Monday, December 31, 2012

Today in motorcycle history, December 31, 1967

  In one of his most famous, or infamous, stunts, Evel Knievel, attempting a year-ending jump at Caesar's Palace Fountain, Las Vegas, Nevada, crashes hard. The landing doesn't quite goes as planned crushing his pelvis and femur, fractures his hip and a wrist, both ankles and rattles his brain giving him a concussion.
   The injuries would only sideline Evel until May of 1968 (five months?!) when he jumps at Beeline Dragway in Scottsdale, Arizona. The result? Keep your dial tuned in on May 25th...

Monday, December 24, 2012

"...There is a fundamental difference, however, between the old Vincents and the new breed of superbikes. If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the Vincent Black Shadow Society."

Today in motorcycle history, December 24, 1977

  The final episode of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Wonder Wheels" airs on Saturday morning as part of "The Skatebirds".
  In case you're wondering (and I'm sure you are) it's the crime-fighting tale of a young journalist named Willie Sheeler (voiced by legendary drummer Micky Dolenz of The Monkees) and his girlfriend Dooley Lawrence (voiced by Susan Davis) who solve crimes with the help of his superhero motorcycle, Wonder Wheels. Whenever Willie goes into action, he utters his catchphrase: "This looks like a job for Won-won-won-won-won-won-won-won-won-won-won-won-wonder Wheels!". Then at the press of a button, Willie's beat-up motorcycle transforms into a pimped out version with a mind of its own.

 Hmm, pretty good peyote back then, Micky?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Today in motorcycle history, December 21, 1962

  Gary Hocking, Grand Prix motorcycle champion dies.

  Born in Caerleon, near Newport, Monmouthshire, in south-east Wales, Hocking was brought up in South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) learning to race on grass tracks as a teenager.  He moved to Europe in 1958 and began racing for Manchester's Reg Deardon aboard 350cc and 500cc Norton Manx racers.  In 1959 he was offered a ride for the East German MZ factory and he finished second in the 250cc championship.  Impressed with his riding MV Augusta offered him full factory support for the 1960 season and he rewarded them for their belief in him finishing second in 125cc, 250cc and 350cc classes.

  Following the retirement from motorcycle racing by defending champion, John Surtees in 1961, Hocking became MV Agusta's top rider and went on to claim dual World Championships in the 350cc and 500cc classes, in a dominating manner against little factory mounted opposition.

  Gary Hocking was deeply affected by the death of his friend, Tom Phillis at the 1962 Isle of Man TT. After winning the Senior TT, he announced his retirement from motorcycle racing and returned to Rhodesia. He felt motorcycle racing was too dangerous and decided a career in auto racing would be safer.        

  Ironically, later that year he was killed during practice for the 1962 Natal Grand Prix. His car, a Lotus 24, went straight on a fast curve and somersaulted after hitting a ditch. There is speculation that he blacked out on the long back straight because he made no attempt to slow down or steer into the corner as the car carried on into the bank at full speed. He was 25 years old.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Today in motorcycle history, December 20, 2008

  A Ferrari motorcycle?! I can own it?!  Yessiree, Bob...  According t the auction house Bonhams Switzerland, this 1995 built-from-scratch motorcycle was the brainchild of MV Agusta guru David Kay, who conceived of the bike as a tribute to Enzo Ferrari. In a letter enclosed with the motorcycle which will be auctioned soon, Enzo's son Piero granted Kay "the approval to place the Ferrari badge on your motorbike".
  The product of 3,000 hours of labor, this one-off bike features:
a tubular chassis constructed of Reynolds 531 alloy, 900cc four-cylinder engine that produces 105 horsepower, a dry weight of 379 lbs and a top speed of 165 mph.
  The engine is a 900cc, transverse, double overhead camshaft, four cylinder, eight valve unit with magnesium and alloy casings, driven through a five speed gearbox. The tubular chassis is made of Reynolds 531 tube, engineering on the motorcycle is irreproachable and the detail is quite astounding. The attention to this is quite incredible, with the master cylinder built into the obviously one off digital instrument panel and is again portrayed with the exquisite steering damper. Terry Hall, who also produced the double curvature reverse cone megaphones, made the entire bodywork out of aluminium. In Kay's own words these are too beautiful to merely funnel exhaust gases from engine to atmosphere; 'the noise is like a Messerschmitt chasing a Spitfire'.
  OK, just let me take it around the block, just once.
  I'll be careful.   I promise...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today in motorcycle history, December 19, 1968

  Warner Brothers releases the movie "Bullitt," starring Steve McQueen, in Sweden, some two months after its debut in U.S. theaters. Many critics consider "Bullitt" to be one of the greatest action movies ever made, not because of its script or special effects--the plot is impenetrable, the dialogue is fairly awful, and nothing explodes--but because of one sublime seven-minute car chase through the streets of San Francisco. In poll after poll, moviegoers have named that chase the best in film history.
  Now you're asking what the hell does that have to do with motorcycles? Well, most of the tough driving stunts in the Mustang GT were done by master motorcycle stunt driver, Bud Ekins. Ekins was a close friend, mechanic and riding cohort of Steve McQueen. The Triumph Trophy jumping the fence in "The Great Escape" was Bud Ekins.
  He received 4 Gold Medals and a Silver in the International Six Day Trials in the 1960's. Ekins ran a very successful Triumph dealership for many years, counting many Hollywood stars as clients. Eventually, and to his stated regret, Ekins switched to selling Hondas.   

  James Sherwin "Bud" Ekins was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

"Today in motorcycle history..." is a sometimes daily blog about all things motorcycle. From production history to the finished product.  News and/or quips about choppers, cafe racers, cruisers, baggers, American, British, Italian, Russian, German, Czech, Dutch, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, fuel injected, supercharged, Amal, S&S, Weber, Dellorto, Goodyear, Avon, swingarm, rigid, nicknames, full names, serious, humorous, famous, infamous, births, deaths, inventions, failures, long rides, bar hoppers, arrests, court battles, civilian, military, blah blah blah.  You get the point.  It's all about two-wheels, all the time.  If you find it interesting tell your friends, if you don't then quit reading and go back to your car websites, but remember to roll up the windows and lock your doors, traffic can be hell.