Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Tiger Tale: By Snuffy Smith. PA to FLA on a Triumph Cub!

This is a story my father had published in Vintage Bike Magazine back in 2006. It's a cool story and I thought I'd share.
Snuffy Smith with his Triumph Cub. Replicated after the one he rode to Florida.

TIGER TALES (Bill Bailey Johnson&Johnson Wrigley Shell)

In the spring of 1965 times were sweet. I was a student at Pfeiffer College in Misenheimer, North Carolina, looking forward to spending a summer working as a construction laborer in Florida with my college buddy Chris Cordi. The previous winter I had traded `a beautiful 1963Triumph T-100, very much like the one Bob Dylan first owned, for a heavily abused ex-Larry DeSimone, 200c.c.T-20 Tiger Cub Scrambler which was used as a race bike for all of it's five years of age. The reason for trading down was to bank some money and still keep a motorcycle. At the time I lived and loved to ride. I still do.

Chris and I had planned to work for a commercial roofing company in Dania, Florida, where we would work as laborers. Chris was to drive his car down with all our clothes and gear, and I was to ride the Cub down to meet him.

As soon as my last final exam was over, I hitched a ride to my home in Devon, Pennsylvania, and proceeded to put the Cub together and get it running. The bike was equipped with two well-worn knobby tires, a solo Bates saddle, a small headlight and tail-light and no front fender. Thankfully, those were the days before state inspection for motorcycles.

I stuffed a change of clothes, some tools, some tape and snacks into a gym bag, and bungied it onto the rear fender. Chris had told me, "If that piece of shit makes it to the Florida border, I will come get you if you break down". Was that a challenge or an incentive? Both.

I left Wednesday around noon and stopped by my buddy, George Waite's house so he could check out my rig. He also was skeptical but encouraged me to enjoy the adventure. From Devon, my route took me down old US1 through Kennett Square, Mushroom Capital of the World, to Towson, Md., home of Triumph East. I rode around Washington, D.C., and by late Wednesday night I was looking for a place to rest.

Somewhere near Emporia, Virginia I pulled off the main road and rode up a hill and parked the Cub, leaning it against a tree. My first day on the road had put me about 400 miles into the Southland, with ten hours of, so far, no problems. I slept restlessly next to the Cub.

I rose before dawn the next morning and found a place to have some grits and eggs, and off I went. Riding alone for long periods of time gives a person an excellent opportunity to be introspective. It is, for me, the Zen of motorcycle traveling. I found myself wondering at the performance of the Cub. With each hour of riding I became more aware of all the things that could and should go wrong with this bike. I began riding more conservatively, knowing that this bike had had a hard life, and I didn't want to bring it to it's demise. Notice please, that I didn't say premature demise.

Sometime shortly after lunch I started to see at regular intervals, signs advertising a place called South Of The Border which was presided over by a man named, Pedro. For the next couple of hours I saw no less than 85 signs informing me of the wonders awaiting the traveler who ventured into Pedro's. The best part of South of The Border is that it marks the half way- point in the trip. I rode across South Carolina and by dusk arrived at Santee where I crossed into Georgia. I couldn't keep up the high speed of 50 to 60 mph so I had to ride the back roads. I finally ended up in Claxton, Ga., the Fruit Cake Capital of The World, at around ten P.M. A flea-bag motel was my resting place and reward for a long day in the saddle.

At six A.M. I was back on the road. I had to push the Cub out to the road to start it so as not to wake everybody up in the motel. Did I mention that the Cub had a reverse cone megaphone where most motorcycles have a muffler? Sometime before noon the Cub and I crossed into the State of Florida. In doing so, I knew that even if we broke down, Chris would come up and get us. I was starting to feel like the Cub was my partner. We had bonded. I had even given the Cub a name, Bill Bailey Johnson&Johnson Wrigley Shell. His name was an evolution based on events that had transpired during the trip.

