Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Motorcycle Legend...Mike Parti

I will start with saying that I have never met Mike Parti but when I hear his name I instantly think motorcycles, especially Vincents.  He is a living legend and it would be an honor to meet him.  I want to write a few blogs on some of the men and women who have made motorcycling what it is...I about said today, but these people had a lot more grit than is common today.  Below is an article I found on the inter-web from when he was inducted into the motorcycle hall of fame.

Mike Parti was a leading sidecar racer of the 1960s and later became one of the foremost restorers of antique motorcycles in America.

Parti was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on June 23, 1935. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1945. The neighborhood that Parti grew up in was, in his own words, "very motorized," so by the time he was teenager he was already getting his hands greasy in old motors.

At 15, Parti bought an old Ford jalopy. When his mother saw the car, she threatened to chain the tires together until Parti turned 16 and got his drivers license. Early on, he bought an old Indian Scout for $15, which Parti pointed out was the going rate for a bike that didn’t run in those days.

As he became an adult, Parti had a group of buddies that shared in his enthusiasm for cars and motorcycles and they all followed each other in one another’s interests. If one got into desert racing, they’d all get into it; if one got into scrambles, they’d all follow along. And, as Parti remembered, if one decided to hang out at a beer joint they all joined in.

A local Harley-Davidson mechanic, Harry Sorensen, who’d befriended Parti, was instrumental in getting him more involved in bikes.

"One day I was taking a radiator in to be fixed for the umpteenth time," remembers Parti. "Harry told me that motorcycles didn’t have radiators and you didn’t have to crawl underneath to work on them and the girls were prettier. I became a motorcyclist on the spot."

By the mid-1950s, Parti began racing scrambles on old Indians and Harleys. He finally tired of competing on old, worn-out bikes and broke down and bought a new bike – a Triumph Cub – and started racing the 200cc class. At one point, famous Speedway racer turned motorcycle dealer Wilbur Lamoreaux was a sponsor.

In the early 1960s, Parti became a sidecar enthusiast. He remembers riding his wife and baby daughter around in the sidecar.

"Ladies would pull up to the light and smile, thinking the sidecar was cute, and then they would turn to a look of horror after seeing the baby in my wife’s arms."

Parti took to racing the sidecar rigs and found that his former sprint car racing experience translated well to the sidecars. During the mid 1960s, Parti held the AMA’s District 37 number one plate for sidecars for three straight years, earned in all forms of off-road racing – scrambles, enduro and desert racing. He rode the famous Greenhorn Enduro 11 times at the controls of a sidecar rig.

Parti smiled as he explained his procedure for recruiting passengers for the sidecar.

"When I’d audition a passenger for the sidecar races, the first thing I’d have him do was pick up the rig and run around the block with it on his back. But in all seriousness, it took a special person to be a sidecar passenger. It is truly a team sport. I think that’s one of the reasons that sidecar racing really never took off in this country because motorcycling is such an individual sport. To get any two riders to agree on something is quite an accomplishment."

Parti became president of a Southern California sidecar racing association and with help from AMA competition committee member Earl Flanders helped get the AMA to recognize sidecar racing as a professional category. That made sidecars eligible to run at tracks such as Southern California’s famous Ascot Park. Of all the places Parti raced, he perhaps best enjoyed the annual trek to Salinas, California, and the charity races held on a TT track set up on the Salinas Fairgrounds half-mile.

"We’d start seven sidehacks abreast up at Salinas," Parti recalls. "We’d put on a good show and the fans just loved us there. They’d really just greet us with open arms."

By the late 1960s, Parti began to scale back his racing efforts.

"The younger riders started using me as a berm," Parti joked. "Plus, the ground started getting harder for some reason. I blame it on global warming."

Not quite able to totally give up the speed bug, Parti started taking his sidehacks to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah for the top-speed runs each year. When Parti and his fellow sidecar racers first showed up at Bonneville, the officials didn’t know what to do with them. There wasn’t even a class for them. "We were just doing it for fun," Parti said.

Longtime friend Bud Ekins had gotten into collecting antique motorcycles, and through him Parti caught the bug. Over the years, Parti has restored hundreds of motorcycles. By the 1990s, he became especially known for his work with pre-World War I American bikes.

Parti, who worked his entire life as a machinist, became a master at fabricating new parts for these rare machines. His skills are highly sought after by restoration enthusiasts all over the world. Parti is a proponent of restoring motorcycles to new condition.

