Here is a link to the Video I made in 2010 about the Great Indian V Harley Race in Australia. After going on this race I decided to start sponsoring this event in the US. So far we have had 3 events in the states and our next event will be Spring 2016
The Great Race 2010 Indian Vs Harley – 120 motorcycles competing in Australia’s Snowy River for bragging rights. I was invited to the event by Peter Arundel, who loaned me his 53 Chief to ride on the event. I had a great time, meeting and riding with the other participants. It was a real fun weekend of riding! This was my first trip to Australia, and in my 5 days of staying in the country I spent everyday riding, and we rode over 1,000 miles! How can you beat a trip like that! Riding antique bikes every day!
I had so much fun at this event, that I decided we needed to have an event like this in the states. “The Great Indian v Harley Race” is coming to Yosemite CA. May 12-14 2011 – sign up today and see you on the road!
For details on the 2011 event see our website at:
She faced long odds, from swampy and rutted terrain to skepticism in a male-dominated era, but Sadie Grimm had something that trumped it all: grit.
In 1914, she did something on a motorcycle that men attempted but failed — she became the first to complete an endurance race from Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach, across roadless marshlands.
Then the 19-year-old did it again. On the same day.
“She was a pistol, is what her grandchildren called her,” said Ross Metcalfe, a Manitoban who is president of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America and co-founder of the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba.
“I call her plucky. This was something that a very phenomenal woman did 105 years ago, and she showed no fear in being able to do it.”
It was the first documented award in Canadian motorcycling by a woman in a competition also open to men, said Metcalfe.
“Think about the year she did it — it’s 1914, the year Nellie McClung is staging the mock parliament and pushing the government for the women’s vote. So it’s a pivotal time for women and here’s Sadie doing something no man could do,” he said.
“By our record, she’s probably the first woman in North America to win a medal or a trophy or an accomplishment on a motorcycle — and was actually able to keep it.”
A few years earlier, American Clara Wagner won a race between Indianapolis and Chicago but was denied the trophy because of her gender, Metcalfe said.
Race to resort town
The Winnipeg-to-Winnipeg Beach contest, open to anyone, was announced by the Manitoba Motorcycle Club in the winter of 1913-14.
A gold medal was offered up to the first person to complete the 90-kilometre one-way trek from the city to the Empress Hotel on the shore of the popular beach town.
“Winnipeg Beach was Manitoba’s Riviera, it was was Manitoba’s Fort Lauderdale,” said Metcalfe. “It had a huge CPR four-storey hotel with balconies and it was a destination.”
But there were no roads to it. Winnipeg Beach was founded as a resort town in 1900 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had the only way to get there.
“The CPR once said that was the most profitable 60 miles of track in all of Canada. Upwards of 13 trains a day would take travellers to the beach and its boardwalk and the fancy hotel,” said Metcalfe.
There were cottages, a dance pavilion, a large pier, water chutes (precursors to modern water slides), and weekend boat regattas that drew as many as 10,000, according to Heritage Manitoba.
“So motorists by 1911-12, they kind of started pointing fingers about the railroad having a monopoly to a place that we want to get to,” Metcalfe said.
So the endurance race was born and motorcycles were a natural choice. Manitoba was a hotbed for motorcycle riding and racing at the time, said Metcalfe.
“There were very many famous racers — men racers — here in Manitoba that were … setting world records,” he said, noting Joe Baribeau, who set a world record at the Kirkfield Park track in 1911 as the fastest man, averaging 60 miles per hour (nearly 100 km/h) over a distance of 100 miles (just over 160 kilometres).
“The first person on Earth to do that and it was done here in Winnipeg. Because of these people being so famous and the Manitoba Motorcycle Club being so dominant, the Canadian Motorcycle Association … moved the Canadian championships to Manitoba in 1914.”
The Manitoba Motorcycle Club, founded in 1911, is the oldest motorcycle club in Canada and fourth-oldest in the world, Metcalfe said.
