based on his novel, “Dead in 5 Heartbeats.”

Mods and Rockers—featuring classic Brit café bikes and vintage metal bodied scooters—will be the theme at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days 2012, scheduled to take place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at Lexington, Ohio July 20 through 22.

Christina Ekins Van Houdt, daughter of Dave Ekins, is developing a wonderful Ekins family web site containing lots of history and great photos about her dad and Uncle Bud.

Site access for the future Bonneville speed Museum has been approved by the Utah Department of Transportation.

Here are images from the 1980 San Jose Mile.

Pencil in June 1 through 3 for the 21st Heart of America Motorcycle Enthusiasts Rally at the Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. 

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

As always, Bike Exif has lots of hella cool bikes this month, such as thismonoshock Honda CB750, or this cafe airhead BMW.  There’s a more than tidy Aermacchi Sprint, and a Yamaha Virago that is better than British.  And just how often do you see a 1923 Windhoff.

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

Now you can buy historic photos from the Harley-Davidson Archives.

Larry Lawrence tells the story of Brainerd International Raceway at the Cycle News Archives.

See images of Laguna Seca in the 1980s at SuperbikePlanet.

 

Audi moves to acquire Ducati
Analysis by Ralf Kruger
(4/19/2012)


Editor's Note: Rumors swirled this month about the German firm Audi, an arch-rival of Mercedes and BMW, acquiring Ducati. Ralf Kruger has been closely watching this process, and reports from Germany:

Certainly, I am not the only one who raises eyebrows regarding this news. I have to admit, as an avid fan and owner of a Ducati motorcycle myself, the first questions which come to my mind are: Does Audi ownership do any harm to the iconic Italien brand? Will Audi try to show Ducati how a puristic, nearly uncompromised Italian sports motorcycle has to be built?

Certainly, both answers are “No!” I say this because I am confident that Ferdinand Pich (pictured above right), Chairman of the VW Group and the driving force and engineer of this latest deal, is absolutely aware of the image, strength, and status of this legendary brand, and certainly has plans to capitalize on Ducati's strengths. Still, some doubts may remain in this unusual buy-out, so we should take a look at Audi's and Piëch's history to find some points of clarification.


Audi was a part of Auto Union before the Second World War, associated were Horch, Wanderer, and DKW, the last two of which originally were motorcycle manufacturers. So, while there is still no direct and obvious relation for a Ducati purchase, motorcycles once played an important role for Auto-Union. In fact, at one point DKW was the world's largest producer of motorcycles.


Ferdinand Piëch, who is a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, is the visionary guide of the VW empire, which now includes 11 European automobile brands. He is a keen engineer by heart and profession and an Italophile who owns several Bianchi and Colnago bicycles. He owns Ducati motorcycles as well, and reveres them for their incomparable beauty and style, but equally for their technical details, such as their desmodronic valve actuation. Rumor has it, he rides them regularly.


Piëch joined Audi in 1972, later became technical director of the management board, and in 1988 became the boss of Audi. Known as a techno-freak and highly regarded for his pursuit of quality, his colleagues have nick-named him "Fugen-Ferdi," meaning “Gap-Ferdi,” which is a reference to his drive for Audi's formerly unheard of close tolerances within its general manufacturing process. In addition to his demand for high manufacturing quality, he introduced both four-wheel drive and turbo-charging into the Audi line, which have contributed to a sporting and performance image for the brand.


In 1975, Audi research engineer and motorcyclist Roland Gumpert built a running Audi prototype motorcycle, called the Z02, using an altered BMW R90S chassis modified with a 60hp Audi 50 inline, four-cylinder engine. Relative to this project, there were still many former DKW and NSU engineers working in the Ingolstadt factory who still felt a soft spot for motorcycles and were more than ready to help.


When Gumpert proposed his project to Piëch, he was hooked and advised, "Continue your project in secret! We need to produce something good, a convincing prototype, before your work becomes public with our chiefs." At the time, Piëch was not yet the boss of Audi and had to consider the feelings of parent manufacturer VW. But even then, Piëch was among those in the organization who wanted to reestablish a second motorcycle marque in Germany beside old rival BMW.


In 1977, Gumpert decided to introduce the motorcycle prototype to his VW chiefs. As they traveled to Wolfsburg, their main concern was if the decision-maker was a technician or a merchant by profession. As it turned out, he was an attorney. Sales director Schmidt took just a brief look at the Z02 motorcycle prototype, and said: "We are not bicycle dealers, are we?!" So, the project was canceled instantly. But we can presume that Gumpert and Ferdinand Piëch never forgot, and were willing to hold their plans for better times.


