Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Each year, as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, our riding season here in the mountains unfortunately comes to a close. Its during these times that I have an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the year that’s gone by, hopefully with joy, happiness, and thanks.

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, we’re reminded of the great people, places and things that come into our lives and have an opportunity to recognize how those aspects have made us better people. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for….too much to mention in just a few words. The love and support of family, good health, great friends with whom I’m fortunate to share my passion. Its during this time of year that its so important to make the most of what you have and give thanks to those who care.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, from myself and everyone at Wheels Through Time. May the rest of 2009 be a great one, and may 2010 bring you all happiness, love, and joy.

This year has been a great one. The museum is currently bigger and better than ever, with more rare machines than ever. Some of the rarest bikes in the museum have made their way here this year, including the 1929 DAR boardtrack racer, Jack Pine endurance racers, several great dirt-track machines from the earliest days of dirt track history, and last but not least, a 1916 Harley-Davidson Sidecar….that you drive from the sidecar. Most of these machines have already been brought back to running and operating condition, and a few more are on the workbenches as we speak.

We’ve had a lot going on back in the shop this year. We’ve finished a total of 10 new machines for the museum so far this year, and have a few more planned to be finished by year’s end. Currently, I’m working on two Harley-Davidson VLs…one a 1936 hot-rod and the second a 1934 crustoration. They’re both going to be great project. Last year, I asked my friend Brian Haenlien to build a hopped up motor for our land speed racing VL — a task that Brian took with pride. He did such a good job on the motor, that I’ve convinced him to build another one to put in a road bike. We’re pretty excited about the build, and have all the confidence in the world that it’ll do a 100 mph when its done….full fenders and all.

Matt’s been hard at work in the shop on a great project that’s sort of new ground for all of us — building a genuine 1920s-era Harley Cutdown. "What’s a cutdown?" you ask. Its a customized, literally "cut-down" Harley from the early days of motorcycle customization (before choppers, there were bobbers, and before bobbers there were cutdowns). Matts made some serious progress so far. The engine, which came to us as sort of a mystery motor, with parts from different years, and combinations for a fast motor, has already been rebuilt as of last week, and the transmission and clutch will be wrapped up any day now. We found a nice frame in the back of the shop that’ll fit perfect with the project. Its a 1918 or ’19 frame, that needs a bit of straightening. Then the plan is to modify it to lower the engine and shorten the wheel-base. The original style teens and twenties Harleys sit pretty high, and aren’t your most agile bikes, so the plan is to drop it way down, get it closer to the ground, and make it more "race friendly". Matts really excited about this….."Its not too often that you get to chop a teens harley" he says.

We’ll be producing new videos on each of these builds as they progress, and will be posting them, as well as countless other shows about whats going on at the museum and in the shop, in the video section of our website. So stay tuned in….I know that you’re going to like what you see!

Jeff Kunz Wins The 2009 Wheels Through Time Raffle!

This past Saturday, November 14, 2009, thousands gathered at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC for the museum’s seventh annual motorcycle raffle Held during the annual Haywood County Toy Run, put on by the local Blue Ridge Thunder Motorcycle Club, this year’s drawing drew one of the largest crowds since the museum’s opening in 2002. With sunny skies and countless eager toy runners and raffle entrants, the atmosphere was perfect for giving away the beautiful 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead to one lucky winner.

Just before 3:00 p.m., museum curator and founder, Dale Walksler, stepped to the podium to let everyone know the moment had arrived. A random visitor from the crowd was chosen to draw the winning ticket, and as she approached the drum full of tickets, the crowd fell silent.

The winner was Jeff Kunz from St. Louis, MO. Jeff had visited Western North Carolina in early October with a friend. Staying in Maggie Valley, Jeff and his friend decided to rent a few motorcycles from Gryphon Bikes, the local motorcycle rental shop to take in a bit of the mountains. Upon leaving the rental shop, owner Ken Brown, a long time museum friend and supporter, told them about the Wheels Through Time Museum. The two decided to make an afternoon out of it……a choice that Jeff wouldn’t regret.

After a great visit at the museum, Jeff decided to take a chance on the museum’s raffle. After buying one ticket, they went on their way….and the rest is history.

The 2009 Grand Prize was a genuine 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead beautifully restored in the Wheels Through Time Restoration Shop. Held since November of 2002, the WTT Raffle has featured such machines as a 1936 Harley-Davidson VLH, a 1951 H-D custom Panhead, a 1940 Harley Knucklehead and more. Winners have emerged from Massachusetts, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and this year, St. Louis, MO.