Bobby Darin had a hit song called, Won't you Come Home Bill Bailey. Bobby had a song; I had a wish. Johnson & Johnson makes athletic tape. I, being a Phys.Ed. major in college, had many rolls of athletic tape at my disposal. This I used to patch the Cub together. This was in the era before the discovery of duct tape. Wrigley made chewing gum that could be used to stick things together and the aluminum foil that it came in made a great conductor when the fuse blew. Shell made motor oil. We used oil: lots of oil. We burned nine quarts of oil on the trip to Florida.

Now that I had crossed the Florida border, and even if the Cub quit Chris was there to pick me up, I decided that it was time to celebrate with a cold PBR, [Pabst Blue Ribbon]. I stopped at a roadside beer joint near Jacksonville and took a much-needed break. The proprietor was Gerald Huneycutt. I told him that I had a college buddy by the name of Wiley Huneycutt from North Carolina. Gerald told me that all Huneycutts were related, and that Wiley was his cousin. That allowed the conversation to continue long enough for two more beers. At this point I had to go or I would be spending the night at Gerald's beer joint. Chris was expecting me to meet him at The Elbow Room in Fort Lauderdale this evening, and I had a long way to go.

As the sun set and the light started to fade, so did the light coming from the headlight of the Cub. The Cub, being a scrambler model, was equipped with one of Joseph Lucas's greatest masterpieces of electrical engineering, "The energy transfer" or "ET" ignition lighting system. The only way to maintain enough juice to run the ignition was to run with the lights off. I dropped into the draft of a '52 Chevy panel truck and stayed as close to his rear bumper as I could. This allowed me to hide from the police and keep a reasonable speed as I traveled down US 1. Somewhere south of Cape Canaveral, I was pulled over by a Trooper and advised that I couldn't tailgate my way on this road. When he asked me where I was going, he was in disbelief; but when I told him where I had come from, he became quite amused and told me enthusiastically, that if I go over to Route A1A it is so well lighted, that I wouldn't need lights, and the speed limit would be something that the Cub could handle.

Once on A1A it was a loooong sloooow ride to Ft. Lauderdale. At 11:45 Friday night Chris Cordi heard a motorcycle through the open door of The Elbow Room, and walked out into the deserted street. Even though I was a block away, the Cub's open megaphone could not be missed, nor could the cloud of white smoke coming from the exhaust. We had made it.

Trip ..
1400 miles on bald knobby tires
25 gallons of gas @.35/gallon =$8.75
9 quarts of oil @.50/Qt. =$4.50
1 Motel room =$22.00
Food less than =$25.00
Beer =$1.50
Time from Devon to Fort Lauderdale:
2-1/2 LONG days in the saddle.

I love riding motorcycles. It gets in your blood. I wanted to go to Florida to work for the summer. It made perfect sense to ride my Cub there. This trip was the first of several adventures on the single seat Triumph Cub Scrambler.
A year later my college roommate, Ed McDuell and I rode the Cub from Misenheimer, North Carolina, to Daytona for the "200." The Cub still had a solo saddle, but that is another story.

Robert "Snuffy" Smith 1943-2007
RIP dad, we will love and miss you always.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MotoBall. Soccer on cycles.

The Meteor Motorcycle Club in action!

Between the two World Wars, hundreds of Motorcycle Clubs across America were engaging in various new, creative and somewhat reckless forms of competition. Combine European football, vintage Harley Davidsons and/or Indians - with broken legs and smashed fenders: You've got Motorcycle Polo! Dubbed Motoball by fans, it's apparent that touring, racing and hill climbs were not enough for the early century cyclist, so from coast to coast, motorcycle clubs began forming teams and competing against each other - in front of large crowds, no less. The object? Get the ball through the opposing teams posts as many times as possible during the four 15 minute quarters - and hope that no limbs are mangled in the process.