‘She got back on that bike’
Despite that popularity, there are no records of Grimm competing in any races prior to the endurance test. She seemed to come out of nowhere.
But Metcalfe has his theories.
It just so happened that Grimm’s boyfriend, Jim Cruikshank, was an accomplished amateur motorcycle racer and had opened a repair shop for Indian motorcycles in 1913, across from the new Yale and Northern hotels on Main Street.
Metcalfe thinks Grimm was likely taught how to ride by Cruikshank, who then provided a new, 1914 seven-horsepower Big Twin Indian motorcycle.
“A lot of those early motorcycles were very primitive, so endurance races were a way of motorcycle companies proving their worth,” he said.
Some eager riders who tried their hands at the Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach run while the ground was still frozen turned back. Others tried in early spring but were trapped by the wetlands.
The only place where there was some semblance of a road — really more of a rutted wagon trail — was through Teulon, Metcalfe said. But it stopped about 35 kilometres short of Winnipeg Beach.
Grimm set out on the morning of June 14, 1914.
“For 25 miles she had to break gravel eight inches deep while going 30 miles an hour. She took several graceful slides but picked herself up unhurt,” the Manitoba Free Press reported at the time.
The slides were most likely less than graceful, said Metcalfe, describing them as “two or three face plants.”
“So we want to talk about plucky, I mean, she wasn’t dismayed. She got back on that bike,” he said.
Grimm went up though Selkirk to Petersfield, where the road soon became bog and potholes. After tracing things like deer trails she rode up onto the railroad track.
It was extremely bumpy “but she pounded her way up the track,” Metcalfe said.
After four hours, a slightly dirty, scratched and exhausted Grimm walked into the Empress Hotel and claimed her prize.
There were a couple of people who scoffed at the victory because she used the railroad tracks, so after she rested for a few hours, Grimm decided to make a statement.
She climbed back on the bike and drove back to Winnipeg via the Teulon route that nobody else could traverse.
“So she actually did it twice in the same day,” Metcalfe said. “It was quite a feat.”
The Free Press, under a June 20 headline that said “Lady Wins Gold Medal,” called it “one of the most strenuous rides ever attempted by a Manitoba motorcyclist.”
At least one other motorcyclist also made an attempt that same day but ran out of gas west of the beach and arrived several hours too late to claim the prize.
“What Sadie Grimm did was pretty spectacular, really, when you look at it from a female perspective in Canadian and North American history,” said Metcalfe.
Arrested for impersonating men
Even two years later, in 1916, sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren rode their motorcycles 9,000 kilometres in 60 days across the continental United States. They wanted to prove women could ride as well as men and would be able to serve as military dispatch riders.
Augusta, 24, and Adeline, 22, dressed in military-style leggings and leather riding breeches and were stopped several times during the journey by police who took offence to the fact they wore men’s clothes, according to Anne Ruderman and Jo Giovanni’s book Adeline and Augusta Van Buren: Pioneers in Women in Motorcycling.
“They were arrested a number of times for impersonating a man, if you can believe it,” said Metcalfe.
Despite their success, the Van Buren sisters’ applications to be military dispatch riders were rejected. Reports in a motorcycling magazine of the day praised the bike but not the sisters. It also described the rigorous journey as a vacation.
Following her success, Grimm became a spokesperson for the participation of women in motorcycling. In the July 1914 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune, Grimm lauded the activity as beneficial to health and the independence of women.
“The motorcycle is a great teacher.… It teaches [one] to be more independent on herself, to know that with a twist of the wrist she can control the powerful little machine that will carry her swiftly and safely wherever she wants to go,” Grimm said.
“I don’t think anyone could recommend a better doctor than nature — plenty of fresh air and exercise are the greatest health givers.”
Grimm died in February 1970 at the age of 74. In 2017, she was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
‘Empowers women to ride’
That same year, the first Sadie Grimm historic motorcycle ride to Winnipeg Beach was held. Follow-up rides have been held every June since then, doubling as a fundraiser toward a planned commemoration for Grimm.
