Could the “Traub” be the World’s Rarest Motorcycle!

The one and only TraubThe Traub’s story is unlike that of any other.  Found behind a brick wall in a Chicago apartment building in 1967, the Traub was discovered during the building’s renovation.  To this date, the machines origin remains a mystery.  Its builder, and its history may never be known.  At some point after its discovery, the machine was bought by a Chicago motorcycle shop owner named Torillo Tacchi.  Tacchi owned the machine for over 10 years before selling it to Bud Ekins, actor and stunt double for Steve McQueen, while he was on set for the Blues Brothers Movie in the late 1970.  Ekins later sold the machine to collector and restorer, Richard Morris, who later sold it to Dale.

The one and only TraubDated to 1917, the Traub is entirely unique from any other motorcycle ever produced.  Hand-crafted and well ahead of its time, the machine is an engineering marvel, featuring components and specifications not seen on two-wheeled machine for another 20 years.  The Traub’s engine, which is perhaps the most developed motorcycle engine of the era, features a side-valve configuration and has a displacement of 80 cubic inches.  To give you a glimpse of how advance this size and configuration of engine was, Harley did not release their sidevalve 80″ machine until 1936!  Its name cast into the motor in several places, at first glance, it becomes apparent that the Traub is a true work of art.  Every piece on the machine is hand made, and the only of its kind, from the frame and forks to the gas tank and handlebars to the luggage rack and fenders.

The machine also features a one of a kind 3-speed transmission.  This may arguably be the most advanced piece on the machine.  Back in the early 1900s, over 200 motorcycle manufacturers fought for business in a very competitive market, and by the mid 1920s, only three serious competitors were left — Harley-Davidson, Indian and Excelsior.  Its often wondered why, in such a short period of time, so many companies went out of business.  While there is no definitive answer, we at the museum have an interesting theory.

The one and only Traub at Wheels Through TimeThe first motorcycles were developed to take the “work” out of bicycling, and provide an easy method of transportation.  Some of the earliest machines were built by attaching a low-horsepower motor to a bicycle frame, connecting the drive-line, and adding a gas tank — literally a conversion from bicycle to motorcycle.  This primitive means of transportation would do for a time, but eventually the need for stronger machines became apparent.

As motorcycles continued to develop, so did their engines.  Displacement increased through the development of twin cylinder and four cylinder motorcycles.  Valve configuration and carburetion became more advanced, compression ratio increased, combustion chamber size and shape became an ever-increasingly important factor.  As a result of these developments, engines became more powerful and their capabilities were increased.

The effectiveness of those early machines relied heavily on the motorcycles ability to transfer the power from the engine to the rear wheel, much as it does today.  The earliest motorcycles transmitted this power through a belt drive or chain drive, but were limited in their capabilities due to the fact that they were single speed machines.  As engines became more and more powerful and roads improved, the need for a more effective way to get power to the rear wheel arose.  Taking on this call for action, the few motorcycle companies that had the resources, such as Harley, Indian, and Excelsior were able to develop a transmission, allowing riders to change the gearing of their machines as they rode.  This would prove to be a massive step forward for those that were able to do it.  Other companies were left in the dust, as these companies’ new transmissions allowed for greater speeds and required less work from the machines engine.

The unique one of a kind Traub tansmissionWhen you take a look back at which companies survived and which didn’t, you can see that each of the companies that developed their own transmission made it to the next level.  Those that didn’t dropped off one by one, until only the Big Three (Harley, Indian, and Excelsior) were left.

This bit of history is what makes the Traub so unique in my eyes.  How did this one-of-a-kind person create a one-of-a-kind motorcycle, with a one-of-a-kind transmission, while other companies fell to the wayside left and right due to their inability to do so.  Its truly amazing, and a big part in what makes the Traub the spectacular machine that it is. 

We often say that if you look at every machine in the museum for 3 minutes, you’ll be here for over 17 hours.  I’ll tell you in advance that you’ll need a little more time for this one.  Personally, I could (and have) stared at it for hours!

So next time you’re down this way, be sure ask about the 1917 Traub!  We’ve just made it available in our gift shop do to popular demand but it will only be available for a limited time!

