What a weekend.
Last Wednesday, Matt, Myron and I headed up to one of my favorite events of the season — the Antique Motorcycle Club of America Annual Swap Meet in Oley, PA. Each year, Oley is a "must do" event, as countless old relics surface from years of neglect and are brought to the Oley Community Fairgounds for their first public appearances in decades. Hundreds of vendors gather to buy and sell parts, motorcycles and memorabilia, and share stories from their hunts and finds. I don’t know what it is about Oley that brings these machines out of the woodwork, but nonetheless, every year during the last weekend of April, the little Pennsylvania town glows with vintage iron.
This year’s Oley Swap Meet would be no different, and in fact, would be a bit different from years past, as the forecast read warm and sunny all weekend. As we headed out of Maggie Valley that Wednesday, we could all feel the excitement growing, each of us wondering what parts we’d find and if any "new" old motorcycles would be heading back to the mountains with us in the big black 40′ fifth-wheel. We drove straight through the night, and rolled into the fairgrounds just before the light of day.
Thursday morning, the action started early. Hundreds of vendors made their way to their spots and began setting up for what we all hoped would be a great weekend. Although we didn’t bring any parts to sell, Matt and I quickly began unloading a few bikes we brought to cruise the grounds in our search for parts. I brought one of my newest builds, the 1936 VEL, and of course the old ’51 servicar, which is perfect for hauling around both parts and people. Matt brought the old "tiger-striped" 1935 Indian, once owned by Indian dealer Herm Levine, and bought exactly one year earlier at the 2008 Oley meet. Folks were mighty glad to see this one up and about, as Herm’s Indian dealership was just 20 miles down the road from Oley in Easton, PA. The little 1930 Harley DLD 45" that we ran at the Maxton Land Speed Races was also a big hit, and fit right in with this year’s flathead Harley theme.
After jumping from vendor to vender for just a few minutes, I knew that this year was going to bring out some great stuff. It wasn’t long before I found my first big find — a set beautiful pair of one year only heads for a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. The games had begun, and in no-time, I found myself right in the middle.
Matt’s getting a pretty keen eye for the old parts, as well. On Thursday night, I headed to the hotel for some rest. Matt had the right idea, and decided to camp out at the fairgrounds — he’ll go all weekend without leaving. The next morning, he called me early and told me he had a something for me. When I showed up at the fairgrounds, he met me with a smile and handed over a big surprise — a genuine OEM 1936 only front brake backing plate….and it was chrome!!! Back at the museum, he and I are building a ’36 Knucklehead with a custom paint job, and are adding plenty of chrome. Now, finding a ’36 front backing plate in any sort of shape is a great find, but a perfect chrome one with brand new break shoes and springs is more than a great find. It was only Friday morning and the meet was already a success.
As Matt and I walked up to the coffee stand, we stumbled across another great piece of history — an early "two-bolt" H-D "45 frame. I’m a huge 45" fan, and I haven’t seen a decent one of these for sale in what seems like years. This frame was perfect for the 1939 WLD project at the museum, and was actually one of the few remaining parts needed to start the build. In no time, Matt had laid down a deposit and was headed back to the trailer to load the frame, leaving me to take care of the rest of the balance. I didn’t mind though, since I’ve been looking for another one of these for years.
Making my way from vendor to vendor on Saturday, I ran into so many friends that I don’t get to see often enough. My friend Wayne Cosentino was up, and fixed me up on some much needed hardware for projects at the museum. My old buddy Gary Slifer from Smaltz Harley-Davidson (who’s been a guest on the Time Machine often) stopped by for a visit, and my good friend Bub Tremontin, an old time Harley dealer from Hope, New Jersey came over to check out the little H-D 45" we ran at Maxton. I felt like we’d done the job right when he cracked a smile as I twisted the throttle. You know, as much as I love motorcycles, I love catching up with old friend even more.
As Saturday wound to a close, vendors began to pack up and get ready for the morning trip home. Just before we started to load, Matt’s buddy, Gary Gardener, popped up at the trailer door. Matt had been providing Gary with exact measurements for reproduction of a very rare early accessory called a Hanson Sportshield. Gary had been working hard to get the project done by Oley, and made it to the meet with several examples of his new product. Everyone looked it over closely, commenting on his craftsmanship and attention to detail.
This thing was perfect…every rivet, screw, and spring. As we all stood and admired Gary’s work, he turned to Matt with a smile and said, "Now, I couldn’t have done this project without you. Within an hour, you were on the phone giving me measurements." He handed the windshield to Matt and said, "Here you go, this is for you!" Matt was pumped.
If you’d like to order one of Gary’s reproduction windshields, just shoot me an email and I’ll put you in touch. He’s a heck of a nice guy, and does some amazing work.
As we loaded up the truck, I said reminisced and said goodbyes to good friends and put another great weekend in the books. It sure was a weekend to remember!