Lucky Roamers MC of Vineland NJ (picture from the John Melniczuk archives)
So popular was the sport that many newspapers started covering it in their sports sections. The allure of dangerous motorcycles colliding with each other, while a "true" sport was being played brought large audience every week. The matches spread all over the east coast (and eventually the west) but in particular, the Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern Jersey regions had a number of MotoBall clubs: From Reading, Philly, Camden all the way to Atlantic City where someone undoubtably traded their polo horse to a high-dive attraction and decided a Harley was a much more practical approach to play the game.
Unlike todays MotoBall, the balls used were regulation size. Look at that crowd!
Motorcycle Polo in Oakland CA. via the via 'who the hell knows'
On the west coast, hill climbing still dominated the world of 2 wheel competition sports, but the Oakland MC did dabble in MotoBall for a brief time. Check out The Selvedge Yards great pictorial on the legendary california club here.

Flyer for Motorcycle Polo just shortly before it faded into the depression.
Article on Motorcycle polo from the 1920's. Read more:

With the coming of the Great Depression, the number of groups participating in MotoBall dwindled and died off all together when WWII broke out. Most clubs saw the sport as a novelty by this point and were focussing on steeplechase and enduro-racing. Years later, various forms of MotoBall popped up. Some used oddly built cars that pummeled a giant, 6 foot rubber ball around a field. In England, Motorcycle Polo has regained popularity using modern bikes and a much larger ball - which surely makes it a bit easier to kick without collision. In parts of Europe and Africa, a two-up polo is played on bikes, the passenger wielding a mallet hits the small wooden ball, much like Horseback Polo.

Today in the States, besides water polo, horses are the predominant force for the sport. The thoroughbreds are no longer forced off high dives in Atlantic City, and classic Harley's are no longer used in an over glorified demolition derby (though someone did try to bring two-wheeled crash-up matches back during the 80's in Daytona.... but that's for another entry). I say it's high time we relaunch the sport. Bike has to be air-cooled and participants must wear tweeds, felt lettered sweaters and collars. Its a gentleman's sport after all... So who's in?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Streamlined Touring Classics: The odd and unpopular enclosed fairing motorcycle.

The Triumph Twenty One (3TA)

The partially/fully faired motorcycle is by no means a new concept. During the 30's The Art Deco movement inspired countless car and motorcycle companies to incorporate the design-of-the-time into the styling of their vehicles, while most cycles offered little advantage in speed or performance but were simply fancy looking production bikes, as opposed to the streamlined land speed racers or GP race bikes and their dustbin fairings of the 50's. With the semi/fully faired bikes of the 30's, companies like BMW and Henderson were offering a beautiful and more prestigious option to consumers over the other utilitarian bikes of the time. While these bikes deserve a closer look (as well as the race-faired GP's) that will be a topic for another time. It was the failed attempt to implement style and function into a touring machine during the middle part of the century that inspired this post.
The 1934 BWM R7 prototype (Bike Exif) - pulling inspiration from the Rolls Royce Phantom I
Art Deco inspired reworked Henderson inline 4 
The less embellished, French "Majestic" based on a Cleveland Four Cylinder Engine.
In the 50's and early 60's, the popularity of industrial design leaning towards a futuristic, aerodynamic look that reflected the "jet age" and the forthcoming "space race" eras, designers like Eero Saarinen began dropping right angles in architecture and furniture design, opting for a rounded, often times orbital approach, later highlighted in Stanley Kurbrics 1968 film: 2001, A Space Odyssey. This design trend trickled down to everything from automobiles to home appliances - and yes, motorcycles too. This period unveiled some of the oddest (and in many cases) most unpopular styles in production-motorcycle history: The semi/fully enclosed bikes from the 50's and early 60's.