"I want to see them at their best, not at their worst," says Parti, who is not in favor of the machines becoming statues. He prides himself on making complete running restorations of the machines he works on.

Some of Parti’s clients over the years included famous fellow motorcyclists such as Jay Leno, Steve McQueen, Bud Ekins and auto racing world champion Phil Hill, to name a few. Parti said before Leno got so busy hosting his television show, that the two worked together restoring a couple of bikes. One of the Cyclone motorcycles Parti restored was part of the Guggenheim Museum’s "The Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit. He also has three bikes on permanent display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Parti’s love of old motorcycles is the good fortune to all in the sport who care about its earliest days. Through the care of his skilled hands, future generations will be able to get a more than just a glimpse of some of the rare surviving machines from the early part of the 20th century.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cyclone Motorcycle Stolen

This motorcycle was stolen back in 2012 from the home of the owner.  It was valued at $1,000,000 at that time.  I wonder if it was ever recovered, it's pretty obvious that this was stolen with a buyer waiting to snatch it up as it could never be sold on the open market.  It is probably sitting in some collectors private lair, I hope he remembers " what comes around...goes around" !

Here is an article that was written at the time of the theft by Motorcycle Classics

This 1914 overhead cam Cyclone was stolen during a robbery in Bel Air, Calif.
Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC-TV reports that a vintage motorcycle collector was robbed of his 1914 overhead cam Cyclone and a Honda CR110 racer when a pair of intruders broke into the man’s house, tied him up and made off with the two race bikes, which are valued at approximately $1 million and $60,000, respectively.
From the KABC website: “Police are searching for a pair of thieves who broke into a Bel Air home in the middle of the night, tied up the home owner and made off with two valuable motorcycles. That home invasion robbery took place about 4:30 a.m. in the 900 block of Linda Flora Drive.
“Police said the suspects kicked in the front door and tied up the man, a longtime collector of vintage cars and motorcycles. The man's wife was able to get away and went to a neighbor's house to call police.
“Police said the suspects knew exactly what they were after. They went straight for the two vintage motorcycles valued at more than $1.5 million.
“One of the motorcycles was a rare 1914 yellow Cyclone. The other was a 1952 gray and red Kawasaki. [Reliable sources tell us it was in fact a Honda CR110 – Ed]. The wife said the thieves loaded the motorcycles onto a white van, possibly a rental.
“‘It's a quiet, residential neighborhood, but we don't think it was a random break-in," said neighbor Charles Lesser,’ It looks as if whoever did it knew exactly what they were looking for and took it and left.
“Anyone with information is asked to call the Los Angeles Police Department at (877) 527-3247.”
The Honda might be easy to unload, but I can’t imagine how the thieves believe they can sell an OHC Cyclone, one of the rarest – it’s one of six – and most valuable motorcycles in the world, unless they already have an unscrupulous buyer lined up who just wants to lock it away. It’s akin to trying to hawk the Mona Lisa, and once you have the bike in your possession, what do you do with it besides keep it hidden? You sure can’t show it. While some suggest it might go to an overseas collector, the same issues apply, although perhaps not with the same legal implications should it stay in the U.S. Whatever the case, it’s a chilling event. -- Richard Backus

Cool Little Triumph

Cool Triumph...not mine, I just found a picture on the Jockey Journal

I am posting this picture because of the great profile it has with the rear struts...if someone doesn't buy my Triumph this is the direction I will go with it. 

My Triumph is a 1958 TR6 but it has obviously been hot rodded.  It has a Bonneville head and no provision for a generator it was built as a desert racer but it would also make a very cool road race bike !   I have a nice alloy oil tank that would be a nice addition to replace the old chrome octagon chopper tank.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Genuine Wall of Death Indian

This bike is listed on E Bay at this time and it states that it is very expensive...no doubt it is

The “Wall of Death” is  a carnival  sideshow  featuring a silo- or barrel-shaped wooden cylinder, ranging from 20 to 36 feet (6.1 to 11.0 m) in diameter, inside of which motorcyclists, or the drivers of miniature automobiles, travel along the vertical wall and perform stunts, held in place by centripetal force. 
Derived directly from United States motorcycle boardtrack (motordrome) racing in the early 1900s, the very first carnival motordrome appeared at Coney Island amusement park (New York) in 1911. 
The following year portable tracks began to appear on traveling carnivals, and in 1915 the first "silodromes" with vertical walls appeared and were soon dubbed the "Wall of Death." 
This attractive form of amusement soon spread to fairs in  Europe and other continents and  from the 1930s hundreds of  Wall of Death artists were performing all over the word. 
The motorcycles most widely used were the first generation Indian Scout models that were famous for their stability and dependability. 
After WW2  most shows disappeared; In the 2000s, there remain only few touring Walls of Death  (source: Wikipedia).  
A notable show is that of Dutchman Henny Kroeze.   
On a historic wooden wall-of-death  dating from  1936 Henny  and his team are performing breathtaking manoeuvres on the steep wall, among others with three  Indian  Scouts. 

