Motohistory Quiz #96
We have no winner!
It's not very often that we stump our Motohistorians, but we did it this time. We got many responses of "Sunbeam," which is a very good guess, but not correct. This was a tough one because the engine has no technical or cultural resemblance to the well-known company that produced it. Believe it or not, it is an Indian four-cylinder prototype designated the X44. Below right is a second image showing the right side of the engine.
After the Second World War, when the Ralph Rogers regime worked aggressively to bring a totally new line of modern Indians to the market, no less than two experimental four cylinder machines were in the work. What Indian had that still gave it some bragging rights over Harley-Davidson in the 1930s and ‘40s was a luxury four-cylinder. It would have been a credit to the brand to continue this tradition.
One of the fours in question was the Torque Four (pictured below left), under development by Torque Engineering. It followed Indian’s new concept of “modular design,” which theoretically should lead to efficiency in production and economy of maintenance. Based on use of a 220cc cylinder—a rather unorthodox capacity—Indian introduced in 1949 its 220cc single Arrow and 440cc Scout twin. The next logical step was an 880cc Four. With plunger rear shocks, hydraulic telescopic forks, foot shift, and shaft drive, the Torque Four could have rivaled its most advanced competitors, including the BMW.
One aspect of the design—which was not necessarily a disadvantage—was a rather long engine and chassis, resulting from lining up four fully-finned cylinders that had been built for the Arrow and Scout applications. Only one Torque Four prototype is known to exist, and those who have been inside it report that it was a long way from production-worthy when Indian collapsed in 1953. This prototype is now owned by the Antique Motorcycle Foundation and is on display at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York.
But another, and equally revolutionary Four was in development during the mid-1940s. This was based on a very tidy and compact engine using a one-piece, barrel-style crankcase, similar to Adlers and BMWs of the period. Designated the X44, its carburetor and air cleaner stood above the short engine, and were concealed inside the left half of the gas tank, an idea that would later be acclaimed ingenious when the Honda Gold Wing stashed its electrics inside a dummy tank thirty years later.
Like the Torque Four, the X44 would have had plunger rear suspension, shaft drive, telescopic forks, and a foot shift. A running prototype was built in 1945, and is pictured here with Clinton Feld, who later owned the machine. This motorcycle still exists, as does a second—but incomplete—engine shown here when it was on display in the Century of Indian Exhibit at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in 2002. At that time it was owned by the DuPont family.
Clearly, Indian, as it approached its end of days, was not short of modern ideas. The company, incidentally, also experimented with “civilianizing” the 841 shaft-drive military model, which also would have brought forward some very good ideas, had the company survived.
“Only in America.”
Only in America. It’s a catch phrase you’ve heard often, too frequently spoken casually without any personal experience that would validate the claim. But Erich Bley means it, and he has a history that he believes is living proof, from his arrival as a poor immigrant in 1961 to building a successful business to the present where he enjoys a good life that includes ocean boating and restoring fine motorcycles.
Erich Bley (pictured above right) was born in 1934 in Magdeburg, Germany, a town that the outcome of World War Two thrust into what became Communist East Germany. Bley’s father, Otto Kurt, had an engine rebuilding business and made special machine tools. At one point, O.K. Bley Maschinenfabrik, founded in 1923, had three factories with 700 employees. Bley recalls, “My father was not an engineer. He learned to work with his hands and understood how machinery works. He was my role model, both in what he did and how he went about finding success.” Bley adds, “Sadly, all of his factories were confiscated by the communist government.”
Immediately after the war, at the age of 12, Erich got his first motorcycle, a 1939 125cc two-stroke NSU. Two years later, Bley witnessed his first road race and decided it was something he had to do. He learned to speed tune the little NSU and at 16 launched his racing career, placing first in the first race he entered (pictured here, #30). He says with a smile, “I created a racing department in my father’s factory.” After completing preparatory school, while working and racing, Bley attended night school and earned an engineering degree.
Bley had a motorcycle racing friend named Manfred Schneider who had relatives in America. In 1952 he told Bley, “I am going to escape, but we will stay in touch.” Three years later, Bley and his girlfriend Marlis left East Germany, traveling to the West by train. He explains, “The Wall was not yet built, and in 1955 it was still not so hard to travel to West Germany. Many people did it to see relatives, and permission was not too hard to get.” But Bley and Marlis did not return. Bley relates, “After the NSU, I raced an Adler (pictured below right and below left). It was a fine, fast motorcycle, and I got to know the guys in the racing department. Immediately upon arriving in West Germany, I went to the Adler factory and my friends in the racing department helped me get a job in engine assembly.” Learning the ins and outs of Adler design would serve Bley well later in life.
Motorcycle sales, however, were already slowing down in Germany as the populace turned their desires toward small cars, and Adler was only a couple of years away from ceasing motorcycle production when Bley arrived. He states, “I was at Adler about a year, then I got a job with British Petroleum as a service manager. I was responsible for the petrol pumps in a large territory, and I traveled a lot.” Because many Germans could not wait to abandon their motorcycles for cars, Bley found and acquired a lot of bikes during his travels, including a rare DKW Kompressor.
Bley’s friend Manfred returned in 1961 for a visit (the same year that the Berlin Wall was erected), and he told glowing stories of the opportunities in America. Bley and Marlis—who was now his wife—decided to emigrate, arriving in Chicago on June 1. Bley says, “We arrived on a Friday with very little to our name, on Monday I interviewed for a job at a steel fabricating company, and on Tuesday I went to work.”
In 1963, Bley bought a lathe and started moonlighting as a machinist. He opened his own shop in 1966 and hired his first employee a year later. In 1968, he acquired his first building, a 5,000 square foot facility. Today, Bley LLC has 75 skilled employees in a 65,000 square foot facility in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Specializing in unusual and complex machining tasks, its clients include companies in alternative energy, aerospace, mining, defense, heavy transportation, nuclear energy, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment.
A year before he started his business, Erich and Marlis produced a son named Sven, who began to work at Bley at the age of 15. Sven would go on to earn a degree in machine tool technology and found his own company named “Made to Measure,” a dimensional inspection service that assists clients with quality control engineering, providing precise measurement on everything from office staples to 20,000 pound wind turbine drive shafts. Sven got his first motorcycle—a 90cc Kawasaki—and began to race motocross at the age of 12.
With his business succeeding and management tasks shared with a partner, in 1979 Bley returned his attention to motorcycles. He says, “I must credit my son Sven. I helped him set up and improve his racing and observed trials bikes.” Sven raced motocross for about six years until 1982, then started riding trials, where he quickly advanced to an Expert rank. Later he became involved in road racing, both in vintage competition and on modern bikes in the Sound of Singles class. He says, “My favorite bike was a 200cc Bultaco TSS.”
