Another Oley Weekend is in the Books!!!

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.

A big pile of parts from the AMCA swap meet in Oley, PAThis 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. 

Gary Gardener's Reproduction Hanson Sportshield -- I'm going to put it on my '36 if I can coax it out of Matt!!!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.

The Hanson Sportshield in raised position -- What a great period accesory!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!

The AMCA Oley, PA Swapmeet — April 24-26, 2009!!!

As we’re well into the new year, the time for getting back on two wheels is rapidly approaching.  Here at the museum, we’ve been working hard on several machines to get them back into tip-top shape for the riding season, and have added several more projects to the workbenches in the past few months.  Over the winter, some incredibly rare machines have found their way to Wheels Through Time.  In January, after making cross-country trip to the Las Vegas Auction, I stumbled across and incredibly rare one — possibly the last Harley-Davidson boardtacker ever produced — a 1929/30 H-D overhead-valve 45".  Since I’m a big boardtrack fan, and a huge Harely 45" nut, this one felt like the find of a lifetime.  Then, within the month, two very rare Harley Peashooters came my way via an interesting trade.  Currently, I’ve got 10 machines on the lifts, and my son, Matt, has finished a few machines, and started on a couple of great projects as well.  We’ve been busy….really busy.

You never know what you might find at the Oley, PA Annual Swapmeet!So many times, I’m asked how we come across these rare machines and projects, and how we know what we’re looking for.  And the best answer I can give, is to make your way to any of the major Antique Motorcycle Club of America Swapmeets held each year.  With the swapmeet season starting in late February and early March, thousands of antique motorcycle enthusiasts make their way to Eustis, Florida for the first big AMCA event of the season.  Held during the weekend before Daytona Bike Week, the Eustis Swapmeet brings together a great cross-section of entusiasts of both new and old, each looking for the right parts and piles to get them started for the new year.  This year at Eustis, we found some incredible pieces for projects at the museum, many of which are well underway. 

But don’t worry, just because the first big meet is in the books, you haven’t missed your chance at finding the right parts for your project.  The season’s second meet is fastly approaching, and if you ask any old bike buff, this is the one to hit. 

Held in Oley, Pennsylvania, the AMCA Oley Swapmeet is one of the longest running and most well put together swapmeets in the country.  Put on by the Perkiomen Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, this swapmeet brings out some of the best classic American iron on the planet. This year’s theme is flathead Harleys, which is sure to attract some great ones.

What makes Oley so special?  Well, if you asked a 100 people, you might get 100 different answers.  One reason why I like Oley so much is that, geographically, it is and has been a sort of centerpoint for the motorcycle industry.  Dating back to the earliest days of American motorcycling, countless motorcycle manufacturers were located in the North Eastern United States.  Brands such as Indian, Flying Merkel, Reading Standard, and Pope (to name a few) have based their headquarters and production facilities in this historically rich region, and as you can imagine, held a dominant market position before eventually falling behind the more powerful, larger companies.  During the early days, these manufacturers thrived on a more local and regional customer base, loyal to their machines.  But as time went by, the smaller companies’ shortcomings limited their lasting impact and brand loyalty, and soon they would become just another chapter in motorcycle history.  Or would they?

The 1937 Indian Held during the last weekend in April, the Oley swapmeet plays host to thousands of enthusiasts each looking for their piece of motorcycle history.  Located centrally in the North Eastern U.S., Oley brings some of the rarest and most significant early machines out of the woodwork, and out of their respective page in motorcycle history back into today’s modern world. 

Over the years, I’ve turned up some unbelievable finds at Oley.  From early American boardtrack racers, to hot-rod period bobbers, and rarely seen prototypes and production models, you never know what’ll show up to this meet.  Last year, early Friday morning, I made my way from the coffee pot to a friends booth, and on my way stumbled across a beauty of a bike — a tiger-striped 1937 Indian hot-rod Chief.  The bike had great history, and right from the get go, I knew this one belonged at Wheels Through Time.  Formerly owned by Easton, PA Indian Dealer, Herm Levine, this Indian had changed hands only once since new, and hadn’t run in over 20 years.  I bought the machine on the spot, and haven’t thought twice about my decision.  Heck, after a couple of hours in the shop, we had her up and running, just as she had in her previous life long ago.

