Destinations: Early Years of Motocross Museum

Opened in 2006, the Early Years of Motocross Museum focuses on the bikes, riders and memorabilia of those early days of American motocross.

early years of motorcross museum

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Back in 1965, promoter Edison Dye wanted to build U.S. interest in European-style motocross racing, so he contacted the Husqvarna factory in Sweden and purchased two bikes; one of them went to motocross champion Malcolm Smith. The next year, in 1966, Dye brought 250cc World MX Champion Torsten Hallman over to compete in a seven-race series: Hallman won every one of them. Then, in 1967, Dye brought over riders Joel Robert, Roger DeCoster, Arne Kring, Ake Jonnson and Dave Bickers to join Hallman in a sort of traveling circus, showing off the amazing talents of a new breed of European motocross riders. The public was captivated, and American motocross took off.

Opened in 2006, the Early Years of Motocross Museum focuses on the bikes, riders and memorabilia of those early days of American motocross. The museum is in large part a tribute to Dye, who passed away at the age of 89 last May and is considered the father of U.S. motocross thanks to his pioneering efforts.

The museum honors that pioneering spirit, including documents and photos from the early years. Many of the documents — including the bill of lading and invoice for those first two Husqvarnas —  were recovered from a boarded-up warehouse.

Tom White’s motorcycling résumé dates back to the mid-1960s, when he started racing scrambles and dirt track in California. In 1975, Tom started what became White Brothers, a leading aftermarket manufacturer and supplier of motorcycle performance products. Although Tom sold White Brothers in 2000, he remains active with the Motorcycle Industry Council, helping preserve off-road rights. He is also on the board of directors for the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum and is the curator of the museum’s just-opened Malcolm! exhibit on the legendary Malcolm Smith (www.motorcyclemuseum.org).

Tom has been collecting vintage dirt bikes for the last 20 years, and his museum currently has more than 100 motorcycles on display. The collection includes models up to 1974, after which the industry changed dramatically, with Japan taking the lead.

While full-on restorations are carried out as necessary, preference is given to bikes that are either brand new or barely ridden. Rarity also factors in heavily, of course, including the likes of a Rickman Bultaco, one of 24 imported into the U.S., and a 1966 Husqvarna 360, one of 10 imported into the U.S. All of the bikes are stock, down to the CZs with Jikov carburetors and original shocks. Almost all of the bikes are in running condition.

There’s a decided preference for Husqvarnas, mostly because Dye was the first importer of the bikes and also because they were at the forefront of motocross. “The Husqvarna’s also had an aesthetic beauty to them as compared to an out of the crate Maico or CZ, which were cobby in their finish,” Tom says.                  

Viewable by appointment on Thursdays only, the museum also holds an irregular “Bikes and Burgers” night. It might take a bit to schedule, but it will be worth every minute spent viewing Tom’s incredible collection.