My Secret Plan Exposed
By Ed Youngblood
Last month, I announced the 10th Anniversary of Motohistory, and stated that in the coming year I would decide whether it was time to continue, or time to give you people a break and move on to other things. I stated that I was developing new interests outside of motorcycling, though I did not specify what they might be.
Jerry and Dee Wood, of Daytona Auction fame, have a home in Maine, and also in Chrystal River, Florida, not far from where I live. During a recent trip to Maine, they got the goods on me, and have exposed my secret plan. As you can see from the photographic evidence, I am running for the Maine Senate.
Wrongly, I thought Maine was far enough off the beaten path that no one would notice. I figured I would do one term there, then run for the U.S. Congress. Only I would probably not run for the U.S. Senate, but for the House of Representatives instead. It is easier to get elected, and there’s a bigger mob to share the blame. And as we can note practically every day, you can be incredibly stupid and under-educated and still thrive in the House.
Why would I want to do this? Seriously? Can you think of a sweeter opportunity in America these days? It pays well, and I can’t think of another job where you can be a full-time screw-up and have about a 98 percent chance of getting your contract renewed.
You can oppose public health care while you quietly cut yourself and your colleagues a deal for the medical coverage of kings. Same thing with your pension. While other people’s pensions and investments are going down the drain because Congress will let bankers and Wall Street do anything they please (and get away with it), a Congressman’s future is safe and sound. You can even do something totally despicable like Larry Craig but keep your job and retire fat. And who else gets to approve their own salary increases?
When you devise new regulations on the American public, you exempt yourself. You have a staff to do all the work and take the blame when you do or say something stupid. You can get appointed to committees on topics for which you don’t have a clue, and that way you won’t feel so responsible when you vote for stupid things. And, hey, you and your buddies even have your own elevator.
Then, when election time comes around and you’ve made a mess of everything, you use other people’s money to tell your constituents they have to return you to office because you’re the only guy who can save them from Democrats (or Republicans), al Quada, Iran, North Korea, Muslims, weapons of mass destruction, encroaching asteroids, and gays. And a lot of them will write letters about what a useless ner-do-well they think you are, but you’ll probably get re-elected because most incumbents do. And if you don’t, you can get a job as a lobbyist, and there you can create even more mayhem because nobody knows your name or wants to take your picture.
Now can you think of a sweeter way to use your time? And if a guy like John Boehner can pull it off, why can't I? The only thing I’m not liking about this plan is that I have to learn to play golf.
Printer’s ink and motor oil
Printer’s ink has run in Kanter family blood for at least three generations, but by mixing it with motor oil, Buzz Kanter has created a new mixture. His parents didn’t want him to own a motorcycle, and he obeyed their wishes . . . for awhile. But through motorcycles, he eventually became a triple hall-of-famer who built a successful publishing business through the combination of writing and riding.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut in February 1955, Buzz (pictured above right) had a grandfather, Albert, who was the founder of Classic Comics Illustrated, a father, Bill, who expanded the business internationally with ownership of the international rights for Mad Magazine, and a mother, Penny, who managed Penny Press, a publisher of crossword magazines. When Buzz was six, the family moved to England as their publishing interests expanded to handle publication of magazines in many languages. Buzz recalls, “I would get the latest issue of Mad before the other kids. I would read it, then I would take a Russian language copy of the new issue to school and tell them all about it, creating the impression that I could read Russian with ease. Then the next month I would do it with some other language," he laughs.
In 1969, Bill Kanter sold the international published business and moved his family back to the United States. He retained a magazine publishing company, and set up Penny Press. Buzz had become interested in photography. He got his first professional press pass while still in high school, and pursued photography in college while earning a degree in sociology and psychology. Eventually, he joined Penny Press to manage its circulation department. From 1979 through 1990, the company’s titles grew from four to 21. Buzz returned to school and earned his MBA from the University of New Haven in 1989 while working full-time on the job.
When Buzz was still a kid, his parents bought a Honda QA50 for him and his three brothers to play with. But they warned that they intended for him to never own a motorcycle. This attests to the remarkable branding coup that Honda pulled off during its introduction to the American market. “Hondas" were safe and fun, but “motorcycles" were dangerous. When Buzz went away to college, he bought a used Honda 305 Superhawk, which he rode for about a year without his parents’ knowledge. He explains, “I didn’t lie to them. It was a case of ‘Don’t ask; don’t tell,’ and they didn’t ask." He continues, “Later, my younger brother got a motorcycle and caught all kinds of hell. When that blew over, it was easier for me to come clean."
Like any budding motorcyclist, Kanter kept trading up to bigger and faster machines, always customizing them in café racer style. He says, “During college I probably flipped a dozen bikes. My rule was to pay no more than a dollar per cc for used bikes, then I would sell them to pay for bigger and faster bikes as well as the mag wheels and other goodies that I put on my café racers."
In 1977, Kanter was doing well enough that he could buy a Yamaha RD400 (pictured above right)—his first new bike—get a new set of tailor-made racing leathers, and join the American Association of Motorcycle Road Racers, the leading club on the eastern seaboard. About his first outing on the track, Buzz says, “I thought I was a natural at this. I figured I was fast as hell, then everybody passed me on the track during practice. Big bikes, little bikes, fast bikes, slow bikes, they all passed me." An experienced rider took Buzz under his wing and taught him the principles of setting lines, braking, and accelerating, and Buzz improved rapidly. “I became competitive, but as I got better and moved up in rank, the competition got tougher. I raced for three years, decided I had gotten as good as I was going to get, and retired."
With racing behind him, Kanter was not sure where his motorcycle hobby would take him next. Then he discovered vintage and collectible bikes. He recalls, “I was at a race with auctioneer and road racing instructor Jerry Wood, and some guy there had three BSA M20s for sale. Jerry flipped out over them and explained to me their history and why they were desirable to own." Jerry and Buzz each bought one of the M20s. “I fell in love with the beauty and simplicity of vintage motorcycles," Buzz explains.
At this time, Buzz was fishing about for a thesis topic as he moved toward completion of his MBA. In 1987, the internet had not yet been born, and Kanter learned that it could be difficult to locate the parts and know-how to restore and keep vintage bikes going. Thus, his MBA thesis became the business plan for the creation of a magazine named “Old Bike Journal." It was more than just an academic exercise. Buzz and his wife Gail, whom he had married in 1986, set up TAM Communications to publish the magazine out of a spare room in their house. He recalls, “I knew magazine production and distribution, but with the exception of photography, I had never been hands-on with the editorial and ad sales end of the business. Our first employee was Greg Bastek, whom we hired as editor."
By 1990, TAM was regarded a serious player in the business; enough so that Nace Panzica, owner ofAmerican Iron Magazine and Custom Chrome approached Kanter with an offer to sell American Iron Magazine. During negotiations and due diligence, Kanter learned that the magazine was bleeding money, and that Panzica wanted it off the company books because he was planning to take Custom Chrome public. Kanter felt this put TAM in a strong negotiation position, but he also knew that the magazine would take down his whole company if he could not make it profitable in about three months.
But he felt he knew where the market was going. Harley-Davidson, which was no longer owned by AMF, had introduced its Evolution engine in 1984, and the Motor Company was successfully putting its reputation for bad quality behind it. Buzz told his wife, “I think this Harley thing is going to take off," then he flew off to Daytona to introduce himself to the Harley-Davidson brass as the new publisher of American Iron Magazine. Buzz was right. TAM made American Iron Magazine profitable, then in 1993—on the occasion of Harley-Davidson’s 90th anniversary—published a big one-shot entitled “90 Years of Harley-Davidson." Buzz relates, “It sold over 100,000 copies on the newsstand, turning a big profit for the company."
TAM, which means “time and money," plowed its profits back into expansion, eventually launching five new titles: Indian Motorcycle Illustrated, Thunder Alley, Hot XL, Hottest Custom Harleys, and Motorcycle Tour and Travel. But it was too much, and advertising revenue did not meet expectations. Kanter recalls, “We were carrying huge debt, my wife and I were working twelve hours a day, and one of the big international publishing houses was pressuring us to sell." He continues, “But I decided not to sell. American Iron Magazine was still doing well, so our business model was still viable. We simply needed to consolidate, cut expenses, and focus on what we knew we could do well."
