Motohistory Quiz #97:
We have a winner!
As is often the case, it didn’t take us long to get an answer to our Motohistory Quiz. Jean Roquecave responded from France, “I don't know which bike it is, but I can't help myself thinking England and Triumph.” Congratulations, Jean, you are correct that it is a Triumph. And don’t be ashamed that you don’t know the model designation. It only briefly saw the light of day, and never went into production. It is the circa 1950 750cc Triumph 7ST prototype.
Mick Duckworth, who often sends us very interesting material from England, supplied the photos and did the research for this quiz, so from this point on we’ll elaborate in Mick’s words. Mick writes:
A significant number of England’s postwar motorcyclists pulled their wives and children along in heavy cabin sidecars. At the turn of the 1950s, Triumph prototyped a machine specifically aimed at them. A derivative of the 500cc TRW military model, revealed in 1948 and eyed enviously by sidecar men, it was also a side-valve parallel twin but with extra capacity for hard work. At 734cc (63 x 80mm) the 7ST had Triumph’s biggest ever engine, fitted in largely Thunderbird cycle parts and known at the factory as the Jumbo Twin. It did not reach production and the single complete machine, along with a spare motor, was consigned to a cellar under the Meriden factory. Like the TRW and the ohv 350cc 3T tourer and light sidecar tug, the 7ST had plain bush big-ends in one-piece connecting rods. The inner ends of the crankpins, which were integral with webs and mainshafts, were clamped in a hefty central flywheel by pinch-bolts. Unlike the military twin, the bigger engine lacked Triumph’s hallmark triangular timing cover. As it had alternator-powered coil ignition, no magneto or dynamo gears were needed, so drive to the single camshaft ahead of the cylinders was by chain, with a high-capacity oil pump driven off the end of the shaft. At the other end of the camshaft, skew gears turned the ignition distributor, mounted almost horizontally above a typical Triumph primary chaincase. A one-piece aluminium head with squish combustion chambers fixed to an iron block. The machine pictured has an Amal Type 6 carburetor, but an SU instrument is likely to have been specified.
The Jumbo was probably dropped because Meriden was fully occupied meeting export orders for ohv twins. Triumph testers, used to speedy Thunderbirds and Tiger 100s, scorned it as a slug. Yet when Classic Bike’s Peter Watson rode this example in 1987 he loved the smooth torque that propelled him up to 80mph in a surprisingly brisk manner.
This machine was built around the spare engine by English enthusiast Peter Green and bought by the UK’s National Motorcycle Museum in 2008. The complete prototype that was retrieved before the factory was demolished is now in the London Motorcycle Museum.
Thanks, Mick, for the explanation of this fascinating machine. Now I am going to ramble off into a little useless speculation. It seems to me, had this motorcycle gone into production and come to American shores, it would not have taken long for Triumph dealers and enthusiasts to recognize it as a potential 750cc side-valve Harley killer in the AMA Class C racing arena. Triumph loyalists would have not been able to complain about the size disadvantage of OHV engines under the Formula, but would have been able to develop an engine of parity with the KR.
When we consider what a slug the Harley K was on the road, but how it was quickly transformed into one of the most potent and enduring engines in American racing history, one can’t help but wonder what the Triumph 7ST might have become. Too bad a Triumph “7STR” never happened. It would have been interesting.
Thanks to the National Motorcycle Museum UK for providing photos.
Bill Murar: Riding Allstates
for fun and philanthropy
For awhile in the 1950s and '60s, Sears Roebuck & Company sold scooters and motorcycles. They imported Vespas and Gileras from Italy, and Puchs from Austria, and sold them under the Allstate brand. The biggest model in their line was a 250cc Puch, of which they sold relatively few. Most of their sales were motorcycles and scooters of 175cc or smaller, and they generated a loyal following of ducktailed teenagers who might well have been the character prototypes for the television show “Happy Days.” One of these was Bill Murar, born in September, 1948 in Cleveland, Ohio. Bill (pictured above with his wife Joyce and terrier Max) still rides Allstates, because he loves them. But he has also turned his affection for this short-lived piece of Americana to the greater good.
“I got interested in motorcycles in high school,” Murar recalls, “but my parents forbade my owning one. As soon as I was on my own, I bought a new 1969 Sears 106 for $177.00 plus $12.00 for assembly.” The 106, so named for the size of its engine, was actually a re-branded four-stroke, four-speed Gilera. Later, Murar sold the Allstate for a 350cc Ducati, which he regards a mistake due to its mechanical ills. His next bike was a new Yamaha DS7, a 250cc twin that he kept for many years and 70,000 miles.
Murar got married in 1968, just out of high school, and went to school to become a computer systems analyst. “It was a growing field, but I couldn’t stand the job,” Bill explains. “I had a 10 x 10-foot office where I was cooped up all day, and it drove me crazy.” He left the data processing job and went to work for a potato chip company where he became an owner/operator/distributor.” He relates, “I did well, but soon realized I had maxed out in my territory. There was just no potential for growth or improved sales. I saw an ad in the newspaper for fire fighters, so I took the tests and qualified for the job in September, 1978.”
Going to work as a fire fighter gave Murar time for part-time work, so he landed a second job at a Sears service center. By now, Allstate motorcycles were long gone, swept away by the engineering and marketing tsunami of the Japanese brands. However, one day Bill came across all of the old service manuals for the various Allstate models in a filing cabinet, and was overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia. He asked his boss if he could copy them, and his boss said, “They’re yours. Get ‘em outta here.” Suddenly, Murar wanted a 106 again, and he started attending farm sales and auctions, buying up anything with two wheels and a Sears label on the tank (a few of which are pictured above).