Traub

Traub the World’s Rarest Motorcycle?

A recent internet search for "World’s Rarest Motorcycle" yielded some fascinating results leading to the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC.  WikiAnsweres, a site where knowledge is shared freely in the form of questions and answers, has labeled the museum’s 1917 Traub as the "World’s Rarest Motorbike".

The Worlds Only Traub.....see it at the Wheels Through Time MuseumWheels Through Time is home to what many consider to be the premier collection of Vintage American motorcycles on the planet, containing over 300 of the rarest and most significant two- and three-wheeled American vehicles ever produced.  Located in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the museum was founded by curator, Dale Walksler, as a way to preserve the history of motorized Americana.  A true shrine to our countries motorcycle heritage, the Museum contains a plethora of machines dating back over 100 years to 1903.  From prototypes and production models to boardtrack racers and hillclimbers, Wheels Through Time is a living, breathing museum, as each and every machine in the collection is kept in running condition, and are regularly started for visitors.

Of the hundreds of machines housed at Wheels Through Time, perhaps none are more rare than the 1917 Traub motorcycle on display in the museum’s "One-Of-A-Kind Motorcycles" exhibit.  

The Traub has a unique story — one that has baffled previous owners and vintage motorcycle enthusiasts alike for over 40 years.   Dated to 1917, the Traub is built entirely of its own design and to this date, no documentation on its origin has surfaced.  Found in 1967 behind a brick wall during the renovation of a Chicago apartment building, the Traub fell into the hands of Chicago bicycle shop owner, Torillo Tacchi.  After Tacchi had owned the machine for several years, actor and Hollywood stunt double, Bud Ekins, purchased the machine while on set for the Blues Brothers Movie in the late 1970s.  The Traub was later sold to collector and restorer, Richard Morris, who then sold it to Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1990.  It has been on permanent display in the museum collection ever since.

The intricate but advanced 80 cubic inch side valve engineWhen comparing other top motorcycle makes and models of the era, the Traub has no equal.  Comprised of a sand-cast, hand-built, 80 cubic-inch "sidevalve" engine, the machine has the ability to reach speeds in excess of 85 mph with ease.  This is largely due to the builders development of a unique three-speed transmission — a feat that was only achieved by only a few of the most notable motorcycle companies during that time.   Each and every part and component on the machine is hand-made and unique.  During the early part of the 20th century, there were as many as 200 different motorcycle manufacturers, many of which used common parts found on other makes and models.  What sets the Traub apart from other early "one-of-a-kind" machines is that of all the hundreds of parts that make up the this wonderful motorcycle, none can be found anywhere else in the world.

But perhaps the most interesting part of this cycle’s history is the story, or lack there-of, of its creation.  Numerous public records searches by current owner, Dale Walksler, have yielded no results of a Traub Motorcycle Company ever existing.   In fact, Walksler has been combing through Wheels Through Time’s historical archives for years, and has yet to find even a mention of a Traub motorcycle or company.

"For a machine to have such advanced features, unparalleled by other motorcycles of the same era, is truly outstanding," said Walksler.   "It’s my opinion that The Traub was an attempt at a new breed of motorcycle.  But how on earth could a machine have been produced in such great form, with capabilities that far exceed that of any comparable machine, without the knowledge of the rest of the motorcycle industry during that time."

While the Traub’s story remains a mystery, the search for its origin continues.  "While we may never know why the machine was placed behind that wall, we do hope to one day find out more about its history and the genius that created it," said Walksler.  Until then, the machine’s past will remain unknown, and it will hold its place as perhaps the rarest motorcycle on earth.

The Traub can be seen at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC and on the museum’s website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com.

For more information on the museum, and to plan a visit, check out their website or call (828) 926-6266.

AMCA Youth Contest Winner Ryan Mackey

Right To Left: Carl Olsen, Ryan Mackey, Matt OlsenAs many of you know, our good friend Matt Olsen, the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s Youth Director, put on a Youth Essay Contest in 2008/2009 aiming at getting a younger generation of people involved with the AMCA.  The Grand Prize  — a 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA Bobber Basketcase.  And the catch……the winner would have to build it!

