Fast From The Past

Fast from the Past: Competition Motorcycles of Yesteryear

June 1, 2009 – March 31, 2010

pic_hondaFrom their inception during the last decade of the 19th century, motorcycles have been associated with speed and excitement, and from then until now literally hundreds of manufacturers have capitalized on that image by investing in racing motorcycles and teams. Many of these well-known and lesser-known marques will be featured in the upcoming “Fast from the Past” exhibit scheduled to open in late May 2009, at the AACA Museum. More than forty motorcycles owned and restored by members of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America will be placed on display; their styles and vintage will cover every era and every aspect of the motorcycle sport, from the fearsome board trackers of the teens to road racers of the 1970’s capable of speeds approaching 200 mph. If speed is your need, you’ll want to see “Fast from the Past” at the AACA Museum.


Bike list for “Fast from the Past: Competition Motorcycles of Yesteryear.”

Bike list is also available as a PDF download.

Board Track Racing Motorcycles:

1908 Indian Torpedo Tank TwinJerry and Ted Doering’s lovely little five-horse Indian twin production racer stays over for another tour with the AMCA exhibit.

1911 Excelsior TwinEven before Harley-Davidson enter the racing scene in 1914, Excelsior had become a force for Indian to reckon with. This is an example of the IOE engine design that both Indian and Excelsior used in racing in the early teens.

1916 Harley-DavidsonHarley-Davidson did not enter the racing scene until 1914, the year that it introduced the Model K, a production racer that theoretically could be purchased by anyone, albeit at a princely price that apparently was intended to keep most of the racers in the hands of the factory and selected dealers. On loan from Jim Dennie.

1919 Excelsior Overhead Cam TwinExcelsior introduced a potential world-beater early in 1919, an overhead-cam twin designed to beat the mighty Cyclone. But the machine was withdrawn from competition when Bob Perry was killed during his inaugural outing. It was reported that in his grief, Excelsior chief Ignaz Schwinn destroyed the new racers, and none was ever seen again in competition. This is an accurate replica, built by Paul Brodie.

Drag Racing:

Leo Payne Harley-Davidson DragsterIf there is a father of American motorcycle drag racing it would be Leo Payne, the man who pioneered fuel carburetors and clutch-starting technique that enabled him to beat mutli-engine machines with his Harley Sportsters. This is an authentic Leo Payne motorcycle.

Hill Climbing:

1928 Excelsior Big BerthaWith all three leading American brands putting a big effort into hill climbing during the 1920s, Excelsior introduced its 61 cubic inch “Big Bertha,” a machine on which Joe Petrali served notice to Harley-Davidson, his former employer. On loan from Jim Dennie.

Endurance Competition:

1926 Charlie Cole AceFactory rider Charlie Cole won the 1926 National Six Days’ Trial aboard this motorcycle with a perfect score. It is original and unrestored, just as it won the event in 1926. Also on display is a selection of Cole’s trophies, won from 1919s through 1926. Motorcycle and trophies on loan from Doug Strange.

1928 HendersonFrank Westfall’s Great American Race Henderson returns for the “Fast from the Past” exhibition.

1971 Yankee ZThe Yankee, built in Schenectady, New York, was America’s bid to enter worldclass off-road endurance competition. With a powerful 500cc twin-cylinder engine and a frame designed by Dick Mann, the Yankee Z was the first of a line of motorcycles that would have included street and motocross machines.

1971 PentonDesigned by American enduro champion John Penton and assembled in Austria, the Penton motorcycle brought a ready-to-race motorcycle to the showroom floor. It has been hailed by one American publication as the most significant off-road motorcycle of all time. It was successful in both enduro and motocross competition.

1969 Sachs K100GSDuring the late 1960s, the German Sachs engine—used also by many other brands—brought lightweight, two-stroke off-road endurance motorcycles to the fore. On loan from Mike Gallagher.

Land Speed:

1923 Ace XP4On a cold November day on a road near Philadelphia in 1923, Charles “Red” Wolverton straddled the four-cylinder Ace XP4 and set off to capture a world speed record at 129.61 miles per hour. Attaching a sidecar to the bike, he upped the world sidecar speed record to 106.82 mph. This is a recreation of the XP4 featuring the actual engine from Wolverton’s original machine, built by the late Dr. John Patt of Boyertown, Pennsylvania.

