Pipes for Matt’s 38

Just got back from Gerald Rineharts about an hour ago.  Matt and I drove up to check out the brain behind Rinehart Racing’s latest work.  Last week, we dropped off Matt’s 1938 Knucklehead bobber at Geralds to have the man himself set up a custom exhaust set-up to make the bike really go.  We had a few ideas of where we wanted to go, and decided to let Gerald go ahead and do his magic. 

Matt was excited all week, and when we got to Geralds, I knew he was getting anxious.  As we pulled up his driveway, he came out to greet us and gave us a big wave.  But not your normal wave…..this one had a cast attached to it.  Gerald quickly shared with us just how dangerous a shop can be, and showed us his first set of stitches in 47 years.   When we asked what happened, he turned and said jokingly, "Those pipes are pretty wicked." 

He shared the story of what happened, and reminded us that forming up a set of custom exhaust pipes was no easy task.  We all had a good laugh. 

When we entered the shop, Matts bike was on the table almost finished.  Since Gerald had a bum right hand, he need a bit of help with the final assembly, so Matt and I quickly jumped in helping in any way that we could.  Within 20 minutes, we had everything wrapped up and the job was done.  

Now to see how she runs.  Two kicks to prime and one to go.  And it ran great.  We ran it for a minute or two before loading it up and heading home.  I think everyone, including Gerald, was pretty impressed.

After a few finishing touches, this bike will be ready for the road!!!

Big Al and Haley

What a weekend. Over the past couple of days, theres been so much going on around the museum.  Thousands and thousands of motorycles in the area, here to ride the mountain roads and soak up a bit of good old American two-wheel history.  We had countless new faces at the museum, and got to catch up with many folks returning for a last look or two before the museum relocates.

On of the best parts of the weekend was meeting my new friend’s Big Al and Haley.  I’d received a call a few days earlier from Carolina Cruiserr, informing us that they would be in the area shooting an episode on the Smokey Mountain Motor Classic in Maggie Valley, and would like to stop by the museum to do a segment on Wheels Through Time.  I was honored by their offer and told them we’d have a heck of a time. 

Just before closing on Friday, two motorcycles rolled across the bridge and for some reason, I knew it was the folks from Carolina Cruiser.  At first it looked like a couple of normal guys coming in for a visit, but as they got closer, it was apparent that these were no "normal" guys. 

"Big Al," he said, "and this is Haley."  Wondering who was who, I shook Big Al’s hand and turned to the big 6’3", 240 pound fella next to him.  "Hi, Haley!?!?" ……..laughter. 

Turns out the big fella was Tres,  Big Al’s good buddy and production assistant for Carolina Crusier.   "So who’s Haley?" I asked.   Joking about the hilarity of a 240 pound "Haley", Big all introduced me to the star of Carolina Cruiser, the real Haley — a 3 year old Jack Russell Terrier dressed in full biker get-up.

Big Al and Haley of Carolina CruiserHilarious.  This dog had all the bells and whistles, from the little biker vest, to a hot-rod helmet, to the cool set of goggles, which Big Al appropriately renamed "Doggles".   And this was no ordinary puppy.  She loved it.  And she did tricks, too.  Sit, lie down, high five, ten, roll over.  Big Al would even point a finger at her and yell "Bang"……of course she played dead. 

We all hung around the pavilion for a while, and gathered a few ideas for Saturday’s shoot.  I could already tell it was going to be a lot of fun.  And when it was time for them to go, the dog nearly dressed herself, hopped on the gas tank and was ready to go.  If you’ve never seen a dressed up Jack Russell riding on the tank of a hot-rod Harley with ape hangers, I highly recommend you tune into Carolina Cruiser, or visit their website, located at www.carolinacruiser.tv.  

The next days shoot went off without a hitch.  We had one heck of a time.  Thanks Big Al and Haley for including WTT and we look forward to having you back!

Meet the Hendersons

Here at the museum, we’ve got a broad spectrum of All-American motorcycles ranging from Ace to Yale.  In the early days of American motorcycling, through the late 1910s, as many as 200 American motorcycle manufacturers were in business, provide their best machines for everyday people like you and me.  The Wheels Through Time Collection contains approximately 24 brands of motorcycle, including major manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Excelsior, and several lesser known marques such as Merkel, Flescher Flyer, Wagoner, Elk, and Pierce to name a few.

