A few items in the museum to look for next time you’re in…
Here at Wheels Through Time, we’re always on the hunt for new and interesting pieces to display inside the museum. Anytime we find that special part for a project, the rare document that pieces the puzzle together, or a picture that tells the story of 1000 races, the adrenaline really starts pumpin’.
Sometimes, it can be months before you dig up that next find …and sometimes you find that special piece that helps to tell the story of our motorcycle history just around the corner. In some cases, you may have known it was there for decades, and in others, you may "uncover" it rumaging through a pile of long since forgotten junk, or sitting on a shelf a back corner. You might be at a swap meet, a garage sale, an old buddy’s house, or just walkin’ down the road. Maybe the guy new he had it, and maybe he had no idea it’d been sitting there waiting for the right person to find it all along…..
Its called "Pickin", and the best part of it all is that there’s still thousands and thousands of treasures out there to find.
A few weeks back, I was over in Nashville, TN visiting with some family for Thanksgiving. It turned out to be a fantastic weekend, and after loading up the car to head back home, Hailey and I decided to make a quick stop at one of our favorite "Pickers" places — Mike Wolfe’s new Antique Archeology location in downtown Nashville.
Mikes new place is amazing! Just off of I-40, the new store is located in the old Marathon Motor Works building, who produced the Marathon Automobile from 1911-1914. It fits that American Picker’s style that they’ve become famous for, and I’ve got to say I was blown away at the location, layout, and everything in between.
Now, we’d only planned on staying a few minutes, but before I knew it I was on my hands and knees going through some of the finds that Mike and Frank had found over the years. I didn’t plan on taking anything home at first, but within just a minute or two, I’d found a piece that I new belonged inside the museum — and old tire display from the U.S. Tire Company, who went out of business in the 1930s. We’ve got a great collection of tire displays, from Goodyear and B.F. Goodrich, to Firestone and Pirelli. But this was one I’d never seen before. So after a bit more rummaging, I brought it up to the counter and made a deal. It made a great birthday present for my dad!
Now, oddly enough, I just happened to be up in Iowa about a week later, so I decided to do the full "American Pickers" tour and stop by Mikes first location near Davenport, Iowa, in a little town called LeClaire. Having unexpectedly found a neat little piece for the museum in Nashville, I figured this time I’d keep a close eye out. Turns out I would not be dissappointed.
I browsed around the store for a few minutes and picked out a few shirts for friends and family, and as I made my way to the back corner, I saw it screaming at me from across the room. My jaw dropped. I knew what it was from first glance, from over 20 feet away. My feet seemed to automatically take me in its direction, stepping around and over everything in my way, to get my hands on it as soon as possible. The "NOT FOR SALE" sign, which pertained to everything on this certain shelf, may as well have been invisible, and as I picked it up I realized I may be one of just a handful of people in history to ever have laid my hands on it. So what was it?
It was a geniune and original "KOSLOW" overhead-valve head for a special type of racing engine privately produced by Andy Koslow of Chicago. Koslow used to work for Excelsior, and helped to develop the 45 cubic inch overhead-valve top end that won numerous National Hillclimb Championships in the late 1929 and early ’30s. After Excelsior officially closed in 1931, Koslow retained the blueprints and was able to produce the top ends under his own name. How many were produced no one knows, and to date, I have only seen a few complete engines, but never any spare parts. The best thing about this one….it was brand new…never machined…..and the manifold came with it!!!
As my adrenaline came back down a bit, that "NOT FOR SALE" made its way back into my sight. Now, here’s where most folks would end up putting the part back on the shelf, and walking away, almost as if they’d never seen it….but I couldn’t let it just sit there! Here at the museum, we’ve actually got about 95% of the original molds for the Koslow engine, and many of the other bits of tooling used to engineer them. Most folks have never even heard of Koslow, but Dale happens to know all about him, and even went to high-school with the guys grandson! I knew I had to get this head…..
After a few minutes with Mike (who drives a hard bargain, I must say), we agreed to a deal. Its now on display here at the museum, helping to tell the story of the glory days of American Hillclimbing and the famed Andy Koslow.