Now back in the racing game with Sven, Bley learned about AHRMA, the governing body for vintage motorcycle racing in America. In 1983, he bought a Norton Manx (pictured here at Daytona) and returned to road racing. Erich and Sven formed a father/son vintage racing team (pictured below left), racing together from 1992 to 1998. Sven recalls, “We raced different classes, but were sometimes on the track together. (pictured below right at Mid-Ohio) Those were great times.” Sven still competes today, but no longer in road racing. Rather, he still rides trials and enduro.
Erich Bley continued competing with AHRMA until 2005, when he turned 70. He declares, “It was a most enjoyable period in my life. I was back on the race track, often riding with my son, and maintaining my own machinery with friends who enjoyed the same things I did.”
Bley also started restoring motorcycles, focusing on German brands including Adler and BMW. He explains, “I bought out a former Adler dealership in 1983, and ended up with a good supply of spares.” Soon Bley found himself in the export business, sending classic BMWs, Adlers, and Zundapps back to Germany where they had come into demand among nostalgic collectors.
Today, Bley spends his winters in the Florida Keys, where he keeps his motorcycle restoration business. He stays in touch with Bley LLC by phone, but devotes as much of his time as possible to motorcycle restoration and to outings on his 44-foot Sea Ray ocean cruiser, which is moored right outside his shop. He says, with obvious pleasure in his voice, “I can see it through the window as I wrench on old motorcycles.” Bley is arguably the leading Adler restoration expert in the world, and this reputation keeps him busy. At present, he has four Adlers in progress on a production line (pictured left). He says, “They will be exactly like brand new machines when I am done.” (pictured below right)
Bley says that he plans to build four or five more Adlers, but that he intends to wind the business down. He explains, “At one point I even built a house across the street to hold all my restoration bikes and spares. I had maybe 125 motorcycles there, including 25 in my personal collection.” He continues, “Then I got smart and decided it was time to downsize and simplify. My personal collection is down to about ten motorcycles and the house across the street is now producing rental income.”
Bley wants to spend more of his Florida time with his boat, and when it gets too hot he returns to Chicago to help at Bley LLC. While thinking back on his immigration from Germany, his good fortune with employment, the growth and success of his business, his years of vintage racing, and his good life in Florida, Bley’s voice takes on a tone of gratitude and mild astonishment as he asserts, “For me it is true. Only in America.”
To read more about Bley LLC, click here and here. To access the Bley LLC web site, click here. To read more about Adler motorcycles and one of Erich Bley’s restorations, click here. To learn about Sven Bley’s business, click here.
Editor’s note: The company founded by Erich Bley’s father still exists in Germany, now called O.K.B Sondermaschinenbau. To read about it, click here.
Lead photo by Bob Chwedyk, courtesy of Daily Herald.
Karl Bley’s leap to freedom
In 1955, when Erich Bley traveled to West Germany and didn’t return, his younger brother Karl was nine years old. Karl (pictured below left) grew up also wanting to leave Communist Germany, but his path was blocked in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was erected and the nation’s borders were sealed.
In 1968, Karl took the cruise ship Völkerfreundschaft to Cuba, and from its deck at night, he could see the bright lights of Miami Beach, lying just seven miles away on the horizon. He resolved that if he ever got this close again, he would abandon ship and gamble his life on swimming to shore. Erich and Karl had been corresponding for years, and even though mail was censored by the East German government, they worked out a code to convey their deepest thoughts. Karl had decided as early as 1964 that he would escape, and Erich could perceive this in his correspondence.
In 1970, Karl was again aboard the Völkerfreundschaft, on his way to Cuba. On their Atlantic crossing, German ships to Cuba made straight from the Bahamas to the American coast, traveling south along the coast of Florida, past Miami and along the Keys, then turning southward toward Havana at American Shoal, an uninhabited lighthouse island 16 miles south of Miami. Erich and his friends carefully worked out a plan to intercept the liner in a fast boat, and rescue Karl as he jumped overboard. The plan involved Erich and a friend in the boat, and two aircraft, one high-flying plane that would report the progress and location of the liner, and another that would monitor the approach of the rescue boat and at the right moment buzz the big ship, which they hoped Karl would recognize at the signal to jump. But, in fact, communication was so difficult and uncertain, no one was even sure that Karl was aboard.
The rescue almost failed because the Völkerfreundschaft was behind schedule. I was supposed to traverse the coast of Florida on Thanksgiving Day, but it did not arrive. The following morning, Erich was up before dawn, despondent and walking the beach when he saw what could be the lights of the passing liner. Desperate calls were made to the pilots and the rescue boat captain, Bob Lowe. Because the ship was already passing the U.S. coast, there was no time to get the boat that had been chosen for the rescue, so Erich and Lowe commandeered a 22-foot outboard skiff at Big Pine Key. By now they were uncertain they could overtake the Völkerfreundschaft, traveling at 18 knots, but they set out anyway. If tension were not already nearly intolerable, the engine of the skiff died and had to be restarted three times!
By now, Ken Agnew, piloting the low-flying aircraft, was in the air and approaching the liner, which was already nearing its point to break off toward Havana. George Butler, pilot of the high-flying aircraft, was monitoring the positions of the skiff and the liner, and finally shouted over the radio, “Now!” Agnew responded, “Right, I’m going in.” Agnew described his pass later in a 1971 issue of Guideposts Magazine: “I was hell-bent for the bow of the unsuspecting liner, barreling down her port side, white caps only a few feet below me. I caught sight of passengers at the rail—two dozen of the most stunned expressions I’d ever seen. At the fantail I made a tight turn to the left, so close that the flagpole at the stern almost caught my wingtip.” He continues, “For one awful second there was nothing . . . then it happened. A red-shirted figure went over the rail and plummeted into the water. ‘He jumped!’ I yelled, frantic with excitement.”
From the second aircraft overhead, Butler reported that he saw two people in the water, then three. By the time Lowe and Erich Bley reached Karl, there were a total of four who had jumped overboard. The other three men were doctors, a neuropathologist from Leipzig, a pathologist from Zwickau, and a microbiologist, also from Zwickau. None of these knew of the plot, but when they realized what was happening, they made spur-of-the-moment decisions to risk their lives for a chance to escape.
