Indian Motorcycles through the Years
Indian Motorcycles through the Years
With 10 minutes to go until the main event of the Cleon Graber estate sale late last week — the sale of a rare, 1904 Indian Camelback motorcycle — Lindy Graber admitted he was “a little nervous; a little emotional” as he watched the public buy bits and pieces of his father’s vast collection.
He also admitted he had a preference as to who might win his father’s rare and valuable motorcycle, an auction item that helped draw hundreds of onlookers to the Wieman Land and Auction building outside of Marion Friday, April 10.
“It would be nice if it would stay in South Dakota,” Lindy said.
Oh, it’s staying in South Dakota, all right.
It’s not even leaving the family.
In a surprising twist, Lindy and the Graber family bought back Cleon’s classic motorcycle with a winning bid of $100,000, making for a bittersweet conclusion to a sale item that had drawn considerable hype; both Jay Leno and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum had both reportedly showed interest in the artifact.
“We had a number that we didn’t want to let it go for,” Lindy told the Courier afterward. “We were hoping it would go for a little more than it did, but that’s the way it goes.”
He said the family buying back Cleon’s 1904 Camelback was always a possibility — “a slight possibility,” he said — and that the Grabers might try to sell it again.
“I’d like to take it to some shows, get it out in the public some more,” Lindy said.
Until then, the rare find will remain with the family it’s been with since Cleon bought the motorcycle in the mid-70s; it was a purchase that came about only because of Cleon’s persistence.
Lindy said his father, an avid collector who had a particular love for engines and transportation, was tipped off about the 1904 Camelback from a fellow collector in the community.
Cleon went to visit the motorcycle owner in the Springfield area, only to be turned down.
“Dad went back several times,” Lindy said, finally striking a deal with the owner after health issues prompted the owner to reconsider its sale.
With the Camelback Cleon’s, it took up residence in a machine shed on the Graber farm east of Freeman where it sat.
Other than some minor changes to its 1904 condition, the Camelback is original. The tires were in bad shape when Cleon purchased it and were replaced; the battery box is not original and the decompression lever used to start the motorcycle has been altered.
Lindy said the motorcycle hasn’t run since it’s been in the family’s possession; they tried to start it about five years after Cleon bought it “and it spit and sputtered a bit.”
But the motor is in such good shape, he said, “I don’t see why it wouldn’t run.”
Lindy believes one of the reasons his dad never worked harder to get it going was because he didn’t want to damage the motorcycle; “He recognized how rare it was.”
Its rarity was noted by Wieman Land and Auction at last Friday’s sale; a video presentation that included an interview with Lindy was shown before the live bidding began and online offers had started coming in up to two weeks before Friday’s sale.
Auctioneers called it “a chance to buy history.”
The opening live bid was $30,500 and quickly climbed to above $70,000 before slowing and eventually topping out at Lindy’s bid of $100,000 — despite the auctioneers’ pleas for somebody to come in at $102,500.
Rich Wieman told the Courier in the days following the sale that they really had no idea how much the 1904 Camelback would bring; research showed similar models going for between $50,000 and $85,000 and, in 2012, one model that was billed as the oldest unrestored Indian motorcycle brought $155,000.
“It was one of those things where you didn’t know for sure what it was worth,” Rich said. “Coffee talk had it going anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, so we really didn’t know what to expect.”
“It could have brought more,” he said, “but it wasn’t a bad price in this market.”
And, he said, the motorcycle’s sentimental value to the Graber family is worth a lot; “Lindy has a lot of love for that sort of thing, anyway.”
As for being able to auction off something as rare as Graber’s motorcycle, Rich called it “a privilege and an honor” and said they enjoyed monitoring the online bids that came in from across the country starting at $100 and climbing up to $30,500 — the starting point on Friday. “It commanded a lot of attention and that’s what makes it so much fun.
“It’s always fun to sell something that is out of the norm.”
Rich could not verify or deny that Jay Leno’s buyers were among those bidding, but he said the Wiemans had reached out to the celebrity who has a taste for vintage motorcycles in a number of ways.
“I know there was talk that he had voiced interest in several different online forums,” Rich said. “But with online bidding, it’s pretty easy to remain anonymous.”
That Lindy ended up with his father’s 1904 motorcycle is fitting, he concluded.
“It’s a piece of South Dakota history,” said Rich.
Lindy couldn’t have said it better himself.
Australia’s debut motorcycle show organized by Troy Bayliss – Moto Expo – will feature something truly unique this year – the “Million Dollar Row.”
Two motorbikes that featured in The World’s Fastest Indian movie will roar back into life at this week’s Burt Munro Challenge event in Invercargill and Bluff.