In order to make this project happen, Matt put in months gathering parts for the basketcase.  and by the end of 2008, he managed to gather an entire basketcase motorcycle through donations from countless AMCA members who wanted to help open the club to a more youthful audience.

For the contest, entrants between 18-25 years of age would write an essay, explaining their passion for old motorcycles and why they were the right person to win this great bike.  The project was a huge success with over 90 young, ambitious guys and girls sending in their essays before the deadline.

At the Davenport, Iowa AMCA swap meet and bike show, the winner was announced as none other than 18 year-old Ryan Mackey of Willoughby, Ohio.

The '42 WLD Ryan and I finished during his visit to WTTRyan would be building his basketcase bobber to his own standards, and as part of the contest, he’d work under the supervision and guidance of both Matt and his dad Carl at their shop in Aberdeen, SD.  Over the course of the winter, Ryan spent five weeks with Matt and Carl, and made some serious progress on getting his WLA basketcase ready for the road. 

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Over Ryan’s spring break, he made his way down to Wheels Through Time to take on a very important aspect of the build — the transmission.  When Ryan came down, we knew we’d be working with someone who was excited about antique motorcycles and, I have to say, I was overwhelmed with his passion.

When Ryan got here late Saturday, we toured the museum for a while, then made our way back to the shop to take a look at what we’d be working on over the week.  He was ready to jump right in, and within only a few minutes we already had our hands greasy. 

Ryans dirty transmission -- ready to disassemblyThe next morning, Ryan and I jumped in on starting the rebuild of one of my very rare Harley 45" motors — a 1942 WLD high-performance 750.  This type of motor was similar to Ryan’s motor, which he and Matt Olsen had already built a few months earlier, but with a few different high-performance parts.  By having Ryan do most of the work on it, he’d acquire some great experience in-case he ever needed to work on his own motor in the future. 

Within a few hours, we had the heads and cylinders apart, cleaned up, repainted, and rebuilt.  By the end of day, the cases were split and the crankshaft was disassebled.  After lots of clean-up, they were ready to go back together the next morning.  Ryan took on the build with great interest, and it seemed that he learned quite a bit along the way.  By the end of day 2, we had the motor rebuilt and were ready to move on to the next project.

In his basketcase, Ryan had received a complete transmission, correct for his bike but needing to be rebuilt.  Harley 45" transmissions are an intricate component and must be set up as perfect as possible to run and operate correctly.  After lots of Kroil and WD-40, Ryan had the tranny torn down, and moved on to cleaning.  Thats when we hit our first hiccup.  The transmission had a small crack by the third mount, and would need to be repaired before the rebuild.  The only problem — we only had a few more days to get it done.  Opting not to stretch the build any closer to the deadline, we managed to dig up another transmission case that looked like new.

After clean-up, it took most of the night to get the transmission reassembled, but with great help and great company, we were able to go home that night confident it was a job well done.  We replaced many of the other worn out parts with new ones, and ended up with a transmission that’d be perfect for Ryan’s new bike.

The next day, Ryan helped me rebuild another transmission — the mate to the ’42 WLD motor we’d rebuild a few days earlier.  By mid afternoon, the transmission was done, and we were mounting it into the frame that our painter John had dropped off a few hours earlier. 

While Ryan was here, we also got him running down the road on his first tank shift motorcycle…a 1932 Harley-Davidson VL sidecar.  He picked it up in no-time, and within a few rides, he was on to another foot-clutch, this time with two wheels.  He’s a quick learner.

Having gotten so much done over Ryan’s week-long visit to the museum, I’m already wondering when he’ll be coming back.  Matt and I sure could use the help around the shop.  

Thanks Ryan.  Good Luck in your build, and were looking forward to when you make it back to WTT.

To read more about Ryan, and to follow the AMCA Youth Contest Bike Build visit www.antiquemotorcycle.org

Ryan after riding his first 2-wheel foot-clutch/tank shifter.....way to go Ryan!

WTT’s “MotorCops” Exhibit Extended Through Memorial Day Weekend!

The Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley is proud to annouce that their feature exhibit, "MotorCops — A 100 Year Love Affair Between Police and Motorcycles", has been extended to run through Memorial Day Weekend of 2010. The exhibit, which officially opened in late September 2008, was initially planned to run for only 60-days, has met rave reviews from both museum visitors and industry press alike.

"’MotorCops’ has been a huge success, and its impact has far exceeded our expectations," says museum curator, Dale Walksler. "While it was initially planned for a short run here at the museum, we’ve decided to prolong it as our feature exhibit for another 30 days."

Last year, despite limited hours and openings, the museum saw over 35,000 visitors through its doors.

Featured in the main gallery of the museum’s 38,000 square foot facility, Motorcops tells the story of the long-lasting relationship between law enforcement and the motorcycle. Dating back over one-hundred years to 1908, police forces across the country began using motorcycles to protect and serve. From the rutted, dirt roads of rural America to heavily populated urban cities and towns, the motorcycle became the motorized vehicle of choice, offering greater maneuverability and a reputation for reliability unparalleled by auto manufacturers of the day. From the first official police motorcycle patrol in 1911 to the operation of over 3400 motorcycle law enforcement units today, the rich and colorful history of police and motorcycles remains as strong as ever.

As a result of the exhibits 30-day extension, the museum will be postponing its upcoming "Motoring the Blue Ridge" exhibit, which was initially slated to open on April 30, 2010.  "Extending the ‘MotorCops’ exhibit through the end of May is twofold," says Walksler.  "We’ve had literally hundreds of inquiries about the exhibit’s run this spring, and expect this year to be its biggest yet.  Likewise, postponing our upcoming exhibit celebrating 75 years of the Blue Ridge Parkway until early summer will allow for greater traffic for the Grand Opening. "

"MotorCops" will feature the sites, sounds, and stories of the hundred year affair, presenting countless machines, memorabilia, artwork, and stories from the past century.  Featured in the exhibit will be police machines dating back to the early parts of the 20th century, including a 1909 Pierce, formerly owned by Steve McQueen; a 1926 Excelsior Henderson used by the New Mexico Highway Patrol; and the world’s only remaining 1937 Harley-Davidson UMG New York Police bike, just to name a few.

The exhibit also features hundreds of photographs, memorabilia, and works of art dating back to the earliest days of motorcycle patrol.  Works by renowned Harley-Davidson licensed artist, David Uhl, will be on display, as well as priceless original works such as “Scattergood Sets A Speed Trap”, which was featured as the cover art on the 1924 April issue of American Magazine.  Original uniforms, a collection of patches from forces across the country, and countless stories from the men and women who patrolled the streets on two wheels also grace the exhibit.

For more information on "MotorCops", or the Wheels Through Time Museum’s upcoming Spring and Summer schedule, please visit their website located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com or contact the museum directly at (828) 926-6266.

A Harley-Davidson Family

Skip and Denise Robertson, and their daughter Romi Parsley visit the museum as a family for the first time Just last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a true "Harley-Davidson Family".  It was just afternoon, and although the museum was closed, Matt and I were up-front in the museum rearranging a few displays for our upcoming schedule of spring openings.  Just as we began to wrap things up, a car pulled in and a man and two women got out and made their way up the museum front entrance.  They seemed very excited about visiting, and mentioned that the sole purpose of their trip was to come to the museum, so we graciously obliged in showing them around a bit. 

After our introductions, we talked in depth about the history of Harley-Davidson, and many of the rare machines housed here in the museum.  It was apparent that they were very passionate about the company’s history, and within just a few minutes, I would learn that each of them have played their own part in the history of America’s 107 year-old motorcycle company. 

Skip and Denise Robertson, who currently live in Asheville, North Carolina, had been riding Harley-Davidson’s for almost 40 years.  In fact, each of them were long-time employees of Harley-Davidson, both working at the York, PA plant for a total of over 35 years.  Now an H-D retiree, Skip decided to move to Asheville, to enjoy life in the mountains. 

While they were here, I also met their daughter, Romi Parsley, a current Harley-Davidson employee at the same York plant her father worked at years ago.  Romi has been with the company for some time now, and rides the wheels off of here new H-D.  During her first visit to the museum, she was overwhelmed and simply stated that "anyone who enjoys motorcycling will be amazed at the history housed within these walls." 