I found this 1920 Harley-Davidson W-Sport Model 15 years ago at the Oley, PA AMCA Swapmeet!!!Another of my favorite "Oley finds" was the old 1920 Harley-Davidson flat-opposed W-Model at Wheels Through Time.  About 15 years ago, a couple friends and I ran across this original beauty sitting quietly under an old oak tree.  You see, the W-model is quite an oddball machine for Harley.  Aimed at both the female market and export market, the W-Sport was a small displacement, low compression horizontally opposed twin built by the Motor Company to compete with the various European opposed twins and to provide a lightweight efficient machine for women and younger riders.  Produced from 1919-1921, the "W" didn’t quite take off like expected, and as a result, few remain today.  Event fewer of these are in original condition.  After a few minutes with a screwdriver, some carburetor cleaner, and a couple of wrenches, we had her up and running and cruising around the swapmeet.  Definitely an experience I’ll never forget.

So whether you’re the most seasoned antique motorcycle enthusiast, or just would like to see hundreds, maybe thousands, of these rare pieces of American history in their element, the Oley swapmeet is an experience that’ll last a lifetime. 

We hope to see you there!

The Smoke Out Long Road Ride Coming to Wheels Through Time

Wheels Through Time Special Opening — May 14, 2009
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

For the past several weeks, we’ve been working on a host of special events at the museum for this upcoming season.  Things have progressing nicely with several already scheduled and many more currently in the works.   Here at the museum, we’ve been keeping our thousands of friends and visitors in mind, and have been making strides to provide several opportunities for each and every one of them to visit the museum this year.

The first of these events — The SmokeOut Long Road Stop at Wheels Through Time, will be held on Thursday, May 14, 2009.  We invite everyone to attend, and whether you’re a long time museum supporter, an avid rider or would like to visit American two-wheeled history at its finest for the first time, this is the day to come.  Here’s why. 

For ten years now, The Horse: Backstreet Choppers, one of the most popular publications in the motorcycle industry, has been holding one of the fastest growing motorcycle events in the country — the Smoke Out Rally.  Dedicated to those with the craving for home-built choppers, bobbers, and other creative customs, the Smoke Out Rally brings together a truly unique scene of custom-builders and fans alike to share and compare the lastest surrounding the custom bike scene. Each year, the Smoke Out has grown in size, expanding from a small "bike-builders show" into a nationally renowned event. 

This year’s Smoke Out Rally promises to be one for the ages. In celebration of their 10th Anniversary, the 2009 Smoke Out will consist of two events.  The first event, The Smoke Out -West in Cottonwood, Arizona will be held on May 8-9, 2009 and will bring together some of the coolest customs on the west coast.  The two-day bash will also serve as the launch pad for the 2000-mile ride to the second of the events, The Smoke Out – East in Rockingham, North Carolina.

Perhaps the biggest news pertaining to these two events is what comes in between!  In just four and a half days, hundreds of builders, riders, and fans alike will take part in the ride that links East and West.  Called "The Long Road Ride", the ride will total over 2,000 miles beginning in Cottonwood, AZ and ending in Rockingham, NC and will unite the art of building these machines with the passion to ride.  Everyone is encouraged to participate — all you need to do is register for the ride, and you’ll be set up to make the cross-country run with some of the toughest two-wheelers on the planet. 

The Long Road riders will start their trek on Sunday May 10, and will average about 350-miles each day until reaching their final destination in Rockingham, NC.  With pre-designated stops along the route, riders will have a chance to unwind at night after a hard days ride before picking up and doing it all over again the next day.    That’s where we come in!

As part of The Long Road Ride, both entrants and those riding along for fun will make the their final stop at the Wheels Through Time Museum on May 14, 2009.  Starting the day in Nashville, TN riders will make the 250+ mile ride to Maggie Valley, and are expected to arrive at about 3:30. Edge, the Smoke Out Rally Coordinator, and I have been working out the details for some time now, and we’re both expecting a record turnout. 