The Burt Munro Challenge is being held for the 10th time from Thursday until Sunday and features six events ranging from hill and beach racing to track and road racing.
The event is named after former Invercargill resident Burt Munro who set numerous land-speed records for motorcycles with engines less than 1000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Burt Munro Challenge committee member Stephen Winteringham said they wanted to do something special to mark the 10th anniversary of the event this year.
So they have got hold of two replica motorbikes, from the Southland Museum and an Invercargill arcade, which featured in the movie a decade ago.
The bikes will be ridden in demonstrations before numerous Burt Munro Challenge events begin this week if the weather permits.
The event organisers wanted the public to see and hear the motorbikes in action for the first time since the movie a decade ago.
The motorbikes on show will be an Indian, which was ridden on Oreti Beach near Invercargill during the movie, and a Ducati which was under a fibreglass shell when ridden on the Bonneville Salt Flats during the movie.
The two people charged with riding the two motorbikes during the Burt Munro Challenge are Rhys Wilson and Francie Winteringham, the 2012 and 2014 winners of the Burt Munro family trophy.
They took the bikes for a spin for the first time on Monday, and Wilson was buzzing after riding the throaty Indian around the Teretonga track.
“Exhilarating. Every motorcyclist’s dream,” he said.
Francie Winteringham said riding the two bikes was a lifelong dream fulfilled.
“Burnt my leathers a bit, both bikes were a handful to ride, definitely unlike anything I’ve ever done.”
Stephen Winteringham also rode the Ducati around the Teretonga track, and, like Munro in the movie, burnt his leg on the exhaust pipe.
“She’s a mission, I take my hat of to Burt.”
The bikes will be ridden at Bluff prior to the hill climb on Thursday, before the Oreti Beach racing on Friday and around Teretonga track on Saturday, Winteringham said.
The 1906 Indian Camelback, one of the first ever two-wheeled motorized machines, is hugely desirable despite its rusty appearance and could fetch £50,000.
This weekend Las Vegas will be hosting two prominent Vintage Motorcycle Auctions. Bonhams Auction on Thursday January 8th and Mecum’s Auctions on January 8-10, 2015. It will be an interesting weekend to see where prices go with our improving economy!
It was owned by the du Pont family, which bought the ‘Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company’ that built it, and this cycle was last ridden in the Seventies.
Whoever buys the machine will probably use minimum efforts to restore it to a working condition, but complete restoration would see its value reduce.
The Indian cycles were the great rivals of Harley-Davidson, but the company eventually went bankrupt in 1953.
It had a rudimentary braking system and a hobnail boot on the ground would have been needed to help it stop.
The motorcycle is going under the hammer at Bonhams in Las Vegas, U.S., on January 12.
Ben Walker from Bonhams said: ‘This motorcycle is in such demand because of its condition and to restore it would actually take value off.
‘The motorcycle will probably be ‘oily-ragged’, which means wiping it down with oil to preserve it as it is.
‘It will probably be rebuilt mechanically but with as little change to its condition.
‘India were the great rivals of Harley-Davidson and were at the forefront of motorcycles when they evolved from bicycles.
‘It would have been a quick machine with a fair turn of speed and no brakes on early motorcycles were much good – the were the same design as bicycle brakes.
‘This is an extremely rare thing and hs come from the du Pont family that owned the company.
‘It was a pedal assisted bike and it still has its original registration number on the rear mud guard.
‘These motorcycles have never really reduced in value – if I filled a whole sale with them they would all go for good prices.’
Georgia Motorcycle History: The First 60 Years, is the culmination of tireless research, pouring over hundreds of archives, articles, family collections, books, and interviews. This stunning, 270-page, clothbound, hardcover coffee table book illuminates the earliest days of American motorcycling culture through the photographs and stories of Georgia. The exclusive collection contains nearly 250 black and white archival photographs, each image methodically researched and captioned in vivid detail. While several key figures in American motorcycling history are featured, the book also explores topics such as the motorcycle’s role as it was used by civilians, military and service departments, professional racers, and farmers.
The book begins with an introduction of the motorcycle at the turn of the century. From there, the first chapter presents the story of Georgia’s first motorcycle and expands into colorful stories of America’s earliest enthusiasts and pioneering spirits. The second chapter recounts the exhilarating and dangerous tales of motorcycle racing, from its origins on horse tracks and the infamous motordromes to the later industrialized and professional sport that we know today. It wasn’t all fun and games though. In chapter three, the book looks into the motorcycle’s role in both WWI and WWII as well as its indispensable place in various municipal service departments. In the last chapter, Georgia Motorcycle History steps back and reviews the motorcycle’s evolution from a bicycle with a clip-on motor to an advanced technological mode of transportation, from a simple utility to a member of the family.
