Heading to Davenport

Well, the date is drawing near for us to head out the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s biggest national meet in Davenport, Iowa.  Commonly referred to as "The Big One", Davenport is one of my favorite places in the entire world.  Where else can you go and see 20,000 people searching acres and acres of everything old motorcycles.  This years meet will combine the swapmeet, Friday night races, field games, banquet, and bike show for a weekend of fun in the sun. 

Over the years, I’ve found a lot of treasures at Davenport, from original paint boardtrack motorcycles to rare and hard to find parts for the many projects going on at the museum.  I’ve always got an eye out for anything interesting.  Last year, we picked up a Knucklehead midget racecar, a prototype Indian "Big Base" racer, and, of course, the Indian 4 Jack Pine sidecar racer.  All three have been big hits at the museum.

This year, we’ve got a busy weekend planned.  Aside from searching through 500 or so vendors for rare bits and pieces, we’ll be participating in a host of other activities.  For the first time, we’ll be doing a tech seminar on Friday on the assembly of a "basket-case" knucklehead.  It all started a few weeks ago when I got a call from an old buddy in Bloomington, IL.  He mentioned that he had acquired from his dad a 1946 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead and was looking to sell it.  But there was one problem.  The bike had been apart for more than 50 years — his dad took it apart in 1954 and never got around to rebuilding it.  Thinking that this would be a great project for a group of old bikers to do on a Friday afternoon, we agreed on a deal and the rest is history.  I’ll be picking the bike up on the way to the meet.  I’ve already gathered a pile of extra parts we might need for the rebuild….just in case.   Its going to be a heck of project.   We’ll be making a video about this "rustoration" for our Time Machine Video Archives and should have it online within the next couple of weeks. 

After the "rustoration", we’ll be competing in the Friday night races on the 1924 Harley-Davidson FH boardtracker.  This one is quite a bit quicker than the Thor I raced at Wauseon, so it ought to be quite a race.  Each year, the Davenport vintage races draw hundreds of racers, competing on everything from Harley 125s to speedway bikes to boardtrackers.  I hope to see you there.

Saturday, Matt and I will be competing in the field games.  He’s kicked my butt at the last two Davenport games, so this time, I’ll be gunning for him.  I’ll be on the new 1936 Knucklehead we just completed and Matt will be on his new ’38.   The field games are one of the best parts of the weekend.  Theres nothing like getting on a couple of old bikes and having fun.  

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the rustoration, the races, field games and all of the other great times that happen at this years Davenport.  If you happen to be attending, be sure to stop by and say hey.


Its Finally Here!!!

1954 Harley-Davidson MotorCop 50th Anniversary Police ServicarA few weeks back, I let you in on one of the rare machines that would be featured in our upcoming MotoCops — a 1954 Harley-Davidson 50th Anniversary Police Servicar.  I came across the bike at the AMCA National Meet in Wauseon, Ohio in late July and new it was something special.  My good friend Hegel Campell found the bike in Wisconsin in rough shape, and after a rigorous 2 year restoration process, he had it finished just in time for Wauseon. 

Keeping in mind our upcoming exhibit, I looked the bike over, admiring each and every one of its unique and rare features.  Hegel has been restoring servicars for sometime now, and is reknowned for his fantastic work.  He’s been collecting parts and accessories for these machines for about 20 years, and each bike he finishes is of the highest quality and made up of countless impossible-to-find parts.  Hegel and I got to talking at the meet, and both decided it would be a great addition to Wheels Through Time and would make a great feature piece for our MotorCops exhibit.  Shortly after, we made a deal and agreed on a delivery date since we had a full load in the trailor on the ride home from the meet.

Well, the day finally came.  Yesterday, Hegel drove down to Maggie Valley from Eastern Kentucky with the servicar ready to run.  My son, Matt, met him at the museum shortly after we closed and got it put into place.  I, unfortunately, was out of town until later that night, so I made the decision to wait until the morning to have a look. 