During my forty plus years of collecting, one early machine stands out amonst its competitors.  The Henderson Four.  The Henderson Company began in 1912, with two brothers putting their heads together to create a motorcycle powered by a unique four-cylinder motor.  Named after the brothers, Henderson would immediately gain fame as powerful, reliable, and sophisticated machines, providing the ability to travel in style with an up-to-date, "modern" machine.  The machines were well capable of long distance travel, and could be fitted with tandem seats and sidecars so the whole family could ride.  

Wheels Through Time's 1913 Henderson 4We’ve got several great Henderson’s at the museum.  A particular favorite of mine is the 1913 Henderson Four.   The bike found Wheels Through Time in an interesting way — starting with a phone call to the museum about a year and a half ago.  A friend of mine had located a 1913 four cylinder motor and had no use for it around his shop.  Imagining the possibilities, we made a quick deal and within a week, the motor was delivered.  Shortly after, I spoke with my friend Mike Smith, who had a perfect chassis available to match the machine.   One thing led to another and within two months, we had embarked on a new restoration project at the museum. 

When all the parts were at the museum, we mocked up the bike to make sure all parts fit correctly.  The motor was in perfect condition, and after it was bolted into the chassis, we strapped on a fuel tank, put in some new spark plugs and tried the impossible.   And what do you know — it ran perfectly.  Now it was time to disassemble, send it out for paint, and start the final restoration process. 

After about a year, the bike began to take shape, and the parts on the table were getting fewer by the minute.  A couple of weeks ago, the assembly was complete, and the bike was ready for the road. 

It rode great.  At thirty miles and hour, the machine performed flawlessly, with smooth power throughout and hardly a vibration on the road.  It now sits in the museum foyer for all to enjoy. 

Among the other Henderson’s at the museum sits one of my favorite machines in the collection — a 1917 Henderson one-of-a-kind special.  The machine was originally built to break a 24-hour endurance record, during which rider Maldwyn Jones crashed the machine about 5 hours in.  The bike laid in a garage for almost eighty years and in mid 1995, I stumbled upon it at a swapmeet.   After a tedious restoration by my good friend Steve Huntzinger, we put on a few test miles and set out to rebreak a cross-country endurance record set in 1917 on a similar model.  The run went perfectly, and the record was broken by a total of 1 day and 7 hours.  Although we had a few advantages, such as paved roads and modern tires, the run was still one for the ages.  We raised $35,000 for Grand National Dirt Track Racing and had a heck of a time along the way!

1917 Henderson One-Of-A-Kind Special

Project Crustoration

Back in January, my pal Buzz Kanter came down from Connecticut for the Crustoration project that you may have read about in American Iron.  The project at hand — how to make a poorly restored 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead look "barn-fresh".  We finished the project up in about 2 and a half days, and the finished product was just what we were AIMing for. 

I just got the final edition of the story yesterday, featured in this months American Iron Magazine.  What a story.  Buzz told the story just as it happened.  From doing a top-end job while the motor was still hot, to Matt "Mudpit" Olsen getting stuck in mud up to the frame, to our kick-start contest with the winner starting the bike 27 times in 1 minute, reading the story made me feel just like I was there…..again.   I got so inspired from the story, last night I finished up building another ’48 Panhead motor by midnight.


For more info on American Iron Magazine , visit AIMag.com.

Matts ’38 Knucklehead Bobber

About a year ago, my son Matt and I decided to jump in on a new project in the shop. Matt had been on board here at the museum for about a year and a half at that time, and had gotten to the point where he needed a bit bigger of a bike than the forty-five I’d built him when he was a kid. After throwing around a few ideas, we decided on building him a Knucklehead bobber. Boy was he excited.

We got to work pretty quickly, assembling a genuine 1938 Harley-Davidson 61" Knucklehead engine, starting with a set of motor cases that I found several months earlier at the AMCA swapmeet in Davenport, IA. There’s nothing like genuine H-D parts, and when you find a set of great cases, its inspiration enough to build a beauty.

After a smooth motor and transmission assembly, we began mocking up the bike, fitting countless parts to ensure a problem-free assembly. We decided to make it a period bobber, exchanging many stock ’38 Harley parts – such as fenders, handlebars, forks, rims, and a few others – for period "hot-rod" parts that the old-timers used to use back in the 30s and 40s.

