Sons of Speed From A Racer’s View

Professionally I am a motojournalist. For fun I am a vintage motorcycle enthusiast. And I was able to combine the two this past week at the first ever Sons of Speed race at the tail end of Daytona Bike Week. As the only journalist crazy enough to get out on a high banked race track on a 100-year-old motorcycle with no brakes, suspension, transmission or clutch, I wanted to share some of my experiences and observations here. Most journalists hang around the pits or track looking for a good story, I wanted to experience racing Sons of Speed for myself.

Buzz Kanter being interviewed with his 1915 Harley racer at the first ever Sons of Speed races at New Smyrna Speedway

I will be going into a lot more detail about the behind the scenes and actual Sons of Speed races in the pages of American Iron Magazine, but I wanted to share a bit of the story here and now.

These motorcycles are all direct drive, meaning if the engine is running, the rear wheel is spinning. So we could not practice anywhere but literally on the track. The first day of practice we all were trying to figure out how to ride the bikes and the fastest way around the track. We’d push the bike up on the high banking – often with the spearkplugs out to make pushing easier. Then we roll down the banking to spin the engine enough to start. The starting was brutal on the bike and rider as you are trying to balance the bike and get it to fire as you lift up your feet and get them on the pegs.

Rhett Rotten sliding out at the Sons of Speed practice. He broke 2 ribs and was back racing the next day

To our surprise there was only one accident on the track. And that was when Rhett Rotten, a Wall of Death rider, suffered a rear tire blow out. He and the bike slid, jumped and bounced down the track at close to 60+ mph. He broke two ribs and after a visit to the local hospital was back on the track for the races.

All the Sons of Speed racers on race day. Notice the crowded stands.

When we finally got out to race Saturday, they had us in four heat races. The plan was the winners of the four move to the finals. And the 2nd place racers in each heat raced for a spot in the main.

I am not going to go blow by blow here, but in the first heat Billy Lane jumped out at the start and took the lead with me following and two others behind me.

Buzz Kanter (white leathers) and Billy Lane (black leathers) at the Sons of Speed races.

I was able to stay within 10 bike lengths or so of Billy until the last lap when I was able to slide past him and hold the lead for the win.

Made it to the main where I was able to hold on to 4th place with Brittney Olsen taking the win with her fast bike and smooth riding. Full report with lots more photos in an upcoming issue of American Iron Magazine. If you don’t currently subscribe, do it now to make sure you get the issue with the race coverage AND save money too. SUBSCRIBE & SAVE

1912 Henderson Four Sells for $490K in Mecum’s Vegas Motorcycle Auction

1912 Henderson Four Mecum's Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction

This first-year, unrestored 1912 Henderson Four sold for $490,000 at the recent Mecum’s Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction. (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions)

An unrestored, first-year Henderson Four with original paint and tires sold for $490,000 at the 26th annual Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction. The motorcycle is “believed to be the only original/unrestored 1912 Henderson known in America.” The Henderson was the highest selling motorcycle at Mecum’s Vegas auction that saw sales total reach $13.7 million. Hendersons claimed the top three spots as a 1913 Henderson Four sold for $150,000 while a 1913 Henderson 4-Cylinder Deluxe auctioned for $127,500.

In all, Mecum was able to sell 868 out of 949 motorcycles it had on the block, a 92% sell-through rate. Mecum’s said sales totals increased 53% compared to last year’s Vegas auction,”setting a new benchmark for achieving the highest sales and the highest sell-through rate in the motorcycle auction’s 26-year history.”

Here’s more information about the top-selling 1912 Henderson Four about Henderson’s history courtesy of Mecum’s auction preview.

The first William Henderson designed four cylinder motorcycle, America’s finest early four cylinder, influential for decades

This is believed to be the only original/unrestored 1912 Henderson known in America

Original paint and tires

59 cubic inch F-Head Four Cylinder engine

Henderson was based in Detroit, formed by brothers William and Tom

The Henderson company was purchased by Ignatz Schwinn in 1918, adding a four cylinder to the Excelsior lineup.