The machine is essentially a 1929 model  but it has been fitted with early 20s fixed head Scout cylinders 


Friday, October 23, 2015

The New Indian Four Cylinder

The Indian Four cylinder actually started out with the Henderson brothers then became the Ace motorcycle and finally the Indian 401.  They were always expensive and they still are today.

A 1927 Ace brochure clearly indicates the Indian Motorcycle Company was “The New Home of the Ace.” It also lists 18 improvements to the four-cylinder machine, such as a new force-fed oil system to ensure better engine lubrication, new alloy pistons, a three-bearing camshaft and new foot control pedals. The tank, fenders, engine and fork of the Ace were finished in “Rolls-Royce” blue, complete with a gold stripe.

For 1928, the Indian Ace was finished in the well-known Indian red paint, but no more significant changes were made until 1929, when the Ace name was dropped and the machine became simply the Model 401 Indian Four. Indian now used their leaf spring fork, but kept the Ace-designed single front down tube frame for most of the year before introducing a new double down tube chassis in the Model 402.

The 402 featured a new five-bearing engine, an improvement over the Ace’s three-bearing unit. With the exception of a new rear brake in 1931, all late 1929 to 1931 Fours are similar in specification, according to author Hatfield.

In 1932, the Model 403 Indian debuted. The height of the frame at the neck had been changed. The chassis became taller, a longer front fork was added, and the gas tank was removed from between the upper frame rails and replaced with a saddle-tank design.

Where the pre-1932 Fours look lean, lithe and compact, these updated machines have a spindly, almost leggy appearance about them. Minor changes were made from 1932 to 1934, and Gary’s Model 403 falls right in the middle year. Indian made only 1,667 motorcycles in 1933, an all-time low production number for the company. Priced at $395 at the height of the Depression, the Four was a luxury very few could afford.

The motorcycle pictured below is listed on E Bay and has reached a little over $60k and still hasn't reached the reserve....kind of pricey

Cycle Hauling Available

'46 Chief Restoration

I ordered my wheels from Todd at Jerry Greers, they are building me a set of stock 18" wheels with black rims and hubs.  I decided to restore the '46 to early Chief specs for that year.  There are a lot of interesting variations on the early 46's as Indian was using left over parts from the war.  In some ways the '46 is built better that the 47-50 Chiefs...my opinion of course !

Stand by for updates... my Chief is scattered to the 4 winds right now with cad plating, powder coating etc.

1948/28 Indian Chief

This very interesting motorcycle is currently on E Bay, it is a 1948 Chief engine installed in a 1928 Chief chassis.  It's a real eye catcher and according to the ad it will cruise at 65-70mph...pretty scary with 1928 brakes !!!   It is currently at $29,600.00 which boggles my mind.   I guess these bikes are no longer the realm of the common person ????

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

2016 Indian Chieftain

I had mixed feelings about the new Indian Motorcycles when they first came out, I guess I expected something more like the original 40's bikes.  The reality of the situation is that you can't build and sell something like that today, it would never pass all the government scrutiny and to be truthful only a relic like myself would buy one anyway.

When I was in Indiana last summer I had time to kill so I went to the local Indian dealer to check these bikes out and I have to admit I left the shop wanting one.  I really like this color combination of silver and black.  It has a pretty low center of gravity and one of the sales tactics was to lean the bike all the way over and then easily right it.  I tried it and it was pretty easy, nice for us older folks !  These are heavy bikes so that was kind of impressive.  

The silver and black was not offered in 2015 which is regrettable because Indian has some nice incentives to buy up the 2015 models.  I am seriously thinking about purchasing one of these bikes.  No, it's not the same as my '46 Chief...but do I really want it to be ??

Wall Rider Charlie Ransom

During a typical 30-minute thrill show, the American Motor Drome Company sends all manner of wheeled conveyance up the 15-foot-high, hardwood-planked, vertical face of its famous Wall of Death —everything from single-speed bicycles to Briggs & Stratton go-karts to buzzy two-stroke Aermacchi dirt bikes—but the grand finale always features star rider Charlie Ransom aboard his bike of choice, a beautifully dilapidated 1926 Indian Scout. Ransom rides an antique Indian because professional wall riders have always preferred Indians , and Ransom wants in every way to honor the American thrill show tradition. Besides, Ransom explains, the Indian is just a better bike.