The first machine that started into real production was the Vincent Black Knight and Black Prince series (albeit, in the tail end of the companies existence.) Built around a Series D Rapide, the Black Prince/Knight (as well as a never-released single-cylinder version known as the Black Victor) were a fully glass-fiber faired, streamlined tourer with air vents directed at the rear cylinder for cooling (a common problem with the v-twin design). Phillip Vincent had begun experimenting with the use of fiberglass after WWII and released a crude version of a "water scooter," (now commonly known as a wave runner). Dubbed the Amanda, the water-bike had little success and was quickly dropped after an alleged drowning resulted from Vincents design. Unscathed, Phillip Vincent took the concept of the enclosed motor to his V-twin bikes by incorporating a full shroud, complete with upright windscreen, respectively offering protection to the engine as well as the rider. By late 1955, extreme financial loss forced Vincent out of business and the Black Knight/Prince were killed before they really had a chance to get off the ground. Whether or not it was a coincidence that these bikes marked the final chapter in Vincents legacy is up for debate, but they are rare and desirable in todays collectors market as not many were produced.
Vincent Black Knight at The Barber Museum
Triumph was a few years behind on their semi faired models, though inspiration was most likely taken from the ever-popular Vespa Scooter. The first model with the new rear shroud was the Triumph Twenty One 349cc lightweight, designed by Ed Turner and Jack Wickes. The 500 (5TA) and 650 (thunderbird and T110) models soon followed - all leaving their engines fully exposed, only covering the rear wheel, tool kit (cleverly laid out under the seat) the oil tank and electronics. So unpopular state-side were these "Bath Tubs" that most of them were scrapped for sheet metal and few surface in original condition.  The 3TA and 5TA models went to a "bikini fairing" for a sportier look in the early 60's but eventually dropped the design all together, as even the headlight-nacelles were being deemed as dated by consumers, forcing many dealers to replace the bodywork with standard headlight buckets and non-valenced fenders in order to sell them to the American market. The last of the bath tubs were dropped from the "Thunderbird" after 1965.
Triumphs 3TA and 5TA (not pictured the T100a and the Thunderbird 650 Bath Tub)
Not to be outdone, Norton came out with their own rear enclosure, first appearing on the 1958 250cc Jubilee followed by 1960 350cc Navigator and an optional retrofitted fairing for the Dominator De-Luxe 88 and 99 models, the latter two using the famous Featherbed frame (completely hidden!) - No doubt many of these Dominators were stripped of their panels and made into cafe's or specials. The option was dropped within the first two years of the 60's and Norton focussed on their 750 Atlas and eventually their very successful Commando.
Nortons Short lived rear enclosed 88 and 99 models 
The 99 hid a featherbed frame under it's fairing. Needless to say, complete examples are scarce.
Ariel took a different approach with their Leader model, marketing it against Lambretta as the "form" of a scooter but the "performance of a motorcycle". Designed by Val Page and Bernard Knight, The Ariel Leader was a radical new concept with a 250cc two stroke engine suspended in a pressed 20 gauge steel 'backbone' frame, welded down the middle for strength. It's 250cc two stroke engine barely out-powered the scooters, but managed to take a decent share of the market place throughout the early 60's. Later on the streamlining was lessened and the "Arrow" was released as basically a stripped down version, complete with 50cc less hp - in an attempt to make the bikes more affordable in a lower tax bracket. They were quickly dropped all together as Ariel went under in 1965, foreshadowing the collapse of the British motorcycle empire.
The sporty and mildy successful Ariel Leader.
Aermacchi, an Italian based company, came out with one of the most impressive, jet-fighter inspired motorcycle in their "Chimera" (Dream) model. Designed by Alfredo Bianchi, the lines and giant front air scoop screamed "speed" but performance was limited to lightweight market specs. Again, while a cult following of collectors love these bikes, the public demand was shifting and the poor sales of the Chimera lead to a redesign, which exposed the horizontal, air cooled single cylinder engine. This bike eventually morphed into the "Sprint" which did find success in the American market after Aermacchi was aquired by Harley Davidson.

The 175cc Aermacchi Chimera. Scooter or motorcycle?
The Stunning lines of the 172.4cc Aermacchi Chimera at The Barber Museum
As the 70's approached, the production street bikes went back to a traditional exposed motor look, before the Japanese takeover forced most of the British companies under. Now most sport bikes are water cooled and fully faired, the difference being that the fairings actually help the high performance motors overcome wind resistance instead of simply embellishing the look of the bike - though it must be mentioned: they all pretty much look identical.