J&P Cycles Express Bonneville StreamlinerThis long, low, fully-streamlined machine is a classic example of the kinds of motorcycles used to set ultimate land speed records in excess of 350 mph. This machine set a national record of 178 mph in its engine class at Bonneville in 2006.

Road Racing Motorcycles:

1911 Indian Isle of Man RacerIn 1911, Indian swept the first three places at the Isle of Man TT, becoming the first and only American brand to ever win the famous race. No example of these special racing machines is known to exist. Peter Gagan’s accurate replica is held over from the AMCA inaugural exhibit.

1926 Indian Isle of Man RacerIn 1926, Indian again assaulted the Isle of Man TT with special-built overhead valve machines. This is a pedigreed example of one of the rare 1926 works racers.

1937 Excelsior ManxmanThis is a restored road racer of the British Excelsior brand, named “Manxman” for its legacy at the Isle of Man. It had no connection with the American Excelsior brand.

1948 Indian 648 Big Base ScoutNo one knows how many of the 648 Big Base Scouts were built, but likely not more than 50 complete machines. This is an example set up for road racing, similar to that used by Floyd Emde to win the Daytona 200 in 1948.

1951 Velocette Double-Cam Works Racer.Though a very small concern, Velocette could be trusted to apply leading-edge technology in the design of its racing machines. This special double overhead-cam machine is one of only five built for grand prix competition. On loan from Bar Hodgson.

1952 Norton ManxThe Norton 350 Manx on loan from Carl Fronk returns for a second tour at the AACA Museum.

1952 Harley-Davidson WRTT Daytona RacerThis is an example of the last of the WRTTs, set up for racing on the beach at Daytona.

1962 Honda CR77 Road RacerModeled after the legendary RC works machines, this production racer draws its inspiration from the highly technical multis that dominated the Grand Prix scene during the 1960s, serving notice that the British and Italians would no longer control world championship racing. On loan from Brian Keating.

1972 Ducati Desmo SingleDucati’s desmodromic cam design turned the brand into a competitive force that remains at the top of world-class competition still today.

1974 Yamaha TZ250Yamaha revolutionized American road racing when Don Emde won the Daytona 200 aboard a TZ350 in 1973, beating motorcycles with more than twice the engine capacity. To prove it was no fluke, Finland’s Yarno Saarinen repeated the feat in 1974. Except for its smaller engine capacity, this motorcycle is identical to Saarinen’s Daytona-winning machine. It was raced that year by Joe Catalano of Farmington, Pennsylvania.

1966 Lambretta ScooterProof positive that any two-wheeled vehicle can be competitive, we present a Lambretta used in vintage scooter racing by Roland Henry, a Harrisburg man won a national championship aboard this machine at the age of 61!

Observed Trials:

1972 Montesa CotaOn Any Sunday” director Bruce Brown called observed trials riders the concert violinists of motorcycle competitors. Observed Trials, featuring balance, quick reflexes, and precision timing, has spawned the specialized machines represented by this Spanish Montesa.

1972 OSSA Mick Andrews ReplicaObserved Trials was a specialty of the British until the Spanish brands got into the act. British champions, such as Sammy Miller and Mick Andrews, were recruited to consult on the design of machines such as this OSSA MAR.

Scrambles and Motocross:

1967 BSA West Coast HornetBefore the two-stroke revolution and the popularity of motocross, rough off-road competition was called scrambles and was dominated by the British brands. This 1967 BSA Hornet is an example of the last generation of four-stroke off-road racers.

1974 Maico 501The German Maico pioneered both long-travel suspension and large-capacity two-stroke technology with its motocross models.

1973 Honda ElsinoreHonda’s first two-stoke model set new standards for motocross performance and design. Michael Casale’s Elsinore returns for its second showing at the AACA Museum.

1974 Suzuki 400 CycloneSuzuki was one of the first Japanese companies to show a serious interest in motocross. Its early efforts—such as the 400 Cyclone—had big power but an inadequate chassis. One magazine called it the most dangerous motorcycle in the world, but the product improved rapidly when Belgian World Champion Joel Robert joined the team to develop and win aboard Suzuki’s motocross machines.

1976 RokonThe unorthodox American-made Rokon was well-known in enduro competition, but had a brief fling at motocross as well. This example features special bicentennial livery. Rokon pioneered automatic drive and disc brakes, but was unable to bring its weight down enough to be competitive in motocross.