I guess in the early days of riding the wall other bikes were tried but Harley just didn't cut the mustard, it had a single down tube frame and didn't handle like the scouts.  I believe most wall bikes are earlier Scouts with the shorter wheel base frames.

This looks like a 101 Scout with the longer wheel base...very, very cool to say the least !

I wasn't there but it is my understanding that Charlie rode this modified 2015 Indian Scout on the wall when Indian first introduced the new line of Scouts.  pretty difficult compared to the little bike in the back ground.  My hat is off to the man !

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wall of Death

These guys and gals amaze me.  To not only ride the wall sitting on the bike normally (if you call normal 90 degrees vertically ) but to stand on the bike, ride with their feet over the bars and as this guy is doing, standing on one side of the bike.  These people are amazing and have always fascinated me.  I know their were some broken bones in the learning curve !

Cool Little Chief

This 1948 Chief was built by John Donovan of Vallejo, California   He used to live right up the street from me and I'd see him riding this bike from time to time.  I think you heard it first, it was pretty loud !  This was in 1999 when I met him, about the time I was desperately seeking a Chief.  I had a little cash but not enough to buy a restored one.  I heard about a guy named Jim Troche who had a little shop on Indian Alley in Vallejo.  I called him up and he said that he had a '48 basket case which I ended up purchasing,, a long story but I did build it to a finished bike.  It's the blue one I posted earlier with the Heather Leathers fringed seat.

Getting back to the Indian bobber, John pieced this bike together and Jim built the power plant. He said that the thing he would have done differently was not chrome so many parts.  It wasn't too long after I met John that he died suddenly from an aneurism when he was back in the mid-west at a bike meet.  He was actually pretty young when he died. 

I found out that Jim was selling his bikes for the estate and went and looked at this bike but did not purchase it. I had the cash and don't remember why I passed on it because I really liked it.  To my mind this is the best Indian bobber I have seen.  very clean in every regard, especially the custom pipes.

I have had this bike lurking around in my mind for years and I may build my '46 Chief like this ???  I have been a custom bike guy all my life starting with my old '72 BSA chopper. I don't know, maybe it's in my blood !  My wife always says I can't leave any bike alone and have to immediately remove or modify parts as soon a s a bike hits my garage.  I guess that's true.


Those two kids look like me and my brother...they aren't but it's kind of uncanny.  My dad was a cop for a while in the early 60's.  I guess this is where a kid learns to either be scared to death of motorcycles or be completely obsessed with them ??


I am trying to decide which way to go on my '46 Chief build.  I built a '48 years ago but it turned out a little too flashy, I am going very conservative on this build.

This is my old 1948 Chief that I build when I lived in Vallejo.  I bought it from Jim Troche who is an Indian motorcycle legend in the Bay Area.  I never rode it too much because it was too nice !

This is one of my favorite Chief builds, it is a '46 that was built by Toney Watson.  I really like the black 18" wheels, dark blue paint and the no-frills look of the whole bike.  This probably the way I will go...unless I bob it.  There was this bobber that John Donavon built that has hung on my shop wall for years ???

1958 Triumph Pre-Unit For Sale

I am selling my matching numbers 1958 TR6 Triumph to finance my Chief engine build.  It is in raced condition and runs.   It is built in a desert racing mode but came from the East Coast.  It has a Bonneville head, smaller gas tank, original Bates seat and vintage fork brace.  I do not have a title for it but will do a Bill of Sale.
SOLD...SOLD....SOLD !!!!

Old Indians Never Die.........

Old Indians Never Die... they just lodge themselves in your brain !!
I wasn't sure if I would restore another Indian because of past ventures into these precarious waters.  I have started a few and not finished them.
While on a trip to Indiana this summer I found a basket case '46 Chief and of course drug it home.  It is a numbers matching bike and is pretty complete ( by basket case standards anyway ). 
It was missing the front fork legs which I have found so here goes.

I started on the frame and removed the plungers and both stands, etc.  I am going to powder coat all the black parts.

Matching number engine.  I have the whole thing, just not pictured

More parts..........................

I have all the tins and a nice set of wheels, etc.  It is actually pretty complete, of course all the missing items will eat up all my funds.  I am building the chassis then sending out the engine to be rebuilt.