When he owned the Ducati, Murar had been a member of the Ducati International Owners Club, and he wondered, “Why isn’t there also a Sears Allstate Owners Club? There must be a lot of other people interested in these bikes.” In 1990, Bill formed such a club, and placed an ad in “Old Bike Journal.” He says, “I immediately had 20 or 30 people sign up, and eventually the club grew to about 300 members.
Earlier, Murar had discovered that the Cleveland Public Library had microfilm of every Sears catalog ever published, and that he could copy them for five cents a page. He says, “I spent a full day there, from the time they opened to the time they closed, looking for and copying everything that depicted Sears motorcycles. By closing time I had spent about $15, a nickel at a time.” Access to these archives became one of the benefits of membership in the Sears Allstate Motorcycle Owners Club.
Murar and his first wife divorced, then later he met Joyce (pictured left, with Bill and Max), a nurse at one of the hospitals where his squad took injured people and victims of fire. One Fourth of July, Bill invited Joyce to ride with him to the Port of Cleveland—a trip of about 50 miles—to see the fireworks. He says, “She thoroughly enjoyed the bike, and was a great passenger. She had an instinct for how to move with the motorcycle.” Bill and Joyce were married in 1998, and she soon became a rider with her own motorcycles.
Over the years, they have become a dedicated public service team, based on their vocational experience and their interest in motorcycles. For example, they have become Accident Scene Management Instructors—the only such certified team in the State of Ohio—who conduct training professionally and on a voluntary basis at national motorcycle rallies. They also have become supporters of the Aluminum Cans for Burned Children organization and participate in the “Learn Not to Burn” program that teaches fire awareness and safety to children. Joyce says, “When you’ve seen the burned children that we’ve seen, you want to do anything you can to help.”
In the mean time, Bill’s acquisition of all things Allstate had continued until he had a sizeable collection of 70 to 75. He says, “A lot of this stuff most people would have found suitable for the dumpster, but it was valuable to me.” He adds, “I am not a big restorer. I have several that are good runners, but most of the collection is for parts and trading stock.” (pictured right)
In 2003, Murar decided to perform an unlikely feat aboard one of his antique Allstates to raise funds for Aluminum Cans for Burned Children. He was going to ride to the four corners of the United States aboard a Sears 106 to raise funds and promote fire safety. Joyce followed him with a Toyota camper and a spare motorcycle, but from the outset, it became the marathon from hell, plagued at every turn by bad fortune.
Bill relates, “I made it to Maine and headed toward to Key West, then news came that my father had died.” Murar rode the 106 back to Cleveland for the funeral, then back to Key West to resume the ride. He continues, “Just as I passed the ‘Welcome to Key West’ sign, I blew the engine.” (Below left, at Key West with Joyce and daughter Brenda) He mounted the spare 106 and continued, but got only as far as Naples, Florida, where its engine failed as well. “My plan to circumnavigate the United States aboard a Sears was done, but I was determined to keep my commitment. A lot of people had given me a lot of support.”
Murar and Joyce returned to Cleveland, Bill rolled out his FZ1 Yamaha, returned to his route, and finished the ride out to California, north to Washington, the back to Cleveland. He concludes, “It was a worthy cause, but this was not the way to do it. I needed to do something that was more realistic, simpler, and that other people could participate in.” Bill and Joyce devised the idea of the Lake Erie Loop, a one day, 650-mile ride around Lake Erie. Riders would depart from Cleveland, and they could go east or west and choose their own route. All they needed to do was return within 24 hours with receipts from within 50 miles of Detroit, somewhere in Ontario, and within 50 miles of Buffalo. Anyone on any type of motorcycle could ride, but only those in small motorcycle classes (under 200cc) would be eligible to earn awards, which included 50 percent of class entry fees.
Nine riders showed up to compete in the first event, but now, nine years later, the field has grown to a consistent 45 to 50 riders each year. For a special fraternity of small-bore iron-butters, the Lake Erie Loop has become a favorite event. Riders have come from as far away as Colorado and Florida, and many return year after year (Below, Loop riders begin their ride). To date, the Lake Erie Loop has raised $25,000 for charity. Murar reports, “The camaraderie and satisfaction of riding the Loop are tremendous. Lifetime friendships are made, all for a worthy cause. And so far, every class winner has returned his prize money to the pot.” Murar pauses, smiles, and says, “I take that back. One guy kept a dollar as a souvenir of his achievement.”
In addition to organizing the Lake Erie Loop each summer, Murar has continued his personal marathon performances aboard small Sears motorcycles. In addition to racing with WERA (with two national titles) and AHRMA, and serving as Regional Director for WERA vintage races in Ohio. (Below left, Murar - 720 - vintage racer), Murar is an Iron Butt Society member who has completed many 1,000-mile days, has ridden 1,500 miles in 36 hours, has circumnavigated all five Great Lakes in less than 50 hours, and has completed the 50CC, which entailsriding from one coast to the other in less than 50 hours. In addition to competing in several Moto Giros, he won third overall in the 2006 Scooter Cannonball, and is currently making preparation for the 2012 event, which he will contest aboard a Sears Compact (Puch) scooter.