TAM sold Old Bike Journal to another American publisher. Indian Motorcycle Illustrated, Thunder Alley, Hot XL, and Hottest Custom Harleys were merged into American Iron Magazine. Motorcycle Touring and Travel became Road Bike, which TAM still publishes. In addition to American Iron Magazine and Road Bike, today TAM has one other title, Motorcycle Bagger, and later this year will publish the one-shot “American Glory – 110 Years of Harley-Davidson."
During this period of business expansion and consolidation, Kanter had continued to pursue his interest in antique motorcycles as a hobby. In the early 1990s, he made smart purchases of an all-original 1924 JDCA and a 1929 JDH, both of which he still owns. He became entranced with the small and stylish Italian brands, and began to compete in moto giro events. He also bought a 1936 EL which he uses as a rider, and a 1955 Panhead which he rode from Connecticut to Milwaukee for Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary. He laughs, “I was feeling like some kind of iron man hero when I rolled up to the headquarters on Juneau Avenue, then here came Bruce Linsday on a 1905 Harley, which he had ridden from Cleveland. That gave me a good shot of humility."
With the success of his publishing business, Buzz Kanter’s reputation grew throughout the American motorcycle industry. He was inducted into the National Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002, and when that institution merged with the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame he became a member there as well. In 2012, he was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
In 2010, Kanter became a participant in the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Ride, which he entered on a 1915 Harley-Davidson. This was a serious event that required riders to ride more than 3,000 miles, from coast to coast, aboard pre-1916 motorcycles. Buzz made it from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to New Mexico before he burned up the last of his five magnetos. In 2012, he entered the second running of the Cannonball (for pre-1930 motorcycles) aboard a 1929 twin-cam JDH and finished the ride from Newburgh, New York to San Francisco.
Years ago, Buzz had cultivated a friendship with fellow Cannonball rider Dale Walksler, the owner of the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The two had been searching for a way to involve their businesses in an antique motorcycle event, and in 2011 they devised the Kickstart Classic, an over-the-road ride from Wheels Through Time to the Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. There wasn’t much by way of rules, except kick-starting bikes were allowed to lead the way and electric starters had to follow. The whole idea was to just have fun and good camaraderie with old motorcycles. Kanter recalls, “We had no idea how it would go over, so we were pleased to see more than 70 riders turn up for the run."
The next year the Kickstart Classic ran from Wheels Through Time to Denton, North Carolina, the home of the AMCA Southern National Meet. More than 80 riders turned out, and this spring Kanter and Walksler will lead their third Kickstart Classic, from Charleston to St. Augustine, Florida, where they will serve as Grand Marshals for the prestigious Riding into History Concours d'Elgance. For this run, riders who enter aboard their Cannonball bikes will pay no entry fee.
About his interest in antique motorcycles, Kanter says, “I like them all. The name on the tank is not terribly important, and I think the hobby is about the community as much as it is about the bikes."
About the challenges of the rapidly changing communications industry, Kanter takes a long view, based on his family legacy. He explains, “They told my grandfather that print was dead because of the invention of television. They told my father that print was dead because the enormous reach of cable TV would give advertisers all the opportunities they needed. Now I hear that print is dead because of the internet."
He continues, “It’s going to change, as it always has, and those who change with it will be those who survive. I don’t think electronic media is going to kill print in our lifetimes, but I think there will be consolidation and opportunity, and smart publishers will find ways to integrate the two. For example, we already offer downloadable versions of our magazines through www.zinio.com, which can be thought of as a digital newsstand. Also, we have created Classic American Iron, a free forum for classic American motorcycle enthusiasts." He says, “We’re going to keep looking for the new opportunities in publishing, whether print or digital, because I hope my kids will be the fourth generation of Kanters in the business."
Photos provided by Buzz Kanter.
Crew chief extraordinary Bob Hansen died February 17 at the age of 93. One of his greater moments was victory at the Daytona 200 in 1970 with Dick Mann aboard the new Honda 750 Four (pictured right). Success might not have come had it not been for Hansen’s slow-down strategy and Mann’s discipline and experience to carry it off in the final laps of the race. To win, Hansen had to openly defy his Japanese bosses, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished. He was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
A new major event, Indiana Bike Week, has been announced. We hear there will be antique motorcycle activity included. Mark your calendar for June 24 through 30.
IronWorks Magazine. has bestowed one of its prestigious Innovation Awards on Lonnie Isam for his creation of the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Ride.
Stan Simpson, whose six-year term of leadership at the AMA has been concurrent with membership decline, ongoing financial loss, downsizing, and controversy, decided earlier this month not to seek re-election as Chairman of the Board. He has been replaced by Maggie McNally of Albany, New York. McNally becomes the first woman to become Chairman of the American Motorcyclist Association. Simpson will remain on the board.
Bruce Williams will host a seminar at the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio on March 16 about how to restore motorcycles when no parts are available. The presentation will draw from his personal experience in restoring a very rare R-17 BMW, the only surviving 1950 Horex works racer, a 1915 Austro Omega, and a 1909 two-speed NSU. For more information, refer to the Packard Museum web site.
Now there’s a digital version of Trail Rider Magazine. Find here a story about the 2012 ISDT Reunion.
There’s big bucks in tiny cars, evidently, since no less than twelve of them sold for $100,000 or more at the Bruce Weiner microcar sale staged by RM Auctions on February 15 and 16 in Madison, Georgia. Top of the heap was a pink 1958 FMR Tiger that went for $322,000. Then there were the Dog ‘N Suds neon sign that sold for $33,000 the Indian motorcycle kiddie ride that sold for $24,000, and the Howard Johnson’s coffee vending machine that went for $15,000! Here’s the breathtaking results which topped out at more than $9 million.
Cyril Huze has posted the ten most valuable motorcycles of all time. Three of the ten are Vincents.
The Early Years of Motocross Museum web site has an interview with Mike Goodwin (pictured right), the “Father of Supercross" who was convicted for the murder of Micky and Trudi Thompson, former partners-turned-rival promoters.
Here’s a video about Santiago Herrero, OSSA’s favorite son.
Here’s how to survive the Cannonball.
Back issues of the collectible and out-of-print Indian Motorcycle Illustrated are available at greaserag.com.
Dave Ekins has penned a story on his family web site about his 1953 NSU factory ride at Catalina. Also, thePetersen Museum in Los Angeles is opening on May 2 an exhibit entitled “Braving Baja," and Ekins will receive special honors at that opening.
Stuart Hooper and his Velocette recently turned 171.600 mph at Australia’s Lake Gairdner. This makes the motorcycle the world's fastest Velocette, the world’s fastest British single, and the world’s fastest single of any brand without fully enclosed streamlining. Here’s more from The Vintagent.
Gold Wing and CBX specialist Randakk has a nifty new web site.
Here’s a cool video of the 1955 Motogiro d'Italia.
It’s All You Get is a movie about the life of Ron Finch.
Baffle your friends with a Nietzsche t-shirt. Wha? Was he some great racer, or something?
Read about Brian Slark's Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction on his blog. Bonus: There’s a video of Brian wearing a suit.
Not sure if it’s sad or fortunate, but some classic brands just get passed around forever, it seems. Now BMW has sold Husqvarna to KTM, aka Pierer Industrie AG.
There’s motohistorical interests in the latest Outriders Newsletter.
Craig Vetter (pictured right) talks about racing his Rickman in 1975 and 1976.
Watch Norton Manxes racing at Brands Hatch. And watch some more
Photohistory by Tom Mueller
Here's a great shot of Billy "Sugar Bear" Grossi dialing it up on the "factory" Husqvarna. This looks like a sand shot so I'm guessing it came from the St. Pete National or one of the Winter-AMA Series races.
I suggest "factory" in quotation marks because it's well known Husky, KTM, and Maico could not keep up with the cubic dollars the Japanese teams were spending. Note here that Grossi is still riding a dual-shock bike while most other teams had progressed to single shock suspension.
