26 S 509!

Great news here at Wheels Through Time. Yet another rare find has made its way to the museum — A 1926 Harley-Davidson S-model "Peashooter". Please read on…..its a great story.

Dale with the rare 1926 H-D S-model Peashooter Chassis!It all started about a year ago, when we received a call from our good friend David. Dale and Dave have been friends for years, and over the past several decades have bought, sold, traded, and found some extremely rare vintage American motorcycles together. Dave mentioned he was on his way down to Maggie Valley, and that he was bringing something that Dale may be interested in. Calls like this always get Dale’s imagination going, and by the time he was off the phone, I could already see the wheels in his head turning (pun intended).

Dave showed up just a few hours later, and within minutes, the three of us were crawling in and out of his truck bed  looking at rare parts.  "Come back to the trailer," said Dave, with a grin.

As he opened the rear door, we all went silent. Resting leaned up against the wall, was nearly an entire genuine 1926 Harley-Davidson Peashooter chassis. Covered with all its rust and glory, there it was….one of the rarest remaining Harley-Davidson machines on the planet. To this date, less than five are known.

A bit of history….. Emerging out of the early 1920s, Harley-Davidson had secured its position as a dominant force on the board tracks, developing their 1000cc twin-cylinder racers into proven championship-caliber machines. However, over the next few years,  both the safety and popularity of board track racing fell into decline, and by the 1925 season, Harley-Davidson pulled out of factory sponsored racing altogether, and took only to providing quality machines to privateer racers. 

Jim Davis on a 1926 Harley-Davidson But this wouldn’t last long. As the company’s racing victories in years past had a direct positive impact on  their production motorcycle sales, Harley-Davidson executives made the decision to re-enter the racing game by the 1926 season. Just as they had since their entrance into racing in 1914, Harley-Davidson would employ factory sponsored riders with special factory built machines — all in an effort to boost sales in a very competitive market. 

During the same time of the company’s decision to get back into factory racing, the AMA had announced the creation of a new competition class — the 21 cubic inch class. As a result, Harley-Davidson went to the drawing boards, and by August of 1925, they had developed a purpose-built 21 c.i. overhead valve factory racer — the 1926 S.

While it was initially thought that this new smaller displacement class would limit speeds, and thus, take the excitement out of racing, the performance of the ’26 "Peashooter", given its name for the single cylinder engine’s "pop pop" sound, quickly put the doubters to rest.

After Dale saw this incredibly rare model, he and Dave made a deal, and before we knew it, he was on his way. 

This is where the story gets really good. 

The 1926 Harley-Davidson Peashooter found after the Oley, PA swapmeet.  A racing engine in a road chassis?!?When Dale and I pulled the machine into the shop, we were amazed at the bikes originality. A 1-year only racing frame, 1-year only countershaft (connects front and rear chain), original Harley racing handlebars, and the special "Peashooter" Sager fork. We quickly found a front wheel, and within an hour or so, we had it on wheels and rolling around the shop. Searching for serial numbers on the frame, which were only put on factory racing frames, we found a the number "9" in various places on the 85 year old relic, but no clue as to who originally race it.  Knowing there were only a few produced, we came to the conclusion that it was most likely the ninth built.  Such a rare piece really gets your adrenaline pumping, and he and I must have sat for an hour or two, feeling fortunate that it was now in our care. It was a great day.

As this new WTT project came into being, it became obvious that, although we had the most of the parts to complete this build, the most important component was missing — the engine. This would prove to be quite a stumbling point, as only a handful of these machines were ever built, and so few exist today. Finding the chassis for this bike was already a once in a lifetime find….but where were we going to find the correct, 1-year only factory racing engine??? So, the project was put on hold, waiting for yet another once in a lifetime opportunity. 

The Harley-Davidson PeashooterLast week, Dale headed up to the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s annual swap meet and bike show in Oley, PA. Oley is always a great time, and this year, lots of rare machines were out and about during the three day event. While visiting with friends at the WTT booth, Dale was approached by a man who mentioned he’d been to the museum once before. "I knew you looked familiar," said Dale, and before you knew it, they were chatting like old friends.

"I’ve got a couple old bikes," he said. Dale’s eye’s perked up. He handed over a card with his name and phone number and told Dale he hoped to hear from him soon.

On the way back from the swap meet, Dale came across the card while paying for gas at a truck stop. Just as they were getting back on the road, he dialed up the number. The man answered the phone, and after a quick conversation, Dale asked the man where he lived. "Where are you at know?" he said…… "Well that’s just 20 minutes away!"

Dale and Moe took the short detour down Pennsylvania back country roads, and soon after arrived at the house. Neither had seen the machines, nor did they know what type of bikes were there. The man spoke up, "Last time we were down at the museum, I told you one of the serial numbers, and you mentioned it was a racing engine." These were just the words that he and Myron were hoping to hear.

As the man opened his garage door, two little Harley’s sat resting in the corner. On his hands and knees, Dale crouched down to check the serial numbers. "26 S 509!" he said. "I’ve been looking for this one!" 