Overall, we must have toured the museum for almost three hours and had an absolute blast from start to finish.  It wasn’t until the end that Skip had mentioned he’d visited the Wheels Through Time six times, and each time, he has learned something new.  Summing up his visits in just a few simple words, he exclaimed "You can feel the passion!"

So here’s to meeting new friends.  Skip, Denise, and Romi — it was a pleasure having you in, and I look forward to seeing you back this way again soon.

Best,

Dale

Veterans Visit Free at Wheels Through Time this Weekend!

This coming weekend, the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC will be honoring our nation’s military by paying tribute to those men and women who have served our country, both past and present.  Throughout the entire weekend, the museum will be offering free admission for all military veterans, as well as both active and non-active members of our nation’s armed forces. 

Several times each year, Wheels Through Time proudly recognizes those who have served our great country in various capacities.  These events include numerous free-admission days and weekends throughout the spring, summer, and fall; hosting the annual Haywood County Toy Run on Veterans Day weekend in November; and showcasing its ever-growing Historical Military Motorcycles exhibit during our nation’s birthday on July 4th each year.

Expect to see over a dozen rare military machines at the museum this weekend.  Having just returned from Milwaukee, where it was on loan to the Harley-Davidson museum for their month-long "Harley’s and Hollywood" exhibit, the museum’s 1917 Harley-Davidson messenger pigeon carrier will be on display, and will be fired-up for visitors regularly.  The "Pigeon Carrier" is the world’s only known example and carries with it a unique story dating back to the earliest forms of "wireless communication".  Decades after its role of providing a means of communication from the front lines of battle to safety behind American lines, the "Pigeon Carrier" was later used in "The Spirit of St. Louis", the 1957 Oscar-nominated movie starring Jimmie Stewart as Charles Lindberg.  Subsequently owned by the late actor, Steve McQueen, the WWI-era machine was bought in the 1980s by museum curator, Dale Walksler, and has been on display for museum visitors ever since.

Nearly all of the over 300 motorcycles and automobiles housed within the museum are in running and operating condition, and the military machines are no exception.  Running and on display will be machines from both the North-African and European fronts of World War II, as well as the 1918 Harley-Davidson World War I sidecar on which Walksler rode in the 2009 Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, DC.

Wheels Through Time Museum, located at 62 Vintage Lane, across from the Fire Station in Maggie Valley, houses hundreds of rare and significant American motorcycles and automobiles set in a fascinating ambience for visitors of all ages to enjoy.  The museum will be open all weekend from 9a.m.-5p.m., and all veterans and military members will receive free admission.  For more information, visit their website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com, or call (828) 926-6266.

14-time National Champion George Wills

George Wills and me in front of George's National Champion WR and KR 750sJust after Daytona Bike week, a day or two after Matt and I unloaded our finds from the Antique Motorcycle swap meet at Eustis, FL, I got a call from my good friend, and 14-time National Dirt Track Champion, George Wills.  He was in the area on his way back from Daytona, and let me know he’d be stopping by.

I’ve known George for decades, and over the years he and I have developed a great friendship.  Since George is from Manhattan, IL, he and I grew up knowing many of the same acquaintances, and were both inspired to get into old bikes by many of the same people. 

George has been racing for a long-time.  In the late 70s, he raced professionally, battling some of the best racers in the world on the AMA Grand National Dirt-Track Circuit.  But when he and his wife had twins, he decided to put racing on the back-burner to raise a family.  So that was the end of his racing days……for a while.

During his years of "retirement" from the dirt tracks, Wills managed to buy an old Harley racer — a 1948 WR 750 — off a famous Harley dealer named Harry Molenaar from Hammond, Indiana.  Having a passion for all motorcycles, George got the old WR running in tip-top shape and stored the machine at his home for years.  Then one day, he decided to take it out on the dirt-tracks just for fun.  It was a decision he wouldn’t regret. 