Nonetheless, the equipment at hand didn't take the heart out of riders. Billy was a likable fellow who seemed to be happy with his place in the sport, both on the track and off (I could disclose some stories...but I won't).
There are a multitude of fond memories tied to my experience with American motocross. Racing existed as unbridled, accessible, and competitive. It was delightful to be part of this traveling circus from 1979 through 1983, and characters like Billy Grossi are what made it so wonderful. There’s more at my Retromotocross Blog.
German internal combustion pioneers and their contributions to the native motorcycle industry
By Ralf Kruger
Otto, Langen, Daimler, Maybach and the development of the 1885 Daimler Reitwagen (riding carriage)
When we take a serious look on Gottlieb Daimler's Reitwagen, (pictured right) which is deemed to be the first motorcycle featuring an Internal Combustion (IC) four-stroke engine, many will consider it more of a curiosity than a real motorcycle. And yes, far from being practical for use by the public, it was actually designed as a concept bike, yet is still heralded a landmark in the era of individual automotive locomotion.
Despite it's many deficiencies, the Reitwagen―though never intended for serialproduction―demonstrated that the new Otto four-stroke engine might be adaptable in better ways than previous attempts to power carriages. Here I am thinking, for example, of the 1769/70 Nicolas Joseph Cugnot steam powered car (pictured below left), the French L.G. Perreaux bi- and tricycles, and the American Roper velociped (1863) (pictured below right), which both used steam engines as well.
These steam engine designs can hardly be called innovative, because the James Watt steam engine principle had already been refined for nearly one hundred years to near perfect reliability and functionality. So, there it is not surprising that both Perreaux and Roper tried to adapt this age-old power source for a motorcycle.
Indeed, while we are used to two-stroke/four-stroke types of the IC engine and it's good adaptability for many kinds of vehicles for more than a hundred years today, it has not been the natural choice in the mid-19th century, but had to prove it's capabilities against many other engine layouts―like the "hot air" engine or early electrical engines―through a long and difficult development process. It was not an easy task to replace the steam engine.
Documented evolving intermediate development of the IC engine was the transition from the early atmospheric gas engine, such as the very basic 1794 machine by Englishman Robert Street or the more sophisticated type by American Alfred Drake shown on 1843 Philadelphia fair, to name just two of the meaningful designs.
The first commercially successful IC engine was the 1860 two-stroke engine by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, which worked without any internal compression. In 1881, Scottish engineer Dugald Clerk developed a two-stroke that worked with compression of the charge in the combustion chamber and external auxiliary charging piston/cylinder unit for scavenging. A more modern and simple process of pre-compression in the crankcase was employed in 1888/89, by Briton Joseph Day who would use pre-compression by the piston's underside in his new two-stroke.
Finally, there was the four-stroke IC engine in 1860, patented by Nikolaus August Otto in 1876. The Otto patent was acquired by Messrs. Crossley of Manchester in England, Compagnie Francaise des Motoeur a Gaz in France, and Schleicher, Schumm & Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jakob Schleicher was a brother-in-law of Eugen Langen, and Mr.Schumm was a merited co-worker of the Deutz factory.
NOTE: German engineer and historian Dr.Ing. Friedrich Sass, author of "The history of German inner combustion engine building" (1961), is an important authority on early German engineering. In my telling the story of the 1885 Reitwagen (pictured left), I am happy to give him credit here, because he once laid the foundation for my knowledge about early German IC developments.
The story of the development of the Daimler Reitwagen is as much about the "gang of four," N.A. Otto, Eugen Langen, Gottlieb Daimler, and Wilhelm Maybach, as 25 years of continuing development of the IC engine.
Nikolaus August Otto (June, 10th, 1832 – Jan. 26th, 1891) (pictured right) was born in Holzhausen, a village about 20 miles northeast of Wiesbaden. After he left junior high school with a degree in 1848, he took an apprenticeship as a merchant. Later, he worked for several trading companies in Frankfurt and Cologne. In 1860 he heard about the "French engine," the then new Lenoir gas engine, and was instantly interested in its mode of operation. He bought a Lenoir machine and after some study tried to improve upon it. Otto, as an autodidact, identified a lot of weaknesses in the original design, and assigned precision mechanic M.J.Zons from Cologne to create a new engine of Otto's ideas and drawings. In summer 1861, the first four-stroke engine was ready for a test.
Eugen Langen (Oct.9th, 1833 - Oct.2nd, 1895) (pictured left) was born to the rich sugar manufacturer Johann J. Langen living in Cologne.
After finishing Polytechnikum in Karlsruhe with a degree in physics and technical science, he joined his father's business. He also was interested in the new Lenoir engine and hot air engines, which were becoming established as small power sources. He was surprised to hear about yet another, the new Otto engine, and decided to take a closer look at it.
Instantly, Langen recognized the new Otto engine as a potentially outstanding design. In March 1864, Otto and Langen formed a contract of association. Langen would mainly provide money for further development.
After Gottlieb Daimler (March 17th, 1834 - March 6th, 1900) (pictured right) left junior high school, he became an apprentice as a gunsmith, ending his training in 1852. After five years of work, he left for more education at Polytechnikum Stuttgart, from 1857 to 1859. Several educational trips led him to England, the leading manufacturing country in Europe at that time. In 1862, he started his career as a designer at the Straub metalware factory. In 1865, he joined the orphanage in Reutlingen as the workshop manager, and it was here he met Wilhelm Maybach.
Wilhelm Maybach (Feb.9th, 1846 - Dec.29th, 1929) (pictured left) lost his mother and father before he was 10 years of age. He was sent to the Reutlingen orphanage to live and get an education. When he was 15, he moved to the technical office of the machine works within the orphanage because it was noticed that he had a talent in drawing. During his five years of study to become a technical draftsman, he was allowed to take part in additional physics and mathematics lessons. Beyond this, he was able to learn from Julius Weisbach's text books about mechanical engineering and read the books of the Bernoulli brothers. This intelligence and curiosity was immediately recognized by in house Daimler, who arranged for Maybach to become his "right hand." Together, they joined the Deutz factory in the summer of 1872.
All four of these IC devotees, working for Deutz/Cologne, shared a common goal of finding a superior alternative to the fully developed steam engine for industrial application. To do this they would have to significantly improve upon the well-established, but quite inefficient Lenoir two-stroke engine. Together, they would contribute to creation of the first vehicle with a four-stroke IC engine.
Otto, the German four-stroke engine pioneer, and engineer Langen, his partner, co-founded N.A.Otto & Cie. in March 1864, when they decided to build atmospheric gas engines. (pictured right) These atmospheric gas engines did not use combustion on top of the piston to create a power stroke on a turning crankshaft. Instead, a so-called "flying piston" was flung up from the bottom of a standing cylinder by ignited coal gas in a combustion chamber below of it. After combustion ended, fast cooling, constricting exhausted gas in the cylinder created a partial vacuum, and atmospheric pressure pushed the piston downward for the power stroke. The difference between the partial vacuum in the cylinder and the "outside" atmospheric pressure was transmitted as work from the piston to a gear, mounted on a spindle, which drove on and along a tooth-bar (developed by Langen in 1865)(pictured left) with an engaged ratchet element as a free wheel clutch (pictured below right) for one-way function.
NOTE: For a helpful illustration, click here.
The power gain of an "indirect, low-pressure" atmospheric engine was much less than it would have been by the use of direct force on the power-stroke of a so-called "high-pressure" "direct working" machine. When Otto tried to patent an improved version in 1861, based on the Lenoir engine, his "direct working" two-stroke IC-engine was rejected by the Prussian patent agency because they said it was not a new design.
Tests begun in 1862 of a completely new four-cylinder, four-stroke "boxer" were not successful. Coal gas, ignited by an electrical spark to create a power stroke, shook pistons and cranks into bits and pieces. What might have been the first four-stroke IC engine was literally a bomb! So the concept was abandoned for awhile.