It turns out that the man had the machine for about 30 years. It hadn’t run in 20. At some point in its lifetime, the engine was pulled from a factory racer, and put into a road-going chassis by someone unknown.  They sat and admired the bike for some time, and by early evening Dale and Moe were on their way.

———-


Dale and Moe arrived back at the museum at six the next morning. I met them at the gate, and just a few minutes later, we were unloading a few finds from the swap meet. That’s when I saw it. "You know what that is, don’t you?"

 I gazed down at the serial number, and looked up with a grin. "That’s the missing link!" The exact engine for the bike.  "Serial number 9!" 

After staring wide-eyed at this rarity for what could’ve been hours or just a few minutes, we added some gas and oil, tightened the spark plug, and kicked it over. By the third kick, the little "peashooter" roared to life, much to the surprise of everyone in attendance.

Now, having Dale as my father, I’ve been fortunate to witness some great finds over my lifetime. This one ranks right near the top. What are the odds of finding the exact engine that came out of such a rare machine? And who else would have the knowledge to know what it was, or the passion to take a chance at chasing down what could’ve been "just another old motorcycle". It makes me proud.

I’ll be sure to keep you all up-to-date on the revival of this awesome machine. We’ve got a long way to go to bring it back to its original glory, but I’ll keep you informed every step of the way.

WTT Expanding Operations in 2010!

Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC is proud to announce new initiatives for  2010.  Maggie Valley’s motorcycle mecca is looking towards its biggest year yet resuming regular, operations through the spring, summer and fall as of May 1.  The museum is expanding its schedule to be open five days per week, Thursday-Monday, from 9a.m.-5p.m.

The Wheels Through Time Museum is expanding operations this 2010!Heralded as the "Smithsonian of Motorcycles", the museum is regarded as one of the world’s premier destinations for motorcycle and transportation history, touted by its visitors as an "American cultural experience". 

Wheels Through Time is known for its dedication to preserving the heritage of American Transportation and its goal to educate its visitors to the history of our country’s two-wheeled achievements.  The museum has entertained over 500,000 visitors since opening its doors in 2002, drawing visitors from all 50 states and 60 countries in 2009 alone.

Since its relocation to Western North Carolina, the museum has flourished as one of the area’s largest and most popular attractions, boosting a sliding tourism economy.  Both the museum and the Town of Maggie Valley understand that Wheels Through Time has not reached its full potential for the area.

"The museum has the ability to bring unprecedented amounts of visitors to the Valley, and with the community and state behind it, we think that 2010 can be one of Maggie Valley’s best years yet," said Maggie Valley Alderman, Scott Pauley. 

Western North Carolina is a magnet for motorcycle tourism.  State recognition of Wheels Through Time as resource will make the area more attractive to one of WNC’s valuable tourism segments  — motorcycle touring.  

As part of its agenda for 2010, Wheels Through Time will participate in the North Carolina Department of Commerce Visit North Carolina Partnership ad program.  The Museum is also working with the Department of Transportation, to attract both potential museum visitors and WNC travelers alike with an expanded sign program.

"The opportunity to partner with North Carolina allows Wheels Through Time to expand its potential audience and continue to provide a much needed impact to the economic well being of Maggie Valley and the state," said museum Advisory Board Chair, Bob White.  "This is very significant  step for the museum and North Carolina as a whole, and we’re proud to continue to fulfill our mission here in Maggie Valley."

Over the past eight years, Wheels Through Time has continued to grow, expanding both the scope of its exhibits and its educational experience.

Part the Museum’s mission for 2010 includes the construction of various new exhibitions and displays, including an exhibit celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway, which stretches 469 miles from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains, is the most visited National Park in the U.S. National Park System, as over 20,000,000 visitors ride and drive the parkway each year. Began in 1935, during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway took over 52-years, with the last portion being completed in 1987. Heralded as one of our country’s most scenic motorways, the Blue Ridge Parkway continues to attract millions to the scenic beauty of the areas over which it extends.

The planned Wheels Through Time exhibit has already generated huge interest from motorcycle industry leaders and press, and is slated to open on June 11, 2010, and run through Memorial Day Weekend of 2011.

"We’re excited to bring together one of our most All-American Roads with one of our country’s best transportation museums. Both provide for a true All-American experience, and we’re proud to share the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway as one of our most treasured and scenic motoring experiences, " said Walksler.

Beginning on May 1, 2010, the museum will be in full operation 5 days a week (Thursday-Monday) through the end of November.  To learn more about the Wheels Through Time Museum, visit their website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com, or call (828) 926-6266.

 

 

Big Mountain Run Just a Month Away!

For the second year in a row, the Big Mountain Run, put on by our good good friends at Cycle Source Magazine and the Limpnickie Lot, is coming back to the hills of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee.  This is without a doubt a run that you don’t want to miss……and here’s why.

