Made in the USA
Vintage American iron showcased in Ohio
Warren, Ohio, Jan. 18—“Pope, Cleveland and Miami” aren’t Jeopardy categories. They’re three examples of the 300-plus motorcycle brands that were once made in the USA. And “Made in the USA” accurately describes the motorcycle exhibit recently opened at the National Packard Museum, located at 1899 Mahoning Avenue in Warren, Ohio.
The Lake Erie Chapter of the American Motorcycle Club of America has been teaming up with the National Packard Museum for nine years to ease the stress and strain of winter in the north. Each year, the volunteers conspire to bring a unique theme to the event, and this year’s theme is Made in the USA. Naturally, there are Harley–Davidson and Indian models to reflect on, including a ’17 “J,” ’30 Scout, ’34 VLD, ’36 Servicar, ’41 Indian 741 and 4-cylinder 441 Deluxe, ’44 Harley XA, ’48 Hummer, ’49 Indian 249, ’53 Indian Chief, ’58 FL and a 1980 XR-750. Any or all of those models are sure to strike a chord with readers of Thunder Press, but the pleasant surprises are the not-so-popular, relatively forgotten manufacturers that are sharing exhibit space in the warmth of the Packard Museum.
Roughly half of the 27-piece Made in the USA exhibit are motorcycles that took a detour in the early part of the last century, taking the road less traveled or, in some cases, no road at all. For example, Jim Borer purchased his 1912 Pope Model K “Big Four,” over 50 years ago, took it apart and hid it from his parents, who were less than excited about him getting a motorcycle. All the pieces remained in storage until the owner’s son suggested that maybe it was time to dig it out and put it back together. The results are the unrestored example on display at the museum.
Each of the bikes on display has a unique history and a story that could be told about how they survived. Each also has a mechanical legacy, highlighting nicknames, features that were advanced for the time, and long forgotten slogans such as “You can’t wear out an Indian Scout,” or the Miami Light’s “100 miles for 10 cents.”
The museum is redolent with a combination of new paint and old iron. And a tour through the exhibit reveals antiquated technology; leather belt drives, drip oil feeds, clip-on motors, and final drives from direct to four-speed transmissions.
Ron Otte’s 1901 Thor C was a little late to the party, arriving in an enclosed trailer that protected it from the blowing snow and single-digit temperatures that gripped the Northeast in January. Ron purchased the bike about 15 years ago—a rusted shadow of its former glory. Today, with the help of restorer Bob Bancroft, the Thor is deserving of its place alongside the other turn of the century machines—with no apologies.
An added feature to the joint exhibit this year is a series of three lectures. Topics that should be of interest to area vintage enthusiasts include: Pin Striping, Making Patterns and Parts, and Rider Education and Safety. The lectures will be presented from 10–11:30 a.m. on February 21, March 21 and April 18.
The exhibit also includes a 30-minute videotape of early motorcycle competition courtesy of Jack Morris of Akron, Ohio. The video features footage of board track racing, flat tracking, hill climbs, TT races, the beach races at Daytona and more, from a variety of locations. The story goes that the footage was shot by a Goodyear tire representative who attended the events back in the day. This alone is worth the admission! Jack also has his ’41 Cushman Autoglide on display.
There’s also plenty of literature, owners manuals and advertising under glass to round out the exhibit, courtesy of Chapter Historian Bruce Lindsey.
In addition to Ron Otte, there are several volunteers on the committee who work tirelessly to make sure the elements are pulled together to make the exhibit museum quality. Daryl Timko, Bruce Williams, Kevin Hillyard, Steve Szewczyk, Dan Amadio, Tom Burasko, Ron Neal, Charlie Ohlin and Mike Yost do the lion’s share of the work, and each has his own volunteer following that does whatever it takes. The 2009 exhibit is sponsored by Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, Inc.; Dreves Insurances; Lake Erie Chapter AMCA, Inc.; Warren Harley-Davidson Sales, Inc.; Little Wing Café and Guy’s Graphics.
The namesake of the museum, the Packard family, maintains a strong presence during the motorcycle exhibit and should not be overlooked. Several fine examples of Packard automobiles remain on display along with some unique industrial machinery and advertising that relates to the Packard family’s many successes.
Made in the USA will be on exhibit through May 31, allowing enthusiasts to ride to the exhibit when the weather breaks. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00–5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00–5:00 p.m. Adult admission is $5, seniors (65+) and children (7–12) $3, and under 7 are free.