After about eight months of assembly, the bike was just were we wanted it. John the Painter was quick to spray us a stock 1938 paint scheme on the tanks, and black out pretty much all parts that would have been chrome. After a little bit of simple wiring, hooking up the clutch, and bringing together many of the sub-assemblies, all we had left to do was the pipes.

My good buddy Gerald Rinehart of Rinehart Racing has been a great friend for many years. Gerald has been making exhaust systems for years, ranging from high-performance NASCAR headers to exhaust systems to give your stock Harley a lot more go. After talking to Gerald and our old buddy Legend for a few minutes on which direction to go, we came to the conclusion that a set of custom dual "shotgun" pipes would look great and give the old ’38 all the power it needs. Matt and I are both excited to see what Gerald creates. I’ll be sure to post a few pictures when its done. If you’d like a little more information on Gerald and Rinehart Racing visit his website.

Last night, we tied up a few loose ends, put in a couple quarts of oil and a battery, and decided, "What the heck, we may as well make sure she runs.. Since its Matt’s bike, and he’s been working so hard to get her up and running, it was only fitting that he’d be the one to fire her up for the first time. Flip on the choke, give her two kicks, flip of the choke, turn on the ignition and kick – and guess what – it fired up on the first kick.

U.S. Highway 209

The great smokey mountains have long been known for their scenic beauty and great highways and byways. Combine that with any two-wheeled machine and you’ve got some of the best riding anywhere in the world.

I know that many of you may have ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches from Northern Virginia to Cherokee, NC. And most of you may have heard of the famous Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, boasting 318 curves in 11 miles. But there’s a lesser known ride through the twist and turns of the Smokies that you’ve got to try – U.S. Highway 209 through Hot Springs.

1939 Harley-Davidson WLDDA few weeks back, my son Matt and I jumped on a couple of old bikes for a 3 or 4 hour afternoon ride. Matt hopped on his old Harley forty-five, a bike that I built for him when he was just a kid. Its quite a hot rod and will run with the bigger bikes without a hiccup. I decided to go with a bit bigger of a machine – a 1937 Harley-Davidson 80-inch flathead that I built about ten years ago. Plenty of power and torque for the "hills" around here and a lot of fun in the twists and turns.

With no destination in mind, we scooted down the road a bit and found a nice two-lane road called Highway 209. Almost immediately, we were in unfamiliar territory, following the steep inclines and big sweeping curves to destinations unknown. Enjoying every twist of the throttle, we carried on for what seemed like hours before we saw our first car. Many of the roads in this area are cluttered with traffic, stop signs, and 20 mile an hour speed limits, but not this one. Great views, great riding – I made a mental note to recommend this one as a must do for any of our visitors riding the mountains.

Riding through what seemed like unmolested mountain forest, we made the loop through Hot Springs and onto 70/25 without a stop. Heading back towards Asheville, we kept our pace without a stall. View after view, we saw ourselves in some of the best riding either of us had done in years. We even saw a black bear perched on the side of the road, seemingly observing traffic and having a mid-afternoon snack on twigs and leaves. We almost stopped for a picture but changed our minds, hating the possibility of a nice friendly black bear getting attached to a couple of old Harleys.

As we hit the halfway point, we hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of Asheville for a nice 60 mile cruise back into Maggie Valley. Asheville to Cherokee is my favorite part of the Parkway – high elevations, long-range views – a great way to round out the day. It gets a little chilly up there at that time of day, so if you plan to hit the Parkway after 3:30 or 4:00, be sure to bring a jacket.

Exiting the parkway, we started down the hill back into Maggie, turning off the motors and finding neutral for a nice 5 mile coast right into the museum parking lot. "We’re gonna do that one again," I thought, already making time in my head for the next ride.

So if you’re visiting the mountains of WNC, make sure to look at Hwy 209 through Hot Springs….it might be your best ride yet.


A few months back, my good friend David Uhl, one of the world’s most reknowned artists of the vintage motorcycle genre, contacted me to let me know he’d be doing a new painting as part of his Daytona Commemorative Series.  Excited to hear the news, I asked if he had a subject to base his painting from.  I knew that David focuses his work mostly on Pre-WWII machines, which we have many of here at the museum.  So you can imagine my excitement when he said he hadn’t nailed down an exact idea as to what the painting would be. 