The Women Riders Council (WRC), a member of the Coalition of Manitoba Motorcycle Groups, wants to build a picnic shelter, named in Grimm’s honour, at the spot where the Empress Hotel once stood.
The Manitoba government has agreed to the proposed steel-and-concrete design with a motorcycle motif being built on the property, now owned by the province.
“It will have a motorcycle theme for the sides of it and the circles in the top, holding the roof up, will look like motorcycle wheels. So it will be a real commemoration of Sadie’s ride,” said Mary Johnson, a member of the WRC and chair of the Sadie Grimm Celebration Committee.
She first heard about Grimm’s story in 2014 while at the Manitoba Motorcycle Club’s induction ceremony into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame. When Metcalfe was accepting the award, he mentioned Grimm.
“I remember thinking at the time ‘I need a piece of that [story],'” Johnson said.
She got Metcalfe to tell her everything he knew about Grimm and shortly after, she shared the story at a WRC meeting.
That’s when another member, Carolyn Peters, offered to do more research and eventually got in contact with grandchildren and a grandniece of Grimm’s in California.
They had some photos to offer up but for the most part, Grimm’s exploits were unknown to them. They always thought she was kind of cool because she was “just a little out there,” with her long fingernails painted in bright red polish that matched a similarly brilliant lipstick, said Peters.
But for the most part, Grimm was just known to them as Nana, she said.
“It is just such an interesting story, that this woman who was very anonymous until now … had been this vivacious, independent, outspoken woman for women’s issues and women’s rights at such an early point in Manitoba history,” Peters said.
“It was really a terribly courageous thing that she did. I just think of her at this point as a really fantastic role model to young women back then in 1914 and still very relevant today.”
The dusting off of Grimm’s story immediately led to a renewed interest and ultimately, her induction into the hall of fame.
In the summer of 2015, the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba (which amalgamated with the MMC in 2010) organized a Sadie Grimm run from Winnipeg to a roadhouse about halfway to Winnipeg beach.
Johnson was told the club would buy a meal for all women riders who participated. She rounded up a large group, which then finished the run to the beach in honour of Grimm.
That sparked the idea for the picnic shelter, which is expected to cost $45,000.
So far, the fundraising rides and other donations have raised about $28,500.
Johnson and Peters hope the shelter will keep Grimm’s story in the public eye because of the inspiration it provides.
“When we talk to people about it they get really excited,” she said, noting one woman joins the ride every year, spurred by Grimm’s story, and “just went and bought an Indian Chief motorcycle this week.”
High on the list of truths universally acknowledged must be the fact that the Indian Motorcycle, as a legend, a logo and a symbol ranks up there with the golden arches and the three-pointed star, with power and value beyond calculation. On the other hand, naming your daughter Baby Ruth doesn’t ensure she will hit 60 homers a season against big-league pitching. To collect on the promise of legend and esteem, you gotta have a product.
We are concerned here with the Indian, originally spelled Motocycle by the founders, as currently offered by Polaris Industries. To fully appreciate this, we’ll have to look back 60 years, to an undisputed tragedy.
At the close of WWII, a prosperous and product-starved public was ready to buy just about anything. The car and motorcycle makers had learned a lot during the war, but they were canny enough to offer the old versions while testing and refining the new. The 1947 Harley-Davidsons, Fords, Chevys, Dodges, etc., were identical to the 1941 models, while the improved models—the ohv Oldsmobile engine and the telescopic-fork Hydra-Glide—didn’t get here until 1949.
But at the Wigwam, as always, things were different. E. Paul DuPont, who owned Indian and kept the brand in business through the Great Depression, sold his shares in the company. The new owners had new ideas—vision, one could say. The firm’s chief engineer had designed a radical line of really new machines, modular in that there would be a Single, a Twin and a Four, all using the same basic design, all overhead valve, foot shift and hand clutch, suspension fore and aft, with the writing on the tank being the only clue as to what was what.