The optimistic look of the mid 20th centuries "jet age" failed to transcend into the two wheeled market - with the exception of Vespa and Lambretta and the 2 stroke scooter market. The industry obviously failed to read what the motorcycle consumers really wanted, but due to their original undesirability, most that are left have become somewhat collectible in todays market - to those who like collecting the odd-ball bikes of yesteryear. 
Al Hartmans pride and joy: 1960 Triumph T100A

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fiat Works in Turin Italy - Futurism: speed, technology, youth and violence.

Lingotto Fiat circa 1920's

Pictures often circulate on the internet gaining lots of buzz, especially with the advent of social media outlets like, well you know.... With the steady onslaught of imagery bombarding the brain, it's easy to develop a short attention span and simply click "like", move on and forget as the incoming fire of photo's never cease. The photos of the rooftop racetrack on top of Lingotto Fiat-Works building has gone viral (many times), though many viewers have responded "is this real?" "is this still around?" seemingly forgetting about the little search-box at the top of their web browsers window. The Fiat building in Turin (Torino in Italiano) is more than just the cool concept, it's actually regarded as the first Futurist architectural accomplishment (Futurist credo: Destroy the cult of the past... Support and glory in our day-to-day world....). Designed by Giacomo Mattè Trucco, construction started during WWI in 1916 and was completed in 1923. The structure became one of the flagships for post war Italy though by this point, the original Futrurists had splintered into many different factions - including the rising tide of Fascists. Mussolini utilized the Fiat factory to further the war efforts in WWII - with a slight twist of irony, the design of the assembly line contained within the walls of Lingotto Fiat was directly lifted from the forerunners of the free market - Ford Motors of America.

Planes (albeit very outdated) being assembled by Fiat during WWII

The Fiat Works building fully embodied the words and ideas of the futurist movement documented in Filippo Tommasa Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto: 'Speed' - from the lines of the long, linear factory walls to the bowled test track on the buildings roof; 'Technology',- the building itself feat in engineering, designed to mass produce, test, improve, repeat; 'Youth and violence' - test riding a car on a one kilometer track, several stories above ground level presents an inherent risk of life for the young drivers; 'The auto/aero industry' -producing new and improved forms of transportation including planes; Finally the 'industrial city' - the Fiat Works building  tied all the demands from the manifesto into one mammoth Futurist machine.

One of two spiral drives up to the roof top race track. Futurist architecture at it's finest.
The beauty of the building is rivaled only by the highly efficient yet surprisingly simple concept of manufacturing. The raw materials were delivered to the ground floor. Parts were forged, panels were beaten and eventually ended up on the assembly line which spiraled up the building, where the finished car would emerge on the rooftop track for a test run. From there it would descend the spiral drive down to the ground floor, lined up with the others and eventually and shipped off.

The 1km test track was the first of it's kind and the building was (of its time) the largest facility in the world and inspired many companies to model their factories after Fiat - though only a few had rooftop tracks. One of these knock offs was by the French auto-company Imperia, who's building still remains today, though in ruins.

The Imperia factory rooftop track as it stands today. Not quite rideable... yet. Challenge, anyone?
The first and best rooftop track being used at fiat.  Test driver for Fiat, best job ever?
In 1982, Fiat officially closed it's Lingotto factory due to newer, cheaper and more efficient means of manufacturing . The building is still used today - a shopping mall resides in part of the spiral drive to the roof. The roof track itself is open to the public for viewing and is complete with a museum telling the buildings significance in industrial, cultural, political and architectural history.

While scooters are very cool, those on top of the bank look like they're on a hill climb.
In September 2011, RedBull sponsored a scooter ride on Fiats infamous track. Scooterists stormed the steep 15 foot banks at breathtakingly slow speeds - but was a photo opportunists dream come true. Retro bikes on a 90 year old racetrack - with RedBull signs galore.