David mentioned that he’d like to do a piece on a past Daytona 200 winner, preferably from the beach race era.  Immediately, I knew we had the piece that he was looking for. 

Babe Tancrede and the 1940 Daytona Beach Race WinnerAbout ten years ago, I found a pile of parts in Maryland, formerly owned by a man named Jack Chester.  We knew that Chester tuned for a number of beach race contestants, but weren’t sure exactly who he tuned for.  In late 2006, we started assembling that pile of parts that I had found years ago.  The pile had all the right parts for a 1939 Harley-Davidson WLDR, tricked out with a ball-bearing factory race motor, the cast aluminum Daytona oil tank, and a set of extremely rare 5 gallon Daytona gas tanks.  As the bike started to come together, we found a major resemblance to a bike in a series of pictures at the museum.  The bike in the picutres was ridden by Babe Tancrede to a 1940 Daytona 200 1st place victory.  Upon close inspection the project at hand appeared to be identical to that of Tancredes winning machine.  After a little more digging, we pulled up records on Jack Chester….and wouldn’t you know it….he tuned for Babe Tancrede.

So I told David about the bike and its story and he was immediatley captivated.  "Send me over some pictures he said."

When he saw photos of the bike, and some great shots of Tancrede and the machine after their victory, he got his inspiration for his new Daytona Commemorative piece.  Within hours, he called me back and we began to organize a photoshoot.  My son, Matt, and his girlfriend Knealie jumped right in on the piece and within a few minutes, they were ready for the shoot, dressed in period attire and all.   

The shoot went very well, and by the end of the day, we got David the shots he needed for the piece.  My imagination was wandering, as I looked forward to seeing what sort of masterpiece he would create. 

Within a couple of weeks, David had completed the piece in amazing detail. He debuted the painting at the Ocean Center in Daytona during bike week, and was met with rave reviews.  Upon receiving the copy David sent over, we were ecstatic.  It was Babe to a tee.

If you’d like to know more about David or his many licensed Harley-Davidson artworks, visit one of his websites, located at www.DavidUhl.com or www.UhlStudios.com.  He is truly a great friend and an amazing human being.  Here’s a shot of the painting!

International Motorcycle Travel Writers Visit WTT

On Wednesday, June 11, 2008 the Wheels Through Time Museum hosted nine of the motorcycle industry’s top international travel writers during their visit to the eastern United States.   The group, comprised of nine award winning writers, made the museum a destination as part of their 11 day trip in search of the top motorcycle destinations in the Eastern U.S. 


The group was led by Bill Kniegge, a motorcycle industry veteran and owner of Blue Strada Tours of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Kniegge discovered Wheels Through Time and Maggie Valley in mid-2002 upon hearing of the museum’s relocation from a small town in Southern Illinois.  Since his first visit, the motorcycle tour operator and American history enthusiast has returned to the museum several times, each visit bringing a new group of friends.  Wednesday’s trip would be no different, as he rode into Maggie Valley with several of the top international motorcycle industry travel writers. 


Comprised of nine writers, each dedicated to sharing with their readers the world’s best motorcycle adventures, the group boasted residents from Croatia, Hungary, Poland, England, Germany and the United States. 


International Motorcycle Travel Writers Visit WTT“Outstanding!” said Daniel Riesen, who made his way to Wheels Through Time after a 5000 mile journey from Budapest, Hungary. “This has been a highlight of our trip to the U.S..  It will be a great feature for our readers.”


Daniele Pugek, of Croatia was equally impressed.  Pugek writes for international publications such as Europes Motorevia and Motorrad, a top industry publication that circulates in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Poland, among other European countries.  “This is going to be one of our best stories yet.  To culminate our trip with a stop at Wheels Through Time is incredible,” he said with a smile.  “Everyone has been fantastic, from the staff’s hospitality to the overall passion that overcomes you when you enter the building.” 


“Having the opportunity to host such a great group of people from all over the world is an extreme honor,” said Dale Walksler, curator and founder of the museum.  “I can’t thank Bill enough for organizing the tour and I am extremely grateful to each of our new friends for taking part.”


For more information on Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, NC visit the museum’s website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com or call (828) 926-6266.