Last year, my friend Chris Callen called me up with an idea that he and the guys at the Limpnickie Lot had been tossing around for several months.  The idea was to drop all distractions of everyday life and head to the mountains for a long weekend of riding and relaxation.  What initially started as a small group of friends planning to make their way to our area to have come fun, quickly turned into a much anticipated event for next generation riders, builders, and manufactures.  Just like that, the Big Mountain Run was born.

Aiming to provide an opportunity for the future of custom motorcycling to share in good times and great riding, the Big Mountain Run was developed to be an informal, Gypsy Tour style of event, meeting in Statesville, NC and making a two-day run to their final destination — the Hiawasee Outfitters Campground in Reliance, TN. 

The first Big Mountain Run was a huge success, and countless riders from across the country made their way to the mountains for an unforgettable experience.  The second run, coming up on May 19-23, holds even more promise at becoming one of the most memorable runs of the season.

As their mid-way, overnight stop for the second year in a row, Big Mountain Run riders make their way to Wheels Through Time for an afternoon and evening tour.  Demonstrations of many of the museum’s rarest and most interesting motorcycles are held throughout the day and night, and the WTT pavilion and fire pit stays active until the wee hours of the morning.  Personally, its one of my favorite days of the year, and we’re honored to have them as our guests.  Its not so often that you get to catch up with so many friends that you don’t get to see so often.   I’ve been working on a 1916 Harley-Davidson "Cutdown" for this years run, and although it’ll never be a road-ready machine (no headlight, taillight, horn, or speedo), I’m really looking forward to sharing the roots of custom motorcycles with a group that has made custom motorcycling their lifestyle.

The Run comes through Maggie Valley on May 19th, so don’t forget to mark your calenders. 

Check out the Big Mountain Run 2010 website.

Nine Retrace Family’s Historic Motorcycle Run!

The Creed Kirkpatrick Family came to WTT last week to see an original example of the 1928 JD there famlily used to move from GA to SC in 1933

The Creed Kirkpatrick Family came all the way to WTT to see an original example of a 1928 Harley-Davidson JD, which their family used to move from GA to SC in 1933.

This past week, we had the pleasure of hosting a unique group of family members who were visiting the area to retrace a historic family motorcycle run made over 75 years ago.  Eight family members, including Dolly Bishop, now 88 years old, the eldest daughter of Creed and Virgie Kirkpatrick, who was twelve when she made the journey with her parents, and one friend of the family reenacted the trip March 27th, 2010. 

Several weeks back, Scott Harvey, who organized the 2010 reenactment, contacted me about his family’s 1933 motorcycle adventure.  He was incredibly enthusiastic about his the upcoming run, and had a few questions about what sort of motorcycle his grandfather had used.  Showing me the sole surviving family photograph of the machine, we were able to identify it as a 1928 Harley-Davidson JD. 

When I mentioned that we had two of that exact model on display here at the museum, Scott was thrilled, and decided to add Wheels Through Time to the trip itinerary.  

Just a few weeks later, on their way from Ellijay, GA to Inman, SC (the 180-mile journey which their grandparents made back in 1933) they stopped at the museum for a visit.  We must have spent three hours touring the facility — fittingly finishing up with the pair of 1928 JD’s on display in the "Schaber’s Cycle Shop" exhibit.  They were excited to see a real example of their granfather’s machine, and we even got a few similar J-models cranked up so they could hear the sound so vital to their family history.

Here’s a bit of the Creed Kirkpatrick Family story….

" Rock slides that caused detours before the trip began, soaking rain with dense fog on the third day and one broken motorcycle transmission were not enough to dampen the spirits of eight members of the Creed Kirkpatrick clan and one friend from Maryland as they reenacted the legendary motorcycle run of Creed and Virgie Kirkpatrick that happened in the spring of 1933.  183 miles, from Ellijay, GA to Inman, SC were traveled by Creed and Virgie Kirkpatrick riding on a 1928 Harley Davidson JD motorcycle with a side car.  In the side car were the Kirkpatricks’ five children ranging in age from about 3 to 12 years old.

After trying his hand at farming for a couple years in a hollow ten miles outside of Ellijay, on a farm his friend had won in a poker game, Creed Kirkpatrick headed back to the cotton mills where he found employment as a machinery mechanic once again.  The mill that hired him was probably in Liberty or Inman, SC.  Virgie and

 The Creed Kirkpatrick Family Vehicle in 1933

The Creed Kirkpatrick family vehicle in 1933.  Creed and Vergie, along with their five children moved from Ellijay, GA to
Inman, SC in this 1928 Harley-Davidson JD

the children stayed on the farm until Creed came back for a visit and when he was ready to head back to S.C., the adult children explain, Virgie told Creed  “If you go, we’re all going”.  Hence began their 180 plus mile journey on a motorcycle designed to deliver packages.  Although no one knows how many days the journey took, experts estimate their average speed to be twenty miles per hour given the capabilities of the motorcycle, the load and the terrain.