About five years ago, a bundle of joy joined the Murar team in the form of Max, a bright and fearless Yorkshire Terrier. “When Max was just a tiny puppy, I would start one of my motorcycles and let it idle while he sat on the seat. Then he started riding with me, tucked into my jacket. Today he’s too large to fit in my jacket, but he still goes with us everywhere we travel. He loves it, and he thinks that the very sight of a motorcycle means he is going to have fun.” Murar proudly adds that Max has his own Iron Butt certificate (Right, Max in the tank bag: a serious road dog).
Currently, Bill, Joyce, and Max are preparing for the 9th Lake Erie Loop, which will take place June 8 through 10, and Bill is in training for the Scooter Cannonball in April. For more information about the Lake Erie Loop, click here. Also, look for the Lake Erie Loop on Facebook. To learn about the Scooter Cannonball Run, click here. For information about the Sears Allstate Motorcycle Owners Club, click here. To access the web site for Aluminum Cans for Burned Children, click here. For more about the Learn Not to Burn pre-school program click here. To read our previous feature about marathon riding and the Iron Butt Society, go to Motohistory News & Views 2/28/2009.
The making of Dusty Jewels
Editor’s Note: On April 3, the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum at Hershey, Pennsylvania, will open an exhibit entitled “Dusty Jewels: off-road motorcycles of the 1970s.” We contacted guest curator David Russell to learn how this exhibit came about.
MH: David, you have been published on this web site and elsewhere, and have loaned some of your own motorcycle collection to exhibits created by the Antique Motorcycle Foundation. Tell our readers a little more about your background and your interest in motorcycles.
DR: Sure, Ed! I’m a “Boomer” who discovered motorcycles in the very early 1970s. In particular, I’ve always been drawn to off-road motorcycles—as many of my age group are—and I began collecting and restoring them about 25 years ago. The 1970s were in themselves an absolutely fascinating time in America, and the concept of the new culture of motorcycling which emerged then has always interested me.
My personal background is a rather odd mix of visual arts and the military. (Right: David Russell and wife Karyn work on the floor plan for the exhibit.)
MH: The AACA Museum has been very friendly toward motorcycles. If we’re correct, this is the fourth motorcycle exhibit they have opened in as many years. Tell us where the idea for an exhibit about off-road motorcycles came from. Did you present it, or did they think up the theme and call youto curate it? And tell us about the title, “Dusty Jewels.” Where did that come from?
DR: The idea of the exhibit came about as I was discussing the lending of several of my own bikes to an AACA curator. At some point in our conversations, as we tossed around potential ideas, the gentleman said, “Well, why don’t you just curate the exhibit?” And yes, the AACA Museum has been very friendly towards motorcycles in the past, and also recognizesthe great interest that AACA members and the public have in motorcycles. We know that guests come to the Museum expecting to see motorcycles, and the AACA is working hard to meet that expectation. (Above left: Research and writing for the exhibit.)
We’d been initially looking at an earlier opening, and since I’m familiar with vintage dirt bikes and knew so many other collectors with the same interest, the logistics of this as a subject made it attractive. As you well know, the ease and savings of having a local lender simply drop off an exhibit motorcycle, versus shipping one from elsewhere, is a tremendous benefit. And, of course, I’d been percolating this idea of interrelating the bikes and the events and culture of the 1970s for some time.
The name “Dusty Jewels” came to me as a way of describing what these objects are to us: yes, they’re dirt bikes, but they also have a functional beauty that’s undeniable. And let’s remember that this was an age when a Spanish motorcycle looked different from a German motorcycle or an American motorcycle. In our modernage, when the only difference between dirt bikes today seems to be the color of the plastic, the 1970s was an absolute festival of variety and inbred cultural/mechanical identity. (Above right: Motorcycles are sought out, inspected, and chosen for the exhibit.)
MH: In the history of motorcycle collecting in America, it is relatively recently that people have begun to take off-road motorcycles seriously as objects for preservation and restoration. What do you think are the factors that have brought the off-road motorcycle to the fore as a collectible.
DR: I’ve actually written about the factors affecting collecting, and you were kind enough to publish the piece in Motohistory. In short, we often want now what we wanted then (when we were young). Perhaps we actually were fortunate enough to own a particular motorcycle or car “back in the day,” or perhaps we just really wanted one. This drives present-dayinterest and values. Also, we love to try and recreate the great times of the past. As Boomers come into some financial comfort in their 40s and 50s, they often look back and pursue that thing they had or wanted, that gave them joy, back when they were young. (Above left: Bikes are brought into the museum.)
Then, add to this the fact that old dirt bikes are considered by many in America to be a “throw-away” item. In the 1980s and 1990s they were lyingaround barns and junkyards acrossthe country, and procuring them—at least early-on—required very little money. Hence, the guys out there with 40 olddirt bikes encroaching on their living spaces!
There’s an absolutely enormous number of collectors and vintage racers interested in the great dirt bikes of the 1970s. I’m hoping that both the AACA and the AMCA continue to court this potential membership, because right now many of the old dirt bike guys are out there, without an organization, on their own.
MH: Give us an idea of what we will see in the exhibit. How many motorcycles, and what are the most noteworthy? (Above right and below left: The exhibit assembly begins.)
DR: I’ve tried to present a good overview of some of the great off-road bikes of the ‘70s. How could one discuss dirt riding and racing in this decade and not think of Husqvarna, Maico, CZ, Bultaco, Ossa, Yamaha, and other such important machines? We’ve also assembled several rare and beautiful motorcycles that you don’t see often, such as Sprite, DKW, Monark, and Yankee, to name a few.