Further, the new president embarked on a revolutionary ad campaign. As the Japanese say, he reckoned to enlarge the pie, rather than fight over slices. The completely different motorcycles were launched in 1945, with a completely different campaign endorsed by baseball, show business and movie stars.
But wait: Doesn’t this sound like Honda in 1959, meeting the nicest people and all that? Yes. But for one thing, Honda’s dealer network was based on new people who mostly ran hardware or sporting-goods stores, and for another, Honda’s engineering raised the bar worldwide.
Indian’s new bikes—the Single and Twin (the inline-Four never got past the prototype stage)—were disasters. When they didn’t blow up, they broke down. The motorcycling community was small, and everybody knew how bad the new models were. Add to that, the old dealer network, the guys who’d raised a stink when the evergreen Scout was abandoned and stormed the boardroom demanding a new one, wasn’t always that happy with the new people.
Suffice it here to say that everything that could go wrong did. The money ran out and Indian’s new owners begged for help. The English brands were doing well, so Indian asked to distribute several makes. A partnership was formed, and before you could say the camel’s nose was in the tent, the Indian visionaries were out, the English owned Indian and production of the new models was immediately stopped. The final production run of the final genuine Indians, the Blackhawk version of the side-valve 80-inch Chief, came in 1953.
There followed a run of Royal Enfields and later, Matchlesses labeled Indian, but fooling nobody. Next, a puzzle and struggle over ownership of the script, name and symbols. There were Matchless-Indians, then a run of Italian Indians backed by entrepreneur Floyd Clymer, first road bikes and then motocross.
Next, a series of failures on a different stage: promoters with big plans and no money, who never made any motorcycles. A serious effort appeared in 1999. There was a major market at the time for full-dress Harleys and look-alike rivals from the major brands. Indian of America had a factory in Gilroy, California, and produced a viable machine, a big Twin styled like the old Chief and powered by a version of a Harley clone. But the funding wasn’t enough, sales did not meet hopes and the firm went bankrupt in 2003. Three years later, another group of investors picked up the baton and began building the same sort of repro-Indian Chief, this time with modern engineering as in EFI and a bigger V-Twin than Indian Motocycle ever dreamed of—all of it just in time for the bottom to drop out of the market.
But the true revival, one can only hope, came in 2011, when Polaris bought the struggling brand. What’s the difference this time? The lesson since the debacle in 1945 is clear: It’s a heap more difficult to produce a viable motorcycle than all those dreamers and promoters realized. They all had the script and the logo and the legend, but not one had a product to match the hype, good intentions or no.
In contrast, Triumph, with a logo and badge nearly as good, was revived and still thrives simply because it had 1) the capital to invest; and 2) a properly engineered machine that created its own market. It didn’t revise the classic Bonneville Twin until the big Triples proved that the product matched the promotion. Knock wood, those Indian dealers who stormed the boardroom demanding a new Scout in 1947, may soon get their wish. Except there is a very good chance it will be a Chief.
It was 1949 and Indian Motorcycle was struggling. It was so bad that the company could not fulfill the orders it had from, all-important police and other commercial entities. West Coast distributor Hap Alzina got the news and selflessly shipped huge stocks of parts he had in his West Coast warehouse, just so Indian could build bikes to fulfill its orders. Then, not long after that, Alzina learned that Indian was to the point of being so cash strapped, it wasn’t going to be able to meet payroll. Again, Alzina went into action to try to save the manufacturer, by placing a massive advance order, well over his normal allotment, just so Indian would have an instant cash infusion and be able to pay its employees.
Alzina’s ardent devotion to Indian motorcycles went back to the early years of America’s first major motorcycle company. When he was just 15 years old, he bought he first Indian and he loved it. So much so that when he was 17, he took a job as a mechanic for an Indian dealership in San Francisco and quickly worked his way up to service manager.
Born on September 14, 1894, Loris Alzina’s interest in motorcycling began early in life. As a boy he bought his first motorcycle, a Reading-Standard, for $50. In 1909, Alzina’s family moved from Santa Cruz, California, to San Francisco. There, he bought his first Indian from C.C. Hopkins, who was the Indian distributor for Northern California at the time. It was for Hopkins’ agency that Alzina began working for Indian.