Creed’s grandson, Scott Harvey, of western Maryland, organized the three day event.  Scott’s father and mother, Joe and Jo Harvey of McMinnville, TN, solidified the facts as they researched old school and census records, collected vintage road maps and determined when and on what roads the Kirkpatrick family probably traveled and the stops they made along the way.

Eight family members, including Dolly Bishop, now 88 years old, the eldest daughter of Creed and Virgie, who was twelve when she made the journey with her parents, and one friend of the family reenacted the trip March 27th, 2010.  They used three motorcycles (two restored BMWs and a newer model Ducati), two cars and a van hauling a motorcycle trailer.  On the trip were two of Creed and Virgie’s daughters, two of their grandchildren, one great granddaughter and a step great grandson.  Two spouses, a friend and one dog completed the entourage.  To see them off in Ellijay was another granddaughter of Creed and Virgie, Laura Hartert, from Gainesville, GA, a grandson, Frank Bishop, still living in Russellville and a grand nephew in law, W.S. Woodward, of Guntersville.  Many other family members were with them in spirit.

A wonderful and very meaningful trip was enjoyed by all as stops were made at various cotton mills and points of interest along the way.  The trip was made more insightful because of the fervent explanations made by Johnny Whitmire, a retired millworker at Liberty Mills and John Messer of Inman Mills background and now a newspaper reporter in Inman, S.C.  

On the third day an invaluable side trip was made to “Wheels Through Time” Motorcycle Museum where the family’s photo was taken standing by an authentic 1928 JD motorcycle.www.wheelsthroughtime.com  After spending the afternoon savoring the sights (and roaring sounds as engines were started) of this exquisite collection of hundreds of beautifully maintained, restored, and displayed American motorcycles, cars and paraphernalia, the Kirkpatrick entourage said their goodbyes.  Everyone left with a richer understanding of their family’s early challenges and a greater appreciation for their family’s character and American life in the thirties.

Scott Harvey is quick to appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm, positive spirit, patience and energy that made the trip such a wonderful success."

 

What a fantastic story.  Thank you Scott, and the entire Creed Kirkpatrick Clan for allowing Wheels Through Time to play a part in reliving your family history.

1928 Indian Altoona OHV 750

The Mighty 1928 Indian Altoona OHV 750

The Mighty Altoona PowerplantAlthough the American board track racing scene was declining fast, manufacturers continued their racing development programs without missing a beat. 

With the development of their new 61 cubic inch "Altoona" motor in 1927, Indian had been the team to beat on the oval wooden tracks in the mid- to late-1920s.  While this new motor initially resembled the production twin, it was in fact entirely different, featuring a "self-aligning ball bearing bottom end", twin oil pumps, and distinctive bronze timing cover.  In its initial time trial, at the Altoona, PA board track, "Curly" Fredricks lapped the wooden oval at a blistering speed of 114 mph.  From that day forward, Indian’s new racing motor would forever be labelled the "Altoona".

By mid 1927, Indian had adapted this special motor to compete in the new, 45 cubic inch class of racing.  While the motor was of smaller displacement, it now featured over-head valve heads and hemispherical combustion chambers which, in turn, increased horsepower. 

Despite initially developing the Altoona motor for track racing, by the 1928 season Indian begun to use the mighty overhead valve 45-inch engines in their special built hillclimb machines.  With the help of factory sponsored riders, Indian would win the 1930 and 1931 National Hillclimb Championships on the "Altoona", and secure their place in hillclimb history.

The 1928 Indian Altoona 45" at Wheels Through Time museum is beautifully restored and kept in running condition.  Found by museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1992 this machine is serial number 30 and is believed to be the last Indian Altoona 45" produced.

Back to "Slant Artists — A Tribute to Hillclimb History"

1921 Harley-Davidson SCA

The 1921 Harley-Davidson SCA --- Serial #1 and the only of its kind

This machine features a twin cylinder 1000cc motor, with the rear cylinder Found in “as raced”condition, this rare single cylinder racer was produced in an effort to limit speeds thus creating a “safer” image of motorcycle racing.

By the late-1910s, the capabilities of both 1000cc twin-cylinder racers and their riders had outgrown the short board tracks on which the sport had developed.  News of injuries and fatal accidents during these, often invovling both riders and spectators spread through the media quickly, and the public outcry against large displacent, thin tire, no brake, racing models forced manufacturers to realize the impact on sales for standard models.

By 1920, the Federation of American Motorcyclists, which was the sanctioning organization of motorcycle racing, announced plans to abandon 1000cc, short-track racing, opting to create a smaller 500cc class to limit speeds and danger.  Manufacturers adapted to these new rules quickly, creating new factory specials to fit into class requirements.

The 1921 SCA is Harley-Davidson’s very first attempt at building a factory 500cc special.  Bearing serial number one, this machine features a “banked-off” twin cylinder motor, where the rear cylinder, piston and connecting rod have been removed.  By removing the rear cylinder, H-D effectively “cut the displacement in half” from 1000 to 500cc.  The 1921 SCA features “inlet-over-exhaust” valve configuration, Harley-Davidson factory special “keystone” racing frame, single-speed countershaft, and no brakes.  The machine, despite its limited displacement, is still capable of speed in excess of 85 mph.