But, why Ducati? Aren't there legendary German brands like DKW and NSU that Piëch could choose from to launch Audi into the motorcycle business? Wouldn't these be more obvious for a German manufacturer?   Let's take a look on the assets Ducati brings to the table: They offer the most "uncompromised" sport motorcycles on the market, with a terrific reputation for being just that. And obviously, such qualities are just to the liking of "gear-head" Piëch, and will mesh nicely with the similar qualities of the Audi brand.

What Ducati lacks are the funds to guarantee continued and stringent development on the technical edge. Witness how frequently the ownership of the company has changed in recent years due to Ducati's constant struggle to find the funding necessary to maintain such development. Yet, during these years of uncertainly, Ducati has succeeded in maintaining its technical reputation, winning world championships at the highest levels of the sport against the better-funded Japanese brands.


This, clearly, is where Audi can make an essential contribution. The VW Group has not only piled up a big cushion of cash looking for service, but Piëch's agenda is to fulfill his dream of providing motor-driven vehicles in all segments of the market, including motorcycles. Ducati can be a great addition to Piëch's portfolio, which includes MAN and Scania trucks, sports cars like Porsche, Bugatti, and Lamborghini; luxury car manufacturer Bentley, and a whole bunch of car brands which are the leading marques in their home markets, such as Seat in Spain, Skoda in the Czech Republic, and VW in Germany. Since this motoring empire has until now lacked a motorcycle brand, it would appear that at the time of his 75th birthday, Piëch has fulfilled his dream and rounded out Audi's portfolio.


Anyway, it's not all about Piëch alone. I know there is a group of Audi engineers, all keen motorcyclists, some of whom have been involved in racing a R1100S BMW, who will be more than happy to help open a new chapter in Audi's history. And hopefully this new chapter will include a prosperous and more secure future for the Ducati factory and its employees who bring such passion to building fine, Italian motorcycles.
Let's hope for the best !


P.S., The German motorcycle press has already begun to rave about the possible return of exciting four-stroke NSUs (as the DKW name mostly stands for two-strokes) which could sail in Ducati's wake and thus broaden and enrich the worldwide motorcycle family. Or so goes the hope of motorcyclists who still remember and cherish the German marques from the past.

 

The man behind
the Norton Transformer

By Mick Duckworth
(4/16/2012)

By now, we expect every motohistorian has seen and enjoyed the Norton Commando Transformer on YouTube.   Many may have wondered who was behind this bit of motorcycle whimsy.   The human co-star of the video is Neil Shoosmith (pictured left), Chairman of the Norton Owners Club's Bournemouth Branch and an aircraft fitter for 37 years. A Norton Commando owner since he got a full license at age 17 in 1976, Neil now has more than a dozen Nortons, including a 1974 John Player Replica, a model rarely seen in the UK.

"The filmmaker, Steve Twist, was a student at Bournemouth University," Neil explains. "We heard he was looking for a suitable machine and parts for his project, so I offered to help with mine. The filming was done in the workshop at my home in January 2009 in freezing cold weather. After that, it took Steve about six months to put it all together. It's a great piece of work"

 

Photo of Neil Shoosmith by Mick Duckworth.  

 

Life is pain;
suffering is optional

(4/14/2012)

This has absolutely nothing to do with motohistory except that I spotted this sign during a ride through the Florida panhandle on my way to visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was in the small town of Panacea, which somehow seem appropriate, and it caught my attention enough to cause me to stop, and take a picture.

I thought to myself, “Ah, how much nicer it must be to have a root canal while viewing a gorgeous sunset across the Gulf of Mexico." 

 

Photohistory
by Tom Mueller

(4/10/2012)

Editor's Note: Tom Mueller, now a professor in marketing and once a Cycle News motojournalist, sent us the picture shown here.  We're hoping for more photohistory from Tom in the future.  About the image, Tom writes:

Here’s an image capturing the essence of motocross competition in the early 1980s. Jeff Hicks (85) is on his game, gunfighter eyes focused and taking him into the next straightaway. I now realize open-face helmets did not offer the highest margin of safety, but they were excellent for bringing the emotion of the athletes into view. Carlos Serrano (62) is coming in hot and doing a stoppie...25 years before stoppies were invented.