Alzina spent 56 years devoting himself to motorcycling. Involved in motorcycling from its infancy, he is best known for being the western states distributor for Indian and, later, BSA. He oversaw the sales of those brands during the height of their popularity. Alzina — who earned the nickname “Hap” from his good-natured attitude — also sponsored many of the top AMA professional racers.
In the early 1910s, racing was becoming increasing popular and Alzina tried his hand in competition. He did some flat-track racing, but his primary interest was endurance runs. Alzina raced in many of the early desert city-to-city runs that were popular at the time. In 1919, Alzina edged well known racers Wells Bennett and Cannonball Baker to win the prestigious San Francisco Motorcycle Club Two-Day Endurance Run. That was a huge upset victory over two very popular racers. Of the 30 starters in the 680-mile endurance event, only seven riders managed to finish. Competitors had to battle against rain, hail, snow and even a landslide during the February contest. One rider slid off a muddy wooden bridge and was injured when he fell into the creek below. Alzina overcame those obstacles to earn a perfect score, riding an Indian sidecar outfit. Bennett, riding an Excelsior and Baker, on a factory-backed Indian, were on solo machines.
Alzina’s 1919 endurance victory was his biggest achievement as a competitor and it made him a popular name by way of win ads in motorcycle magazines across the country.
A few years before his big race win, Alzina opened his own dealership, selling Reading-Standard and Cleveland motorcycles. That enterprise was short-lived due to the onset on World War I. After closing his shop, Alzina again worked as sales manager for San Francisco’s Indian distributor. In 1922, Alzina saw a golden opportunity across the Bay in Oakland and bought out the dealership of E.S. Rose. Alzina turned the struggling franchise into a very successful business.
Alzina’s business expertise was recognized by Indian. In 1925, the company assigned him all of Northern California’s distribution. The next year, he was given the entire state, and by 1927 his territory expanded to include Nevada, Arizona and Washington. By 1948, Indian sales in Alzina’s territory represented over 20 percent of Indian’s total worldwide volume.
At the age of 54, moved on to another business venture and bought the western states distribution rights for BSA motorcycles from Alf “Rich” Child in 1949. The growth in motorcycling over the next 15 years was explosive. Under Alzina’s direction, BSA’s western distribution went from three dealerships to 265 dealers in 20 states. The move to BSA helped keep him in the motorcycle business even after his beloved Indian failed in the mid-1950s.
Alzina was an enthusiastic supporter of racing. Many racing stars such as Ed Kretz, Gene Thiessen, Al Gunter, Dick Mann, Kenny Eggers and Sammy Tanner credited Alzina for being a big part of their success. Several of those riders worked in Alzina’s shop and were allowed generous time away to travel to races.
At one point, Alzina also served as Vice President of the AMA.
Famous for his practical jokes, Alzina once walked a horse through a plush New York hotel lobby, pushing the horse into an elevator and taking him up to a room where a party was going on. He also enjoyed marking “Private & Confidential” on the address side of post cards so that everyone would be sure to read the card.
Alzina retired in 1965. He and his wife, Lillian, enjoyed traveling together, visiting friends across the country during their retirement years. He was given an Award of Merit from the AMA on behalf of its 70,000 members upon his retirement.
He was by a journalist if he viewed motorcycling as more business or pleasure.
“Motorcycles are a business,” he said. “But now, as you’re asking questions and I look back over the years, I call it 40 years of fun.”
Alzina died on July 21, 1970 at the age of 75. He will always be remembered as a man of integrity, honesty, loyalty, foresight, common sense and hard work. He was also a one of Indian’s most passionate supporters. He was inducted into the first class of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.
Larry Lawrence | Archives Editor – Cycle World In addition to writing our Archives section on a weekly basis, Lawrence is another who is capable of covering any event we throw his way.
Mike Wolfe is known as an American picker. He’s a TV star, author and entrepreneur.