Year’s later, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company would develop all new overhead valve machines for the 500cc and newly created 350cc racing classes.  By 1926, the first “Peashooter” became available to factory team riders, its overhead valve configuration helping to re-shape the sport of two-wheeled board- and dirt-track racing for the next decade

This machine is the only known example of its kind and carries serial number #1. It is a highly important machine in Harley Davidson’s racing timeline.

Back to “America on the Boards”

 

1914 Harley-Davidson “A-Motor” Racer

The 1914 Harley-Davidson

1914 marks the first year the Harley-Davidson Motor Company officially entered the “racing game.”

Limited quantities of racing machines were developed by William Ottaway, who challenged the competition with fast machines and team organization. Venice, California hosted the test bed for Mr. Ottaways effort and by mid 1915 the media expounded on the performance of the “Wrecking Crew.”

Ottaway developed improved valve timing, larger intake ports and carburetor. His engine technology was the foundation for a reliable F lead configuration.

This factory special A Motor racer featured magneto ignition, pedal crash for starting and a rear wheel clutch and riveted long distance fuel tank. It is believed to be the first of only a handful of machine’s built for Harley-Davidson’s racing team for the Dodge City, Kansas 300-mile road race.

This models production numbers are unknown, however, to date only three exist.

Back to “America on the Boards”

Military Motorcycles

Military Machines at Wheels Through Time

Motorcycles have played an important part in both World Wars. They replaced the mounted soldier by 1917. In World War II, Harley Davidson and Indian produced over 100,000 war models. Few have survived. The Wheels Through Time Museum military collection is a tribute to those who fought for our liberty.

The war department relied on American manufacturers to supply large quantities of goods on short order. Harley Davidson and Indian kept pace and delivered the goods. In 1941, a request for an opposed V twin shaft drive model was given to Harley Davidson and Indian. Both companies responded with a reliable finished product in less than one year. Less than 2000 of Harley Davidson XA’s and Indian 841 models were produced.

1942 INDIAN 841
1941 TA
1942 XA DESERT MODEL
1942 WLA


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1909 Reading Standard Twin

The 1909 Reading Standard at WTT is considered the world's most intricate early American racing motorcycle.

Built in the hills of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Reading Standard (1903-1922) maintained the slogan “Tested in the Hills.” Early Reading models were of the side valve configuration under the design of Charles F. Gustafson before he transferred to the Indian brand.

The 1909 Reading Standard after being discovered in 1990 at the Henry Ford MuseumReading Standard entered the racing game in 1907. They developed a series of successful I over E racing motors and sponsored a field of professional riders including Ray Seymour and Frank Hart. In July of 1909, Ray Seymour set a new one-mile record in the Los Angeles Coliseum motor dome, lowering the one-mile record to 47 seconds at 76.6 m.p.h.

This unique “one off” Reading Standard is probably Frank Harts special. It was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in 1940. It remained undiscovered at the Greenfield Village facility in the basement of the home of Henry Ford’s friends, Orville and Wilbert Wright for 50 years.

It was sold to the Wheels Through Time Museum in 1990 and was restored by Steve Huntzinger during 1992 & 1993. It is presently in operating condition and is started and ran occasionally. This 1909 Reading is undoubtedly one of the most elegant early board racer in existence.

Back to “America on the Boards”

One of a Kind Specials

This collection takes the love affair between man and machinery to a new level……the “one off” special. Some were created by the racing department of large manufacturers, others, the creative genius of one man.

The Wheels Through Time Museum will be glorifying these machines in a new special exhibit “Men & their Machines”. Fifteen totally unique machines will be displayed. Volumes of informative materials will enlighten future generations of mans motorized accomplishment. This educational exhibit spans 100 years of our provocative motorized past.

The 1917 Traub -- Found behind a brick wall in 1967
1914 HEDSTROM PROTOTYPE
1914 FLESHER FLYER

The 1913 Indian Hedstrom Prototype is an engineering marvel from the early parts of our motorcycling roots
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The one of a kind 1914 Flescher Flyer
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“Featured Exhibits” — A New Section on the WTT Website

Over the past several years, we’ve made it one of our top priorities to enable past and future museum visitor to have the opportunity to learn about Wheels Through Time right from their own home.  We continue to work hard at providing a unique online experience that you can only find at WheelsThroughTime.com.  From news and blogs to hundreds of videos available on demand at no cost, the Wheels Through Time Museum website is currently bigger and better than ever. 

But this is just the beginning.  Starting this spring, we’ve begun to develop our site to include many of the featured exhibits at Wheels Through Time.  Our goal in taking on this task is to not only show our visitors what’s new at the museum, but to provide you with in-depth information on a wide range of historic and cultural aspects of America Transportation. 

As part of this mission, we have created a new section on WheelsThroughTime.com titled "Featured Exhibits".  This menu can be access on the right hand side of any page, just below the search box.  