In 1866, after two years of development, the Otto atmospheric engine was so developed that the firm of Langen, Otto & Roosen could produce and sell about 110 engines per year, which increased to 200 in 1870 and '71, even in the midst of the raging German-French war. This success brought positive attention to Otto and Langen as designers and worthy competitors in a demanding market.
With the founding of the Deutz Werke/Cologne by Otto and Langen in January 1872, Gottlieb Daimler joined the firm as facility manager in August of that year. Wilhelm Maybach, his “first man," was appointed chief designer. Both would stay with Deutz for the next decade.
Though now perfected and reliable, the low-pressure atmospheric engine had an inherent drawback. Its power could not be raised effectively to more than about three horse-power. This was fine for small manufacturers working in sheds, but it certainly could not challenge big steam engines of enormous power that drove heavy industry. Until 1874, the monthly output of engines was about 80, but the following year demand fell dramatically. More power had to be achieved, urgently.
Early in 1876, Otto decided to built a new version of his "high pressure," "direct driven" four-stroke engine. His long examination of gas mixture proportions in the atmospheric engine had taught him that dilution of the air/gas mixture to the lean side would slow combustion. This was what he wanted, to avoid the bad experiences of destructive explosions in the original 1862 models. The disadvantage of such a lean mixture was reduced flammability, causing failure to ignite.
So, his new idea was about a stratified charge in the combustion chamber, with a center kernel of easily inflammable rich mixture and more lean mixture surrounding the nucleus to dampen the speed of flame propagation and to avoid explosion. This is a remarkable theory which, for different reasons, was pursued in a special way by Honda's CVCC car engine in 1975. At that time, the reason for leaning out the mixture was to meet US emission laws! (pictured above right)
So, leaning out the mixture was easy, but making sure the charge would ignite was difficult. Otto developed an early version of an ascent channel which was filled with rich mixture and, ignited by outer flame, would provide certain ignition of the leaned out charge in the combustion chamber by a flash flame. In June 1876, this new prototype engine was ready, and in 1877 production began. More than 500 were sold in a single year! After only a few years of development, Deutz could provide very economically working engines producing 100hp now, which was an additional break-through, considering the weak power of the precursor atmospheric engines.
While the Deutz company flourished, arising tension between the main associates of the company became more and more obstructive regarding the further development of the Otto four-stroke engine. Most of these tensions were about financial compensation and entitlements on new developments. But there also was disagreements about technical questions.
Otto was very cautious about electrical ignition with a sparkplug in combination with nearly stoichometric (ideal) mixture because of his early lessons empirically learned. Even as the engines were adapted to gasoline instead of coal gas, he was very reluctant to apply "modern" ignition. When Maybach told him, after experiments of his own, that flame propagation was as slow as four meters per second, eliminating any worry about explosion, Otto could not be convinced.
We know today that neither was completely correct because flame propagation should be around 15 meters per second in a low compression, large cylinder engine, but it was still far from being harmful. The reason for Otto's disastrous experience with his 1862 four-stroke boxer engine would have not been detonation typically caused by slow combustion and/or too much compression, but rather pre-ignition caused by a glowing piston dome or incomplete scavenged hot exhaust gases.
At any rate, by 1878 the supervisory board at Deutz was asking about plans for new, more refined engines in all established power classes, and for broadening the range of motors as well. Especially interesting was the request for a smaller engine of about two hp and simplified design, which also should be much cheaper to produce.
Daimler, as the man in charge, did not react to this order. He was very much involved in his own projects and rejected a second request in May, 1879 to design new prototype engines of 1/4hp and 1/8hp for workshop applications. While the company could still pay big dividends to its share holders, it was clear that Deutz needed to enter the market for small engines for small metal fabricating shops in order to continue to prosper.
Daimler, in his stubborn, dismissive way, did not care, and in December, 1881, management decided to release G.Daimler from his duties effective at the end of June, 1882. As Deutz did not make an official offer to keep Maybach in his position, Maybach and Daimler created an employment agreement in April, 1882. Both left Deutz for Bad Cannstatt to establish a new firm. It was obvious that Daimler, despite his comprehensive theoretical knowledge, had to rely on Maybach's advanced practical skill, refined during ten years of workshop prominence.
Immediately after Daimler moved into his new mansion in Bad Cannstatt―today a suburb of Stuttgart―he converted part of a greenhouse located in his garden into a small workshop. Here, Daimler and Maybach would write history in producing the first Otto (four-stroke) engine propelled motor vehicle.
A main difference between the Deutz industrial engine and his new concept of a small motor for application in a carriage was weight. When we consider that a small 4hp Deutz engine weighted in at more than 2,000 kp, you can easily understand that this kind of weight and size were totally out of the question for use in a car (pictured above left).
One might wonder why Daimler refused to apply his ideas of a small engine to Deutz's request for smaller designs. In my opinion, it is obvious that Daimler wanted to exploit the benefits of a new "simplified engine," as he called it, for himself.
Still, the new "simplified engine" was a big challenge. The old industrial Deutz-type engine still had a lot of similarities with a steam engine's design, such as an open crankshaft with crosshead coupling, a big external flywheel and piston, cylinder, and head borrowed from basic steam engine design.
After a lot of negotiation and mentoring sessions with Maybach, they settled on a radical new concept with the following characteristics: a closed crankcase, a compact cam system for inlet and exhaust valve, a self-mixing apparatus for air/fuel supply called carburetor, a modified ignition system, and an aim for much higher, even triple engine speed than that of Deutz engines, resulting in comparatively high power output (pictured right). Dimensions of the 462cc engine were bore and stroke of 70mm X 120mm, rated 1hp.
Today, perhaps we cannot appreciate how revolutionary it was to plan to achieve a speed of at least 600 rpm. Deutz industrial engines at the time achieved only 120 to 180 rpm, just enough to assure even running.
The first person who fully understood and adopted the 1823 theoretical thermodynamic cycle identified by Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot, was French engineer Beau de Rochas who, in 1862, applied the universal pressure-volume graph with four parts for a special use, the four-stroke IC engine. He translated the curve into a four-stroke IC engine in his mind: aspiration of the charge, compression of the gas, power supplying stroke, and exhaust stroke.
A theory document about this four-stroke cycle was published by Rochas in France,which was one of the reasons that Otto was denied a German patent in 1889, although Rochas probably never built a running engine. With the Carnot cycle as the foundation, he became the first man who could explain why the Lenoir engine had so many inherent shortcomings.
Just as important as these application by Rochas was his considerations about the design of an engine for advanced mechanical and thermodynamic efficiency. The 1896, "A text-book on gas, oil and air engines" by English historian Bryan Donkin gave us some clue about Rochas notions. He thought the engine's single cylinder should be a large, long-stroke, and as low revving as possible to increase thermal efficiency and reduce friction. Large cylinders were required to maximize aspiration and reduce engine revolution for less friction in the bearings for a given power. Long-stroke was favored to reduce friction of the piston (and rings) as the contact patch with the liner is reduced in such a design.
But still more important were the thermodynamic advantages: the ratio of heat-exposed surface of the cylinder-liner, combustion chamber, and piston is favorably shrinking with increasing cylinder's capacity and also because the cylinder's liner and combustion chamber have less surface exposed to the generated heat in a long-stroke design. High piston speed is favored over slower speed of a short-stroke crank because the time for heat transfer, which leads to an unwanted heat dissipation on compression stroke, is reduced. In consequence, heat carriage of the power delivering stroke to the comparatively cool cylinder wall is also reduced! These findings were very much an "axiom" for decades to come, and observed by engine designers around the world.
Daimler and Maybach would be the first German technicians who would "infringe" on this "axiom" partially in favor of a small capacity engine (still a long-stroke) turning faster. Trading in few, big power pulses in big cylinders, for smaller, more frequent ones to provide sufficient power.
Maybach, who had experience in building Deutz engine scale models, was sure manufacturing a small engine was no problem. But designing an all new carburetor for running on gasoline was a challenge. Additionally, the search for a new ignition system would take some time. Electrical ignition by spark, like used in the Lenoir engine, was eliminated from the start. A battery as a power source was very unreliable and expensive.