But the desperate game was not yet over, as the 625-foot Völkerfreundschaft began a hard, 180-degree turn to give pursuit. Agnew recounts, “It was amazing to see a liner lean like that.” By the time the last jumper was out of the water, the big ship was bearing down on the small skiff, apparently piloted by a Captain who would churn them under rather than let them escape to America. Lowe raced for shallow water, and finally the big ship broke off and returned to its course for Havana. Later, Karl confessed that he planned to jump, even if the rescuers did not arrive.
The following Spring, both Erich and Karl were invited to testify before the Committee on Internal Security of the 92nd United States Congress. They painted a picture of life in Communist East Germany, reporting that there were many thousands more who would risk their lives for a chance to live in a society of freedom and opportunity. In addition to their testimony before Congress, Erich and Karl were invited to the White House.
Karl took good advantage of his newfound freedom. After working awhile in Chicago as a diesel mechanic, he went to sea, manning the engine room of a freighter. Karl circled the globe several times, and in the course of his travels he met a girl in San Salvador and married her. Eventually, he returned to the Chicago area and went to work as head of maintenance at Bley LLC. Now a grandfather, Karl is still responsible for keeping Bley’s machines running. His brother Erich concludes, “None of this would have happened had I not met Manfred Schneider while racing motorcycles.”
The National Motorcycle Museum’s 2012 raffle bike is a new Indian Chief Classic (pictured right). You can enter the drawing on line on line. And speaking of the National Motorcycle Museum, it was recently featured on the History Channel’s hit television show "American Pickers.".
Coming up from Both Barrels Promotions: the Tenth Annual Spring Thaw Bike Show and Swap Meet in Shelbyville, Tennessee on March 24. The grand door prize is a 1970 Harley-Davidson M65. Here’s more about Both Barrels.
The 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball will take place September 7 through 23. For all the info, click here.
Here’s where you can read about outlaw motorcycle clubs in Finland.
Here’s where you keep your Hodaka running.
The Vintage Motorcycle Works web site offers a comprehensive list of American Motorcycle Inventors.
The National Motorcycle Museum will hold its 2012 Vintage Rally June 1 through 3. Lots going on including the 63rd running of the famous Anamosa Hillclimb.
Wall of Death rider Pit Lengner is returning to the Motorcyclepedia Museum for four shows on April 21. Admission is limited to the first 100 people per show. To reserve tickets, e-mail email@example.com.
Here’s a fascinating web site devoted to old motorcycle dealership decals. The web master is looking for the insignia of the old Hap Alzina Riverside store. If you can help, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s always good stuff on Eddie Boomhower's Racer Reunion web site. Here’s a welcome from Eddie hizzelf.
“Quarter MileStones” is a new exhibit about the history of drag racing at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. It will officially open on June 2 at the NMM’s Vintage Rally. Consulting curator for the exhibit is John Stein, author of “Motorcycle Drag Racing: A History," reviewed at Motohistory News & Views 10/8/2011.
Think completing the Cannonball is a feat? Check out Ron Fellowes, who is riding a 1910 FN overland from Nepal to Belgium, its nation of origin. Approaching age 70, Fellowes calls himself Old Bloke on Bike.
For his 2012 Daytona commemorative painting, artist David Uhl celebrates the era when the law took a keen interest in the length of women's swim suits on the beach.
For the whole of February, the Harley-Davidson Museum has celebrated Black History Month. In June, the Museum will open an exhibit celebrating the history of the black leather jacket.
Buzz Kanter reports that the Kickstart Classic from the Wheels Through Time Museum to the Barber Vintage Festival last October was so successful, that a similar event is being planned for May. This time it will go from Wheels Through Time to the AMCA National Meet in Denton, North Carolina. Learn more at the Classic American Iron web site.
Motogiro USA is coming in May. Here’s how to enter.
National Motorcycle Museum President John Parham has received the prestigious Don J. Brown Lifetime Achievement Award.
Here’s a video of endurance rider Lenny Bauer's visit to the Motorcyclepedia Museum.
This month’s really rotten news was of the theft of a 1914 Cyclone valued at $1.6 million. To add insult to injury, the thieves also took a $60,000 Honda CR110. Read about it at the Motorcycle Classics web site. There’s more about it at the Cyril Huze blog.
Spectro and Cyril Huze tell us how to select oil for antique motorcycles.
French Canadian motojournalist Jean Pagé will be host of the Seventh Annual Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction ceremony on November 3, 2012.
Here are some great vintage observed trials photos from the Talmag Classic Trial held at Aldershot in January.
Michael Lichter’s 2012 Sturgis motorcycle exhibition will be entitled"Come Together - The Spirit of Born Free."
Then and now: compare this 1915 original Indian board track racer with a 2011 Kiwi Indian board track racer replica.
The Sixth International Female Rider Day is scheduled for May 4.
Larry Lawrence’s Rider Files brings us a classic Bud Turner photo of Mann, Rayborn, and Carruthers at Road Atlanta 1971 as well as a story about photographer Turner. There’s also a great feature about Buster Payne, one of the riders to break the AMA color barrier in the 1950s. Lawrence has also penned for the Cycle News web site a story about the spectacular 1994 American debut of Troy Corser.
Read about sculptor Jeff Decker at the Vintagent’s blog.
There’s more cool and quirky motorcycles at BikeExif this month: a lovely TR6 cafe racer, a creation that one might describe as a Gold Wing bobber, the modern six-cylinder Horex, a gonzo BMW, and a lowboy Norton hybrid.
Cyril Huze has recently posted one of the coolest board track-inspired customs you will ever see.
Despite a very late decision to green-light the Daytona 2012 Auction (see Motohistory News & Views 1/31/2012), the consignment list is looking good. The dates are March 14 through 16.
David Uhl has memorialized Cris Summer Simmons in oils.
Jeff Clew’s “Edward Turner: The Man behind the Motorcycle” (Veloce Publishing) is now available as an e-book.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum has announced its class of 2012. Read about it here. The ceremony will be August 8 at the Deadwood Lodge in Deadwood, South. Tickets are $35 with a table of eight for $300.
The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Breakfast at Daytona on March 16 will feature 1993 World Champion Kevin Schwantz. Here’s more info.
The Wheels Through Time Museum is having a special opening the first weekend in March for people on their way to Daytona.
Heinrich Kleyer prior to 1910
By Ralf Kruger
Heinrich Ludwig Kleyer (born Dec. 13, 1853 in Darmstadt, died May 9, 1932 in Frankfurt), was born into a family, whose father, Wilhelm (1822-1879), earned his living as a self-employed machinist and a manufacturer of machine tools. From his father, Heinrich inherited an affection for all things mechanical. After he successfully completed junior high school and subsequently a polytechnic institute, he finalized his academic education with an engineering diploma from Technical University of Darmstadt. A brief job with a steel-mill in Siegen followed to certify his new diploma.