I must also state up front that the focus of this exhibit is aesthetics—on the beauty and design of these great motorcycles. Prior to the Guggenheim’s The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit, curators felt, I believe,thatone had to focus on engineering and carefullyadhere to technical progression when it came to motorexhibits. The Guggenheim put those notions in their place when they unapologetically showed bikes that they just loved, largely based upon aesthetic appeal.
MH: Was it a difficult exhibit to assemble? How many collectors did you have to bring together to get the bikes you wanted for the exhibit?
DR: It’s been surprisingly easy. Again, this may be due in large part to my connection with dirt bikes and those who love them. The lenders have been marvelous: “Whatever you want.” The ten or so lenders couldn’t do enough to be accommodating and help out, and truly just want to be able to let others enjoy these magnificent bikes. It’s great to have some restored motorcycles in your basement, but it’s even better to be able to let others appreciate them! (Below right and left: scenes from the completed exhibit.)
MH: How long will the exhibit run, and will there be any special events affiliated with it?
DR: Our opening is April 3rd, and the exhibit will run throughout the summer to October 25th. One thing I always encourage others to do is to visit the annual Hershey Fall Antique Auto Meet, held just down the road from the museum. If you had to wrap the last 110 years of American popular culture around one object, I’d say that the automobile would be a good place to start. Thousands of vendors bringing everything under the sun, a fall day in Hershey, and so many vehicles of every type to see at the biggest antique motor event in the world . . . I know it’s a trite expression, but few things in life get any better than this! (The 2012 Fall Hershey meet is October 10 through 13.)
MH: Thanks for your time, David, is there anything else about “Dusty Jewels” or the AACA Museum that you would like Motohistory readers to be know?
DR: We certainly encourage all who can to come and validate our claims about the appeal of vintage dirt bikes. The AACA Museum is decidedly working to incorporate motorcycles into its mission to a greater degree, and we can count on many more exhibits in the years to come. Thanks so much, Ed, and we hope everyone will let us know how we can improve, next time.
Editor's Note: There's more about Dusty Jewels on the AACA Museum web site. To read David Russell's article about ways to show off your collectible motorcycles, go to Motohistory News & Views 7/10/2010.
Along with the aging process that brings us nostalgia and an appreciation for motohistory, there come certain physical maladies that few of us are lucky enough to avoid. Peter Starr, known throughout the motorcycle community for his fine documentary movies of the 1970s and ‘80s, has of late turned his talents to the cause of fighting cancer through knowledge, education, and media. You can catch up with Peter, pictured right, at Healing Arts Media Healing Arts Media.
Irving Vincent, Australia’s builder of the world’s fastest Vincents, reports its machines will be at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Goodwood Festival of Speed, June 28 through July 1, as well as the VMCC Festival of 1,000 Bikes, scheduled July 6 through 8 at Mallory Park.
The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum has announced that Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith will be honored as Legends on the occasion of the induction of the Class of 2012 in Las Vegas next November. Read more about it here.
We’re sad to report that motojournalist Mick Walker, author of dozens of motorcycle books, has died. He passed only days before his autobiography, “Mick Walker, The Ride of My Life,” rolled off the press. It is published by Redline Books Redline Books.
Wheels Through Time Museum opens for the season on March 29 and will be open Thursdays through Mondays until November 30.
Did you ever hear of the Team Wanker road racing prototype? You can learn about it at The Rider Files The Rider Files.
The American Motorcyclist Association is offering its members advance-sale discount tickets to AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days 2012 Weekend admission--$45 at the gate—is reduced to $35. One day admission--$25 at the gate—is reduced to $20. To join the AMA to receive this and other benefits, click here. VMD will take place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio July 20 through 22.
Here’s a Norton like you’ve not seen before. And here's an OSSA like you've not seen before.Lots of gratitude to the National Film Preservation Foundation for their work on this remarkable documentation of the Beverly Hills board track race, 1921.
The 24th Annual Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Meet and Show will take place at the White Rose Motorcycle Club grounds in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania August 17 through 19, rain or shine. For more information, e-mail IndianRobin@aol.com.
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is spearheading a campaign to secure a knighthood for John Surtees, the only man to win world championships on both two and four wheels (pictured left in a works Ferrari). You too can join the campaign to put the Sir in Surtees by clicking here.
The National Motorcycle Museum will host its annual vintage rally June 1 through 3. Here’s more information.
Retronaught has a story about the Killinger & Freund.
The Lake Erie Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America will hold its May 20 meeting at the National Packard Museum National Packard Museum. Some of the chapter members' motorcycles are currently on display at the Museum.
Motorcyclepedia Museum will offer four Wall of Death shows on April 21. There's room for only 100 per performance, so reserve early. The Museum will also host an auction on May 19.
The 2012 Quail Motorcycle Gathering will take place at Carmel, California May 4 and 5. You can read more about it at the Cyriil Huze Blog.
Check out this beautiful Custom Bonneville.
There’s probably nobody who likes American motorcycles and the board track era more than German enthusiast and collector Thomas Bund. He has written several books on the subject. His latest is about Indian, and he has more in the works.
When you think of wire motorcycles, you are apt to picture tacky little gift shop ornaments. Not these elaborate masterpieces by Shi Jindian.
How often do you get a chance to pick up an original, barn fresh 1903 Indian? Such a bike will be auctioned on April 21 in Frederick, Maryland. For more information, contact Wolfe Auctions.
An international meeting for NSU owners—both cars and motorcycles—will take place in Neckarsulm June 7 through 10. Here’s more information. To register for the event, click here.
Now’s the time to be making plans for the 13th Riding into History Concours d'Elegance, taking place May 18 and 19 at the World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Florida.