The pictures and stories included in Georgia Motorcycle History reach far beyond a simple documentation of local history. They embody the American spirit and represent a cornerstone of our nation’s culture. Over 200 copies of this stunning book have been sold to eager customers in 15 different countries within the first 2 months of its release and copies are now being carried by exclusive retailers and world-class museum gift shops.
For more information and to purchase the book, you can visit the authors website at:
The book is $50 and a great value! Let the author know you heard about it at the IMCA Website
Crocker & Indian Shared a history – Let’s read about the revival….
After nearly twelve years of hassles and legal setbacks, a brand-new Crocker Big-Twin motorcycle has emerged from a hangar in SoCal. Learn more at Cycle World now.
After nearly twelve years of hassles, legal setbacks, a change of countries, and one nasty recession, a brand-new Crocker Big-Tank motorcycle has emerged from a hangar in SoCal. Michael Schacht is at no loss for words in describing the ordeal he’s overcome to reach the point of turning a key, kicking over the 80 cubic-inch V-Twin, and hearing an engine he literally built from scratch rumble into throaty life. His first complete Crocker sits unpainted, brazed joints bright and cast iron dull, spun metal fenders covered with a zillion tiny scratches, the big aluminum tanks resplendent in their own bare-metal shine.
Schacht was a staunch Indian man a dozen years ago, and still rides a 1929 ‘101’ Scout nearly every day. His restored Indians brought him to the attention of a branding company who owned the Indian name in Canada. His machines were used for promo work and he gradually became ‘involved’ with the company, which was mostly interested in T-shirt sales at that time. When talk began of making an Indian motorcycle by re-badging a Ural, Schacht ran away. The idea of resurrecting an important American motorcycle marque stuck with him though, and while looking over two Crockers at a friend’s restoration shop, the big light went on and his destiny was set. “The Crocker name is so pure, nobody had tried to make a new one, even though several people tried to claim the name. It took some work, but I was finally able to secure the name with the intention of starting production of Crockers.”
Few people have made an entire motorcycle from scratch. Schacht admits he knew little of making castings, metallurgy or even production machining before he embarked on his dream. “I was lucky, and hired some incredibly talented people. I moved my facilities from Canada to Southern California, so that the Crocker would be made 100% in the U.S.A. It was important to me that such a historic name was built, again, in the country it started from. This is an all-American deal.” Schacht also wasn’t an expert on Crockers, but enlisted the help of collectors who are, such as Chuck Vernon. “These guys are the keepers of the flame. They know everything about these machines and helped me tremendously to sort out exactly how the original Crocker was made.” While the new Crocker is as faithful to Al Crocker’s original machine as possible, a few of the materials have been upgraded. “Better steels are available now, stronger and lighter, and while the appearance is identical with a 1939 bike, what’s inside is better.”
The Crocker Motorcycle Company does not, Schacht insists, produce ‘replicas’ of the motorcycles last produced in 1942. “These are continuation machines, built by the legal owner of the Crocker motorcyclename.” The new engine is certainly more powerful than a standard 61-inch Crocker from the 30s, pumping out a whopping 85 horses from the 80-inch V-Twin to push the same 500 pound machine. “We’ve just finished it, and there are a few minor bugs to sort out, but basically, she’s the best sounding motorcycle I’ve ever heard, is really, really fast, and handles beautifully. That was one of my biggest surprises about the Crocker; this is a serious performance machine.”
Stay tuned to Cycle World for additional information about production plans for these machines and a potential modern “retro-bike” in the works.
Motorcycle board track racing was the deadliest form of racing in the history of motorsports. Hundreds of lives were lost, both racers and spectators, during the relatively short-lived era of the boards. Yet in spite of, or perhaps partly because of, the dangers, motorcycle board track racing in the 1910s was one of the most popular spectator sports in America. Races attracted crowds of up to 10,000 fans. Young riders knew of the dangers, but chose to ignore them because the payoffs were so lucrative. Top racers could make $20,000 per year racing the board tracks, nearly a half-million dollars in today’s currency. From America's Historical Newspapers. The reasons for the lethal nature of motorcycle board track racing were easy to understand. Motorcycles, even in the 1910s, the heyday of the board track era, were capable of speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. The boards were oil soaked and slick due to the engines being of “total loss” design, meaning oil pumped by the riders to lubricate exposed valves and springs sprayed freely into the air behind the speeding bikes. Riders raced with just inches between them, sometimes even touching as riders jockeyed for position. The machines had no brakes, and spectators were separated from the speeding machines by just couple of 2×4 boards nailed between fragile posts.
