Just back from the Antique Motorcycle Club of America meet in Oley, PA, and what an amazing time it was. Hundreds and hundreds of vendors spread across acres of rolling hills — buying, selling, and trading anything and everything to do with old motorcycles.
Oley is nestled in the hills just a little northeast of Reading, PA — Home of the once famous Reading Standard motorcycle factory. Oley is a tiny little town, but one filled with motorcycle history. The Reading Motorcycle Club, which became the 4th officially chartered motorcycle club way back in 1911, makes its home there, and after only a quick ride down Main Street, you can almost feel what it would have been like there over 100 years ago. If you’re looking for it on a map, look close or you’ll miss it.
The AMCA has been holding a meet in Oley of decades, and over the years, Dale has found some amazing pieces which now make Wheels Through Time their home. Machines like the 1917 Messenger Pigeon Carrier, Herm Levine’s Tiger Striped Indian Chief, and the Heath-Henderson powered Ice Sled were found at this very meet in years past — which is exactly why we love to go — you never know what will turn up the next time around.
This year, both Dale and I had our eyes out for many small bits and pieces for ongoing and future projects here at the museum. Right off the bat, Dale managed to score a pile from an old friend that included 9 big boxes of engine components — just the type of stuff needed to keep these old bikes up and running, and to build more along the way. I managed to find a very nice Bosch ZEV magneto for my Harley race bike, and picked up one Gary Gardners Hanson Sportshields for my flathead.
But the big find of the weekend was a real oddity, and from the moment we laid eyes it, we knew it belonged at Wheels Through Time. Handbuilt from the ground up, based around a 1913 Harley-Davidson Single Cylinder engine, this motorcycle was created by machinist Aurther Gunther in 1955. The bike sits on 12" tires, has a handmade 6 speed transmission, and uses a drive chain big enough to power some really heavy machinery. Gunther was quite the engineer, and used his experience as an engineer in General Motors’ transmission division to develop the unique 6 speed gearbox. Gunther passed away only 3 years after building the bike, so except for a single newspaper clipping, the detailed version of the story of the machines creation has yet to surface. Rumor has it that Gunther built it using only what disposable materials he had around his home. Dale spent the better half of Friday evening working on it to see if it’d run, and by about 2 in the morning, they had it running perfect.
Aside from the vast inventories of old motorcycle parts at the meet, one of the very best parts of the meet is having the opportunity to catch up with old friends — many of which you may get to see only a few times a year, or less. I am already looking forward to the next time around. One of the highlights for me was sitting in on an impromtu private concert/session with Pat Simmons from the Doobie Brothers, right in front of the Wheels Through Time trailor. Pretty informal really…..just Pat and his guitar, his wife Cris, and about 6 or 8 other onlookers who were soaking up this once in a lifetime opportunity just as much as I was.
If you ever have the chance to visit the AMCA meet at Oley, PA, it’d be a decision you won’t regret! See you next time!