SuperbikePlanet has published more historical Daytona 200 photos than you can shake a stick at. Click here and scroll down to 3/14/2012 in the index.
Elena Myers (pictured right) made history with her victory at Daytona International Speedway earlier this month. Read about it at Women Riders Now and The Rider Files.
Motorcycle Hall of Famer Gunnar Lindstrom will be the special guest at a Penton Owners Group meeting to be held at the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio on April 14. You do not have to be a Penton owner or a POG member to attend.
Larry Lawrence has written a great story about American Brit bike importer/pioneer Reggie Pink for Cycle News Archives.
The 25th Annual Daytona Auction:
A sign of the times
Auctioneer Jerry Wood has been gaveling bike sales at his auction concurrent with Daytona bike week for a quarter century now, and in that period of time a fellow sees some ups and downs, including shifts in taste and demand. Whereas a decade ago, the Daytona Auction maintained a consistent 90+ percent sales rate from year to year, this year the rate of sale was 76 percent. But Wood was not disappointed. He says, “In the current economy, this is about what I expected.” He adds, “We understand that buyers are in a conservative mood, and we’ve adjusted our staffing and execution to pay our bills and have a little success even though sales are harder to come by.”
Wood says he’s been watching several trends in the current down economy, which he believes showed up again in the recent Daytona Auction. He explains, “The high rollers are still out there. Even they have pulled back a bit in the current economy, but they will stand and deliver when something really special comes along.” In this case, that something special was the Indian 748 Big Base Scout on which Floyde Emde won the Daytona 200 in 1948 (pictured above). Floyd’s son Don – also a Daytona 200 winner—was on hand to try to bring his father’s motorcycle back home, but he came up against a determined buyer from New Zealand with whom he ran the bidding up to more than $80,000! Emde withdrew after a bid of $82,000, knowingthat not only could henot buy the bike, but that he would see this family heirloom leave the country. Including the ten percent buyer’s premium, the Emde Indian commanded $91,300!
Other rare bikes that drew serious money were a 1921 Harley-Davidson Model W at $29,700, a Yamaha TZ700 road racer at $28,600, and a 1923 Harley-Davidson board tracker at $27,500.
A second strong trend in the market is the desire to own complete, original machines, regardless of their appearance. This trend was illustrated recently when a restored Vincent sold for $80,000 while a rough and dirty original paint machine earned $122,000 at the Las Vegas auctions. In the case of the Daytona Auction, the star was an original 1971 Norton that had set outdoors in Florida weather for decades. It went for $4500. Spirited bidding ensued over this crust-bucket while gorgeous but over-restored Triumphs couldn’t lift people off their wallets. Many of these “pretty” bikes were rolled down the ramp, unable to reach even half their reserve.
The third trend Wood notes is that more people are unloading low and mid-market bikes with no reserve. Perhaps the owners don’t currently have the money or the means to store or restore them, but for whatever reason, there were a lot of bargain-hunter’s delights among the Daytona inventory this year. A very clean 2004 police Harley-Davidson went for $6,000 while a 1994 police Harley went for $5,700. A Honda Turbo went for $3,300 (pictured above right), and a 1960 Yamaha YD2 sold for $2,400 (pictured below left). Wood remarks, “That amazed me. That little bike should have set off a bidding war.” He adds, “But sometimes you just don’t have the right audience for a particular bike, and this is when someone goes home a big winner.”
An interesting mini-trend at the Daytona Auction was the ascendance of BSA. In post-war America, Triumph was the glory brand among Brit bikes, and as a result of their nostalgic appeal, collectors have tended to focus on Triumphs while BSAs were left behind. Ironically, the auction would have approached a 90 percent sale rate had there not been a collection of very shiny Triumphs with unrealistic reserves. Many of these are bikes that were restored to “pretty” a decade ago. They had bead-blasted cases and more attention to appearance than to authenticity. Whereas such a bike may have sold for $12,000 a few years ago, today the bidding stalls out well under ten grand. Wood argues, “Again, this illustrates how the market has shifted toward authenticity. Whether a Triumph has the right nuts and bolts can determine whether a discriminating collector will be interested. They are no longer just looking for beauty or brand.”
So, while many Triumphs languished in the “unsold” corner, a 1952 BSA Golden Flash went for $9,400 and a 1958 DBD34 Gold Star went for $12,000. Still, it’s not just a matter of Triumph coming down and BSA coming up. A correct Triumph still brings out serious buyers, as evidenced by a 1938 Twin that earned more than $19,000.
By the time the last gavel fell, the 25th Daytona Auction had earned more than $600,000. This is less than auctions of yore, but not bad for a time when money is tight, small buyers are bargain-hunting, and big buyers can afford to be demanding and discriminating. Summing up a weekend when many sales came hard, Jerry Wood said, “I would like to thank all of the long-time customers and friends asked for us all to make the effort to keep the Daytona Auction and Meet going. Thanks to the support of sellers, buyers, vendors, and walk-in customers, the event was a success.”
For complete Daytona Auction results, click here.
Our feature story about picker and restoration expert Jon Szalay (see Motohistory News & Views 1/30/2012) has been republished in the People Section of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation web site. The Antique Motorcycle Foundation is a educational and charitable non-profit corporation, and an affiliate of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Its mission is to promote and publicize the preservation of antique motorcycles, memorabilia, and related knowledge.
12th annual motorcycle exhibit
features “Motorcycles Around the World”
Every winter, from January through May, the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, sponsors a major motorcycle exhibit, curated by members of the Lake Erie Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Usually, by necessity, the motorcycles have been displayed among beautiful Packard automobiles, but thanks to a major expansion last year, more space can be dedicated to the motorcycles and related memorabilia.
