Vintage Motorcycle Frames Stuck in Maple Tree

A motorcycle collector discovers two vintage motorcycle frames entwined with an aging maple tree.

| February 2013

  • 1913 Thor Frame
    A close-up shows that the metal of this 1913 Thor frame did not fare so well buried in the tree. The handlebars and support tube were quite chewed up.
    Photo Courtesy Motorbooks
  • Harley In The Barn Cover
    If you can't pass a padlocked garage without wondering if there's a great vintage motorcycle stashed inside, then “The Harley in the Barn” is your book.
    Cover Courtesy Motorbooks
  • 1911 Thor Frame
    This is the 1911 Thor frame and engine David White discovered while searching for old machines and scrap iron in Illinois. The single-cylinder engine was buried under a winter’s worth of garbage in a barn, while the frame had been captured by a mature maple tree.
    Photo Courtesy Motorbooks

  • 1913 Thor Frame
  • Harley In The Barn Cover
  • 1911 Thor Frame

Driving down a country road, a flash of chrome catches your eye as you pass an old farmstead. Next time you roll by, you slow down and focus on a shed behind the house. Could that be? Yep, it's a vintage Triumph Bonneville peering forlornly from beneath a tattered cover. You've just begun the journey that fuels the dreams of every motorcycle collector: the long-forgotten machine, re-discovered. The Harley in the Barn (Motorbooks, 2012) offers 40-plus tales of lost Nortons, hidden Hondas, dormant Indians, and busted BSAs, all squirreled away from prying eyes but found by lucky collectors just like you. Author Tom Cotter is not only a barn-find master, he's also master of discovering the collectors with the best stories and the most outlandish finds. In this excerpt from chapter 2, “Strange Places,” a picker finds two vintage motorcycle frames entwined with an old maple tree. 

Buy this book in the Motorcycle Classics store: The Harley in the Barn. 

Collectors like to brag about the histories—the “provenance”—of their motorcycles. Some were owned by royalty or movie stars; others were used as engineering mules by their manufacturers. Mike Terry’s 1911 Thor once belonged to a mature maple tree.

David White is a self-described picker from Lena, Illinois, who was searching a town in the northern part of his state for unwanted treasures in 2010 when he came across a collection of vintage bike parts with a twist worthy of Robert Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

It was spring, but just barely. The woods were still nude and the snakes still hidden. White was in the area for an auction when he ran into a friend whose family farm went back three generations and was known to have a lot of scrap metal and antique farm machinery.

The original owner of the land had served in World War I—a remarkable claim for an area in which 60 native sons fought and only 16 returned. A hard post-war life taught the veteran to pinch a penny and never discard anything. His descendants continued the thrifty practice until well into the 21st century, and had just opened the property to junk men and scroungers when White arrived in town.

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