50th Anniversary Police Servicar -- From the That decision lasted all of about 30 minutes.  I pulled back in the driveway about 11:00p.m. and jumped out of the truck with one thing on my mind — the servicar.  Matt had the garage door open, waiting for me to get back.  I could see it from across the lot.  By the time I got to the door, I was basically running.

I’ve seen a lot of servicars in my time, but never one like this.  Hegel brought together all of his rare parts for this one, from the Motorola Radio to the double headlight mount to the original fire extinguishers mounted on the handlebars and frame.  Tire marker mounted to the windshield, rear wheel driven siren, and a windshield mounted spotlight to top it off.  It even had the genuine Harley-Davidson issued notepad next to the right grip.  What a machine. 

This morning, Hegel and I caught up and continued to talk the bike over for an hour or two.  He even agreed to bring his brother down for the opening of the exhibit.  If you ever need work done on your servicar, he’s your guy. 

Keep an eye out for this machine in the MotorCops exhibit this fall.  The exhibit opens on September 26th and will run through our closing date of November 30th.  Its going to be one heck of an exhibit, filled with countless rare police machines and memorabilia, including one of the world’s best police servicars.

Talk to you soon!


Update: Charlie’s ’36

A while back, I shared with you one of the current projects going on in the Wheels Through Time restoration shop — Charlie’s 1936 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.  When we last spoke, we’d made great progress on Charlie’s ’36, bringing a big pile of rare parts to the beginnings of one of Harley-Davidson’s rarest machines. 

I finished the motor a few months back, and after a 1936 transmission rebuild, we had the pile of parts looking like a real motorcycle.  Motor and transmission were in the frame, clutch and primary chain were assembled, and the tanks and fenders, painted in gold and black, were temporarily bolted on.   Since the last update, the bike has come together to near complete condition.  My friend Myron and I have been working long hours on the machine, finessing each part into perfect placement.

First step after John brought back the fenders and tanks was to bolt up both fenders to the chassis.  I had the sheet metal worked on by my friend Larry Medwig who’s quite and expert at making old fenders look brand new, so I knew that mounting them would be no problem.  The rear fender went on without a problem, but when we started to mount the front fender, we ran into our first serious problem of the restoration — the fork stem was bent.  Since this machine has to be perfect, we did a bit of backing up.  We disassembled the front end (which is always tricky when your working with fresh paint) and made the proper adjustments.   After a few minutes, we had it bolted back on and working correctly. 

After mounting both fenders, we made a few more big leaps.  Using new old stock exhaust components, we got the pipes set up, with everything going together perfectly.  I always consider this a big step, even if its just a psychological thing. 

Next was to install the oil lines.   This would normally not have gone so smoothly, but I happened to have a brand new old stock set of ’36 Knucklehead one year only  oil lines….and they went on like a glove.   After we got everything sealed up, it was time to test my motor and transmission work — fill it up with oil and see if it leaks.  Its been full for about a week now, and hasn’t leaked a drop. 

With all of the main assemblies put together, Myron and I jumped in on many of the little tasks that must be done before a bike is finished — speedometer, amp guage, oil switch, taillight, shifter linkage.  We even got the front and rear brake dialed in so I can take her for a ride right when its finished.  Myron took care of the horn, which is quite a tedious job, and managed to fit up the footboards without me noticing. 

I think after one or two more good sessions in the shop, this bike will running with the best of them.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress and will let you know how it rides when its finished.


Charlie's 1936 Knucklehead....Almost Finished

My Friend Louis Gerencer

What a day at the museum.   We started off to a busy morning with visitors coming in from all over the country, many of which were first time visitors.  I jumped in with a group of about ten folks from Michigan, showing them many of the highlights of the collection, and of course starting a few of my favorite machines every time I got the chance. 

As we rounded the corner by the board track racers, I got quite a surprise.  Who was it….none other than my old buddy Louis Gerencer.  Louis was a Harley-Davidson dealer in Elkhart, Indiana for many many years and has been around the block a time or two.  He spent countless years conquering the hills in hundreds of hillclimbs around the country, and was quite the drag racer as well.  I’ve even got a picture or two of Louis on a few of his hillclimbers going "over the top" on one wheel.  Amazing.