The museum will be opening at 10:00a.m. that day, and will be in full operation with tours  bike demonstrations going on all day, and an informal bike show in the parking lot when the Long Road riders arrive.  We are estimating that over 3,000 people will be on hand as the bikes roll in, so be sure to get here early.  We’ll be open all the way up to 10:00 p.m., and are working with Long Road Sponsor, Full Throttle Saloon, on bringing in a band. 

My son, Matt and I, have been working on all sorts of machines, lately, and should have many of them done by then.  In just the past several months, we’ve finished 10 new machines, all of which will be on display during the opening.   

So whether you’re a going to be a first-time museum visitor or have visited numerous time’s in years past, this is the day to visit.  With more customs and classics than you can handle, the Smoke Out Long Road Ride Stop at Wheels Through Time will be an event to remember.

See you there!!!

WTT Sets Land Speed Records At The Maxton Mile

During the April run, hundreds of racers and spectators gathered for the two-day event, and were met with blue skies and perfect temperatures for land speed racing. Competitors from near and far brought their best, fielding new and old machines alike, in order to take a chance at making history.

Formed by two Bonneville Land Speed Record holders, the ECTA was designed to provide an opportunity for east coast racers to compete in speed trials without having to make the several thousand mile trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the world’s mecca for land speed racing. Setting up their venue at an abandoned military air-strip in Maxton, NC, the ECTA’s events attract the fastest competition on the east coast and has certified land speed records in excess of 260mph.

Each machine fielded by the Wheels Through Time race team exceeded 60 years of age, all of which would compete in various vintage classes for their respective records. In total, the team fielded five vintage machines for the speed trials, including the oldest machine to ever run at an ECTA event — a 1930 Harley-Davidson 750c.c. Model D. Prepared and ridden by museum curator and founder, Dale Walksler, the little Harley-Davidson needed to break 85 miles per hour in order to break the record in the Altered Vintage Production Gas class.

"We came here with high hopes," said Walksler before his first record attempt. "The machine was purpose built to run at Maxton, and we’ve done all we can to make sure the 750 [c.c.] Harley is competitive.

Walksler’s first run on the machine came after a two hour starting delay due to ECTA support issues. Shortly after noon on Saturday, Walksler approached the starting line and was flagged off. "The machine ran well," said a disappointed Walksler, "but it fell short of the class record by over 5 miles per hour. We’re going to attempt to make some changes, and give it another shot."

With sights set at riding into the record books, the team changed the machine’s gearing, hoping to add a few more miles per hour to its top speed. Walksler’s second run, would produce less results, as a technical problems caused the machine to jump out of gear just before the trap that records competitors speed. Still confident that their Harley-Davidson could perform better, the team worked on correcting the problem and would leave their fate to a final record attempt the next day.

John Dills, Dale Walksler, Myron Pace, and Matt Walksler, after breaking the Altered Vintage Production 750cc Gas Land Speed RecordAs Sunday morning brought more blue skies and cool air, the team gathered in the pits making last minute adjustments, and set out for the starting line. With their hopes riding on only one run, the team new that the bike would have to perform at its best, and pick up quite a bit of time in order to come away with what they were after. As the starter waived his flag, the machine took off and roar down the 1.9-mile runway with nothing to lose. As it crossed the speed trap, spectators and competitors alike saw the results — a new class record was set at 90.307 mph, over 5 miles per hour faster than the previous record.

"The machine performed flawlessly," said Walksler. "The changes we made were the right ones, and they paid off. This is exactly what we came here to do, and we couldn’t be happier with the results."

Other weekend results set by the Wheels Through Time race team include land speed records in various classes. John Swanson, of Brethren, MI set the Modified Vintage Production 1000c.c. Gas class record on a 1948 Harley-Davidson WR with a speed of 78.783 mph. Mark Hutchinson, from Ft.Wayne, Indiana also recorded successful results in various classes with his 1941 Harley-Davidson ULH. Hutchinson set two records in the Modified Vintage Production 1350c.c. Gas class and later entered the Production/Vintage Production 1350c.c. class and recorded a top speed and new record of 95.176 mph.

For more information and videos on the Wheels Through Time Museum or the ECTA Maxton Land Speed Races, visit the museum’s video website, located at or call the museum at (828) 926-6266.