The shot was taken at one of Bill West's Florida races, I think it was during the Winter-AMA. The photo is a hair out of focus (no auto focus lenses in those days) but it remains one of my best MX images ever. I captured the essence of racing, while the shot also pleased the requirements of my editor at Cycle News East, Jack Mangus.  He taught me to frame the shot so that it captures the crowd and/or something specific to the race facility. Jack taught me that without it, any race shot could have been taken in a farmer's field! 

 

I loved bringing the excitement and magic of motocross to Cycle News readers from 1979-1982. Now, 30 years later, there's a deep satisfaction in sharing those images and my comments on my Retro Motocross blog.

 


(4/6/2012)

Only two women rode the 2010 Cannonball Coast to Coast Endurance Run for pre-1916 motorcycles.  They were Katrin Boehner from Germany, and American Cris Sommer Simmons.  Both successfully completed the event, which Simmons has documented in “The American Motorcycle Girl’s Cannonball Diary,” just published by Parker House.  The title, incidentally, hearkens back to the author’s prior work,
"The American Motorcycle Girls, 1900 to 1950"  published in 2009.  With these two books, plus other writings, Simmons  has established herself as a leading historian and documentarian of women motorcyclists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

 

Simmons’ diary begins nine months before the Cannonball Run, describing how she and her musician husband Pat Simmons made the series of decisions that resulted in Cris taking on the imposing challenge of riding a 1915 Harley-Davidson more than 3,000 miles across America.  Originally, they hoped to ride the event together, but Pat, a member of the Doobie Brothers, had concert commitments.  From the beginning of the Run in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to the Pacific Ocean pier in Santa Monica, California, Simmons’ diary details the triumphs and tribulations of each day of the 16-day event.  It is an inspiring and often exciting tale in which Sommers delves into the adventures of fellow riders as much as her own.  Her emphasis is not on her own achievements, but on the “family” of riders and support crews that emerged from shared struggle.

“The American Motorcycle Girl’s Cannonball Diary” is illustrated with more than 275 color photographs, the great majority of which were shot by Michael Lichter, one of the motorcycle community’s leading documentarian photographers.  The cover is illustrated with an oil painting by David Uhl depicting Simmons at road’s end on the beach in California with Effie Hotchkiss—the first woman to cross America on a motorcycle (also a 1915 Harley)—in the background.  It is available from a number of outlets including book seller GT Motors or at Cannonball Diary.

 

Companion volumes – “The One Percenter Code: How to be an Outlaw in a World Gone Soft,” and “The One Percenter Encyclopedia: The World of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs from Abyss Ghosts to Zombie Elite” – by Dave Nichols and Bill Hayes respectively, are new from Motorbooks.

“The One Percenter Code” follows Nichols’ previous book, “The Legend of the Outlaw Biker.”  As longtime editor of Easyriders, he approaches his subject with experience and authority. In this case, his message is laid out clearly in his dedication and introduction.  In dedicating his book to his son, and other sons and daughters of the next generation, he states, “May they live by a code of ethics and honor that transcends the world of empty suits and the race to the unholy cubicle.  May they dare to stare down oppression wherever it raises its loathsome face and may they be free to rebel, to ride, to live, and to love as true individuals.”  His hope and defiance are reiterated in his introduction: “Now, more than ever, people need a backbone and a code to live by.  The one percenter code may well offer an answer, showing our young men and women the warrior’s way in a world that has lost his edge.”  Published in hard cover, the book presents a gritty layout on uncoated stock that is aesthetically consistent with the author’s no-nonsense message and its black and white photography by Kim Peterson.  It includes an index. The cover price is $25.00.

“The One Percenter Encyclopedia” is a large format volume that is awesomely impressive in both content and graphic design.  Hayes has compiled a mind-boggling list of one percenter motorcycle clubs from throughout the world, describing their history, influence, and territory.  More than 400 organizations are identified!  Some are highlighted in a few lines, but long-standing and famous groups like the Boozefighters get many pages of text and supporting images.  In addition to the overwhelming educational content of this book, there are more than 100 images of insignia, colors, and historical photos of outlaw clubs.  Designers Kou Lar, John Barnett, and 4Eyes Design have made the imagers fairly pop on the book’s semi-glossy paper stock.  There is an appendix on jargon, a bibliography, and an index.  Many noted historians from “straight academia” have not approached their work with the scholarly care of this author.  The cover price is $29.99, which also is impressive.  This is a big volume containing a lifetime of learning.