But the biggest problem at the outset was DRP 532, the Otto four-stroke patent, which was still valid in 1885. Secrecy in development was mandatory, but Daimler believed that by the time the new engine was running, a solution would be found, one way or the other. The idea was to modify the new engine as much as possible to avoid infringement on DRP532.
To find a capable ignition system, Maybach read about an 1879 German patent of Leo Funck on this theme, but chose rather the British Patent 4608 from 1881, submitted by a Mr. Watson. The difference of Watson's ignition type in comparison to the contemporary Deutz ignition was the absence of a slide valve operation mechanism for the hot tube (pictured above left). Maybach realized that the regulation of a hot tube by a gate in the combustion chamber was limited to slow engine speed and unnecessary for higher engine speed. This is somewhat surprising because early engineers were very cautious about "hot spots" or residual exhausted gas in the cylinder, being aware that a pre-ignited charge on the compression-stroke had immediate and devastating results on the piston and crankshaft. However, practical experience by Maybach proved his idea did work.
The carburetor is another interesting element of the famous new engine, referred to as "Standuhr" or "grandfather clock (pictured right)." Maybach designed a surface vaporizing carburetor with a float for an even gasoline height, so the penetrating air would be evenly saturated. To create fitting air/fuel mixture for different engine loads, a tab provided an additional air supply prior to the mixture entering the cylinder. Ostentatious in its dimensions, the surface carburetor is easily as big as the Standuhr's cylinder and head combined (pictured left)! This type of carburetor would set the standard until 1893, when Maybach invented the first spray nozzle type.
The third novelty was the rotary cam working as an axial slide-groove on the big, left-hand flywheel. Rotational speed of the slot nut is critical in such a design, and certainly provokes heavy wear with high engine speed. But 600 rpm is not very high, so the actuation of the exhaust valve with a push rod was safe. The main reason for this kind of cam system was to avoid an additional camshaft. The inlet valve is standing above the exhaust valve on the same vertical axis (IoE). Even if early drawings show its actuation is coupled with the exhaust valve pushrod, valve operation remained "automatic" by suction of the piston in all implemented versions.
Another quite unique design element is the additionally and positively guided inlet valve in the piston (pictured right). This shows two things: Daimler and Maybach wanted to create an exceptional engine, as advanced and different as possible from the Otto four-strokes to undermine DRP532.
Another reason certainly was the awareness that residual exhausted gas would endanger correct ignition timing. So, they incorporated a second inlet valve into the piston which was lifted mechanically from its spring-loaded seat by dead stops near BDC to flush the cylinder with fresh air from the crankcase (pictured below left). This air had been drawn in through an inlet port and automatic valve into the crankcase by partial vacuum caused by an up-moving piston on the compression stroke and the exhaust stroke.
Originally, it was planned to use a two-stroke-type stepped piston for "supercharging," and have the crankcase connected with the carburetor to feed it with fuel. But this would have added complexity with doubtful results, because as long as there was more pressure above the piston on the power-stroke than below, a piston valve opening too early would not have been good for anything, because exhausted gas would have entered the crankcase. The idea for using the piston as a charging element in a closed crankcase had been patented in 1878 by German Konrad Angele, and was usually employed in two-stroke glow-head engines, before they became Diesel two-strokes.
The original "Standuhr" design was modified for the Reitwagen (pictured right). Even smaller in capacity with 212cc, the engine (bore 52mm X stroke 100mm) was rated 0.5hp at 600 rpm. To reach sufficient cooling, a fan was mounted on the right-hand side of the crank. It delivered air via a funnel to and around the cylinder.
The last challenge, of course, was the design of a chassis for their “motorcycle." Maybach had no model from German "safety bicycles," as the first Adler, from Frankfurt, was produced in 1886, a full year after the Reitwagen had been built. And as even the English Rover bicycle was only produced in 1885 (which generally is seen as the first "safety" bicycle), it is unlikely Maybach would have known about it.
Besides patents of many countries, Maybach regularly studied the "Scientific American" to be up-to-date on technical developments elsewhere. He found a drawing of the Perreaux steam tricycle (pictured above left) in the November 4, 1882 issue. Inspired by this vehicle, he certainly found reason to change its front-end drive for a more easily adaptable rear-wheel drive, and even with two ratios! The second ratio was called "Schnellgang" (fast gear). Top speed is about 10 mph! In summary, the frame of the Reitwagen reminds one very much of the 1817 Draisine (pictured above right), a wooden bicycle without pedals. But, Maybach drew a frame that is best described as a double loop wooden chassis.
Even if the Reitwagen was patented by Daimler (DRP 36423), Maybach was the man who did the drawings and most of the design work. The original bike, which was ridden by Maybach in November 1885 for the first time (left), was destroyed by a fire in 1903. The replica in the pictures was manufactured after a 1903 reproduction and from surviving original drawings. As beautiful as it looks, its major achievement was proof that an IC engine was adaptable for small vehicles, whatever they might look like in the future.
“Let’s Ride" vintage motorcycle display;
I just got back from “take your daughter to the museum day." Well, it is not an “official" day, and my daughter is not exactly a grade schooler, now being 21 and in college. She decided to get her motorcycle licenses last summer, and after she took the course and got her endorsement, we got her out on her first "vintage" bike. It is a 1981 Yamaha SR250 she bought from a local gentleman. I figured that she would like to see the vintage motorcycle display that is open from now until June 23 at the Washington State Museum in Tacoma. That, and I figured I could use an extra person along for the car pool lane.
“Let’s Ride" showcases Northwest historical themes, like commercial motorcycles and their uses, clubs and their activities, racing, celebrity motorcyclists, and of course vintage bikes! Most of the 30 or so bikes were gathered from local collectors, while the themes and pictures were put together by The Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling. Other displays were complements of celebrity riders like Tammy Sessions, who was one of the first women to compete in professional motorcycle racing in the early 1970s. Most of the bikes come from local collectors and riders, along with memorabilia and pictures from the era the motorcycles represent.
You will see a four horsepower Yale that was used as a messenger and package delivery service bike in Seattle by the company that later became the United Parcel Service (UPS). Other bikes on display include Pope, Pierce Arrow, early Harley-Davidson singles and twins, and a 1906 Indian Camel Back Single in original paint, unrestored condition. The ’06 Indian is one of only two known to exist with original paint!
The History Museum’s own un-restored Indian horizontally apposed inline twin Model O is from 1918! This is also a very rare bike that was donated to the museum, and was kind of the impetus for the Washington State Historical Society to develop this show. There are a lot of very cool bikes here, and great stories to go with them!
This is a fantastic display in what is considered one of the best history museums in the Northwest. Much of the other exhibits represent regional historic industry and conservational nature themes from Washington, Western Canada, and Alaska. The biker show fits right in! The museum is in the historic downtown area of Tacoma, near the Glass Art, and America’s Car museums. For more information click here, and here.
Photos provided by Barry Mercer.
Modern Classics Bike Show enters its third year
The third annual Modern Classics Bike Show, to be staged in Boyertown, Pennsylvania March 2, is bringing the region's motorsports history back to life with rare racing and street motorcycles.
The event, hosted by Martin Motorsports, offers this year greater diversity, rarity, and quality of motorcycles, including a competition group that will feature bikes for roadracing, trials, motocross, drag racing, speedway, flat trackers, and more. Overall emphasis will be on machines of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. However, there will be special examples dating back to the 1930s. such as a 1936 Indian Scout and a 1935 Excelsior. There will be brands from Italy, Japan, Germany, England, Czechoslovakia, and the United States.
All of the bikes in the show will be photographed in a brand new studio built by Martin Motorsports, then published in a book entitled “2013 Modern Classics Yearbook." The permanent studio will also be used to photograph rare and beautiful bikes in the area all year-round.
The show has drawn at least 1,000 people every year since its inception in March 2011. It is held indoors, inside the huge Martin Motorsports showroom, a feat not easily accomplished as the staff must clear out the entire space of new bikes and merchandise in order to turn the building into a museum for the day. Martin Motorsports is not open for regular business during the day of the show.