This year’s 12th Annual Antique Motorcycle Exhibit features more than 30 different motorcycles built in Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, Sweden, the United States, the former Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. One of the highlights of the exhibit is a1942 Harley Davidson “Knucklehead” originally owned by the legendary actor and noted Packard aficionado Clark Gable. This significant machine is on loan from Joe Hassett, of Ashtabula, Ohio.
The exhibit also pays tribute to the world’s oldest and most famous motorcycle road race, the Tourist Trophy at the Isle of Man (pictured above left). Since 1907, thrill seekers have traveled to the Island in the Irish Sea to experience the great race. Exhibitor Todd Welch, of Ravenna, Ohio, has raced at the Isle of Man, and placed his 1972 Triumph T140 road racer on display along with a 1975 Harley Davidson Model RR250 and a Yamaha RD350.
Continuing it’s world-class sporting theme, “Motorcycles Around the World” also features the American-inspired and Austrian-built 1973 Penton on which rider and owner Paul Danik, of Mars, Pennsylvania, won a gold medal in the International Six Day Trial. The ISDT, nick-named the “Olympics of Motorcycling,” is a grueling on-road/off-road time, speed, and distance competition. The ISDT exhibit also includes a German-built 1957 NSU Maxi, a 1957 BMW ISDT, a Swedish-built 1974 Husqvarna 250WR, and a Canadian-built 1977 Can-Am Model 175TNT.
“Motorcycles Around the World” will run through May 20 at the National Packard Museum here. The theme for the Packard Museum's 2013 motorcycle exhibit will be "Motorcycle ABCs: Antique, Bobber, and Custom."
Photos provided by the National Packard Museum.
Motorcyclepedia replica memorializes
Lenny Bauer’s brave ride
Since1903, when George Wyman became the first man to ride a motorcycle across the United States, many others have tried to become the next person to complete the feat more quickly than his or her predecessor. Early on, the record was broken by days. In 1906, George Holden knocked 20 days off of Wyman’s record. In 1911, Volney Davis knocked off another ten days, reducing the transcontinental ride to 20 days and nine hours. Just three years later, Erwin Baker knocked off another nine days, crossing in 11 days, 12 hours. But as time wore on and motorcycles became faster, success became measured in hours, and even minutes. And it was mere minutes that kept a New York Harley rider named Lenny Bauer (pictured left above) out of the record books in 1969.
By the teens, when Cannonball Baker was earning his name with repeated transcontinental record runs, manufacturers recognized the importance of holding such bragging rights, and they advertised heavily the setting of a new transcontinental record because it proved the prowess and reliability of their brand. During the summer of 1923, Wells Bennett for Henderson and Paul Remaly for Indian conducted a veritable orgy of record runs to outdo each other. At this time, the crossing was still taking five days plus.
In 1935, Michigan Harley-Davidson Earl Robinson completed the crossing in 77 hours, 53 minutes, which brought the record and its bragging rights to Milwaukee for nearly the next quarter-century. By the late 1950s, a reliable, comfortable, and long-legged German tourer—the BMW—had become more popular in the United States, and John Penton, an Ohio BMW dealer, decided it was time to take the record away from Harley. In 1959, he rode from New York to Los Angeles in 52 hours, 11 minutes. Just to put the frosting on BMW’s cake, John’s brother, Ted Penton, teamed up with Bill Clever in 1966 to ride a sidecar machine from coast to coast in 60 hours, 49 minutes, smashing the 69 hour, 46 minute sidecar record that had been set by Fred Dauria and Bill Connelley on a Harley in 1936.
John Penton’s record stood for a decade, then in 1969, another Ohio rider, Tibor Sirossy, rode his BMW across in 45 hours, 41 minutes. Though Sirossy’s BMW was not significantly different from Penton’s machine, by this time highways had improved and effective fairings had become available for touring motorcycles. As it had done with Penton’s feat, the U.S. BMW distributor heavily advertised Sirossy’s success. Because the motorcycle media also had improved over the ensuing decade, Sirossy’s achievement got more widespread attention than any of the men and women who had broken the record before him.
Two of the men who took note of this publicity were Sammy Armstrong, a mechanic at Maroney’s Harley-Davidson in New Windsor, New York, and his friend Leonard Bauer, also of New Windsor. Bauer (pictured below right), then 31, figured it wouldn’t be too hard to break the record. Later he would admit, "I didn't realize what I was getting into, but this thing had a life of its own and it kept growing and growing and then it turned to some serious thought."
As Bauer and his supporters at Maroney’s saw it, there were two big issues. How to carry extra fuel, and what to do about chain wear. The BMW had shaft drive, which gave it an advantage over a chain-driven machine. At the speeds Bauer expected to be traveling, he would have to conduct chain maintenance every 500 miles, and it was simply not acceptable to have that much down time. The fuel issue was solved by installing a 15-gallon aluminum beer keg on the back of the motorcycle, which doubled as a backrest for the rider (pictured above left). Baffles were welded inside the keg so the heavy fuel load would not slosh about and disrupt the handling of the motorcycle.
At the time of his ride, Bauer treated his chain solution as a trade secret, but later would disclose what he had done. To keep engine oil as clean and cool as possible on the long ride, it was routed through a cooling radiator mounted in front of the engine, and through a big two-quart oil filter designed for a truck. He also installed a hose and a regulating valve that enabled him to deliver a controlled drip of oil to the drive chain and rear sprocket. It worked.