These tanks are original paint from Molenaar HD, of course with a few updates!Over the next decade, George would emerge as the premier vintage 1/2-miler in the country, and to date, has captured 14-consecutive National Championships on his WR-750…..the same one he bought from Harry over 20 years ago.  He’s the man to beat at both the Davenport, IA Races in September,  and the Wauseon, OH races in July, as well as just about any other dirt track in the country.

Since George’s return to racing, I’ve been proud to be one of his sponsors.  He’s a first-class individual, who holds a passion for racing unparalleled by any of his competitors.  Over the years, I’ve done my best to help with parts and expenses, and am honored to call him my friend. 

When George came by the museum, we had a great time reminiscing, and must have spent hours roaming through all of the WR and KR racing parts in the restoration shop.  He even pulled out his three race bikes, and cranked them up so Matt and I could hear the sound of a National Championship motor.  Man, did those things run! 

So next time you’re in Ohio in July, in Iowa in September, or anywhere else they’re holding vintage dirt track racing events, be sure to keep your eye on the #1 plate.  Watching him ride will truly make you think twice about what these old machines are capable of, and the capabilities of a great guy that puts his mind into something he loves.

George in mid-slide at Savannah 1/2 mile

VL Mode

Wow, have we been busy.  Over the past several months, we’ve really been working hard back in the WTT restoration shop.  Early mornings and late nights have been the norm, and over the first two months of 2010, I’ve already finished three motorcycles that’ll be on display at the museum this 2010.  Its been a productive winter so far, and both Matt and I, as well as John the Painter have made some serious progress on the many projects that are currently ongoing. 

I have to say, I’ve been in VL mode for the past several months.   It all started last year, when my good friend Brian Haenlien and I got the Land Speed Racing bug and decided to build up a hot-rod VL for the speed trials.  The bike did fantastic, and reached a top speed of 101 mph (and we think she still had more).    Thats not to bad for a 75-80 year old flathead. 

The history of the Harley-Davidson VL is an interesting story.  Coming out of the primitive Intake-over-exhaust (IOE) Model-J engine design,  Harley-Davidson needed a new style of Big Twin to rival the success of the 74-inch Indian Chiefs.  For the new 1930 model year, Harley would introduce the new V-model, which they hoped would take them above and beyond their Springfield, Mass rival.  A 74-inch four cam design, the VL offered power and style above and beyond the primitive J-models (all except for the JDH two cam).  However, its success wouldn’t bring the Milwaukee motorcycle company to the levels which they had hoped.  Several factors, including the V-models still-primitive total loss, non-recirculating oil system, kept the V-model from eclipsing Indians success.  The fact that our country was barely surviving the Great Depression also contributed to limited sales of the V-model.  In total, the V-series was only produced for six short years — one of the shortest model runs in H-D’s history.

But despite the V-models brief and "under-developed" history, these machines spark my interest for several reasons.  Firstly, they are beautiful, stylistic machines that echo both the flair and grace of the art-deco era.  And secondly, they are rare.  These machines were produced in limited numbers due to nationwide economic  dispair, and as a result, few still exist today.

Back in the shop, Matt, John the Painter, and I are working 5 different VL motorcycles.  Having seen the success of our VL at the Maxton land speed trials, we decided to build up an identical motor to put into a road model.  VL’s were known for their smoothness, but not for their power.  Such a machine would be doing well to run 85 miles per hour…this one we expect to run 100!

We’re also working on a twin to that machine, with a slightly less tuned-up engine.  Both of these machines will be almost identical in look, however, one will be nicely restored, and the other, old and dirty but mechanically perfect.

The newest VL project at hand arose just a week ago, during our trip to the Antique Motorcycle Swap Meet in Eustis, FL.  My good friend Greg from Texas, informed me before the meet that he’d be bringing up a load of VL parts to sell.  When the swap meet opened, you can imagine that was the first place I went.  Just as I walked up to Greg’s booth, he rolled out a survivor of an old 1932 VL, missing the engine and transmission.  The bike was original, a little rusty, but pretty sound throughout.  There were even traces of the original paint, a headlight to die for, and old cadmium plated rims ( a rarely exercised option).   After making a deal with Greg, I rolled the machine off, telling him that it’d be done in a week.  So far…..we’re right on schedule!