Martin Motorsports has been in business since 1996 as a family friendly dealership focused on providing quality information, advice, and expertise to motorsports customers and enthusiasts. It has been located in Boyertown since 2007. For more information about the show, click here
Photos provided by Martin Motorsports.
The Spring issue of The Antique Motorcycle has arrived. It cover story is about an original 1914 Emblem, modified to carry four people. The fascinating history of this motorcycle, once owned by Maurice Gale, is fully documented, including period photographs. There are also stories about Yankee and Chesapeake Chapter meets, and about early Class C racing. We all know that antique motorcycling is fun, but the issue delves into the serious and sometimes tedious work that keeps it fun for a club like the AMCA. President Richard Spagnolli dedicates his column to an analysis and recommendations related to the club’s administrative procedures, and a special feature explores the subject of tax management of a national non-profit organizations with local chapters. The Antique Motorcycle is not found on the newsstands. It is a benefit of AMCA membership. To join, click here.
The “vintage Vibe" section of the April issue of IronWorks contains a the Grey Goose, a Bonneville speedster powered by a 1939 Knucklehead that has reconfirmed the old axiom, “If anything can go wrong, it will" . . . especially if it involves Bonneville. Margie Siegal’s Seasoned Citizen feature is about a 1930 Indian Four owned and restored by AMCA Director Rick Najera of San Francisco, California. My Motohistory in Print column is a kind of catalogue of leading national clubs for enthusiasts of various types and brands of antique motorcycles. To subscribe to IronWorks, click here.
The January/February issue of Motorcycle Classics contains a cover story about the 40th anniversarycelebration of Paul Smarts 1972 victory at Imola aboard a Ducati. There are also features about the Velocette Thruxton, the 1977 MV Agusta 850SS, a 1953 BMW R25/2 single, the Kawasaki Z1R-TC (turbo charged), the Mustang, built in Glendale, California from 1946 through 1965, a 1954 NSU Max TT, and the 2013 Cannonball Endurance Ride. Photography is gorgeous, especially the work by Jeff Barger for the article about the NSU single. To subscribe to Motorcycle Classics, click here.
Road Bike is not aimed at Motohistorians, but its April/May issue has stories about the Barber Vintage Festival and a cool 1973 Honda Black Bomber café racer, owned by Canadian Ed Liu. To subscribe, click here.
Retrospective: Year One
By Ed Youngblood
The News & Views section of the Motohistory web site began in July, 2003. There were only two brief stories for the month. July and August were a single posting with only five stories total. One was about the Wheels Through Time Museum, then entering only its second year of operation in its new 40,000 square foot facility in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
I thought postings in the News & Views section would be only sporadic; that there would be months with nothing relevant to report. Boy, was I wrong. September and October were also a single posting, but word count and photo usage more than doubled. Then things exploded. While November and December also appeared as a single posting, it contained 30 stories.
In retrospect, there were several that I am proud of and will repost below. The first, published 10/31/2003, is about Bob Hicks, a revolutionary in the American motorcycle sport who was a major player in introducing motocross to America, and in so doing incurred the wrath of the AMA.
The second, published 12/28/2003, is “Indian’s Trail of Tears," reporting on the collapse of the Gilroy, California company. Interestingly, that story reported rumors that Polaris was interested in the brand a decade ago.
The third, published 12/22/2003, is entitled “Traveling the Restoration Highway," and the last, published 12/20/2003, is “Memories of Vista," which was our first time to bring a guest author into the site.
December of 2003 was a great month. Motohistory had begun to find its voice.
Bob Hicks Returns
Massachusetts native Bob Hicks's career in organized motorcycling began in the late 1940s when he got involved in AMA Class C dirt track racing. He soon gave it up to get married, and did not return to until age 24, when he attended a scrambles race and was hooked. By 1959, scrambling was so popular in New England, conflict had begun to break out between the various organizing clubs, competing for dates on the overcrowded calendar. Thus began Hicks's career as an organizer when he and motorcycle dealer Dick Bettencourt created the New England Sports Committee. To communicate on behalf of the NESC, Hicks started a newsletter, and that turned into Cycle Sport Magazine. As a forum for regional interests, Cycle Sport often identified and spoke out about what New Englanders considered weakness and inefficiencies within the AMA.
As a regional governing body, the NESC became a benchmark organization under Hicks's leadership. By 1967, New England was on the leading edge of the fledgling American motocross movement, drawing crowds of 12,000 or more to tracks like Grafton and Pepperell. This success led to a total break with the AMA when Hicks and others had their memberships suspended for their involvement with Edison Dye's unsactioned, but enormously successful, Inter-Am international motocross series. Ironically, Bob Hicks held a seat on the AMA's board of trustees at the time his membership was suspended, which underscored the absurdity of the AMA's then-punitive style of national leadership.
In the mean time, another Massachusetts native named Al Eames was departing from America's enduro traditions by organizing the Berkshire International Trial, modeled on European rules. In an effort to protect the motorized use of public lands, Hicks, Eames, and others formed the New England Trail Rider Association. As with the NESC before it, NETRA became a benchmark organization, setting the standards for how to protect public lands, negotiate with a growing environmentalist community, and lobby government. Again, to facilitate these tasks, Bob Hicks created a specialized magazine named New England Trail Rider.
But organized motorcycling's political landscape was changing. By 1971 the AMA had an aggressive new leadership that sought and obtained affiliation with the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme, and through FIM affiliation, the AMA took control of international activity in the United States. It bravely took on the organization of the International Six Day Trial in 1973, chose New England as its venue, and hired Al Eames to organize the event. Still persona non grata with the AMA, Bob Hicks was given nothing to do. He recalls, "I could have been a volunteer marshal on the trail, or something like that, but after everything I had done in a leadership capacity, it was just better to step aside."
Hicks continued to edit Cycle Sport until 1978 and New England Trail Rider until 1983. With the sale of New England Trail Rider, he quit motorcycling entirely. He recalls, "I quit cold turkey. I sold my bikes and did not ride for the next 18 years." His publishing interests continued with Messing About in Boats, a magazine for owners and builders of small water craft. He says, "I really enjoy it, and soon we will publish our 500th issue, but it has never grabbed me emotionally like motorcycles."
Hicks's motorcycling hiatus came to an end in 2001 when longtime friend Dave Latham dug out the OSSA that Bob had ridden at the International Six Day Trial in Spain in 1970, and persuaded him to travel to Missouri to participate in the Leroy Winters Memorial Six Day Trial Reunion. I spoke with Bob following that event, and he said, "It was nice to come out and try it again, but it only confirmed that I made the right decision. I don't need to re-involve myself in motorcycling." But perhaps the 2001 ISDTR planted a seed that even Bob did not recognize at the time. As plans emerged to hold the ISDTR in New England on the 30th anniversary of the 48th ISDT – America's first Six Day Trial – Dick Mann and others encouraged Bob to get involved. The event would be hosted by the Pathfinders, a club noted for superb organization, but none in that club was familiar with the traditions and the nuances of the ISDT. Bob, seen here at the event with Dick Mann (center) and Charlie Vincent (right), was recruited to help create the flavor that would make it a truly memorable event.
With over 200 entrants, the anniversary event was enormously successful, bringing tears to the eyes of more than one grizzled competitor who had ridden the 48th ISDT. The Pathfinders and land owner Jim Hoellerich achieved a triumphant reunion, but credit should go as well to Bob Hicks, who has, time and again, over a period of 40 years, helped raise organized motorcycling to higher standards of excellence. Still, Hicks has no intention of putting himself back in full harness, and at the ISDTR banquet he explained to all assembled, "This is my last hurrah. I am done with motorcycle event organizing and I am happy to have the opportunity to go out on a high note like this." Yet, with this swan song he has not abandoned motorcycling entirely, as he did in 1983. He has his beloved old OSSA, and has aligned himself with an informal group of his peers who go trail riding on a casual and non-competitive basis. Hicks says, "This is exactly what a guy my age should be doing. We can leave the racing and the event organizing to the younger people."
Ride on, Bob, and welcome back.
