Years back a friend decided he wanted to live “Off The Grid”, I think that at sometime in life quite a few of us have thought of that. Then reality hits. A wife, kids, going to PTA meetings, and how far away is the nearest grocery store? Dan decided to wait until PTA meetings were over and kids were off to college before he headed down the path of “Off The Grid”.
Dan had spent years planning this transition in life (much to his wife’s dismay and consternation) and then the day came…”Honey, I found us a piece of land in Arizona that would be perfect for getting out of the Rat Race.
Now I’ve known Dan for years and over those years he acquired quite a motorcycle collection, some were pieces of junk (we all have those) and some were very special. He sold ’em all to buy this piece of land and an Airstream trailer to plant on it. Again, his wife just sat there shaking her head and wondering what kind of medications could help her husband.
Fast forward about a year…This “living off the grid” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be and more importantly Dan missed his motorcycles. Sell the land, the Airstream, move back to town and buy a motorcycle. This time he decided on a classic bike instead of something modern.
How ‘Vintage’ is vintage, how ‘Antique’ is antique? Dan opted for Pre-war American. Indian, Harley, Excelsior??? Dan found a beautiful Harley WL model Flathead that needed some love. A few months later, and about as much money as he paid for his Airstream he had a big smile on his face and his overly tolerant wife was happy to have central air conditioning.
The ‘Flathead’ design motor was very common throughout motoring history. Dating back to the early 20th century it was used in cars, tractors, pretty much anything motorized. The design was simple, dependable and relatively cheap to manufacture. However, it’s design did limit its power output, there are always trade offs. The WL Model Harley Davidson was a 45 cubic inch model that eventually found itself doing service in World War Two for not only the US troops but also for the Russian Army, they bought nearly 30,000 of them. After the war, the WLA model (A was for Army’) was very popular with returning GI’s. There is a lot more history available out there about the Flathead Harley’s and it’s quite fascinating. When it comes to Flatheads though there is nothing like the sound of a Ford Flathead to wake up you soul!
I found a really beautiful 1941 Harley WL model on Ebay this morning. Earlier in this story I talked about my friend Dan and his Airstream. He paid nearly $30,000 for that trailer, he sold it for about the same. After he finished all the work he had done on the 1940 Harley, he could have bought back his trailer and given his wife a dish washer and air conditioning. It didn’t matter, he loved the bike. The bike I found on ebay this morning is a deal!
It is ready to ride. It does show it’s age and that is just great. If you’re not the adventurous type or a skilled mechanic you may not want to ride the bike across the country, but for weekend outings, it’s perfect and well worth the money.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. There’s an old saying out there “God rides a Harley”…there is another one that goes along with it, “If God rides a Harley, God rides slow”. On this bike, slow is just fine.
How many of us have heard of Nimbus motorcycles? Not too many I imagine. It might be one that you have seen in a motorcycle museum, or in the pages of Motorcycle Classics magazine but probably not on the road. Too bad. It’s a wonderful machine built by a vacuum cleaner company in Denmark. Interesting thing here…this company built the first vacuum cleaner in Europe!
Around 1910 one of the founders of the vacuum cleaner company decided he could make a motorcycle and by 1918 he had. That was the year the first prototype was built, in 1919 they built two more, mass production didn’t begin until 1920. The new Nimbus was a 746cc air-cooled, shaft driven inline four. The Nimbus put out a whopping 10HP and had a top speed of just short of 55MPH and that was with a sidecar attached.
As advanced and wonderful as it was sales were poor, mostly due to a poor economy so production ended in 1926.But, in 1932 the founder of Nimbus and his son started designing a new motorcycle and in 1934 it debuted. There are a great number of changes to the original design except for the inline Four motor and the shaft drive. Horsepower had upped to 18 and a little later to 22. The new Nimbus acquired the nickname of “The Bumblebee” because of its exhaust note. One of the things I find most interesting about this engine is the exposed valve springs…very cool
The model ‘C’ sold well particularly to the Danish police, the postal service and the military. In 1939 as WW2 was winding up the military bought the majority of ‘C’ models. But as the war went on, getting materials to make the motorcycles became more and more difficult, less than 1000 motorcycles were built during that time. After the war new engine designs were developed but, because Nimbus was already selling everything they could make they decided on minor upgrades instead of retooling the factory.