When Kleyer (pictured above right) left Darmstadt for Hamburg in 1875, his first job was for the trading company, Biernatzki & Co, which imported U.S. textile machines and products made by Sturtevant Mill Company of Harrison Square, Boston, an advertisement for which is pictured left. In behalf of his employer, he left Germany in the spring of 1879 to work as a consulting engineer for Sturtevant, studying patent applications in Washington and conveying his insights to his boss.
On Friday, the fourth of July, 1879, the whole of Boston celebrated Independence Day with a big party. Part of it at 11 that morning was a race of man against machine, organized by Albert Augustus Pope (1843 - 1909; pictured right), the early American fabricator and tireless promoter of the bicycle. The start was near Public Garden, and the course went along Commonwealth Avenue for a mile. Kleyer was immediately fascinated by this new kind of vehicle. To better understand its capability, he paced the course and learned he was about six times slower than the fastest bicycle. Kleyer instantly realized what the bicycle could bring for his fellow countrymen, and he decided that marketing bicycles would become his profession when he returned to Germany.
Of course, Kleyer went to see "Colonel" Pope the next day at his office at 597 Washington Street, and was offered the opportunity to visit Pope's assembly plant and retail shop, located at the time at 87 Summer Street. Upstairs, in the attic, which had been transformed a bicycle training range, Kleyer took lessons in bicycling with a so-called "penny farthing" (or "ordinary,” after the safety bicycle became popular) Columbia bicycle. The Columbia (pictured left) was Pope's first self-designed product.
Kleyer asked for one, for which he was willing to pay the retail customer price of $95 (early bicycles were very expensive), but alas, his request was decisively declined. Pope already had far too much demand for his production, so he referred Kleyer to some British manufacturers. These would also be cheaper, he explained to Kleyer.
When Kleyer returned from the United States, he opened his first business, Maschinen & Velocipede Handlung, located in Bethmannstrasse 8, Frankfurt, on March 1st, 1880. As a first step he began importing and sold Coventry Machinists Company "ordinary" bicycles, but he found that business was difficult. Because the bicycle was viewed with hostility by many horse owner, and seen as simply ridiculous by others.
Kleyer knew he had to improve it's image with the populace as well as government officials before bicycling could be developed into a mass market. So, he founded 1.FBC (first Frankurt bicycle club) on April, 24, 1881 to promote the idea of self-determined mobility, which until now had been limited mostly to wealthy people who could afford traveling by train or horse and coach or buggy. Kleyer's idea worked. By organizing bicycle races and public displays, more and more people were exposed to the potential of the bicycle, and public acceptance came quickly.
Also in 1881, Kleyer began to produce his own high-wheel bicycle with the help of Maschinenfabrik Spohr & Krämer, which supplied the frame and other components. The new bicycles were sold under the brands "Herold" (Herald, in English) "Frankfurt," and "Jugend" (adolescent).
In 1885, he moved to Gutleutstrasse 9, Frankfurt. Here he opened the “House of the Bicycle" (pictured above right) in which he could not only assemble his products, but take on frame manufacturing as well. His new facility was big enough to store 5,000Adler bicycles, his new registered trademark brand. Just as he had seen at Boston's Pope factory, the attic of his new facility was set up to be used as a riding school (above left). In addition, he purchased a big piece of land next to "Haus des Fahrrades" (House of the Bicycle) where he constructed Frankfurt's first Adler-Velodrome (pictured above right).
While the complete manufacturing process was done in-house since early 1886, Kleyer now moved into designing and producing his first own "safety" bicycle. Adler was the first German marque to produce this new kind of bicycles, featuring two rims of the same diameter, and chain drive to the rear wheel (pictured left). Manufacturing numbers of the "ordinary," or “Penny Farthing,” slumped in a hurry.
The new design would bring the final breakthrough of the bicycle's public acceptation, which forced him to move his factory when Adler became overwhelmed by customer demand. In 1887 he erected his new factory in the southeast of Frankfurt at the Höchster Strasse, which was very much on the outskirts of the city at the time. Today the site has been renamed Kleyer-Strasse (above right).
With the new safety bicycle in high demand, business boomed. Just about 25 kilometers to the southwest, Opel had begun manufacturing bicycles in 1886. With Adler, Berlin's Brennabor marque, Bielefeld's Dürkopp factory, Winklhofer & Jaenicke (Wanderer) from Chemnitz, and Nuremberg's Victoria became the six leading makers of bicycles in Germany. NSU jointed the business in 1888, and the needs of these companies spawned a whole new component industry that included the famous FAG bearing maker and Fichtel & Sachs, which in 1895 developed the Torpedo free-wheeling hub, then redesigned it with an integrated brake in 1903.
Adler bicycles were the first marque in Germany to use inflated rubber tires, and in 1893, Kleyer participated in the establishment of Dunlop Pneumatic and Tyre Company at Hanau (above left), the first overseas branch of the original Dunlop factory in Belfast. In 1895, his "Heinrich Kleyer" company went public and its name was changed to "Adlerwerke, vormals Heinrich Kleyer." In 1898, he celebrated the 100.000th Adler bicycle, and at the same time established his Adler typewriter branch. Two years before, in 1896, Kleyer had acquired a license to produce the Canadian "Empire," made by Wellington P. Kidder. In 1900, the famous Adler #7 appeared. Its new push-rod design for raising pressure on the type resulted in better reproduction on paper, and became the new industry's standard. (pictured right)
But Kleyer did not stop his perpetual search for better or new ideas to broaden the company's range of products. Since 1898, he had been engaged in the development of a motor-tricycle for which he set up a manufacturing facility in a separate building within the Adlerwerke. In 1899, he produced a small lot of pre-series tricycles, which were sold to interested customers. This type of tricycle, together with the first small Adler car, were officially presented in 1900 at the Frankfurt Automobil exhibition. The engine for the tricycle was from the renown French builder DeDion Bouton. In 1901, the first prototypes of a motorcycle, the Model #1, were developed by Franz Starkloph. These also used an engine from DeDion Bouton, rated at 1 3/4hp.
After the Adler facilities for motor-vehicle production were completed, Kleyer decided it was time to develop his own engines. BecauseStarkloph had no special experience in motor design, an advertisement for an engine development expert was circulated in spring 1902. As a result, Edmund Rumpler (born in Vienna 1872; died 1940) became senior development engineer with Adler in the summer that year 1902. He soon proved his talent for designing modern engines, then, in 1906, founded his own aviation design office in Berlin. Today he is mostly associated with the German airplane "Taube" (dove), pictured above left.