Here at the museum, we like to say that Wheels Through Time is a "collection of collections".  Through our new "Featured Exhibits" section we will be providing a deeper glance into several of the museum’s most historical collections.  This new section will showcase many of the over-300 machines that are on display, emphasizing both their historical significance and the broader cultural context of the era from which they came.

A one of a kind Harley-Davidson powered Mining Cart in "Home-Made in America"

One of our most recent featured exhibits is "Home-made in America" — a favorite among WTT visitors and staff alike.  This unique tribute to America ingenuity contains countless machines developed by home-engineers, each designed to make life a little easier….or more fun.

During the early parts of the 20th century, as mainstream America was just being introduced to motorized transportation, many took the newfound success of the internal combustion engine to new levels, incorporating these "highly advanced" powerplants into their everyday lives.  Motorcycle engines were a common choice among these home-inventors — lightweight and relatively easy to maintain, they provided power and reliability, and could be obtained at a affordable cost.  Whether for business or pleasure, these engines were used in a variety of applications that would pave the way for literally hundreds of developments seen over the next 100 years.

Learn more about "Home-made In America" here.

Harley-Davidson Powered Airplane

The one of a kind Harley-Davidson powered Miller Light-planeIn 1927, a young man by the name of Wilson Miller, from Oneida, NY designed this unique experimental mid-wing aircraft to the surprise of Aviator and engineers alike. 

Miller, who had studied airplanes since his was a young child, developed the machine as part of a "Modern Mechanics" LightPlane Contest while attending Oneide High School as a student.  Given 1st prize in the international contest, Miller competed against aviators and designers from the United States and Canada, and was awarded a grand prize of $100 for both the completeness and originality of his designs.

Featuring a twenty-foot wingspan, a fusclage length of 14 feet, and a 50" wing cord, the machine is powered by a 1928 Harley-Davidson twin-cylinder engine, with which Miller replaced the original 1922 engine two years The Miller Light-Plane before transport in 1992after its creation.  Producing 18-20 horsepower, the engine has the ability to propell the machine to top speeds in excess of 75 mph, with cruising speeds in the area of 65 mph.

The machine took over three years for Miller to create, and was built from start to finish in the family garage.  Featuring detachable wings, the machine was easily transportable to airfield in the Oneida area.

Millers design and expertise not only captured the attention of "Modern Mechanics", but of the entire airplane industry in the North-east United States.  Literally dozens of newspaper and magazine articles also document the creation of the Miller Light Plane, and before the machine’s first flight, Miller even invited Col. Charles E. Lindbergh to pass judgement on its merits.

Miller took the light plane for its initial flight during the summer of its completion, in 1927.

Wilson Miller went on to have a successful career in aviation, using his expertise in flying to acquire positions such as Assistant Manager of the Oneida Airfield, Oneida County Air Distributor, Oneida Air Traffic Controller, and head of sales for Ace Monoplane — one of America’s first light-plane producers.

The rare, homebuilt machine was found in original condition by Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1992.  With the plane, Walksler was able to acquire all of the original documentation from its build, including blueprints, newspaper articles, and original pictures.

The Miller Light Plane, in the garage of the parents of Wilson Miller, just after the machines completion in 1927

The Eliason Motor Toboggan

The Eliason Motor Toboggan

"More Thrills Than A
                  Roller Coaster for 
Winter Sports"

Eliason Motor Toboggan production represented 39 years of innovative pioneering effort.  For years, Carl Eliason and Eliason/FWD snowmobiles were the lone lifeline of the snowmobile industry. 

Company records, which are still maintained by the Eliason family , show shipments to over 20 U.S. states, every Canadian province, Argentina, Iceland, Sweden, and Switzerland.  In the early 1940s, even the U.S. Army became interested, and placed an order for 150 all white machines for use in the defense of Alaska. 

The Eliason Snowmobile -- High Speed Mechanized Travel Over Winter TrailsModern snowmobiles are directly traceable to the original, hand-built 1924 Carl Eliason machine.The final "K" series Eliason directly influenced Polaris, which in turn influenced companies such as Arctic Cat, Fax Trac, Tee Nee Trailer, and all rear engine designs that appeared throughtout the early 1960s.  Their motor toboggans blazed the winter track we follow today.

Although Carl never made a profit from his invention, his enjoyment came in later years, as he watched literally hundreds of snowmobilers drive past his office window on a major northwoods trail near his home in Wisconsin.

The Eliason Motor Toboggan in the museum collection is dated to 1943 and designated as the company’s "Model-C". The machine featurers two backrests, 10-gallon fuel capacity, oil tank separately mounted to the engine, and a toolbox behind the second seat, and weighs  approximately 600 pounds.

Carl Eliason died December 26, 1979 at the age of 80.  His funeral procession included many of his friends, fittingly riding their snowmobiles.  Although his invention never brought him monetary success, without Carl and the invention of the motor toboggan, the enitre winter sports industry would never be the same.

