A look at the vintage motorcycles on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013 11:24 AM
1954 Zundapp, Germany 1921-1935
Nuremberg armaments company, ZUNDer und APParatebau, copied the design of the British Levi for their first motorcycle. At one time Europe's largest motorcycle manufacturer, Zundapp became famous for its advanced technology. Zundapp motorcycles were also assembled in Britain under the Newmount name. By 1986, the company was sold to the People's Republic of China.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 9:48 AM
1953 NSU Sportmax
Engine: 246.8cc air-cooled OHC single
Bore x Stroke: 69 x 66mm
Power: 29hp @ 9,600rpm
Suspension: Leading link front fork, twin shock rear
Weight: 240lb (dry)
During the 1930s and the 1950s NSU of Neckarsulm, Germany was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. Founded in 1873 to make knitting machines, NSU became a revered manufacturer of bicycles (in 1886 under the Germania brand), motorcycles (in 1901) and cars (in 1905) that was eventually gobbled up in 1969 by today's behemoth Volkswagen Group.
In 1953 NSU launched their remarkably successful series of street (Max) and production race bikes (Sportmax) with its innovative, air-cooled 250cc overhead cam single. The cam drive was unique, using a pair of "connecting rods" from crankshaft to camshaft. Its cylinder is angled forward in a monobloque (unibody) pressed steel frame with a leading link front fork, all of which was created under the guidance of engineering genius Albert Roder. For the Supermax, an aluminum fuel tank and all-enveloping fairing - often known as a dusbin - was fitted to complete this fast, lightweight road racer.
NSU won several speed records in the 1950s, being no stranger to the Bonneville Salt Flats. However, perhaps their best-known machine of all is the NSU Quickly moped, of which more than 1 million were sold. By 1969 it was all over; NSU's newly found obsession with the Wankel rotary engine had ruined the company.
Thursday, March 28, 2013 10:12 AM
1937 Brough Superior SS80
The SS80 was so named because it was a Super Sports model guaranteed to do 80mph from the factory. It was first built in 1920. The Brough was once described as the "Rolls Royce of Motorcycles." The early models used JAP V-Twin engines, while later versions used matchless or mag engines. The current owner imported this bike from England and it is in running condition.
This Brough Superior SS80 is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by Aaron Mohr of Clinton, Iowa.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 10:22 AM
1912 Pierce Four
2.25in bore x 2.25in stroke
Enclosed drive shaft
Pedal crank starting and coaster brake
Original price: $325 to $450
An innovative and luxurious motorcycle from the founder of one of America's early premier car builders. George Pierce began manufacturing during the Civil War - bathtubs, birdcages and ice boxes - forming George N. Pierce Company in 1878. High-quality bicycles came next from the Buffalo, N.Y. factory, soon followed by first a steam, then gasoline powered automobile in 1901.
The car business took off with the Pierce Great Arrow of 1903. Four years later the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company was launched. The brand lasted until 1938 as one of America's finest and most prestigious, a favorite of the White House and royalty from Europe to Hollywood.
Percy Pierce stayed behind at the Hanover Street factory and built single and 4-cylinder motorcycles from 1909 until bankruptcy in 1914 having failed to find a large enough market for these expensive premier steeds.
The Pierce Four motorcycle comes top-quality, each component's design re-thought and then hand-crafted in the factory and not bought-in from a catalog as much of the competition was doing, becoming merely assemblers rather than manufacturers. Note the enclosed shaft drive to the rear wheel, the integrated fuel and oil tanks with two filler caps and 2-speed gearbox (uncommon in 1912).
Pierce created only a few thousand motorcycles in the five-plus years' production, and a century later few have survived.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 11:47 AM
1928 Harley-Davidson JDL Sport Solo
Major changes for 1928 Harley-Davidson models included a stronger fork and front brakes, which resulted in improved handling and a total-loss oil system fed from an oil tank concealed in the front half of the left fuel tank. The Harley-Davidson JDL Solo Sport had a 74 cubic inch engine.
1928 was also the first year for optional colors: Coach Green, Azure Blue, Police Blue and Maroon were priced at $24 (about $320 in 2012), while cream and white carried a $27 price tag. The J series overhead valve V-twin was the basis for all the future 74 cubic inch and 80 cubic inch Harley big twins.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 10:01 AM
1951 Sunbeam S7
Originally a famous bicycle maker, John Marston produced his first Sunbeam motorcycle in 1913. It was a side-valve single with and enclosed primary. Sunbeam quickly established a fine reputation for high-quality enamel finishes, enclosed chain drives and the sound engineering designs of J.E. Greenwood. Sunbeam motorcycles were made in England from 1913 to 1957.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 11:03 AM
1956 Maserati 160 T4 Lusso
Engine: Air-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke
Ignition: Coil and battery
Power Rating: 7.5 bhp @ 6,000rpm
Bore x Stroke: 60 x 58mm
Valves: Overhead, pushrod-activated
Fuel Systems: Dell'Orto 18mm carburetor
Suspension: Front telescopic forks, rear twin shock
Brakes: Front and rear drum
Weight: 230lb. dry
Top Speed: 60mph
Maserati motorcycles were made by Maserati Candele and Accumulatori (Maserati spark plugs and batteries) of Modena. Although owned by the same parent company that also ran the automobile plant, the motorcycle division was completely separate. The company became an instant motorcycle manufacturer by buying an existing factory, Italmoto, and moving it from Bologna to Modena. Comparatively rare outside Italy, Maserati are reputed to have built about 10,000 two-wheelers between 1953-61.