In 1903, the Adler two horsepower Model #2 appeared (pictured below left). It was the first motorcycle designed completely by Rumpler (pictured right) and built in the Adlerwerke. It's engine, however, was still very similar to the DeDion type. It featured the same technical IOE layout with automatic inlet and standing exhaust valve arrangement. Oil-feed was still by hand-pump and carried in one chamber of a divided fuel tank. Ignition was by battery and coil, which was housed in a third compartment of the tank. For an extra charge you could purchase a Bosch magneto as well as a carbide lamp. Ignition timing and carburetor choke were operated by riding sticks, mounted on the upper frame tube, via rods.
More development work was evident with the cycle parts. It had a coaster brake and, still more unusual, a band brake for the front wheel, which was rare and advanced device for the period. Just as uncommon was the type of silencer, which was an early type of reflecting silencer, featuring several interconnected cones and counter-cones placed over the perforated exhaust pipe (pictured below right). I believe both novelties reflected Kleyer'sattitude toward motorcycles, which he thought safe and not too conspicuous for the wrong reason. Traffic accidents and too much noise were already becoming a common cause for complaints in a densely populated urban environment like Frankfurt.
While the frame's layout and dimension in general was still very much that of a typical bicycle diamond frame—with an added tube across the frame—it is noteworthy that the engine was located in a so-called "keystone" position. This is a configuration that all Adler motorcycles have in common. Drive to the rear wheel from the motor was by belt. There was still no clutch or gearbox. To imitate a clutch, the belt could be released and tightened with pulley operated by hand through a mechanical ratchet crank mechanism.
Workmanship and finish of Adler motorcycles was always beyondcriticism, and I think the black and green livery with gold stripes on fenders and frame is really nice to look at.
With the year 1904 came a new generation of engine in an otherwise very slightly modified motorcycle, the 2.5hp model #3 (above left).
The new motor incorporated a side-valve configuration with both valves standing in front of the cylinder. These were actuated by a gear driven cam located in the crankcases' upper part in front of the cylinder. It is among the earliest engines to offer a side-valve layout.
Still in 1904, a more powerful 3hp model was offered, incorporating a "stroked" version of the original 2.5hp engine. To place the larger engine of the 3hp single into the frame, it had to be altered by adding a distinctive kink in the tube above the engine to accommodate the taller cylinder. This new machine (above right) became the favorite bike among Adler riders who participated in sporting events, including reliability runs, relays, long distance rides, speed trials, and hill climbs.
Wilhelm Kellner, from Frankfurt, claimed second place in a reliability run in the Taunus Mountains near Frankfurt with his 3hp Adler. The event included ease of starting, constant running, smooth idling, braking, and slow riding tests, and Kellner earned a gold medal with 192.5 points. A long distance ride of 110km (70 miles) followed, including a speed contest up the six-mile hill at Feldberg, which was a grueling 12 percent grade on forest trail to nearly 2,000 feet of elevation.
1905 brought a lot of change in the Adler line. Edmund Rumpler returned to IOE valve configuration for his single cylinder engine, and designed his first V-twin (pictured above left)! Apparently, Rumpler had not been completely satisfied with his 1904 side-valve single. Maybe he recognized that what he had gained in power with his cam-actuated inlet valve he lost with lower compression in a larger side-valve engine's combustion chamber. Another concern certainly was the somewhat untidy look of the intake manifold, which wrapped around the head. So, he combined a traditional IOE arrangement with a new cam actuated inlet valve (pictured above right).
As with the year before, there were two single cylinder options. The Model #4 (left) could be bought with 2.5hp or 3hp engines. The frame was lengthened again for a longer wheelbase. But the most exiting development of 1905 was Adler's first 4hp V-twin. Its 576cc engine still used a single cam to provide exhaust valve actuation, while inlet remained automatic.
1906 brought new single cylinder models (right). Surprisingly, they had an automatic inlet valve like the V-twin. There was also a smaller 3hp V-twin added to the line, reflecting a trend toward cheaper and light motorcycles. Also, front and rear wheel rubber suspension was introduced.
Like many other brands in Germany at the time, in 1907 Adler ceased motorcycle production. Many people couldn't afford a motorcycle yet, and higher taxes, a bad economy, and a saturated small motorcycle market led Adler to the conclusion that car production and sales would bring more revenue.
August Euler (1868-1957. pictured left) was a German aircraft pioneer and rival of Hans Grade (1879-1946) (for more about Hans Grade, see Motohistory News & Views June 2011) for being the first German who would fly. He opened his first airplane factory in Darmstadt/Griesheim to manufacture licensed Voisin copies in late 1908. While the French planes were already a proven design, Euler lacked a strong engine, so he approached Kleyer in nearby Frankfurt to design a motor for him. Kleyer decided this would be a new field of commerce for Adler, so the development of zeppelin and aircraft engines began in late 1908.
In early 1909, Euler had his new Adler-built engine, whichwas a 60hp inline four-cylinder, four-stroke motor, highly modified from Adler's car engine.
Euler became airborne on August 20, 1909 at Frankfurt's International Aviation Display, where he achieved a short 600 meter flight (pictured right), but Grade won the "Lanz Preis der Lüfte" (Award of the Skies) on October 30 that year. On February 1, 1910 Euler got his pilot's license #1, the same day that Hans Grade got license #2.
By the way, it is interesting to note that the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss were keen bicyclists in America, as were Grade, Euler, and Kleyer in Germany. All five share a connection with airplanes, and all but the Wright Brothers and Euler became pioneer motorcycle builders. But this, I believe, is another story.
The 1953 250cc MC1:
Like no other BSA
By Mick Duckworth
Quite unlike anything else produced by BSA, the MC1 prototype shows how the mainstream British factory explored radical ideas in the early 1950s. The 250cc single has a near-horizontal cylinder with four radial valves operated by twin camshafts placed side-by-side across the center of the cylinder head in a shallow inverted-V formation.
Camshaft drive is by a shaft and bevel gears on the right of the unit. Bevels at the top of the shaft reduce speed by 2:1 in driving the right-side camshaft, which passes on drive to its left counterpart through another pair of bevels. Rockers open the pairs of inlet and exhaust valves and the ports are served by two carburetors and twin exhaust pipes.
The chain primary drive is enclosed by a magnesium alloy oil bath outboard of an external flywheel, but the clutch runs dry. The gearbox is the race version of Burman’s four-speeder.
The chassis is unorthodox, too. The leading-link front fork, which features steel pressings, has no triple clamps. Handlebars fix to an upper member that swivels around a steering stem clamped to the frame. The monoshock rear suspension system’s horizontal Girling strut is under the seat.