The first decade of the 20th century, with the advent of automobiles and motorcycles, saw an explosion of race track construction. The mention of motordromes in newspapers began as early as 1901. In the July 18, 1901 edition of the Kansas City Star there was news from Europe of government officials threatening to exclude automobile racing from all public roads and that motordromes could be the solution.
“Automobile News from Paris,” Kansas City Star, (07-18-1901), 7. America’s Historical Newspapers.
Motorcycle racing in America during the early 1900s was primarily confined to city-to-city runs and races on bicycle velodromes. But as engines became more powerful it was clear that the small bicycle tracks were not large enough to showcase the capabilities of motorcycles.
In 1910 the Los Angeles Motordrome, built in the resort of Playa Del Ray, was the first large board track built in America. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 9, 1910, that world records were broken in auto races on the new board track. The Albuquerque Journal on the previous day gave some of the specs of the new track. It reported the track “a perfect circle, a mile in circumference, banked one foot in three. The grand stands are placed above the forty-five feet of the inclined track. The surface consists of two by four planks laid to make a four-inch floor and laminated to give great strength. About 3,000,000 feet of lumber and sixteen tons of nails were used in the construction of the ‘pie-pan,’ as it has been dubbed.”
“World’s Records Are Broken On New Board Track,”
Salt Lake Telegram, (04-09-1910), 23.
America’s Historical Newspapers.
Jack Prince, the builder of the Los Angeles track, traveled the country proposing board tracks to city fathers and motor clubs. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 26, 1910, that Prince planned to build a half-mile motordrome in Salt Lake City at a cost of $100,000. The paper later reported, on June 18, 1910, that the new board track at Wandamere Park in Salt Lake City was constructed in less than two weeks.
Soon motordromes were being built across the country. And the races drew large crowds. The Salt Lake Telegram on July 4, 1910, reported a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 on the grand opening night of the Wandamere Motordrome. The race featured Jake De Rosier, the great Indian Motorcycle factory rider, as the main attraction.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 15, 1912, reported the grand opening of Philadelphia’s Pointe Breeze Park Motordrome. Pointe Breeze would become one of the most successful board tracks with a regular weekly program. Two of the leading motorcyclists of the era Morty Graves and Eddie Hasha were the featured riders that opening night at Pointe Breeze.
“Motorcycle Races New Motordrome at Point Breeze Opened Today,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, (06-15-1912), 11. America’s Historical Newspapers.
The safety failings of board track racing became all too obvious not long after the facilities were built. The Salt Lake Telegram on July 5, 1912, reported a serious accident in which a rider named Harry Davis was killed and seven spectators injured when Davis’s motorcycle crashed into and snapped a light pole. Throughout that summer a week rarely went by without reports of a rider or spectators being killed at the motordromes.
Two accidents in particular permanently tainted the reputation of the motordromes and eventually led motorcycle racing’s governing body to no longer sanction board track races. The first was a tragic accident at the motordrome in Newark, New Jersey, on September 8. 1912. The Lexington Herald on Sept. 9, 1912, reported that two racers (Eddie Hasha and Johnny Albright) died when they crashed into the outside rail. Four spectators were killed in the incident as well and 19 others suffered injuries. The story of this accident ran in newspapers across the country.
“Eddie Hasha and Five Others Are Killed Outright. Thirteen More Are Badly Injured in Frightful Motorcycle Accident at Newark Motordrome,” Lexington Herald, (09-09-1912), 1. America’s Historical Newspapers.
The following summer, on July 20, 1913, a freak accident at a board track across the river from Cincinnati in Ludlow, Kentucky, caused more outrage. A racer named Odin Johnson crashed; his motorcycle hit a light pole, kicking off a tragic domino effect. The motorcycle’s gas tank exploded. An exposed electrical wire from the light pole then sparked the fuel, spreading flames into the crowd. The ultimate death toll was eight as reported by the Salt Lake Telegram on August 1, 1913. Afterwards the widow of Johnson vowed to devote her life to ending races on board tracks.
The headline of an editorial in the August 1, 1913, edition of The Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Mich.) put it succinctly—“Thrills and Funerals.” The board tracks were referred to as “Murderdromes.”
“Thrills and Funerals,” Grand Rapids Press, (August 1, 1913), 6. America’s Historical Newspapers.
A Salt Lake Telegram article on August 22, 1914, tracked the rise and fall of the motordromes, citing the numerous deaths as well as revelations of fixed races as the causes of the decline of motorcycle board track racing.
By the end of the 1910s the board track era was largely a thing of the past. Besides the dangers of racing the boards, the tracks rapidly deteriorated and many burned down. A thrilling but deadly chapter in American motorsports came to a close.