As for next year’s raffle, the museum has already completed another 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead to be given away next November. "Although the same year as the 2009 machine, we feel this is one of our best raffle bikes yet," said museum curator Dale Walksler. The bike has many great period and original features, including leather saddlebags, special Hanson Sportshield roll-up windshield, plenty of chrome, and an awesome "period" red and black scalloped paint scheme. To order tickets, visit the museum’s website at www.WheelsThroughTime.com

Good Morning America Segment on Motorcycling the Mountains to Air Sunday, Nov 15, 2009

See the segment on Good Morning America’s website, here!!!

This past Monday, November 9, 2009, Good Morning America weekend anchor, Bill Weir, made his way to the mountains of Western North Carolina to ride the famed "Dragon" aboard the new Indian motorcycle for a 6 minute segment for one of America’s number one morning news and talk shows. Focusing on Western North Carolina as one of the premier motorcycle destinations in the country, the segment will air during Good Morning America’s weekend broadcast on Sunday, November 15.

"The Dragon", a stretch of U.S. Highway 129 from North Carolina to Tennessee which contains over 318 curves in 11 miles, is renowned as one of the area’s premier motorcycling roads and plays host to hundreds of thousands of riders annually.

During the segment, Weir met with several representatives from the new Indian Motorcycle Company, and took a ride on the challenging stretch of Hwy 129 aboard the newest incarnation of America’s first motorcycle brand. Located in Kings Mountain, NC, the Indian Motorcycle Company is the newest of few America motorcycle companies and has been developing the re-emergence of the brand since 2005.

Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, of Maggie Valley, NC was also along for the shoot, to highlight a bit of history on the Indian Motorcycle, and to join the ride aboard one of the museum’s 300+ vintage motorcycles. "It was an honor to play a role in this weeks Good Morning America shoot," said Walksler. "Anything that we can do to bring more tourism to the mountains is a win for everyone, and GMA choosing to highlight motorcycle tourism brings some of our area’s best offerings to one of our largest demographics."

For more information on Good Morning America’s shoot at "The Dragon", visit the museum’s website at www.WheelsThroughTime.com.

(Photo from www.US129Photos.com)

Wheels Through Time To Participate In Good Morning America NC Shoot!

This coming Monday, November 9, 2009, the Wheels Through Time Museum will be participating in a special broadcast with Good Morning America, as the show’s co-host Bill Weir travels to the mountains of Western North Carolina to ride the famed "Tail of the Dragon" aboard the new incarnation of the Indian Motorcycle.

Good Morning America is an Emmy Award winning morning news and talk show produced live from Time Square in New York City by ABC. On the air since 1975, the Good Morning America has become among the top viewed shows in morning television, and features a variety of programming on news, weather, talk, and special-interest stories. Hosted by Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, the two-hour show continues to bring its viewers the newest and most up-to-date information and news from around the globe.

The shows weekend anchor, Bill Weir will be on hand in Western North Carolina to highlight the revival of the Indian Motorcycle Company, one of the first motorcycle/automotive manufacturers in the country. Weir joined ABC news in 2004, and since has travelled the planet to uncover breaking news and global trends. He was among the first reporters on the scene during Hurricane Katrina, and was the lead reporter in ABC’s coverage of the war in Iraq. He’s also anchored numerous space shuttle launches since joining the network. In the U.S., Weir’s reporting usually focuses on innovative ways to solve many of America’s biggest problems.

Weir’s segment for good morning America will showcase the reincarnation of the new Indian Motorcycle Company. As America’s automotive and motorcycle industries continue to struggle and border economic failure, it comes as no surprise that Weir has chosen to cover the resurgence of such an iconic American manufacturer in an industry with such a loyal following.

As America’s first motorcycle company, Indian began producing motorcycles in 1901, and paved the way early on for many other American motorcycle manufacturers to flourish during the earliest part of the 20th century. Once our country’s largest motorcycle producer, the Indian motorcycle company became defunct shortly after World War II. Despite several attempts to revive the company over the next 50 years, the American public would have to wait until 2009 to rejoin the loyal following of the once iconic brand.

The new Indian Motorcycle Company, located in Kings Mountain, North Carolina is the brainchild of the company’s chairman Stephen Julius. After buying the company in 2004, Julius unleashed his plans to bring a high-quality, engineered Indian motorcycle back to the market. The company has poured millions into research and development of these new machines, and promises to provide the American public with a motorcycle that fits their needs.

Julius has a reputation for bringing once famous brands back to their former glory. Managing partner for the private equity firm, Stellican Limited, Julius has also resurrected such brands as the American "Chris-Craft" boats and the Italian yacht company, "Riva". "Great brands, if you do the right things with them, if you manage to fulfill a promise to the brand by creating a beautiful product, then the brand equity will come flooding to the surface very, very quickly," says Julius.