Wheels Through Time Projects 500,000 Visitors!

(Maggie Valley, NC)

For the second year in a row, the Wheels Through Time Museum is projecting record numbers of visitors to the 38,000 square foot Maggie Valley Motorcycle Mecca for the 2008 Summer season. The museum, which houses the premier collection of vintage and antique American motorcycles and automobiles, has chosen Northern Arizona as its new destination and looks forward to opening its doors in mid-2009.


Since the museum’s grand opening in July of 2002, over 320,000 people have flocked to the small Western North Carolina town of Maggie Valley in search of good old-fashioned motorized history.   And this year looks to be no different, with record numbers of visitors are making their way to the Motorcycle Mecca.  Since January 1, 2008, the museum has hosted groups and visitors from 25 countries and all 50 states.   


Wheels Through Time attributes much of this summer’s early success to the announcement of the museum’s plans to relocate out of North Carolina by the beginning of 2009.  After the formal announcement, visitor phone calls began coming in by the hundreds, asking when the museum was closing, and how long they have to visit before it’s too late. 


Jim Quinn and Chuck Cole rode their motorcycles from Omaha, Nebraska with friends to visit the museum before it relocates.  “We heard through the grapevine that it wasn’t going to be here much longer, so we figured we better make it one more time before it’s too late,” said Cole.   Quinn and Cole are both lifetime members at the museum, and have made the trip to Maggie Valley eight times, bringing new friends each visit.  “I’m really looking forward to my next visit….I’ll just have to drive a little further,” said Quinn.  Their visit can be seen on the museum video website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com.


“Visitation so far this year has been fantastic,” says museum curator, Dale Walksler.  This Memorial Day weekend we had one of our best weekends to date, and it only looks to be getting busier.  We have already scheduled more visits and tours for this summer than all of last year.” says Walksler. 


This Thursday, June 5, the museum will host a ride put on by the Tennessee State H.O.G. Rally in Townsend, TN.  Over 1000 motorcyclists from all over the country chose to sign up for the ride and tour of Wheels Through Time.  Event organizer, John Adams, stated, “We’re really going to miss this place once it relocates, which is exactly why more people than ever have turned out for this years ride and tour.”  


The museum expects to host over 150,000 visitors this summer, which would more than double visitation from last year.  “We’ve also made the decision to extend our closing date to November 15, as record numbers of visitors are already planning their second and third trips of the season,” says Walksler.  “We’ve got new machines, new exhibits, and many new faces, and look forward to sharing our passion with everyone who comes to visit.”


Wheels Through Time, located at 62 Vintage Lane in Maggie Valley, NC will be open seven days a week from 10a.m. – 5p.m. through November 15, 2008.  For information, directions, or other inquiries, call the museum at (828) 926-6266. 


Before and After

A while back, we started a cool new project in the shop — a 1935 Harley-Davidson VL bobber.  With the bobber craze thats been going on for the past couple of years, we thought we’d start a unique project that you don’t see everyday.  I little brainstorming and we decided to go with a VL, Harley’s biggest and fastest machine built from 1930-36. 

It all started out as a pile of parts…most of them dirty.  Understanding the immense amount cleaning that would have to be done to make the bike bright and shiny, we decided to build a bike that looks like it has been together forever.  A type of Crustoration you might say.  We’d already done a "crustoration" on my pal Buzz Kanter’s Panhead a few months earlier, which you may have read about in American Iron Magazine or on their website (www.aimag.com), so we were in the perfect mindset.  

As parts started to come together, my son Matt made an interesting observation: we had 2 or 3 over just about every part we looked for.  Hmmm…."build another bike" I thought.  A twin, but this one would be the bright and shiny…fresh paint, a fresh motor, and a pile of brand new parts. 

We made great progress on the "before" bike, completing the build in about 3 weeks.  I even got to take it to Eustis, Florida for the AMCA swapmeet in March. 

Of course, the "after" version has taken a bit longer — countless hours cleaning and fitting parts, lots of paintwork by our friend John the Painter, and many late nights assembling, wiring, and fine-tuning the machine.

We’re almost there, with only a few small procedures left.  After we wire the dash, connect the oil lines, and hook up the front break, we’ll be ready to roll.  Keep an eye on our Time Machine Videos for upcoming shows on the before and after Harley-Davidson VL bobbers.