On one hand, the mall below represents the future of our culture - consumerism. Buying new computers and phones and tossing out last years model is exactly the principle the Futurists wanted to apply... to everything! On the other hand, "racing" vintage Vespas on a building that is nearly a century old? Filippo Tommasa Marinetti is surely rolling over in his grave!

Check out the first segment of this video to see inside the original Fiat Works Factory.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Quirky DAF 46 Dutch Mini 4 seater. Race it in REVERSE!

In 1928 Hubert "Hub" van Doorne founded the company as Commanditaire Vennootschap Hub van Doorne's Machinefabriek. His co-founder and investor was Huenges, managing director of a brewery. Van Doorne had repaired Huenges' car several times. Huenges was so pleased with his work that he offered to finance him in business. Hub started to work in a small workshop on the grounds of the brewery. In 1932 the company, now run by Hub and his brother, Wim van Doorne, changed its name to Van Doorne's Aanhangwagen Fabriek (Van Doorne's Trailer Factory), abbreviated to DAF. Huenges left the company in 1936 and the DAF company was now completely in the hands of the van Doorne brothers.

The Daf Auto Factory circa late 40's.

In the winter of 1954 Hub van Doorne had the idea to use belt drive, just like many of the machines in the factory that were belt-driven, to drive road vehicles. In 1959 DAF started selling the world's first car with a continuously variable transmission, the small four-seater DAF 600. This was the first of a series of models to be released in subsequent years, including the DAF 33DAF 44DAF 55 and DAF 66, all using the innovative Variomatic transmission system. In theory, this always produces the optimum torque. The variomatic was introduced by DAF in 1958, also putting an automatic gear box in the Netherlands for the first time. 

The Variomatic transmission run by belts.

The Variomatic, does not have separate gears, but one (continuously shifting) gear and a separate 'reverse mode' (as opposed to a reverse gear), the gear works in reverse as well, giving it the interesting side effect that one can drive backwards as fast as forwards. As a result, in the former Dutch annual backward driving world championship, the DAFs had to be put in a separate competition because no other car could keep up. Thus, these very cheap and simple cars were the 'formula one' in this competition.

Check out this unbelievable video from you tube of the Daf's racing in REVERSE:

These cars are going in REVERSE!

The DAF 46 is a small family car, introduced in November 1974 to replace the 44, although at the time it was announced that the two cars would be sold "alongside" one another, suggesting that there were still substantial stocks of the earlier model awaiting customers.

Fast forward: February 1st, 2012 - My good friend Justin called me to ask for a hand moving some items into a storage locker for our late-friend, Ryan Dunn. Ryan had a collection of cars (mostly BMW's) but amongst his assortment of auto's was one of his favorites: a 1976 DAF 46 which he imported from the Netherlands several years ago. According to the Daf Club of America, Ryan's '76 is one of four 46's of this particular year known to be in the United States.
Ryan shows our friend Doug the 46. West Chester, PA.
Since Ryan's tragic loss (along with our good friend Zac Hartwell), the Daf has sat in the grass next to Ryans former office in West Chester PA. Completely exposed to the elements, Justin was worried that the car would quickly deteriorate and wanted to safely store it until the family decided what to do with this sentimental piece. The car was precariously parked behind two trailers with little room to maneuver it back to the storage locker - which we had just cleaned out. Did I mention the cars battery was dead and the tires were nearly flat? Being that the car is so light, we ended up lifting the rear-end and swinging it around so that it could be pushed back onto the blacktop - no easy task! Once we were able to push it back to the shop, we inflated the tires and carefully backed it into the dry storage locker where it now resides, locked up tight. 

What will become of the car? That is for the family to decide. It meant so much to Ryan that it's hard to part with. For now we feel that at least it's out of harms way until that difficult decision is made.

satisfied after sever hours of wrestling.