But mostly, he’d tell you, he’s an Indian Motorcycle® enthusiast. He loves them for their history and heritage, and for their ride. His “best pick – ever” (and what got him in the business full-time) was when he scored a treasure trove of Indian® motorcycles at a Pennsylvania farm.
Mike called the farmer about his classified ad, then drove 800 miles and slept in his van in the farmer’s driveway. The next day, the farmer opened two barns, revealing 10 vintage Indian® motorcycles and tons of parts. Mike Wolfe discovered heaven on earth.
In his picking business, Mike encounters antiques of every kind. But his greatest picking passion is Indian® motorcycles. He collects them. Gets them running. And mostly, he rides. He loves dings, dents, scratches and rust. Forget cosmetics or fresh paint. Just ride. After all, it’s an Indian®.
Indian Motorcycle is excited to be working and riding with Mike Wolfe. He’s helping us bring back the passion this iconic brand deserves, and is energized to ride with us into the exciting next chapter of Indian Motorcycle® history.
One of John Munro’s earliest memories involves him riding to school on the tank of his dad’s motorbike.
He thinks he would have been 5 or 6. That memory is a cherished one because the bike would go on to become world-famous – while his dad would become a motorcyling legend.
John, now 80, is the youngest of Burt Munro’s four children, and has been living in the shadow of his dad’s success since the release in 2005 of the movie dedicated to his father’s achievements: The World’s Fastest Indian.
John, along with his three sisters, has helped Indian Motorcycles keep his father’s name alive.
Burt Munro was a motorcycle racer famous for setting an under-1000cc world record in 1967. He spent 20 years modifying his 1920 Indian motorcycle.
His life is celebrated in permanent displays around Invercargill, including both the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and E Hayes and Sons.
Following the success of The World’s Fastest Indian, the Southland Motorcycle Club created the Burt Munro Challenge to honour him, his love of speed and motorcycles. The challenge is one of New Zealand’s major motorsport events.
Ahead of the Burt Munro Challenge this year, John relaxes at home with a glass of wine and recalls his colourful childhood and “normal” family life. It was full of vacations and events and helping his dad in the shed at their family home in Tramway Rd.
John fondly recalls working together on bikes and cars, holding a spanner on the other end of a bolt.
His father was a hard-working man. Burt would often come home after a busy day at work, sit by the fire and read the newspaper.
In 1945, when John was 11 or 12, his parents split and John’s mother, Florence Beryl Martyn, left the city with him and two of his sisters. He went to school in Hastings and later Napier.
It was seven or eight years before John was reunited with his father.
In 1953, when John was 19, he rode his Velocette, one of Burt’s favourite bikes, from Auckland (where he was living) to Invercargill to spend the Christmas holidays with his dad and other family.
The pair continued to stay in touch.
Once the family had gone, Burt had plenty of time to spend doing what he loved. In fact, he spent 57 years doing what he loved.
He would devote hours to his bikes and if he was preparing for a race would work day and night.
Burt brought a property in Bainfield Rd but was unable to build a house because he couldn’t get a permit for the type of house he wanted.
So, not long after the second world war, when building materials were sparse and the biggest garage was 20 feet by 10 feet, he built his own garage.
He lived in it for 25 years and John remembers it well.
Did it have any facilities?
“It had a lathe. A grinder. A vice. A bed. What else do you want?”
After 25 years, Burt built a house on the property. When he sold it, the house was moved and used as a crib and another house was built.
John was 44 when Burt died of natural causes in 1978.
One of John’s most prized possessions is a scrapbook his father had given him, full of motorbikes, events and newspaper clippings.
John’s life was relatively anonymous until the release of The World’s Fastest Indian. Until then, people across the world, including many in Southland, thought his father was nothing but a “crazy old bugger riding bikes in his 70s”, but opinions quickly changed when the movie was released.
People also got to know exactly who John Munro was and, even now, he’ll get stopped in the street and asked if he’s the famous Burt Munro’s son.