Nimbus continued production until 1960. The Police stopped using the ‘C’ model in the late 1950’s because it couldn’t keep up with faster cars and motorcycles, however, the Postal Service continued to use the Nimbus until 1972.
I found a really nice 1948 Nimbus on ebay this morning. Mechanically this bike been gone through with a fine tooth comb. The rebuild modernized the bike without taking anything away from its soul. This is honestly one very unique motorcycle that you want to ride, not , I repeat NOT, park in your living room or hide under a blanket in your barn. Yeah it’s a little pricey but when you look at what has been done…it’s worth the Kroners (Danish currency). I only wish it had a sidecar as most Nimbus did, but you can find one.
Click on the pics below for a few more pictures and a boatload of information. And look closely, there is a serious resembelence to a very famous American motorcycle…which one?
There are motorcycles that have a “High Giggle Factor”, the Yamaha RD 350 comes to mind, and then there are Vintage motorcycles that have a very high “Cool factor”, 1969 Sand Cast engine Honda CB750, the Harley Davidson XLCR (Ok, that is my own cool, wish I had one ‘cool factor’ bike) and then there are those that combine both and the Bultaco Metralla is just that.
The Metralla is the motorbike that knows what you want to do before you do.It’s like the headlight is your own eyes that can see farther than you. This is a bike that the lightest pressure on the bars sets the bike on the path you want to go…perfectly. The Metralla does have a bit of a peaky powerband but nothing like the Pursang motocrosser. It does take a bit of time to get used to how quick handling it is, if you’re used to hustling modern 1000cc super bikes through the canyons, this little bike will blow your mind. Carrying speed through the corner versus point and shoot…BIG FUN!!
The Metralla was very successful as a racing machine as well having won the 1967 Isle of Man TT 250 Production class. The little 250 put out around 27HP, not bad for a 250 (considering a Honda 350 only put out 22), the Japanese two strokes of the time were more powerful but didn’t have the handling of the little Spainiard.
I found a beautiful Metralla on ebay this morning. This is not one of the “Fly, Buy and Ride Home” bikes, well it could be if you’re of the very adventurous type, but really ship it home and have a blast riding it on your local canyon roads and embarrass all your friends on modern super bikes. This is a really nice bike and a load of fun. Double check the brakes and the clutch then go out and have the time of your life…on 250cc.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info.
I found a very interesting collection of bikes on ebay this morning…Ok, it’s just a guy clearing out his garage. We’ve all had to do that over the years either because we ran out of room for the new motorcycles we wanted or more than likely because our wives were tired of having to look at what she considered junk and couldn’t get to what she was trying to get to.
So, this guy has two interesting motorcycles and one that goes on the front bumper of a motorhome bound for Florida. First is a 1969 Triumph Tiger Cub, a simple little 250cc motorcycle. The Cub was unreliable, period. It had lubrication issues, bearing problems, a weak triple tree and of course Lucas electrics. But still an interesting little motorcycle.
Next up, a Honda VT500 Ascot. In my view this is the gem of the bunch. Truthfuly the VT500 wasn’t the most powerful bike of it’s era or genre, yet…it worked. Now I have to say, it has one of the most ugly headlight setups I have ever seen. I would instantly change it! Except the wiring harness would probably be an absolute nightmare…a good Saturday project.
The VT500 didn’t have all that much horsepower (54…That seems plenty for having a lot of fun?!) but what it did have was a nice tight chassis that gave the bike really fun handling. It was styled after the FT500 Ascot single (which I raced for years) but came with a 6 speed tranny, shaft drive and a little more comfortable ergo’s. My old friend Mike Eaton (one of the greatest surfboard builders ever!!!) had one. I got a chance to ride it on the twisty roads of Point Loma in San Diego and had way too much fun. This is a great bike.