Wheels Through Time will be participating in the broadcast in various capacities. Museum curator, Dale Walksler, will be on hand to provide expert commentary on American motorcycle history related to the Indian company, highlighting both the birth of the company, as well as Indian’s demise in the late 40s and early 50s. Walksler will also be aboard a genuine 1944 Indian Chief motorcycle, to ride the famed "Tail of the Dragon", a stretch of U.S. highway 129 with 318 curves in 11 miles, with Weir. Along with the test ride of the new Indian motorcycle, Weir will also highlight the significance of the "Tail of the Dragon" to state tourism and local economies.

For more information visit the Wheels Through Time Museum website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com. Coverage of the segment will also be posted on Good Morning America’s website, at abcnews.go.com/GMA.

(Photos from www.US129photos.com)

Motorcycle Book Review!

Two New Books that’ll keep you reading, and reading, and reading……..

As a true motorcycle enthusiast, I’m always looking for great new reads about old motorcycles and the people who have ridden, raced, restored and collected them.   Over the past several decades, I’ve read literally hundreds of motorcycle-related  books, each of which have fueled my interests, sparked my motivation, and taught me something new.  As you can guess, I’m a big history fan, and books that look backwards at our two-wheeled history seem to move me the most.

Today, I’d like to tell you about two new books that have just hit the shelves.  Each are outstanding works, highlighting aspects of the old motorcycle world that are often overlooked, forgotten, or never told.  Each are "must reads" for any true motorcycle fan, and I am proud to say that they’re two of the best published motorcycle works that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

The American Motorcycle Girls: 1900 to 1950
by Cristine Sommer Simmons

Cristine Sommer-Simmons is outstanding asset to the history of American motorcycles.  Through her passion to recognize and progress the role of women in the historically male-dominated world of motorcycling, Cris has become not only a recognized figure in the motorcycle industry, but one of the premier motorcycle authors and journalists of her time. 

"The American Motorcycle Girls: 1900-1950" highlights a history that has been overlooked from the very beginnings of our motorcycle heritage:  Women and motorcycles.    A large format, 240-page hardcover, this fantastic book was published in June of 2009.  Covering the first 50 years of the 20th century, "The American Motorcycle Girls" combines hundreds of photographs, first-hand stories, interviews, and commentary by Cris herself in a beautiful layout out that will keep you reading from start to finish.

From the minute I opened my copy in the mail, I knew it was something special (It’s got a great photo of a attractive young woman on a period-modified ’37 Knucklehead!).  Before long, I was immersed in the countless pictures and stories, eagerly flipping pages to see what was next.  From cover to cover, this book will keep you enthralled, and is sure to teach you something you didn’t about women in motorcycling that you didn’t know.

Learn more at The American Motorcycle Girls Official Website

The Vincent in the Barn
By Tom Cotter

I met Tom Cotter about a year ago, and from the first time we spoke, I knew that he was a unique individual.  Tom had written several books that I was familiar with, including "The Hemi in the Barn", a book that highlights great stories about rare and interesting automotive finds.  During his first visit, we had a great time touring the museum and sharing stories of how many of the machines at WTT came to be.

When Tom contacted me about his upcoming book, "The Vincent in the Barn", I was fascinated with the idea.  He mentioned that, similar to "The Hemi in the Barn", his new book would highlight many great stories of rare and significant motorcycle treasures found over the years.  As there are hundreds of great stories housed here at the museum, Tom asked if I would be willing to share a few of those for the book.  I was honored, and told him I would be more than willing to help in any way I could. 

A year later, I received the finished, published work in the mail (autographed by Tom), and immediately began tearing into the package to see this collection of great stories. 

The book is fantastic….a 256-page hardcopy that is an instant classic.  In "The Vincent in the Barn", Tom shares some of the most outstanding stories on great motorcycle finds, the people who found them, and the circumstances under which they were found.  A true cover to cover read, the book is filled with first hand accounts, told by Tom, about many of the rarest motorcycles in existence.  With tales such as "The Race Engine in the Trailer House", "The Hyperterrestrial Hopper", and "Easy Russ, Junky Joe, One-Eye Roy, and the Snoop", this book is sure to peek your interest if you love hearing how barn finds came to be.  Countless stories on uncovering many of the rare machines at Wheels Through Time are highlighted, ranging from hillclimbers and boardtrack racers, to prototypes and production models.   I, myself, still get excited reading Toms translation of machines I found 25, even 30, years ago. 

To get a copy, click here.

So if you’re looking for great reading, maybe a good holiday gift for family or friends, or a way to unwind delve deeper into motorcycle history at its finest, be sure to pick up a copy of Tom Cotters "Vincent in the Barn" and Cris Sommer Simmons "The American Motorcycle Girls: 1900-1950".  These are two reads that you certainly won’t regret, and will cherish over and over for years to come!