1979 Harley-Davidson MX250With the motocross market booming, even Harley-Davidson got involved, utilizing the resources of its Italian Aermacchi factory. H-D even fielded a factory team in America, but was unable to keep up with the rapid development of the Japanese companies.

1978 Honda XR75Some have theorized that American’s surprising number of world-class motocross riders is due to the fact that the nation has a vital racing program for youngsters aboard mini-cycles. The Honda XR75 gave scores of recent and current American champions their start in motorcycle competition. On loan from Chase Loughry.

Dirt Track Racing Motorcycles:

1940 Indian Sport ScoutThe Indian Sport Scout was the brand’s main competitive tool against Harley-Davidson for decades, and it was updated by its owners year after year. This original and unrestored machine is a perfect example, featuring retro-fitted telescopic forks and a primary drive and gearbox adopted from the British Royal Enfield, imported in America under the Indian brand after 1953. On loan from Bob Markey.

1948 Indian 648 ridden by Ernie BeckmanThe Indian 648, known as the Big Base Scout, was introduced in early 1948 and promptly won the Daytona 200 in the hands of Floyd Emde. The limitedproduction machine kept Indian competitive with Harley-Davidson for another six years. Indian won its last national championship race at Williams Grove, Pennsylvania in 1953. This is the actual motorcycle on which Ernie Beckman won Indian’s last national.

1953 Harley-Davidson S125 Short TrackerThis two-stroke 125cc Harley-Davidson was converted for short track competition by Dick O’Brian when he was a young mechanic at a Florida dealership. Later he would become famous as the Motor Company’s racing director. On loan from Hugh MacDonald.

1954 BSA Gold StarThe BSA Gold Star was the most versatile and enduring example of the great British singles, victorious in everything from trials to road racing. In the hands of riders like Neil Keen and Dick Mann, it challenged Harley-Davidson’s supremacy on American dirt tracks following the demise of Indian. On loan from Jim Myers.

1962 Harley-Davidson KRThis is Karl Fronk’s beautiful example of the classic Harley KR dirt tracker, held over from the inaugural AMCA exhibit. The venerable KR kept Harley-Davidson in the winner’s circle on American dirt tracks for 15 years.

Circa 1934 Crocker SpeedwaySpeedway racing, while popular in Europe and America, differs from American dirt track racing in many respects, including the design of the motorcycles, the fuel used, and the surface of the tracks, which may be cinders rather than dirt. Most brands used in speedway competition are British or Czechoslovakian, so this American-made Crocker is especially rare. On loan from Carl Fronk.

Special Exhibit: Indian’s End of Days

Once America’s greatest brand, the Indian motorcycle company went out of business in 1953. Its last series of motorcycles—called Dyna-Torque models—featured modern overhead-valve engines designed for production in single, twin, and four-cylinder configurations. Competition can both build or destroy a brand, as Indian found when it released its Dyna-Torque’s on the market and featured them in competition before they had been adequately developed or tested. The disastrous results contributed to Indian’s demise. On display are the prototype Indian Torque Four, which was never put into production, and the 1951 Warrior TT, Indian’s final model, used in scrambles, dirt track, road racing, and cross-country racing. The Torque Four is owned by the AMCA Foundation and the Warrior TT is on loan from Brian Riegel.

Special Exhibit: An Indian Photo-Op

1930 Indian Chief and Goulding SidecarThis Indian with sidecar is provided for visitors to the museum to actually sit on to learn the feel of an antique motorcycle and for the purpose of photos. On loan from Rocky Halter.

In the Lobby

1966 Triumph Bonneville TT SpecialThe TT Special, Triumph’s potent twin-carb 750cc built for scrambles racing became the most coveted example of the brand in the American market during the late-1960s. Many were outfitted with simple lighting kits so they could be ridden on the street where they were used to challenge Harley-Davidson’s mighty Sportster. On loan from Jim Myers.

1972 Harley-Davidson XR750The XR750, successor to the KR, was introduced in 1968 and remains today the dominant force in American dirt track racing. This example has earned 99.75 points out of a possible 100 in AMCA judging, and was used recently to help celebrate the Eyes on Design Lifetime Achievement Award given to Willie G. Davidson, the only motorcycle designer ever to be so recognized by the automotive industry. On loan from Jim Oldiges.