Heath Henderson Powered Ice Sled

The one of a kind Heath-Henderson Powered Ice-SledWheels Through Time houses many "one-of-a-kind" dating back to the early 1900s.  While many of these machines help to tell the story of two-wheeled development throughout the 20th century, some were designed for purposes other than life on the open road.

Displayed in the museum’s Home-made America exhibit, the Heath-Henderson powered Ice Sled is a survivor from life in the frozen tundra of the Great Lakes region of the United States.  Discovered in a barn in northern Wisconsin during the late-1970s, the ice sled is of home-built construction and is highly advanced for its time.

Dated to the late 1920s, the Ice-Sled is powered by a Heath-Henderson Model B-4 Airplane engine.   The Model B-4 was an in-line, air-cooled four-cylinder motorcycle engine developed by the Henderson Motorcycle Company from 1912-1931.  In order to convert the engine for airplane use, the Heath Airplane Company modified the lubrication system and valves, and added a deeper lower engine case.  The B-4 primarily powered small and economical Heath Parasol monoplanes, sold by the company in the 1920s and 30s. 

The inline, air-cooled 4-cylinder Heath Henderson Motor which powers the Ice SledThese engines were reliable and produced up to 30 horsepower, which made them well suited for the Heath Airplane design.   They were also available at a low cost, which made the sport of flying affordable for many.

Displayed in original condition, the Heath-Henderson powered Ice Sled features original blue canvas exterior and wooden frame.  The engine has been mounted in the rear of the machine, with two-blade propeller facing backwards.  Three "runners", constructed of wood with a steel blade in the middle (much like ice-skates) provide for a small contact area with the ice, allowing the machine to reach greater speeds with less resistance.  Designed to also be towed behind a car, the machine is also equipped with a trailer hitch in the front, and detachable wheels in the rear.

Although not confirmed, it has been recorded that the machine was used to transport "moonshine" to Michigan’s upper peninsula during Prohibition of the late 1920s and early ’30s.

“The First Jet-Ski”

Resting in the "Home-made in America" exhibit at Wheels Through Time is an oddity dating back to the earliest days of personal motorized watercraft.  While it remains unknown exactly when the first personal watercraft appeared, it is believed that the machine housed at the museum is the earliest known example. 

Featuring a 74 cubic inch 1925 Harley-Davidson JD engine, "The First Jet-Ski" provides a unique deviation from standard applications where motorcycle engines were used to increase machines’ capabilities.   As the machine was most likely built for recreational purposes, the Harley-Dvaidson power-plant has been converted from air-cooled to water-cooled, in order to keep from overheating due to high revolutions at low speeds.

The hull is made of lightweight sheet metal, and features a groved rubber standing surface.  The machine transmits its power through a shaft to a 4-blade propeller, with automotive-like floor-mounted gas pedal, and is steered by rope.   

While few early examples of motorized personal watercraft survive today, there have been several attempts by motorcycle manufacturers during the mid-20th century to develop this now popular recreational sport.  Some were more successful than others.  It is believed that the unexpected demise of the Vincent Motorcycle Company was a result of the production and marketing efforts for their propeller-driven 200cc "Amanda Water Scooter" in the mid-1950s.

Dated to the late 1920s or early ’30s, the machine rests in its original condition and is on permanent display for museum visitors to enjoy.

Early Moto-tillers

Early Moto-Tillers at Wheels Through TimeThe first American agricultural revolution occurred during the late 1860s, as farmers began to changed their methods from "hand-power" to farming techniques driven by horse and oxen.  With the develpment of comercial fertilizer by Sir John Lawes just a few decades earlier, the introduction of horse-powered cultivation vastly increased agricultural production across the country. 

Through the 1890s and the earliest parts of the 1900s, farming became increasinly mechanized and commercialized.  Farmers employed teams of horses and workers in back-breaking efforts to keep pace with demand.  It was during this era, in 1892, that the first gasoline powered tractor was invented by John Froelich.  The introduction of this tractor would pave the way for future generations to produce more with lesser effort.

Although this new technology would vastly improve farmers’ efforts, it was not a development that all farmers could employ.  While the largest farms had the ability to produce enough crops to purchase such a machine, smaller, local farmers were unable to afford the high-priced equipment and continued to use methods of horse-drawn cultivation.

In 1920, there were less than 300 tractors in use across the entire United States.

Unique, one-of-a-kind farm equipment featured at Wheels Through TimeAs small-time farmers stuck with "horse-power", they were forced to cope with several factors which had a negative effect on production, including weather, insects, and other pests.  These horses were also expensive to maintain, as a large portion of each farmers’ land was dedicated to growing enough food to keep themhealthy — on average, five acres of land for oats, hay and fodder for each horse, each year. 

The home-made motorized tillers and plows at Wheels Through Time represent the efforts of those early 20th century small-time farmers to contribute to their own agricultural revolution.  Using what was available on the farm, farmers were able to incorporate earlier, used motorcycle engines to increase productivity and keep costs down. 