Next is a 1972 Suzuki Rover. Put it on the front of your motorhome and hang out at the KOA’s across the country on your way to visit the Grandkids in Florida. Actually, this could be a really fun little trail bike, however, it went over like a fart in church. Didn’t sell. But hey, everybody can use something to take up space in their garage. You could probably hide this little bike behind all the other junk your wife doesn’t know about (yeah right).
It’s a pretty interesting package deal. Click on the pics for more info and pictures. And by the way, this seller is by far the worst picture taker I have ever seen! Do not let him or her come to your wedding!!!
A German company started by a Danish engineer. Dampf-Kraft-Wagen. Started in 1916 building steam powered cars. The cars didn’t do so well but while building cars they were also toying around with a small size two stroke engine and in 1919 took that little engine stuck it in a motorcycle frame and called it ‘Des Klein Wunder’…The Little Marvel.
In the 1920’s and 30’s DKW was the worlds largest motorcycle manufacturer. They were dominant in racing both on and off road. In 1931 they started using the split single motor, also known as the ‘Twingle’. A really cool design, essentially it’s one cylinder but with two pistons inside, one for intake and one for exhaust. It’s an incredibly efficient design.
More history here for you…in 1932 DKW merged with Audi, Horsh and Wanderer and created Auto Union, today simply known as Audi. Then came World War 2. After the war was the ‘reparation act’, too much history to go into here about that but here’s what happened…the designs for DKW’s 125 two stroke were given to BSA for their Bantam model and to Harley Davidson for their Hummer. Both were mildly successful (I’m being generous here). After the war DKW moved the factory to West Germany and the original factory was taken up by MZ. DKW kept building both cars and motorbikes, the cars under the Daimler-Benz ownership, which was then bought out by VW. The last DKW 2 stroke automobile was built in 1966. Now you know you everything there is to know about DKW?
This morning I found a beautiful DKW SB200 on ebay, that sadly has become a museum piece. The seller says they have not started it but it does kick through easily. The bike is beautiful. I would hope that with just some minor tinkering it will be a runner. Yes, it would look great in your living room just as it is, but really, get it running , ride it and then park it in your living room after your ride, then roll it out the front door next Sunday and ride it again.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This is a very cool little motorcycle with a great history.
Everyday I find something interesting on ebay. Some motorcycles are waaaayy overpriced and some are values you can’t pass up. How do you choose? Hows your 401K doing and how understanding is your wife? or Bank?
It seems that lately I have been on a sidecar kick…I love sidecar rigs, what can I say. This morning I found a very beautiful Jawa 350 with a Velorex sidecar but…at an asking price of $16,000??? Give me and everyone else a break. Then, with a little more searching I found a really clean Chang Jiang rig for 1/4 of the price.And now you’re asking…Chang Jiang?
Who is Chang Jiang? A Chinese manufacturer producing motorbikes for the Peoples Liberation Army. The Chang Jiang is a somewhat direct descendant of the 1938 BMW R71 but more closely to the Russian M72, which is a decendent from the R71 with a few Russian modifications. It’s a bit convoluted but all three are basic Boxer twin/ shaft driven motorcycles with side cars. Germany is BMW, Russia is Ural and China is Chang Jiang. Here is the interesting part…BMW has progressed, Ural has progressed (kind of), Chang Jiang…not so much. It’s pretty much a 1938 BMW. Well, it works for them I guess.
In 1966 they made some upgrades, they went from the type 1 to the type 2. Here’s the fun part, when a type 2 needed to be serviced they (the Chinese military) would use left over Type 1 parts…makes sense to me.
Here really is the most interesting little tid bit…did you know that the Chang Jiang 750 is the longest running production motorcycle? 68 years! With virtually no modification. In a weird way thats pretty cool.
Click on the pic below for more info
1972 Chang Jiang w/ Sidecar
99% of us know Triumph as a British motorcycle company. Another 75% of us know that they started by making bicycles (very common in early motorcycle manufacturing) in the late 1800’s. 5% of us know that Triumph was started by two German brothers.