In his book Whatever Happened to the British Motorcycle Industry? Bert Hopwood says he sketched out the engine layout when he arrived at BSA as forward product designer in 1949, and later tasked his assistant Doug Hele with realizing the project. Hopwood envisaged the design in larger sizes as well, to power projected successors to BSA’s ohv Gold Star super-sporting singles, although Hele developed it on the lines of a pure racer.
The engine gave a creditable 34bhp on racing fuel, according to Alan Sandilands who bench tested it as a young member of BSA’s engine development department. “I blew two up,” he adds, explaining that a camshaft drive weakness was ironed out. Two race fairings were made for the machine, a full ‘bin’ and a dolphin type.
Reigning 500cc world champion Geoff Duke was so impressed by the MC1 in a track test and that he wanted to enter the 1954 Isle of Man TT. But without a guaranteed win, BSA bosses vetoed the idea: considerable media interest raised the specter of a factory team’s disastrous 1921 Senior TT that still haunted the boardroom. In truth, a BSA debut victory was most unlikely, as in the event 36bhp NSU dohc twins took the first four places in a record-shattering Lightweight TT race.
Hopwood left for Norton in 1955 and Hele followed, abandoning the MC1. The sole complete test machine survived, minus fairing but with a huge TT gas tank. After some years at the now-defunct Stanford Hall Museum, it was acquired by the Sammy Miller Museum. A second machine assembled from parts rescued from the BSA works came to light a decade ago, and is now in the National Motorcycle Museum.
Just imagine what might have been: a late-Fifties BSA Gold Star with overhead camshafts and monoshock rear suspension!
To access the National Motorcycle Museum UK web site, click here. For more about the Sammy Miller Museum, click here. To read our previous feature about the 1921 Isle of Man TT, go to Motohistory News & Views 9/10/2007.
Photos provided by National Motorcycle Museum, UK.
Billy Joel surprises
Florida vintage motorcycle show
By Clare Frost Taylor
Our friend who knows the guy that dates the lady that works with the friend of the gardener who works for the mother of the captain of Billy Joel’s yacht got word to the man himself on our behalf.
Every year we send “The Piano Man” a poster of our little event, the Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show, located in south Florida and always held the last Saturday of January by the Sunshine Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Mr. Joel winters in Miami and usually brings a few of his custom bikes down from Long Island. An appearance by Joel would be our dream come true, and we were sure he would appreciate the more than 230 vintage bikes on display as a biker himself.
So our mission was to get him to present the “Grand Marshal” award. The message was that we would not tell a soul and all he had to do is show up around four p.m., present the plaque, and hopefully enjoy the show and leave. We promised we would not make a big deal of it. Just a week before the event, we heard that yes, he got the message and would try to make it. Still, we didn’t get our hopes up too high.
The day of the show, I’m walking through the crowd around one p.m., and see an old friend and tell him jokingly that Billy Joel is expected. He replies, “Gee, I just saw a guy that looked like him!” Well, you never saw me move so fast. I got some of our volunteers to fan out to find him. He was back in the swap meet area, just blending in! He explained that he could not stay until the awards ceremony, but we thanked him for coming, took a few pics, then he walks off to look at more bikes. As the promoter, I’m in heaven! Billy Joel comes to our bike show in the little city of Dania Beach. Wow!
But what happens next is the icing on the cake. Billy walked up on the stage and stood a few feet away from our band, “The Whipping Post,” and got the eye of the lead singer, Bob. Bob’s double-take was one for the books. Next thing you know, Mr. Joel was playing the keyboard and jamming with our group. He sang a few songs while the crowd got bigger and the Facebookers and Twitterers reported the story. After about ten minutes of playing, he sauntered off the stage, signed some autographs, and headed for his bike. No one bothered him as he rode away.
My sister said to me afterwards, “Is he going to be mad that all these people will put this on the internet?” I replied that he certainly he knows that is going happen, and he was just such a nice guy to go up on the stage and sing when he could have just as easily blended into the crowd. But he took the time to talk to some vendors and bike owners and then to sing for us! Billy Joel is one cool biker dude.
Photos by Clare Frost Taylor.
by Paul Carberry
The premise behind the Carberry-Enfield was to create a classically-stylish 1000cc British V-twin by utilizing as many standard Royal Enfield parts as possible. The objective was to achieve a torquey and reliable power plant for practical everyday use at a reasonable price, and to keep production and maintenance costs down through the worldwide availability of spare parts. Designed by Paul Carberry, the engine was brought to fruition in 2003 by Paul and Ian Drysdale, the builders of famous 750 and 1,000cc V8s.
The 55-degree V-angle was chosen for the combination of style, balance, and mechanical simplicity, and to allow the hydraulic lifters to be accommodated above the standard Royal Enfield cams without modification to the barrels. Any cylinder angle tighter than 55 degrees would have required heavy modification of the Royal Enfield heads for carburetor clearance. The standard Enfield primary drive cover was retained, while a beefed-up Enfield clutch and bigger engine sprocket were fitted to handle the extra power. The engine features electronic ignition, a roller big-end crank, electric starting, high pressure and high volume oil flow, a spin-on oil filter, and a five-speed gearbox. Output is 50 horsepower.
Designer Carberry was born in Australia in 1958, and has been riding, building, and racing motorcycles since the age of 13. After starting work in the engineering and steel fabrication industry, he progressed into working on motorcycle projects such as sidecars, frame modifications, and big bore engines. To date, Carberry has built 14 complete Carberry-Enfield motorcycles.
In 2008, Alan Cathcart tested a Carberry-powered Enfield motorcycle. To read about it, click here. To access the Carberry-Enfield web site, click here. To see more photos of Carberry-Enfields, click here. To read about Drysdale, click here.
Carberry is not the only designer to pursue this concept. At approximately the same time, Aniket Vardhan was developing a very similar engine in the United States. To read about it and see photos of his completed prototype motorcycle, click here.
“Ken Sprayson: The Frame Man,” with foreword by Classic Racer’s Malc Wheeler, will be released by Panther Publishing April 28 at the Stafford International Classic Bike Show in Great Britain where Ken will be the guest of honor, surrounded by great racing specials built on his frames. Sprayson has been a legend amongst motorcycle racers and enthusiasts for decades. He made the first Norton featherbed production frame, helped design and produce the Draganfly frame, developed the Earles fork into the legendary Reynolds Racing fork, and made innovative and successful racing frames for Geoff Duke, Jeff Smith, Mike Hailwood, and John Surtees amongst other. At Reynolds, he became the master of making light but strong welded frames from Reynolds 531 tubing. He was so good he even made the frame for Thrust 2 the jet-powered British World Land Speed record car. For 51 years, Sprayson could be found at the Isle of Man TT, welding torch in hand, providing completely free welding service for novices and World Champions alike, giving his time and expertise for no reward but the satisfaction of doing his job and keeping riders safe. In 229 pages with 170 photos and illustrations, this soft cover book will be available at a recommended price of £14.95 from Panther Publishing Ltd.