Working for Schwinn for two years, Bill and Tom broke away and started the ACE motorcycle company. The Culmination of Henderson design can be seen in the Indian Four

Formerly from the Doc Cleveland Collection.

William Henderson was an engineering child prodigy, as so many historical figures seem to be. He was born into the motoring industry, as his grandfather, Alexander Winton, had founded one of the earlier auto makers in the USA, and his father was Vice President of Winton Motors. William joined the family firm at 16, but spent his free time sketching out ideas for motorcycles, which he’d pass by his father for technical critique. Eventually, the sketches became blueprints, and his father could only nitpick at the sound design for a 4-cylinder motorcycle his son had penned in 1909. Figuring the effort of actually building a prototype from the sketches might curb his enthusiasm, Tom helped William build a working prototype in 1911; the resulting machine worked so well, young William was able to secure funding to the tune of $175,000 to start manufacture on his own. Working with his brother Thomas as chief operating officer, the Henderson Motorcycle Company produced its first motorcycle from its Detroit factory in January 1912.

The first Hendersons used a 4-cylinder 57 CI (934cc) motor with inlet-over-exhaust design, with a single-speed chain drive and a clutch. It was started via a folding hand crank, just like a Winton car, and the very long chassis was designed for stability and the ability to carry a passenger with ease. The front fork had a short leading-link suspension, and the fuel was carried in a long cylindrical torpedo tank. It was a beautiful and elegant machine, wonderfully constructed, very fast and expensive at $325. It was soon labeled the “Deusenberg of motorcycles” for good reason, with totally smooth running, a charming exhaust note and an air of quality. Carl Stearns Clancy famously chose a Henderson for the first ever round-the-world motorcycle journey, which began in October 1912 and covered 18,000 miles by August 1913. Clancy earned money selling press reports and photographs of his trip, making an incredible publicity coup of Henderson.

This 1912 Henderson is the only original-paint, first-year Henderson known in America. It retains the paint applied by the factory, as well as the tires and everything else. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime motorcycle, in remarkable condition for being 105 years old and would be welcome in any Concours d’Elegance around the world as a solid-gold original. How does one value such a machine? One doesn’t; if you can afford it, do what it takes to secure it as this is as good as it gets.

American Iron Magazine & Greenwich Concours Bike Show

Have you ever been to a Concours d’Elegance? American Iron Magazine and Greenwich Concours is working together to promote show quality motorcycles in a high-profile manner at this year’s event.

The annual event will be held June 3 & 4, 2017 in Greenwich, CT. Saturday will be focused on American vehicles (Harley, Indian, Excelsior, Pope, Yale, Crocker, etc), and Sunday is imports.

1938 Indian Four Motorcycle

American Iron Magazine is partnering up to present three classes each day: Pre-War motorcycles, Post-War motorcycles, and Competition motorcycles. This is a great opportunity to share the field with some world class collector cars and show how amazing our motorcycles are too.

If you have a Concours quality (original, restored or race) motorcycle and/or sidecar you think would fit in, please go to…/2017-vehicle-submission/ and send in your submission.

Ultra Rare 1949 Indian-Vincent Factory Prototype in Bonhams Vegas Auction

1949 Indian-Vincent Factory Prototype is one of the prizes in the upcoming Bonhams Vegas Motorcycle Auction

This one-of-a-kind 1949 Indian-Vincent Factory Prototype ended up in the personal collection of Phil Vincent. (All photos courtesy of Bonhams)

Singular Anglo-American model is one of 16 Vincent motorcycles consigned to January’s auction

Bonhams is very pleased to announce the consignment of a very rare and historically significant motorcycle: the 1949 Indian-Vincent Factory Prototype.

In 1948 the manager of Indian Motorcycles, Ralph Rogers, and the director of Vincent HRD, Philip Vincent, agreed on a joint venture to manufacture and sell a hybridization of their machines to the American market. Two prototypes were created as a result: the better known Vindian – essentially an Indian Chief with Vincent motor, and the Indian-Vincent – essentially a specially badged Vincent Rapide with some Indian components.