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 11:59 AM
1912 Henderson Four-Cylinder
Designed by William Henderson in 1911 with a displacement of about 780cc (later increased to 1076cc), the Henderson four-cylinder motorcycle had opposed valves, chain drive and a tubular frame. It could do 100km/h (62mph) and was soon a popular motorcycle. In Italy it was sold by Lanfranchi. The Henderson four-cylinder was the first bike to use force-feed lubrication for the main and big-end bearings.
This particular Henderson, on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum, is the only known version of the four-cylinder bike that still has original paint. It also has the original tires.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:25 AM
1960 Pannonia 250 with Sidecar
The 1960 Pannonia TLF Deluxe 250 motorcycle was made in Hungary from 1951 to the 1970s. Also made by the Czepel works, the Pannonia motorcycles shared a similarity with Jawa designs. The Pannonia 250 was a 247cc 2-stroke built with either one or two cylinders. It was exported to several European countries. This example has been fully restored and matched with a rare aluminum Duna sidecar. It is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
Monday, November 19, 2012 9:36 AM
Some BMW Company History
The German BMW Company started out as an aircraft engine factory in 1916. Then, after making woodworking machinery after World War I, they concentrated on motorcycle engines with the 500cc side-valve flat twin unit designed by Max Friz. In 1923 BMW began designing and building their own motorcycles, the first being to 500cc side-valve R32. The R32 featured the transverse flat twin engine, engine speed clutch, unit gearbox and shaft transmission. The R32 also had a leaf spring front fork with trailing link action very much like Indian motorcycles.
In 1930 BMW introduced pressed steel frames and used them until 1933, when they did a redesign. At this time the first oil-damped telescopic front forks were introduced, which was a major contribution to motorcycling technology. BMW can claim to be one of the oldest motorcycle companies in existence and, with their transverse-engined flat twins, to have fostered longest-living motorcycle design ever. (The 1934 BMW pictured here is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by John Parham of Anamosa, Iowa.)
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 12:05 PM
1949 Harley-Davidson Dragon Bike Replica
"The Wild Angels" (1966) is a Roger Cormen film made on location in Southern California three years before "Easy Rider". It was the first film to associate actor Peter Fonda with Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Sixties counterculture. In the movie, Peter Fonda stars as the chapter president of the Hells Angels San Pedro, Calif. chapter and rides what is known as the "Dragon Bike." Support roles were reportedly filled by actual Hells Angels members from Venice, Calif., and the Coffin Cheaters motorcycle club. This replica of Fonda's Dragon Bike is on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 2:54 PM
1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer
This classic Flying Merkel motorcycle is part of a new display of board track racers at the National Motorcycle Museum. The following is excerpted from a history by Joe Michaud:
"Originally centered in Milwaukee, ... (Merkel's) machines featured integral exhaust systems that used frame tubes as silencers, and easier-to-use incorporation of throttle opening and spark advance, and an innovative oil system. The Merkel company soon merged with a small manufacturing firm in Pollstown, Penn., where the machines continued to incorporate other ingenious designs, most of which were quickly adapted by the telescoping front fork that are clear predecessors of modern frame design. Merkel was offered another merger and he joined a bicycle-manufacturing firm in Middletown, Ohio where manufacturing began in earnest with the introduction of the first big-bore V-twin, which used a 61-cubic-inch motor. He now called his machines “Flying Merkel.”
"Merkel insisted on superior build-quality and he personally scrutinized the building of most Flying Merkel models. ... The 1911 sales brochure for Flying Merkel advertises that a “Flying Merkel achieved a distance of one measure mile in 41.4 seconds.” That’s a tick under 87mph."
"The Flying Merkel owed much of its popular success (and its high price) to its high-tech motor. The big V-twin used ball bearings on connecting-rod big ends and on main bearings, rather than the bronze bushes that were common on most machines of the era."