Film director Roger Donaldson made a documentary about Burt in the 1970s and, at the time, said he wanted to make a movie.
He finally did that 30 years later.
John recalls Roger staying with him and his wife, Margaret, going through family history and talking to other family members and people who Burt had ridden with. He spent six years writing the script and started filming in 2004.
Burt’s children spent plenty of time on set.
John remembers travelling to the salt flats in Utah for the first time to watch filming. He also watched a large part of the filming in Invercargill, Winton, Tisbury and Timaru.
“I was invited to be in it. But I said to him, I’m no bloody actor. But, in hindsight, it actually would have been nice.”
A passion for motorbikes runs deep in the family. John himself has owned and tinkered with several bikes and his youngest son has travelled the world on a motorcycle.
Mechanics and inventing also runs in the family.
One of Burt’s uncles, Jim, invented the Munro topdresser and the Munro seed sower and John has also patented his own inventions.
Among those are his innovative way of insulating underground pipes for hot and chilled water, and control systems for school boiler houses.
John was a cabinet maker, farmer, earthmover and telephone operator before starting his own heating and ventilation business. He’s still inventing but now works from home with his wife in the energy management industry.
At the age of 80, he has no desire to retire. “My brain is working 24 hours a day. I gotta keep up with it.”
He also has seven children (aged between 42 and 57), 21 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren, and a great-great grandchild is due.
John has been to every Burt Munro Challenge. He and his siblings are invited to do the race starts and prize presentations. His has carried on his father’s legacy and has been an ambassador for Indian Motorcycles since his father went to Bonneville.
“Indian Motorcycles have done Dad proud and we all want to continue supporting that. As an ambassador for Indian, I’m happy to do that because of what they’ve done to support dad’s achievements.”
When Polaris Industries bought the brand about three or four years ago, they wanted to build something to commemorate Burt, and got in touch with John, wanting to call a new machine the Spirit of Munro.
“As a family, we were delighted to give them permission to do so.”
Everywhere he goes, John says ‘thanks Dad’, because without him, he never would have got to participate in such events.
With 10 minutes to go until the main event of the Cleon Graber estate sale late last week — the sale of a rare, 1904 Indian Camelback motorcycle — Lindy Graber admitted he was “a little nervous; a little emotional” as he watched the public buy bits and pieces of his father’s vast collection.
He also admitted he had a preference as to who might win his father’s rare and valuable motorcycle, an auction item that helped draw hundreds of onlookers to the Wieman Land and Auction building outside of Marion Friday, April 10.
“It would be nice if it would stay in South Dakota,” Lindy said.
Oh, it’s staying in South Dakota, all right.
It’s not even leaving the family.
In a surprising twist, Lindy and the Graber family bought back Cleon’s classic motorcycle with a winning bid of $100,000, making for a bittersweet conclusion to a sale item that had drawn considerable hype; both Jay Leno and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum had both reportedly showed interest in the artifact.
“We had a number that we didn’t want to let it go for,” Lindy told the Courier afterward. “We were hoping it would go for a little more than it did, but that’s the way it goes.”
He said the family buying back Cleon’s 1904 Camelback was always a possibility — “a slight possibility,” he said — and that the Grabers might try to sell it again.
“I’d like to take it to some shows, get it out in the public some more,” Lindy said.
Until then, the rare find will remain with the family it’s been with since Cleon bought the motorcycle in the mid-70s; it was a purchase that came about only because of Cleon’s persistence.
Lindy said his father, an avid collector who had a particular love for engines and transportation, was tipped off about the 1904 Camelback from a fellow collector in the community.
Cleon went to visit the motorcycle owner in the Springfield area, only to be turned down.
“Dad went back several times,” Lindy said, finally striking a deal with the owner after health issues prompted the owner to reconsider its sale.
With the Camelback Cleon’s, it took up residence in a machine shed on the Graber farm east of Freeman where it sat.
Other than some minor changes to its 1904 condition, the Camelback is original. The tires were in bad shape when Cleon purchased it and were replaced; the battery box is not original and the decompression lever used to start the motorcycle has been altered.