Louis and I have been friends for years and years, and this was the first time we’d seen each other in at least a decade.  He immediately hopped in on the tour, interjecting his comments, memories and experiences to everyone’s delight.  We toured around the hillclimb exhibit at the museum for what could have been hours or just a few minutes (I’ll never know), sharing stories about early racers and several of the machines housed at the museum.  Its just so happened that Louis knew almost every bike on the hill, and the racers that rode them to years of success. 

We even got a couple of bikes out to ride.   I pulled out the old 1920 W-Model sport solo, Harley’s first opposed cylinder deviation from the famous V-twin.  Louis hopped right on and rode the bike around the parking lot for a couple of minutes, taking to the machine like he had just ridden it yesterday.  I fired up the ’47 Knuck that Matt, Myron, and I just finished and did a few burnouts for our visitors.  All in all, it was a fantastic day.  Its folks like Louis who got me into motorcycles, and having the chance to catch up with him after so many years was quite a thrill. 

So next time you’re at the museum, keep an eye out.  You never know who’s going to stop in for a visit!


Harley-Davidson Artifacts

Here at the museum, we’ve got an ever-growing collection of rare artifacts from the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.  Over the past forty years, I’ve come across some of the most interesting peices and continue to search far and wide for historical memorabilia from the early days of American motorcycling.  From photos, to old oil cans, to factory literature and promotional materials, I’m always keeping an eye out for great pieces that will add to the overall experience at Wheels Through Time. 

One of my favorite peices in the museum sits right in the showcase in the museum’s front foyer.  Its a roladex of paint chips from the Harley factory.  Now before I get to in depth, I’ll share a bit of history as to Harley-Davidson paintwork. 

Back in the early days, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle was known as the "Silent Grey Fellow".  This name was given, I believe, for two reasons.  First, the "silent":  Harley-Davidson motorcycles were renowned for their quite nature.  The machines featured single cylinder motor, with an "atmospheric" combustion chamber — the intake valve was opened via a pushrod, and the exhaust was opened via suction.  This proved to be a somewhat docile motor, and was quieter than the side-valve or "I over E" design used by countless other companies.  These machines were also equipped with an exhaust cutout, which would allow the rider to close the exhaust for quite running.  "Why?" you ask.  Because it was the polite thing to do.  Many folks back then still used horses as their means of transporation, and such a cut-out would allow motorcyclists to pass without spoking the horses.  A little known fact, but indeed true.  As for the "Grey" in Silent Grey Fellow — you guessed it….they were Grey.  Actually from 1906 through 1915, the only colors that Harley offered were Grey and….Grey. 

In 1916, Harley-Davidson changed it up.  Optioning out of the "old-style" Grey Fellow paint scheme, the H-D Motor Company went a new route, painting each of their machines, from factory racers to road models, green.  It wasn’t until 1932, that the tides would change again. 

1932 brought new light into the eyes of Harley-Davidson customers.  Although the well-known green from the past 15 or so years was still an option, the Motor Company introduced color options for their new models, and by 1933, the old green was a thing of the past.  Offering colors such as Mandarin Red, Sunshine Blue, and Orlando Orange, the company began to let customers "individualize" their machines with different colors.  And by 1936, the motor company was encouraging dealers to have their customers order custom colors. 

The paint roladex at the museum is made up of just that — custom colors and color schemes from the Harley-Davidson Motor Companies Juneau Avenue Paint Department from the 1930s and 40s.  Incredible stuff.  Theres at least 25 or 30 different color combos, showing the primary color, secondary color, and different stripe options.  And these are no ordinary paint schemes — orange, red and silver;  Green, red and gold; Yellow orange and green.  We’re actually doing a 1936 H-D Knucklehead with one of the custom colors right now — Gold and Black with a red stripe — and its almost finished.  I’ll be sure to post a picture when its done. 

So next time you’re visiting the museum, be sure to check out the Custom Color Roladex in the big showcase up front.  Its quite a piece of history, and it still gets used to this day.

— Dale