On April 7, 1937 Fred "Ironman" Ham set out to break motorcycle endurance records up to 24 hours aboard a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead at Muroc Dry Lake in Southern California. Specially prepared by tuner Bill Graves, the bike covered a total of 1825 miles in 24 hours with Ham at the controls, setting a total of 43 records in the process.
On the same day 70 years later, a team from Wheels Through Time set out to break Ham’s record at the famed Talladega SuperSpeedway. Aboard an identically prepared 1937 Knucklehead, rider Wayne Stanfield rounded the 2.8 mile tri-oval nearly 500 times. While mechanical trouble put the record out of sight very early in the run, the team defied all odds and kept the machine on the track after rebuilding the engine during the run. Stanfield covered a total of 1375 miles in 24 hours, proving that it would be no easy task to break the 70 year old record.
Founded by Oscar Hedstrom and George Hendee, the Indian Motocycle Company produced some of America’s finest motorcycles from 1901-1953. The company produced Single-, twin- and four-cylinder machines during their run, often ahead of Harley-Davidson and Excelsior in development.
This 1911 Indian single remains in original condition, and features 30.50 cubic inch IOE engine, rare battery ingnition, and single speed. In 2011, Dale piloted this bike to victory in the Barber Museum "Race of the Century". The race was open only to machines 100 years old and older! In 2012, the bike led for most of the race, before blowing out a tire in the last turn. Luckily, neither the bike nor rider were hurt.
The Reading Standard Motorcycle Company began in 1903 in Reading, PA. They prided themselves on the quality and reliability of their machines, and carried the slogan "Tested in the Hills" as a testament to their work.
The 1909 Reading Standard Board Track Racer at Wheels Through Time is among the rarest motorcycles on the planet. It features 61 cubic inch "base-ported" IOE engine, single speed, with no breaks or clutch. The machine also features no throttle, and is meant to be run wide open, adjusting speed with the kill switch. The bike was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in 1944, before being lost in the museum’s basement for almost 50 years. Wheels Through Time Museum curator Dale Walksler acquired the machine in 1992, and had the machine restored to its current condition.
By the late 1920s, the Big Three (Indian, Excelsior, and Harley-Davidson) were pouring valuable resources into factory supported teams for various forms of motorcycle competition. As both popularity in board- and dirt-track racing began to stall, manufacturers "took to the hill" to prove the performance and durability of their machines.
In 1928 Indian debuted its overhead-valve 45 cubic inch machine — named the "Altoona" after the giant 2.5 mile board track in Altoona, PA. This hillclimb version is the last of 30 machines ridden by Indian’s best. Its special construction is different than any of the Indian road models produced. Only a handful of these monsters survive today.