Bauer set out on May 12, 1959, but was denied access to the New Jersey Turnpike, due to high winds. He turned back, then re-launched his adventure one week later. Incidentally, there was another little secret that Bauer chose not to mention to the press at the time. He was a law enforcement officer with the New York State Police, and the speeds he would be running would make his ride inherently illegal. There were times when he could have played his “cop card,” but he didn’t. One was when he decided to split lanes to get past a long, double line of cars on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, only to discover that at the head of the line was a state trooper. Bauer got a talking-to while he watched the big line of cars re-pass him.
As time wore on, Bauer became more aware of another disadvantage of the Harley-Davidson. This was before the era of balanced and rubber-mounted engines, and vibration through the handlebars at sustained, high speed became unbearable. He had to grip the bars tightly, and at one point his hands became so swollen that during a fuel stop he stuck his hand into at tub of grease to remove a ring that was cutting into a bloated finger.
John Penton before him had spoken of hallucinations brought on by extreme fatigue during the final hours of his journey. As he rode from Arizona into California, Bauer saw the telephone poles striding along the highway beside him, like stilted giants giving him a race. Undoubtedly, he dozed off in the saddle, because in the morning moisture he had dream-like memories of his dog licking his face, and at one point he thought himself cruising along behind the wheel of the family sedan, with his wife beside him.
Bauer pulled into Los Angeles with an elapsed time of 46 hours, 9 minutes. He has missed Sirossy’s record by 28 minutes. Realizing he had failed, Bauer pulled off the road and went to sleep sitting bolt-upright on the motorcycle. He slept sitting up through six hours of rain, until a state trooper awoke him and helped him get to a motel.
In its July 16, 1969 issue, Cycle News East covered Bauer’s record attempt, and reporter Abram Schoenfeld brought some interesting comparisons to light (above right and left are photos that appeared with the Cycle News story). Sirossy and Bauer traveled the same route, using trip-ticks provided by ESSO. However, Sirossy’s odometer registered 2,689 miles while Bauer’s clicked off 2,840. This means that Sirossy averaged 58.86 mph while Bauer averaged 61.53. According to his instruments, Bauer went farther and faster. Of course, none of this matters. Odometers can be notoriously inaccurate and verifiable elapsed time is how records are determined.
Eventually, the transcontinental solo motorcycle record would be reduced to 42 hours by George Egloff, but the whole enterprise was coming to the end of its era. The government had begun to strongly emphasize safety through the formation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1970. Law enforcement agencies were getting electronic tools and better communication that more easily thwarted speeding scofflaws, and barnstorming from coast to coast for gain and glory was no longer politically correct. No matter that both highways and motorcycles have since become faster and better. No right-minded manufacturer will even think about advertising a transcontinental record.
Lenny Bauer’s effort, however, has been memorialized in a way that others were not. The Motorcyclepedia Museum, in Newburgh, New York—a neighbor city of New Windsor—has built an accurate replica of Bauer’s Harley-Davidson. Motorcyclepedia Curator Ted Doering came up with the idea when he learned that Bauer still owned the original beer barrel fuel tank. The record attempt replica is now on display at the Museum, and its unveiling by Doering and Bauer was covered by journalist Donna Kessler of the Times Herald-Record (3/5/2012).
To access the “My Ride” Times Herald-Record story on line, click here. You can also find a video about Lenny Bauer on YouTube. Click here. To access the Motorcyclepedia Museum web site, click here.
Lead photo provided by Donna Kessler, My Ride, Times Herald-Record. Black and white photos by Abram Schoenfeld, Cycle News East, 1969.
Bernd Tesch has been a world motorcycle traveler since 1961, and since 1970 has collected and compiled information about world tours from the late 19th century to the present. These are shared on his web site. At the moment, Tesch is especially interested in learning of other riders who have traveled the width and breadth of South America. If you have such stories, please send them on to him at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tesch will also be hosting the 54th Tesch Travel Treffen for motorcycle world travelers in Malmedy, Belgium April 20 through 22nd. To learn more about this important event, expected to draw some 300 participants, click here.
The Spring 2012 issue of The Antique Motorcycle has arrived. There are stories about the Las Vegas and Hartung auctions, the AMCA National Meets at Jefferson, Pennsylvania and St. Paul, Minnesota; the AMCA judging program, the little-known Plummer motorcycle, a circa 1899 motorcycle from Kansas City reminiscent of the Orient; and a story about the legendary 1936 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, the Harley that changed everything. In addition, there are technical and historical columns, and classified advertisements for antique motorcycles and memorabilia. The Antique Motorcycle is not available on newsstands. It comes as a benefit of membership in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Join the AMCA today.
The Japanese manufactures have earned scores of world motocross titles, and their motorcycles have propelled riders from many nations to most of the world motocross championships for the past three decades. Ironically, however, only one Japanese rider has ever won a world motocross championship. The May issue of Racer X Illustrated contains an outstanding feature by Eric Johnson about that rider, Akira Watanabe, who earned the 125cc World Championship in 1978, two years prior became the only Japanese national ever to win an AMA race, riding in the open class at the Mid-Ohio Trans-AMA round in 1976. There is also a short feature about the invention of “whoops,” those unnaturally uniform washboard jumps used in Supercross. FYI, they date back to 1969 when track builder Gary Bailey decided to lay down a row of telephone poles at the Ascot Speedway circuit. Publisher Davey Coombs devotes his “Reason for Being” column to "The Vault," Racer X Online’s new motocross racing results database. To subscribe to Racer X Illustrated, click here.