Indian's Trail of Tears
In September, on the eve of the Indian Motorcycle Company's annual dealer convention where it would roll out its 2004 models, the Gilroy, California-based company laid off its employees and closed the doors of its 150,000 square foot factory. This was not the first time that a brand called Indian had failed. At the end of 1953 the original Springfield, Massachusetts-based Indian announced to its dealers that it was going to take a brief "holiday from manufacturing." However, the holiday did not end, and manufacturing never resumed. Rather, the marketing branch of the company, by then under British control, began to sell Royal Enfields with an Indian logo on the gas tank. This ill-conceived venture proved helpful for neither Indian nor Royal Enfield. Grieving the demise of the original Indian Motocycle Company, Cycle Magazine published early in 1954 this sketch of a weeping Indian, a parody of the company's famous Laughing Indian logo.
Since that time, a series of business ventures have tried to exploit the Indian brand and legacy. The trail of tears has included bitsa bikes composed of Velocette engines in Italian frames, minibikes from Taiwan, a controversial entrepreneur whose factory was mysteriously fire-bombed, and no less than two stretchers of the truth who ended up in federal prison. Commenting on the latest collapse of Indian, the company's executive vice president Fran O'Hagan said, "The motor-vehicle industry is not for the faint of heart." Indeed not!
Insiders at Gilroy felt that Indian had a lot going for it and was on the verge of turning the corner. Sales had picked up and new models had begun to receive critical acceptance. O'Hagan said, "The great irony is, the 2004 products finally put Indian where no explanation or apology was necessary to compare Indian to any other brand." Production of 4,500 units were expected in the coming year, but that level of sales fell well short of the revenue needed to service the debt. Things may have been looking better, but not good enough to keep the money men on board. $145 million had been invested in the venture based on a business plan calling for sales of more than 35,000 units by this point in the company's history. Furthermore, with the company poised for 2004 model production, somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 2003 models remained unsold in the retail pipeline. No wonder the investment bankers ran scared.
About the failed venture, motorcycle industry analyst Don Brown said, "They thought that with the Indian name -- and among enthusiasts it is one of the best and most recognizable around -- that they could replicate the nostalgia and demand that Harley-Davidson has created. Just because you have the name doesn't mean you can find the same success." The operative words in Brown's statement are "among enthusiasts," and it was those who feel most fondly toward Indian that were least interested in the latter-day rendition. As some of them less tactfully put it, "Paint and feathers don't an Indian make!" This left the company trying to sell a $20,000+ motorcycle to that small segment of well-heeled would-be Harley buyers who are eccentric enough to want something a little different (albeit still powered by a Harley clone engine).
Within a month of the factory's closing, potential buyers began to consider acquiring the company intact, hopefully for the purpose of continuing to build and market Indians. The first was Bill Melvin, CEO of National Retail Equipment Liquidators Inc. Normally involved in selling off the bones of failed companies, Melvin declared that in this case he wanted the company to keep it going, based on his personal interest in motorcycling and love for Indian. Melvin said, "I want to return the Indian Motorcycle to its top position in the industry. It's time for an American manufacturer to give the public what it deserves: A motorcycle designed with the performance, styling, comfort and technological advances equal to the heritage of this famous brand."
Perhaps a sentiment such as this reveals why men have continued to squander fortunes again and again to resurrect Indian. What Indian really was is not what men like Melvin seem to think it was. In truth, Indian's downward slide began as early as 1914, its sales were surpassed by Harley-Davidson by 1920, and its technology became indisputably second-rate with the introduction of the Knucklehead in 1936. Indian died during the Great Depression, and because the American motorcycle customer had so few choices and such low expectations, we just didn't get around to throwing out the body until 1953. Had government tariffs not kept the American motorcycle market largely a private playground for Harley-Davidson and Indian, the weaker of the two – Indian – would probably have been overwhelmed by superior British and European imports before 1940. I love Indians too, but in making business decisions, we need to avoid confusing facts with nostalgia.
Nevertheless, by early December it was rumored that as many as five qualified buyers were interested in acquiring the Gilroy company, its trademarks, and its assets. The rumor mill claimed that among those potential buyers were Harley-Davidson and Polaris, the parent company of Victory motorcycles. The idea of Polaris buying Indian presents some intriguing possibilities. It is a company with strong finances, good engineering capability, proven marketing, a ready-made dealer network, and its Victory brand has one of the best and brightest CEOs in the motorcycle industry in the person of Mark Blackwell. Furthermore, Victory has struggled to create an identity, and, if handled properly, could solve that problem through Indian branding. Assuming the rumors are true (which is never a safe assumption), I can't imagine why Harley-Davidson would even be at the table, unless it were a purely defensive strategy with a willingness to pour money down a hole precisely for the purpose of keeping the brand out of the hands of a capable company like Polaris.
Perhaps all of this is just wishful thinking stirred up by hopeful Indian dealers, because – aside from the Gilroy workers – they were the people most damaged by the company's collapse. But hope seems to be fading, because on December 23 Indian dealers received a letter advising them that an auction has been scheduled for January 21 to sell the assets piecemeal if a buyer of the company as a whole does not emerge very soon.
I posed the question in September, and I'll state it again, "Should Indian, at long last, be allowed to rest in peace?"
Traveling the Restoration Highway
A little over a year ago, a longtime friend whose hobby is black smithing expressed to me his concern that computers and electronic technology are destroying our cultural foundation by displacing – and ultimately obsoleting -- historical skills, arts, and interests. I disagreed, arguing that the Internet has been a boon to people with special skills and esoteric interests, bringing them together in worldwide communities made up of individuals who would have otherwise never known each other. I argued that our opportunities to share, learn, and preserve old arts and obscure hobbies are greater today than at any previous time in our history, precisely because of the Internet. The theory made sense to me, but, for the life of me, I could not at that moment think of a concrete example.
This coming February 27th, at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America national meet in Eustis, Florida, a three-year motorcycle restoration project called "Project Daytona" will come to fruition. Four individuals from the United States and Scotland will unveil reconstructions of the BSA motorcycles that completed a sensational five-place sweep at the Daytona 200 in 1954. Furthermore, individuals from Canada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and California will gather in Daytona Beach on March 1st to launch a week-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of BSA's greatest Daytona 200 victory. The remarkable aspect of Project Daytona is that the men who have worked most closely on the three-year undertaking will meet each other for the first time.
Newly restored examples of the 1954 BSA works machines will be unveiled by restorers Don Bradley, Bob Birdsall, and Harris Turner, from Florida. Canadian Ken Rosevear, who restored one of the 1954 Daytona bikes several years ago will be present with his machine. Tom McDermott, Bobby Hill, Dick Klamfoth, Ken Eggers, and Gene Thiessen – all men who rode the factory Beezers in 1954 – will come from New York, Ohio, Oregon, and California. And Scottsman Myles Raymond, who has been the chief researcher for the project, will finally shake hands with his colleagues and look them in the eye. He has not yet met any of them, though they have exchanged mountains of data and dozens of photographs via E-mail over the past three years.
Raymond says, "While the Internet doesn't yet allow me to reach across the pond with a spanner, it really has delivered the goods in terms of turning research into actual work - and research has been a very big part of the project so far. It has been a way to let people know about us, bring us together, and in turn collect more information, friends and interested parties. I have an awful lot of friends to meet at Daytona with whom I've built relationships via E-mail."
Born in Edinburgh and now living in Glasgow, Raymond got involved because his interest in motorcycles took a different slant from his fellow enthusiasts in the British Isles. He explains, "I'm an amateur researcher with a keen interest in BSA in the USA. Looking around for this kind of information in the UK yielded little information and even less interest among other enthusiasts. So, using the Internet, I turned my gaze to the US. My involvement in Project Daytona is one of the results."
Ahah, there it is! Just the example I was looking for. This is an important restoration project and historical commemoration that might never have happened without the Interent.