Relatively reliable and inexpensive to maintain, these engines provided America’s agriclutural work-force with newfound capabilities obtainable with only a little ingenuity.  These machines have highly advanced features for the era, including multi-speed transmissions, hand operated throttle and clutch, as well as controls that allowed workers to adjust the width and depth of the tiller itself.

Each machine is displayed in as found condition, and is on permanent display in the museum’s "Home-made in America" exhibit.

The Davis Motor Mine Cart

The Davis Motor Mine Cart at Wheels Through Time MuseumIn 1926, Harley-Davidson developed a 21 cubic inch single-cylinder motorcycle that was advertised as economical, reliable, and inexpensive.  Produced in order to lure younger and more lightweight riders into the Harley-Davidson customer base, the "Motor Company" advertised that their first flathead was capable of 80 miles-per-gallon. 

 In total, over 16500 "Model-B" Harley-Davidsons were produced from 1926 to 1934, many of which were exported around the world. 

The Davis Motor Mine Cart was discovered in 1990 in an abandon gold mine located in Northern California. Used for pulling wagons of ore out of an underground mine on narrow guage track, it utilized much of the 21 cubic inch, 80 mile-per-gallon Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  This rare, one-of-a-kind machine also features all-wheel drive and electric start, a trait not acquired by Harley-Davidson motorcycles for another 40 years.

The 21 cubic inch B-Model Harley-Davidson was the basis for the Davis Motor Mine CartIn its original form, this machine had a 3-speed transmission, kick-starter, with rear-wheel drive.  As part of its "home-conversion" into a motorized mining cart, a Ford Model-A transmission was added, giving the cart nine forward speeds and three reverse speeds. 

It is believed that this machine was the accomplishment of a blacksmith with mechanical engineering abilities.  It was also reported that, after sitting idle in the collapsed mine for over 60 years, the remains of the miner who drove the cart were found astride the machine during its excavation in 1990.

The Davis Motor Mine Cart has been a part of the Wheels Through Time collection for over fifteen years, and is displayed in running and operating condition.

Museum curator, Dale Walksler, aboard the one-of-a-kind oddity for an afternoon ride

1915 Harley-Davidson Powered Ice Saw

The 1915 Harley-Davidson Ice Saw at Wheels Through TimeThe 1915 Harley-Davidson Powered Ice Saw at Wheels Through Time is a rarity the museum is proud to have on display in its "Home-made in America" exhibit.  

Prior to the advent of modern refidgeration, ice-harvestors would cut large blocks of ice from frozen lakes, and store it by packing it with sawdust or hay and putting it in an "ice-box".  With this method, ice-harvestors were able to ship ice long distances, and store it for months at a time.   In 1886, at the peak of the ice-harvesting industry, there were 25,000,000 tons of ice harvested in the United States.

From the earliest points of recorded history all the way through the early 1900s, ice was known as a luxury to those in warmer climates,  obtainable only by the very wealthy.  Methods of gathering it in winter, transporting it and storing it in often required great labor and cost. 

In an excerpt from his article in Scribners Monthly Magazine, written in August 1875, F.H. Forbes writes, "It is astonishing to what an extent an article, once regarded as a simple luxury in non-producing countries, and in the northern latitudes as an article of no computed practical value, has become recognized in the commerce of the world."

The Ice Saw features almost an entire 1915 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle!In the early 1900s, the ice industry employed millions of capital, and revenue generated from its harvest, transportation, and sale ranked next to that of cotton and grain.

As motorized transporation began to emerge as the means for transportation of ice, a few ingenuitive inventors sought to make the process of harvesting easier and more productive.  These innovative individuals were able to adapt steam and gasoline powered engines to their equipment, which in-turn reduced costs and increase production.

The ice saw at the museum is the only of its kind, featuring almost an entire 1915 Harley-Davidson twin-cylinder motorcycle as its powerplant.  The machine rests in its original condition, and still has the original 3-speed transmission, which transmits power to the saw and allows it to be operated at several speeds.  The motor is controlled with the original hand controls, with throttle on the right and spark-advance on the left and features a kick starter. 


“Home-Made in America”

A Tribute to American Ingenuity.

The motorcycle power plant has contributed to the utilization of innovative equipment for the past 100 years.  Emerging from an era of horse-drawn buggies and steam-powered locomotion, America citizens began utilizing the development of gasoline-powered engines not only for transporation, but for other purposes as well.  Whether for agriculture, industry, or recreation, this American ingenuity was the result of an American dream — a dream that has lived in the hearts and souls of Americans now for over a century.

“Necessity is the mother of all invention.” -Albert Einstein

20151209_123920It comes as no surprise that the motorcycle engine became a popular choice among inventors and self-taught engineers.  Reliable and relatively lightweight, these small engines were used in a variety of applications aside from motorcycles, and provided enough power to perform even the toughest of tasks.

The “Home-made in America” exhibit at Wheels Through Time is a tribute to the men and women who, through their resourcefulness and creativity, helped to make life back then a little easier, and maybe even a little more fun.  The exhibit is comprised of over two dozen machines, each in “as found” condition.

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