As always, Motorcycle Classics’ delivers a great package in its March/April issue. There are features about the 1982 Ducati 900SS—the last of the breed—the 1979 Suzuki Wes Cooley Replica GS1000S, the Hercules Wankel 2000, the Brough Superior SS100, the 1976 MV Agusta 125 Sport, and the 1973 Yamaha TX650. Motorcycle Classics is unique for its range, variety, and attention to motorcycles off the beaten path, to which the list above testifies again. There are also adventure tales about racing a Triumph triple at the Maxton Mile, and a recreation of Che Guevara’s ride aboard old Nortons. To subscribe to Motorcycle Classics, click here.
In the May issue of American Iron, Editor Jim Babchak’s “American Iron Classics” feature takes us not too far back in time to the Harley-Davidson MT500 of the late 1980s, a military motorcycle of Italian/British lineage. Offered by Harley-Davidson in 350cc or 500cc versions, the design dates back to the Italian SWM brand in the early 1980s. When SWM went bankrupt, rights were acquired by CCM Armstrong in England, then conferred to Harley-Davidson. The H-D MTs were available in black, olive drab, sand, and white. Only about 1,700 350s and 450 500s were ever built. In the technical department, Donny Petersen describes how the 1965 Panhead transitioned into the 1966 Shovelhead and Matt Olsen explains how Harley-Davidson created the military WLA by modifying the civilian WL, which came into the line in 1937. And Publisher Buzz Kanter brings us Part II in the preparation of his next Cannonball bike, a 1926 Harley-Davidson Model J. To subscribe to Ironworks, click here.
VMX No. 49 is off the press, featuring a 1977 Montesa Cappra on the cover. Other classic dirt bikes profiled in the issue include the 1968 Maico GS125 Enduro, the 1982 Armstrong/CCM CMX250, and a trio of Hondas. In addition, Editor Ken Smith takes a tour down Bultaco memory lane at Hugh’s Bultaco, telling the story about how the Weaver family has helped American enthusiasts race and restore their beloved Spanish Buls. There are also stories about the remarkable collection of British scramblers owned by William Martin, a survey of American Steen and Van Tech specials, and a recap of the 2011 German Vinduro scene. As always, lots of big and beautiful photos on heavy paper stock; the usual publisher’s class act. To subscribe to VMX, click here.
In the April Cycle World, there are several features of interest to the Motohistorian. John Burns interviews artist Jeff Decker about his custom Vincent. Decker, famous for his bronze sculptures, including his signature 16-foot-tall hillclimber at the entrance of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, is no purist when he comes to building classic motorcycles. First there was his gorgeous Crocker bobber that has been featured in several leading art/motorcycle exhibits, and now the Vincent. With both he has taken what most collectors would consider unforgiveable liberties (the Vincent has a Honda all-terrain-vehicle), but his results are so beautiful and so faithfully maintain the spirit and integrity of the original machine that he is universally forgiven, indeed admired. Steve Anderson writes about how he and Ken Vreeke flew to Japan in 1984 to test a slew of hotrods that were not available in the American market: Honda CBR400F, Honda NS250R, Kawasaki KR250, Suzuki GSX-R, Suzuki GS250FW, Yamaha FZ400R, and Yamaha RZV500R. Daytona winner Don Emde describes the 2011 Imola 200 Revival, where he rode a replica of his 1972 Daytona Yamaha. Other luminaries present were Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, and Steve Baker. Emde states, He says, “They called the ‘revival ride’ a parade, but it sure looked like a race.” To subscribe to Cycle World, click here.
The March issue of Thunder Press contains a report on the recent battling auctions in Las Vegas, a tour of the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, and—surprisingly—a story about vintage ice racing. The hook for the ice racing story within Thunder Press’s V-twin-themed content is the fact that a crew of wild and crazy guys from Colorado set up 1968 Ironhead Harley Sportster for the ice, and beat bikes probably a third their weight. Thunder Press, published in regional editions, is available (often free) at V-twin dealerships and watering holes. To get it sent to your home on a subscription basis, click here.
The May/June issue of IronWorks contains more content for motohistorians than usual, now packaged in a “Vintage Vibe” section that includes Margie Siegal’s always interesting “Seasoned Citizens” feature. This time Siegal describes the creation of a 1941 Indian Chief bobber, built by Gary Phelps from period-correct parts. Inspirations for the project were a Pontiac automobile hood ornament and a bronze skull with Indian headdress gearshift knob. The rest of the bike was built around these small artifacts. Marilyn Stemp writes about "Snowracer," a fast, road-worthy, retro custom built in Germany by Uwe Ehinger, owner of Ehinger Kraftrad. Heart of the machine is a 1946 Harley-Davidson U engine with ’36 VLH cylinders and ’48 ULH heads. Ehinger may spend years building a custom speedster because what works will eventually be put into production and sold through his business. Finally, leading off the “Vintage Vibe” section is my new column “Motohistory in Print,” which will discuss the remarkable machines and riders that have made motorcycling’s 100+ year history so exciting. To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.
Editor’s Note: I am honored for this opportunity to write a column about motorcycle history in IronWorks, but I also want to reassure readers that it will not change my approach to the Motohistory web site. Our monthly “Found in Print” section will still address all of the books and magazines that come to my attention, including IronWorks’ direct competitors. I understand competition between publishers, but I consider historical study a community and collaborative undertaking. As far as I am concerned, the more publications that contain motohistorical content, the better, and I will continue to promote them all whenever I can.