I was not part of the 5% until today. I found a very interesting old Triumph on ebay this morning. As I was reading the description it said it was German. OK? I looked at the pictures and noticed that the logo on the tank knee pads was different than what we are used do. Time for research.
1886 Bicycles in England, 1902 Motorcycles in England, 1903 Motorcycles in Germany (homeland of the brothers that founded Triumph). Then here comes World War One. In 1913 the company diverged.Triumph Germany became TWN; Triumph Werk Nuremburg
Triumph Germany mainly developed 2 stroke motorbikes while Coventry focused on 4 strokes. TWN built military motorbikes through world War Two. TWN used the ‘Twingle’ motor of which the bike I found today.
Twingles are really interesting. Two pistons in one cylinder. There are two separate bores, one for intake and one for exhaust but they share a common combustion chamber, a very efficient design. Sears and Roebuck sold Twingles (made by PUCH of Austria) under the Allstate brand for a number of years.
Back to the BD250. It was mainly designed for the military and was equipped with hardware to mount a sidecar, important during the war. It was also quite fast for a 250cc, again important in the war.
The one I found today is really nice and would be wonderful fun. It has had some renovation work done, not museum level (I like that) but looks great. It will probably need some work to become rideable but there again is part of the fun of owning a bike like this. A little side note here, the was nicknamed “the Hedgehog”.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
All too often I find motorcycles for sale that are way over priced. The seller bought a bike put all kinds of Chrome on it, or every high performance mod you can make, a $3000 paint job or thinks that just because it’s old it’s worth five or ten times the original price. The sad part here is that there are people out that buy them at silly prices. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean its classic…it’s just old.
And then there are motorcycles that can actually justify going to the bank and mortgaging your house for…provided you’re single or have a very understanding wife. I found one today on ebay, (bike, not wife) this absolutely beautiful 1951 Indian.
I have developed an affinity for Indian Motorcycles, OK, I do own stock in the company…got to say that for full disclosure. But my love of the bike came when back in the late ’90s when my friend Roger Herbison let me ride his newly restored 1937 Indian Chief. Everything about the bike was wonderful. The look, the feel, more things than I can describe.
In Newburgh New York there is Motorcyclepedia, an incredible motorcycle museum. If you ever find yourself on the East Coast you really need to go. At Motorcyclepedia, there is an entire room dedicated to Indian Motorcycles.They have bikes from every generation of Indians…for better and worse. Models from the first year to service vehicles to Clymer era mini bikes. Everything Indian is there.
Early on there was a great rivalry between Indian and Harley Davidson, mostly based on racing. Win on Sunday…sell on Monday. There were plenty of other American motorcycle manufacturers in the early 20th century but most fell by the wayside and eventually Indian did too. Indian went through many changes over the years and most of them not good. Today, Indian is in good hands. Polaris Industries (builders of Victory motorcycles) have brought Indian back. The classic style and feel are all there but with modern reliability.
But this website is all about Vintage bikes and I found one classic Indian that is well worth it.
First, I love Sidecar rigs and this 1951 Indian has a beauty. Here’s the deal with this bike and sidecar, it has modern upgrades but it also comes with most of the original parts. How cool is that.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and details. It was one of the rare bikes that I find that are worth the money asked.
Now, I love Scooters! Scooters of all sorts. My father rode to and from work on a Lambretta. I have owned a 1959 Honda CA102 for it seems like a hundred years. When this little motorbike was designed it was built to “be easy in your hand” and that it was. That was the bike bike that my daughter learned how to do wheelies on. Yes, you can do wheelies on a 1959 Honda step through. I have sold Scooters and taught new riders how to handle the streets of Los Angeles on a Scooter. I love Scooters!