"The operation of machines from this era required a different set of rules. The drill is as follows: set the bike on its rear wheel stand and fill the crankcase with the required amount of oil using the provided glass syringe. Start the ignition and engage the clutch. Set the throttle and choke/prime the carburetor. Raise both exhaust valves with the bar end de-compressor latch. Pedal until the motor chuffs to life, then drop the exhaust valve latch allowing full compression. Throw out the clutch to release the rear wheel and belt. Adjust the ignition advance and throttle the position as needed while the motor warms. Adjust the automatic oiler for appropriate setting and check for correct exhaust color denoting proper oiling. Clip up rear stand. Mount the machine and begin to pedal away while feeding in some clutch. The clutch detents allow the clutch friction to be modulated while both hands are busy adjusting the left grip for magneto advance and the right grip for throttle position. Continue to adjust throttle and timing while gradually clicking the clutch through the detents until full lock-up is achieved."
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 12:01 PM
1964 Bridgestone Deluxe Super 7
Better known for their tires than their motorcycles, Japan's Bridgestone Corp. began producing bicycles in 1946. In 1950 they produced engines to fit their bicycles, and in 1952 they built their first complete motoroized cycle, a small 26cc 2-stroke bike. The first recognizable Bridgestone motorcycle was a 50cc 2-stroke with a 3-speed gearbox in 1958. Export to America began in 1963. The 1964 Deluxe Super 7 featured here was generously loaned to the National Motorcycle Museum by Thomas Zuccaro of Dubuque, Iowa.
Read about more Bridgestone Motorcycles:
The 1967 Bridgestone 350 GTR
Thursday, August 09, 2012 9:49 AM
1906 Curtiss V-twin
Speed: 5 to 50mph (with Road Gear)
Record: 1 mile in 53.25 seconds
Engine: All roller bearing
Fuel Capacity: 150-200 miles per tank
Transmission: Perfected V-belt; guaranteed not to slip break or wear for 10,000 miles
Motor Gear: 4 to 1 regular; 20-inch rear, 5-inch front. Optional 4-inch, 5-3/4-inch or 7-inch front pulley
Brakes: Coaster brake in rear
Highest Award: 1905- New York to Wlathan, Mass. 250-mile endurance contest.
Cost New: $275
This bike was restored by Steve Huntzinger
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 2:59 PM
1955 Vincent Black Prince
Engine: 50-degree OHV V-twin
Bore and Stroke: 84mm x 90mm
Power Rating: 52hp at 5,700rpm
Ignition: Lucas coil ignition, Miller dynamo
Suspension: Girdraulics front fork, hydraulic single-spring rear suspension
In 1950 Vincent reintroduced 500cc singles. The final versions of the big twin were the 1955 enclosed Series D Black Knight (Rapide equivalent) and Black Prince (Black Shadow equivalent). The luxury market was in decline, and Vincent soon ceased production.
Although unloved at its launch, the Black Prince is now one of the most valuable of all Vincent. Few, however, were imported into the USA. "The Black Prince, developed from the famous Black shadow, combines racing performance and roadholding with the most luxurious touring equipment and docility for road work." So read the sales brochure for this all-weather Series D machine. There were three "Knights," the other two being the Black Knight (based on the Rapide) and the Victor (based on the 500 Comet single). You can readily appreciate from the names alone that Philip Vincent was nothing if not a romantic.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 2:11 PM
Famous aircraft manufacturers, Aermacchi first made a scooter in 1956. Taken over in 1960 by America's Harley-Davidson, Aermacchi also made a line of lightweight motorcycles directed at the U.S. market.
In the early 1970s, 2-strokes for both the road and racing appeared. Though the road motorcycles still sold freely in the USA, they eventually fell victim to the anit-pollution legislation that outlawed 2-stroke motorcycles there. In July 1978 Harley-Davidson sold Aermacchi at Varese to a new company called Cagiva, and a famous name came to an end.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 1:31 PM
1936 Norton Manx Early Factory Racer
Norton'a impressive reputation was founded on its considerable success on the race track. The firs engine to carry Norton's own name, a single-cylinder design, was produced in 1908. The company went on to develop a wide variety of singles - from racers to touring bikes to simple workhorse machines.
The model shown here is a 500cc 1936 Norton International, Borro Castellani's race bike. It has been documented and authenticated by both Castellanis himeself and his mechanic, Cranely Jarmin. This motorcycle has seen numerous victories, including the DJ (Durban to Johannesburg) as well as TT history. At the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, the bike is accompanied by a folder with many pictures and articles provided by Castellani.
The International was introduced into Norton's line of single-cylinder machines in 1932 and used the improved OHC engine that had been redesigned by Arthur Carroll in 1930. A sports model intended as a fast road bike or a competitive mount for the amateur racer, it was available in 350cc or 500cc models. Lights were not included in the list price, but the otherwise impressive equipment included an Amal TT carburetor, Webb competition girder forks and a 4-speed gearbox.