Without wishing to be mean-spirited, I would say that BMW VMCA News has not always had the most appealing covers. I mention this only by contrast to the fact that the cover of the April 2011 issue—featuring VMCA member Donald Mellor, his wife Helen, and their gorgeous R51/3—is professional, striking, and beautiful. Inside is a feature story about vintage BMWs at Bonneville 2011. There are also stories about the restoration of an R51/2, how to repair a ravaged gas tank, and how to re-chrome axles. This publication is always highly technical, aimed at individuals who will bring back a classic BMW, no matter what its condition. BMW VMCA News cannot be found on the newsstands. It a quarterly benefit of membership in the BMW Veteran Motorcycle Club of America. Another very cool benefit of this club is that it has a stock of specialized tools—some factory and some devised by clever members—that members can borrow free of charge. To join the club, click here.
Interesting how much the board track racer profile has influenced custom builders in recent years. Not only does the April issue of IronWorks have a board track-style Panhead on its cover, but inside is a Shovelhead-powered Cyclone look-alike. Margie Siegal’s “Seasoned Citizens” feature this month is about a 1911 Wagner Strap Tank single. George Wagner’s vehicles were not only packed with innovations, such as a loop frame as early as 1905, but Wagner was one of the first to actively pursue a women’s market. He had good reason to see the potential of female customers since his daughter Clara was competitive in FAM national endurance runs at the age of 15. Wagner focused on a utilitarian market, so is not as well-known as the contemporary brands that built their reputations on the guts and glory of racing. Its rarity today makes it one of most prized collectibles of the early American marques. IronWorks is found on newsstands. To subscribe, click here.
Some things just don’t pass the smell test, but this doesn’t mean they are not fun. Such is the case with the 1897 Barnum motorcycle presented in the “American Iron Classics” section of the April issue of American Iron. The minute I saw it on the cover, I said “No way!” However, editor Jim Babchak spins out the story so skillfully, within a few paragraphs he has you thinking it might be true. The veracity of his story grows until you arrive at a closing editor’s note which reminds us that Barnum was the guy who said there is a sucker born every minute. It’s good fun, but there is much more in this issue for the Motohistorian to like as well. Babchak’s column is about board track racing, Donnie Petersen continues his series about Harley-Davidson model designation history, and a new series is launched about how to prepare a motorcycle for the Vintage Cannonball Rally. American Iron is available on newsstands. To subscribe, click here.
The February issue of The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Magazine features a cover story about how an attempt to replace a damaged exhaust pipe on a Suzuki Water Buffalo can turn into weeks of struggle and lots of replacement parts that you didn’t need prior to starting the job. I suspect we’ve all had a similar experience. I especially enjoyed a story by Peter Hunn about Japan’s other “Yama” bike, the Yamaguchi, an early import that failed to prosper like the Japanese big four. This issue also contains an announcement of the upcoming “Kaizen” exhibit at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York (see also Motohistory News & Views 12/5/2011). There’s even a story by a clever fellow who built a low-cost bike bench . . . oh wait, I wrote that one. If you are interested in collecting Japanese classics, this is a must-have publication. It is not available on newsstands, but it comes with Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of North America membership. To join, click here.
Building the Motohistory
Po-boy Bike Stand
By Ed Youngblood
With limited skills, little money, a lack of space, and basic tools, you can create a moveable work bench for your next restoration project.
I’ve been neglecting a restoration project for several years now primarily because it was inconvenient. Every time I looked at that 1965 Sears Allstate—built by Puch—I thought about how much crap I would have to move around to get it out of its storage corner, how much my back would hurt from sitting or squatting on the floor to work on it, and how inconvenient it would be to re-stow the bike and parts after every work session.
The obvious solution was to buy a proper lift, but I didn’t want to put more money into a lift than the motorcycle would be worth. Face it: most of our restoration projects on small to mid-sized Japanese and European bikes are exercises in nostalgia, not so much for adding value to an investment.
Just a simple lift that sits under the center of the bike can run $180 to $280, and I don’t trust the stability of these devises, especially if you plan to move the bike around a lot. A properly-engineered air or hydraulic lift that can be raised and lowered and moved around during works in progress can run from $1,200 to $2,200 -- way beyond budget or the value of the project. It could be justified over time and a series of restorations, but this is not the situation I found myself in.
To find a more affordable solution, I took a pencil and lined yellow pad over to the
Engineering Department (my kitchen table). By measuring the bike and the stowing space I had available in the garage, I decided I wanted the stand to be seven feet long and 33 inches wide. I didn’t want it wider because I didn’t want to have to reach to work, and 33 inches was wider than bars, pegs, or anything else that protruded from the bike.
I was not going to have a stand that could be raised or lowered (that was way beyond the competence of the guys in the Engineering Department), so I decided I wanted a deck height of 24 inches. The whole thing would stand on lockable casters so it could be easily moved around inside the garage, yet be stationary and secure while working. A sketch from the Engineering Department gave us enough information to figure out what materials would be required. The whole concept would be executed through a talent I call “The Art of the Two-by-Four.”
Next, it was off to Lowe’s and Ace Hardware. This not an endorsement; they were just handy. Any decent home maintenance supplier will do.
The only thing we purchased outside the local community was a wheel chock, ordered from J&P Cycles. Materials for the project and their costs were the following:
Eight 8-foot 2x4s 23.12
4X8’ sheet of 15/32” plywood 15.67
Three 8-foot 1x2s 7.68
34 stamped metal tie angles 50.49
Four 3” lockable casters 25.92
Four 2 5/8” screw eyes 4.98
Wheel chock 34.99
Black paint 14.45
Total cost of materials was $193.64. As for tools, nothing more sophisticated than a chop saw and an electric drill was required. It was simple cut and screw and paint work that was completed in three evenings, amounting to less than eight hours work.
I started by cutting four of the 2x4s down to seven feet a chop saw (pictured 2, right). Since we weren’t working to NASA standards, we just made an estimate for the vertical braces that would give us a deck height of two feet. I cut the braces to 13 inches. To build the main framing for the stand, stamped metal 90-degree tie angles were used at each junction (picture 3, left). This kept everything square and provided more than adequate strength. The main side frames were constructed on the garage floor, which provided a large, flat surface so everything would be true, or true enough to our non-NASA standards (picture 4, right).