But this is all about a Cushman Eagle. The Cushman Scooter company decided that even though they had been known for traditionally styled scooters (step through, full body work, auto trans, etc) ands then more Buck Rogers style… they wanted to get a more ‘motorcycle look’, here comes the Eagle. After World War 2 returning soldiers we’re buying motorcycles by the thousands, but economics as they were, often times a Scooter was was much more cost effective. Cheaper to buy, cheaper to run and cheaper to maintain! Cushman capitalized on that market. But it had to have the look.
The Cushman Eagle had a more traditional ‘Peanut’ gas tank, standard looking frame but was it really the same Scooter they had been selling for years…the same Scooter that was used for mail delivery, pizza delivery and parking enforcement but the Eagle was much cooler.
The Eagle was without a doubt the most fun you could have with just 9HP. The Eagle came out in 1949 and was in production for 16 years. A 318cc single cylinder and a two speed transmission. The first of the ‘naked’ scooters. Sears sold them under the Allstate brand for years.
Now more fun stuff from Cushman…I have never thought about going Sky Diving. Why jump out of a perfectly running airplane??? Get me three feet off the ground and I want stewardesses, jet engines, movies and cocktails. However in WW2 Cushman built the Airbornes! Scooters that were parachuted out of airplanes!!! I don’t think the rider was on it?? What a ride that would be!!!
Nowadays, most Cushman’s you see are on the Golf Course, yes Cushman did build Golf Carts, but I did find a really nice Eagle on ebay this morning. It doesn’t need a thing except a rider.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. More importantly…have fun!
The first motorcycle I ever crashed was a 1952 Triumph Thunderbird. Well, wait…I did ride my fathers CB160 into the back bumper of his new Impala but all that was was an ‘OOPS’…no real damage except to my 14 year old pride.
The Thunderbird was my step dads pride and joy and I did a pretty good job of causing he and me quite a bit of work…and money. There went my next two months paychecks. Besides learning how to fix old British motorbikes (including how to cut your own cork clutch plates) I learned to love British bikes. I still have one.
After the crash my stepdad actually let me ride it again and again until I could afford my own Triumph. Over the next few years we went through a couple of Bonnevilles, a BSA or two and a T100R Daytona that I kept for years. He kept the Thunderbird until he passed away just a few years ago.
The Thunderbird was a grown up version of the very popular 500cc Speed Twin. At this point in time Triumph was working hard at a gaining a marketing foothold in America. They had to compete with Harley Davidson and Indian. The 500 didn’t have the same ‘stuff’ the big V-Twins had. The down low grunt, the sound and the look.
When the 5T was pumped up to 650cc it gained enough horsepower to be quicker than the big twins and that was very appealing to the American market. Triumph was also using the ‘Sprung Hub’ rear suspension which was a huge improvement over the regular rigid frame that was common on most motorcycles of the time. Nowadays we are so spoiled with the suspensions we have available to us!
Most of us of a “certain age” have seen the 1953 movie “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando. This movie was about a motorcycle gang that rides into town and wrecks havoc. All in good fun??? Well, in this movie Marlon Brando is riding a Triumph Thunderbird and it was the first time a motorcycle logo / brand name was shown in a film…pretty cool huh. Though it may not have been the image Triumph wanted to portray or maybe it was good marketing. Oh, here’s another cool thing. In the movie, Marlon was riding a Black Thunderbird, Triumph didn’t make a black T-Bird. After the success of the movie, for a very short run, Triumph made a black bike and called it the Blackbird. Always have throw in a bit of useless trivia.
I found a 1952 T-Bird on ebay this morning that is going to require more love than God gave the Isrealites. I have shown you basket cases that I thought would fun to put back together and I’ve shown you bikes that just needed some simple love. But…to get this one rideable could take as Led Zepplin would say, “A Whole Lotta Love….” Now you can keep this bike as a ‘Bobber’ style, you can turn it into a very cool Cafe Racer or if you’re incredibly ambitious return it to stock. Good luck. I would imagine that finding an original headlight nacelle with the instruments in it would be , well difficult to say the least. Maybe not though?
I wrote about this today because of my personal connection to a ’52 Thunderbird. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little info.