Memories of Vista
In the late 1960s, I traveled with a dirt tracker named Alton Story on an eastern circuit that included Cumberland, Maryland; Hightstown, New Jersey; and Reading, Pennsylvania. We never raced at Vista, Maryland, but we often crossed paths with some of the guys who did. Although Vista may have hosted some AMA-sanctioned races for all I know, for the most part, it was an unsanctioned track with run-what-you-brung rules. I remember an afternoon at Cumberland when Billy Lloyd had in the back of his pickup a 650 Triumph. When you stood next to it you could smell the alcohol. He saw me studying it, and he smiled and said, "That's my Vista bike." That's one reason we didn't go to Vista. We didn't have that kind of equipment. Vista was run by a local black motorcycle club, which hosted a dance after the races. The stories that circulated -- about both the races and the dances -- were just outrageous.
Recently, William Culbertson posted on the Internet BMW Riders list a memory of Vista. I enjoyed it so much, I asked him if I could share it on Motohistory. Here it is.
Some of you old-timers from the Mid-Atlantic area might remember the race track at Vista Park, Maryland, between D.C. and Baltimore. There was a half-mile dirt track there in the 60s and 70s, distinguished in its day by the fact that it was owned and operated by a black motorcycle organization. I was never sure what the organization was called, but I remember names like "Road Kings, " and "Black Knights" embroidered on some riders coveralls.
A friend used to race there and invited me to help in the pit crew. I loved watching the black biker club riders, with their full-dressers, military style hats, and matching, embroidered coveralls. Their bikes were loaded with every conceivable extra, heavily decorated fore and aft, and I haven't seen the like for many years. I was in my twenties at the time, and to my eyes, they out-classed everybody else in the place.
Between flat track races, there were one-on-one behemoth drag races on the straightaways. The crowd gathered close while dresser engines revved, then scattered as riders popped clutches, and loaded Harleys wallowed down the track, throwing red clay in all directions.
To compliment their clean attire and fancy machines, track officials took no guff from anybody. Any. Body. We were all siblings in the greater motorcycling family, but there was a line one did not cross. The last year I attended, I arrived at the gate to be stopped by a huge fellow in a tight-fitting tee shirt. He was toting a Mossberg bolt-action turkey gun, stuffed with Godknowswhat, in a ready position and wearing a bright chrome finished 1911 on his belt. We waited, and very
politely, I might add, while scowling Pagans, flying colors astride their choppers, were escorted out. They were followed by a U-Haul light truck. The outlaws had disregarded the "No Outlaws" sign at the gate, and were discovered unloading their rides from the rent-a-truck. They had crossed the line, figuratively and literally, and it was time for them to leave. They didn't come back.
Beneath the pit house was a bar, with a low ceiling and friendly, if not a little boisterous, patrons. Canned beer only, and "Blue" was the beverage du jour. You walked out of the sultry September afternoon, down a steep, dark flight of stairs to enter the cool basement room. Even I, at 5' 8", had to stoop a little going in. Hanging from a ceiling joist was a hand-painted sign warning, "There will be no dancing ‘The Dirty Dog' in this establishment." It was years before I knew what that meant, but nobody danced the dirty dog.
Aaaah, what a time!.
Dr. Culberson is an Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University, teaching anatomy and phonetics to students training to be speech-language pathologists and audiologists. For more on our author of Vista memories, click here.
Santiago Antonia Panzardi took note of our obsession with Steve McQueen and sent a great candid photo from more than three decades ago.
Mister Youngblood, I really appreciate your web site. Thanks! It seems that this last update has more Steve McQueen in it than usual. Here’s my contribution: I have attached a photo from April of 1979. It is of Steve McQueen, and i believe the woman in the photo is his last wife. The photo was taken in Greeley, California, at the event that eventually became the meet that is currently held in Hanford, California.
Thanks again. Santiago Antonio Panzardi.
Thank you, Santiago, this is a wonderful photo of Steve being an everyday guy, which is what we are told he liked to do best.
Ralf Kruger, our regular correspondent from Germany writes:
Ed, I read about your 10th anniversary of Motohistory. Happy anniversary! Whatever your decisions will be for the future, I will try to support you as long and good as I am able to. To be named in one sentence with Mick Duckworth and David Wright and others makes me proud, and at the same time gives me incentive for writing more about German motorcycles.
Dogde City 300 revival is a very, very good idea, and I am convinced that it will be a great success.
I noted also the feedback about the mystery engine in the 1924 Motobecane (pictured right) in one of my previous stories. It is a Swiss Moser. I double-checked with the owner to make sure. I wonder if it could have also been manufactured under license in England. The search for Motohistory answers never ends.
Thanks, Ralf, you are Motohistory’s most productive and faithful foreign correspondent. You make the web site become something more than just my ramblings.
Bill Murar, the Sears Allstate guru who was previously featured on Motohistory, writes us with very interesting information about a motorcycle I had never heard of:
Hi Ed, a while ago I got a call from someone concerning an old Gilera motorcycle. Thinking it might be from the Sears family of bikes, I had to check it out. It wasn't a Sears and it wasn't like any other Gilera I've ever seen. This one was a Gilera from Argentina.
The story I got from the owner went something like this: The owners future father-in-law worked for Rupp Industries in Mansfield, Ohio, the maker of the Rupp mini-bikes and the Speedway line of motorcycles. The man said that in the early 1970s, Rupp went to a dealer's show in Florida where there were two Gilera bikes on display. One was a street model; one a dirt model. Rupp was looking to expand their line of bikes, and bought both of them to bring back to Ohio for a market analysis. For one reason or another, they decided against getting more involved. So, these two sat around the warehouse for who knows how long.
I ended up getting the bike for $0. The only reason I wanted it was because the owner said it had a valid Ohio title. It did, but it says Speedway, not Gilera. So, I may now own the only Gilera/Speedway in existence in the US, maybe the world. It is in dire need of a restoration, but it is 100% complete and the motor isn't stuck.
Bill, thanks for sending this story and photos. This is indeed a curious motorcycle. I am glad it ended up in your hands for the protection it will receive. It’s an ugly little puppy, but I’m sure it deserves all the love you can give it.
Fellow internet scribe (blogger) Doug Klassen writes:
Hi Ed, just read your latest update. I didn’t realize your site had been around since 2003. Congratulations on your perseverance! This June will mark the ninth anniversary of my blogging efforts. . . and I think “blog" is dumb word just like you do. “Blog" sounds too much like “bog," and bog is what many of them are, so maybe it works after all. I dislike “e-zine" almost as much. Keep it up, you are surely the class of the field when it comes to old bike blogs.
Thanks, Doug, for your kind and supportive words. Readers who want to check out Klassen’s blog, click here.
International motorcycle traveler Bernd Tesch writes:
Best to you, Ed. I’ve known you for only a few years, but I have the wonderful feeling that I have known you for decades. Congratulation on your work, knowledge, and interpretation. What would the world be without enthusiasm like yours.
I have a few wishes for the next 100 years, please: Because the whole world is growing together, please thinl in the WORLD-WAY. The USA is just one of 194 countries, and there is a lot of motohistory in other countries as well, plus different ways of thinking about the same subject. So try to find helpers in France, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere. There are many specialists. You just have to find and activate them.
Another wish: Because there are already readers in many countries, make some more headlines in long articles. This helps everybody to get the quicker overview. And please put a photo of you on the site.
Thanks so much. When we meet, I will offer you a best German beer.
Bye, Bernd Tesch, Expert for Motorcycle-World-Travels 1887-2013.
Bernd, your advice is sound and wise. I am grateful for the excellent international writers who have supported Motohistory over the years, and I am always looking for more. Not too sure about including my own photo. I’ll think about it.
Lynn Isaac, who used to manage the Speed Track Tales and other fine sites in Wales, writes:
Having retired some time ago, I had to take down my web sites due to expense. Speed Track Tales is now managed by Adrian Walls, also from Wales. Also, my site about the largest mainland TT circuit, Eppynt Mountain, is offline. I have taken all the pictures, text, etc. and stored in on disc. I am hoping to find someone who can put that website back together so it will not be lost to History.
Thanks, Lynn. These were excellent sites with tremendous arcives, and I’m sorry you had to take them down. Any Motohistorians who want to learn more or get involved in resurrection of the sites, contact Lynn at email@example.com .