From this point, everything came together on saw horses, putting a welcome end to the stoop-labor phase of the project (picture 5, left). Once the full box frame was completed, everything was painted (picture 6, right). Three-inch lockable casters were mounted at each corner (picture 7, left), the 5/32” plywood (which the supplier cut down for us to 33 inches by seven feet at no charge) was screwed down to the frame (pic 8, right below), and four eyes for tie-down straps were screwed in seven inches from each corner. Why seven inches? It just looked right, which is the litmus test for non-NASA work.
At just about this point, our wheel chock arrived from J&P Cycles, and was bolted in place. With the stand now completed per the drawings, we noticed a lot of vacant space under the deck. This was an offense to the whole concept, and we decided we had to do something about it. As it turns out, we had three plastic tubs that were creating their own storage problem in the garage, and it appeared they would fit nicely under the deck. Heck, they were even color-coordinated to the black stand, which created the nice illusion that we knew what we were doing all along.
So the tubs would sit under the deck, we simply screwed in place three 1x2 slats (pic 9, left). Now we had plenty of storage where parts related to the work-in-progress could be kept secure and not scattered all over the shelving in the garage. Tubs were positioned, casters were locked, the trusty aluminum ramp was laid in place, the Allstate was rolled onto the stand and strapped down (pic 10, below right). Done! The Po-boy Bike Stand was complete for less than $200.
It rolled nicely and snugly into the small space we had available between the garage door and our storage shelves (picture 11, below left). It has to share space with the garden tools, but I don’t think this will be too much of a problem.
Oh, and by the way, our work would have made NASA proud. The deck turned out to be exactly 24 inches from the floor.
Author’s Note: The 24”-high deck has proven ideal for the small to medium-size motorcycles I prefer to restore. I would suggest that if you plan to work on larger and heavier machines, such as an Indian or Harley-Davidson, lengthen the stand to eight feet and cut your vertical struts to nine or ten inches, which will lower the deck three to four inches respectively (giving you 20 to 21 inches total deck height).
Editor’s Note: This story was previously published in the February 2012 issue of Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Magazine, official magazine of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of North America.
In response to Ralf Kruger’s history of German two-strokes, which contained information about Adler motorcycles, Howard Fitzcharles III, of Smyrna, Tennessee, writes:
Hi Ed, I enjoyed your article on Adler as I had an Adler car when I was stationed in Germany in the Army from 1957 to ‘59. I don't remember the year and model but it looked exactly like a MG TD in the front but with a sloped back and canvas pull back top. It had a four-cylinder side-valve engine and front wheel drive. I believe it was an early to mid-30s car, and I found out after I got back to the U.S. that it was a collaboration between MG and the Adler company in the early 1930s.
Later, when I was back in the U.S., I left working in bike shops and went to work for Jaguar and MG dealerships, and regretted not bringing the Adler back with me as it would have been something to keep as a collector's item. I rode bikes in Germany and only used the Adler on base as I never licensed it. I had two 500cc BMWs for the street and a 350cc Horex as a dirt bike. Bavaria was great bike country for both street and dirt riding. I brought one of the BMWs and the Horex back to the US and rode the BMW on the street here and rode trails and even entered woods runs on the Horex.
I continued racing AMA flat track on a 500cc Triumph and ran a few USMC road races on a 250cc Honda, and once on a 650cc Matchless. You helped me once by publishing a request for an entry list for the second motorcycle race held at the Daytona speedway.
I believe I have an unpublished record at Daytona Speedway. I entered a race sponsored by USMC/FIM which I believe was the very first motorcycle race held at the speedway, and I believe I was the first to fall off in that race. So I believe I have two firsts. I raced in the first race at the Speedway and was first to fall off. Ha!
I hobbled around on crutches the next day and got home movies of Mike Hailwood on the 250cc four-cylinder factory Honda. I was finally able to ID most of the riders in my film by an entry list that Don Emde sent me from an article in Cycle magazine.
When I was drafted in 1957, I resented getting drafted so I had a chip on my shoulder. I was working in a bike shop (BSA, Maico, NSU dealership) and racing flat track and TT in the AMA. When they asked me what my profession was, I told them I was a professional motorcycle racer and showed them my AMA license. They wrote that down as my profession. I thought they might put me in a motor pool working on jeeps and tanks if I told them I was a mechanic.
In basic training I was in trouble all the time (probably due to the chip on my shoulder), but after reading a book in the base library on Army Law, I was able to get along a lot better. After basic training I was sent to Germany, close to the East German border. It was base law that no GI was allowed to ride a motorcycle. Having already read that the Army considered motorcycle riding a "sport" and that Army law stated that any draftee who was a sport professional must be allowed to practice his sport, it was clear that base rules contradicted Army law. I wrote to the AMA about this and they were very helpful and sent me a lot of papers about high ranking Army officers who were members of the AMA and rode bikes on tours. I presented all of this plus a copy of Army Law to my superiors.
In the mean time, a GI came down the street toward our infantry company pushing a 500cc BMW. He was the Battle Group Commander's jeep driver and was caught riding the bike and was transferred to our company as punishment. I asked if he would sell me the bike and he agreed, but told me I was not allowed to ride it. I told him that I was getting base laws changed, and he laughed. I bought the bike and parked it behind the barracks and a week later the paper work came down to my company commander that I was allowed to ride a bike, but that I had to go take a riding test.
The inspector was a German with a stone face. He told me to go down the street and come back to him at 25 kph and lock up the rear brake and come to a stop. I got the impression that this was a test just for me as I must have upset some officers by protesting the base law. I went down the street and with that chip still on my shoulder I came back about 40 mpg and locked up the brake and pitched the BMW sideways and slid past him and then spun the bike around and rode up to him with a big grin. I know, I was showing off. He still had a stone face and didn't seem impressed. He then told me to make a "U" turn in the street with the bars locked against the fork stops without touching a foot down. I made two full circles to the right and two to the left and rode up to him again with my big grin. He was still unimpressed and said nothing and just walked away and back into his building. This ticked me off, and I decided to push the issue. I parked the bike and was going in after him when he came out and handed me a license and tag.
None of this set well with my company commander and resulted in another battle between me and the Army later, but that is another story.
These are great stories, Howard. I wish I could claim to be the first motorcyclist to fall off at Daytona! Really! And thanks for sending the photos the Horex racer and you putting the BMW through its paces on the tank trail. And thanks for reading Motohistory.