Lindy said the motorcycle hasn’t run since it’s been in the family’s possession; they tried to start it about five years after Cleon bought it “and it spit and sputtered a bit.”
But the motor is in such good shape, he said, “I don’t see why it wouldn’t run.”
Lindy believes one of the reasons his dad never worked harder to get it going was because he didn’t want to damage the motorcycle; “He recognized how rare it was.”
Its rarity was noted by Wieman Land and Auction at last Friday’s sale; a video presentation that included an interview with Lindy was shown before the live bidding began and online offers had started coming in up to two weeks before Friday’s sale.
Auctioneers called it “a chance to buy history.”
The opening live bid was $30,500 and quickly climbed to above $70,000 before slowing and eventually topping out at Lindy’s bid of $100,000 — despite the auctioneers’ pleas for somebody to come in at $102,500.
Rich Wieman told the Courier in the days following the sale that they really had no idea how much the 1904 Camelback would bring; research showed similar models going for between $50,000 and $85,000 and, in 2012, one model that was billed as the oldest unrestored Indian motorcycle brought $155,000.
“It was one of those things where you didn’t know for sure what it was worth,” Rich said. “Coffee talk had it going anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, so we really didn’t know what to expect.”
“It could have brought more,” he said, “but it wasn’t a bad price in this market.”
And, he said, the motorcycle’s sentimental value to the Graber family is worth a lot; “Lindy has a lot of love for that sort of thing, anyway.”
As for being able to auction off something as rare as Graber’s motorcycle, Rich called it “a privilege and an honor” and said they enjoyed monitoring the online bids that came in from across the country starting at $100 and climbing up to $30,500 — the starting point on Friday. “It commanded a lot of attention and that’s what makes it so much fun.
“It’s always fun to sell something that is out of the norm.”
Rich could not verify or deny that Jay Leno’s buyers were among those bidding, but he said the Wiemans had reached out to the celebrity who has a taste for vintage motorcycles in a number of ways.
“I know there was talk that he had voiced interest in several different online forums,” Rich said. “But with online bidding, it’s pretty easy to remain anonymous.”
That Lindy ended up with his father’s 1904 motorcycle is fitting, he concluded.
“It’s a piece of South Dakota history,” said Rich.
Bud (Louis) and Temple, who aged 14 and 10, bought an Indian Motorcycle with money they earned from riding on horseback adventures across the USA.
The brothers’ first horseback adventure was from Oklahoma to New Mexico aged 9 and 5. Their father, a US marshall and friend of Roosevelt, came up with the idea saying they needed to “toughen up”.
On July 10, 1909, (eight years after Indian Motorcycle was founded) the brothers Bud and Temple saddled up their horses (called Geronimo and Sam) and set off for Roswell in New Mexico – alone.
A year later in 1910, the two young Abernathy kids set out from Oklahoma again, but this time headed for New York where they would meet Roosevelt who was returning from a hunting trip in Africa.
This adventure had huge media attention with the entire nation country following the brothers in newspaper reports.
When the brothers arrived in New York City on June 11 1910 they were greeted by a crowd of several thousand people (and their father Jack Abernathy).
For the return trip back home to Oklahoma, the boys bought a Brush Motor Car and drove home, once again on their own.
A further year later, in 1911, they accepted a challenge to ride horses from New York City to San Francisco in under 60 days. The rules stated they couldn’t sleep or eat indoors during the entire journey and there was a $10,000 prize if they succeeded. Sadly, they were two days late.
Despite missing out on the $10,000 prize money, the pair had earned a fair sum from their notoriety and they bought an Indian motorcycle.
In 1913, they rode it together from Oklahoma to New York (Bud was 14 and Temple 10). Their stepbrother Anton went along with them too.
Their ride to New York on the Indian was their last documented adventure. Louis grew up to become a lawyer and practice law in Wichita Falls, Texas. He died in 1979. Temple worked in the oil industry and passed away in 1986.