 

In the June issue of American Iron, Publisher Buzz Kanter presents part three of his series covering the preparation of a 1929 Harley-Davidson JDH for the 2012 Cannonball Rally.  In this installment, he trucks it to the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina where Dale Walksler does his magic on the bike.  The story ends with the engine running strong and Kanter turning his attention to lousy brakes.  Stopping from time to time will be a serious aspect of riding the bike more than 3,800 miles from on coast of America to the other later this year.  John Endrizzi presents a history of Flathead Power, a company created by Andres Nygren in Sweden and later acquired by S&S.  Editor Jim Babchak’s column is about the ever-fascinating Bill’s Old Bike Barn, an amazing museum in Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania.  Babchak’s “American Iron Classic” feature this month is about a 1933 Crocker speedway racing machine.  It is believed that less than 40 of these motorcycles were ever made.  To obtain a subscription to American Iron, click here. 

RoadBike Motorcycle Cruising is a sister publication of American Iron, aimed more toward to touring rider than the custom buffs who read AI.  But Publisher Buzz Kanter’s love for antique motorcycles, appreciated also by Editorial Assistant Tyler Greenblatt, creeps into its pages as well.  In the June  issue, it takes the form of a feature about the Wheels Through Time Museum, written by Greenblatt and photographed by Kanter.  I wonder if these guys might have penned the story when they were there getting Kanter’s Cannonball bike running?  Greenblatt captures the essence of this remarkable museum in a few words, and Kanter’s photography is excellent.  I have shot a lot of photographs at Wheels Through Time, and can attest that due to its subdued lighting, it is a very hard shoot.  Kanter clearly knows his way around a camera better than I.  We should add that American Iron, Roadbike Motorcycle Cruising, and the Wheels Through Time Museum are sponsoring next month a fun event called the Kickstart Classic, which will run from the Museum to the AMCA Southern National Rally and Field Meet in Denton, North Carolina May 16 through 19.  For more information about the ride, click here.   To obtain a subscription to RoadBike Motorcycle  Cruising, click here.

BMW VMCA News—the official magazine of the BMW Veteran Motorcycle Club of America—is unlike any other motorcycle magazine.  For example, who says you gotta have a motorcycle on the cover when you can have a scenic shot of the Ohio River?  And I must confess I am utterly baffled by its publication schedule, since the July 1, 2011 issue just arrived!  As for content: while the magazine often contains club news and event coverage, as any club magazine should, the real meat of this periodical is highly technical articles about how to salvage and restore parts that most of us would just curse and throw into the dumpster.  Got an engine case that’s about half blown away but the little plate with numbers is still intact?  No problem.  A little welding rod, a grinder, and an extraordinary amount of skill, and you end up with a good case you can’t tell from NOS.  There are also interesting stories about fascinating BMW experimentals and prototypes that never saw the light of day.  This issue contains a fact-filled story about the R36, a single with cylinder head following the design of BMW’s 132 Hornet radial aircraft engine.  The telltale feature that something is different here is the fact that both the carburetor and exhaust face rearward.  Not available on newsstands, this magazine is included as a benefit of BMW VMCA membership here. 

The April issue of The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Magazine, official publication of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, North America, contains a cover story about a about 1972 Yamaha XS650 purported to be a “good parts bike” that turned out to be a well-preserved, near-perfect original that changed hands for $300!  This story illustrates one of the advantage of collecting Japanese machines; you are more likely to find bargains than you ever will with the older British, European, and American marques.  In this issue, VJMC President Tom Kolenko reminds members that 2012 is the club’s 35th anniversary, and reports some of the pomp and fanfare planned to celebrate the milestone.  There is always—as always—an outstanding section of classified ads, making this magazine a must-read for Japanese motorcycle collectors and enthusiasts.  It is available only to members of the VJMC here

The May/June issue of Motorcycle Classics contains feature stories about the 1983 Honda VF750F Interceptor, the last Norton, the 1975 Commando 850 Mark III Roadster, the 1921 Indian Powerplus, the 1934 four-stroke V-twin Husqvarna GP racer, a cafed Yamaha Virago, and a Ducati Flat Track Special, styled like a Harley XR750.  There are also stories about the recent auction wars in Las Vegas and riding old motorcycles in Corsica.  As always, photos are large and excellent, supported by great print quality.  It’s a magazine filled with gorgeous machinery, but Editor Richard Backus uses his column to remind us that what is often more entertaining than the old bikes we ride are the characters we meet along the road.  To subscribe to Motorcycle  Classics, click here