Both machines were one-off designs created at Vincent’s factory in Stevenage, England from two Chiefs shipped over from Indian’s Springfield, Massachusetts factory. Unfortunately, neither prototype was put into production before Indian’s demise just a few years later.

1949 Indian-Vincent Factory Prototype front view

This one-off factory prototype combines Indian and Vincent parts in a collaboration between the American and British companies.

The singular Indian-Vincent was the exceptionally fast and desirable Series C Rapide with a few Indian components aimed at US riders, such as high handlebars, additional lights, crashbars and converted left-side gearshift. The prototype was personally taken by Phil Vincent later that year to Australia, where it has remained most its life.

Now this genuine, fully VOC-documented, one-of-one motorcycle representing two of the greatest names in motorcycling history will be offered for the first time at public auction. It carries an estimate of $250,000-$300,000.

Just as newsworthy, the Indian-Vincent is one of what is quite possibly a record number of motorcycles from the Vincent marque to be offered in one sale. In all, 16 Vincents have been consigned with the following models of various vintage and specification represented: Comet, Rapide, Black Shadow, Black Prince and Black Knight.

“It’s exciting to have so many examples in one auction,” says Nick Smith, Bonhams’ US Head of Motorcycles. “Vincent is one of the most respected and sought after names in the world of collectors’ motorcycles and to have this unprecedented assembly – not to mention being selected to represent the legendary prototype – is just phenomenal. It’s an incredible opportunity for Vincent aficionados.”

Bonhams’ seventh annual Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction will take place Thursday, January 26th at the Rio Hotel & Casino. For more information, visit

1949 Indian-Vincent Factory Prototype

The singular Indian-Vincent combined the “exceptionally fast and desirable Series C Rapide with a few Indian components aimed at US riders, such as high handlebars, additional lights, crashbars and converted left-side gearshift.” 

1931 Harley V Model Bobber

American Iron Classic - 1931 H-D V Model

American Iron Classic – 1931 H-D V Model – American Iron Magazine Issue #340

By Jim Babchak / Photos by Buzz Kanter

The future of old bikes belongs to young bucks

There’s growing concern among today’s aging vintage motorcycle enthusiasts regarding the next generation of owners of old bikes. The circle of life has put the baby boomer generation next in line for that big flea market in the sky, and so the question many of those boomers ask today is: will the Millennial Generation (18-35-year-olds) step up to serve as stewards of the aging bikes that are, regardless of what generation we’re talking about, irreplaceable?

Time and again, I’ve walked the aisles and fields at our Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) meets only to observe that practically everyone I encounter joined the club during the late 1960s or the ’70s or ’80s, an outgrowth of his biker days marked by the maturing of tastes and aided by newfound disposable income. Consequently, there’s a generational cliff starting at about 1990 that we need to backfill and infuse with the love of old machines. We have to do a better job of getting more 20 somethings involved in the old bike scene or many of our most treasured machines will be exported overseas to fuel the growing demand for vintage Americana elsewhere in the world.

1931 Harley V Model American Iron Magazine Issue 340

This bobber project began with the basics: a stock 1931 frame with an I-beam front end, motor, and transmission. 

Thankfully, Buck (short for Buckley) Carson of Livingston, Texas, is one of the young guns in the club who, at 23 years old, is not only a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, but a leader in the field, making a difference with his energy and efforts among members of his generation. You see, Buck has a weekly Internet-based radio blog show called Classic Chrome on The Road Hawgs Radio Network. He’s heard by 98,000 listeners during his 7 p.m. (Central Standard Time) worldwide broadcast. Each show, he and guests explore topics like old motorcycles and the culture surrounding them, tech-related stories, book reviews, etc. Whatever strikes his fancy regarding the vintage bike scene.

His love for old machines is steeped in his family’s involvement in the sport. His grandfather and dad, Mike (a diehard trials and enduro competitor), were collectors and enthusiasts themselves, and they took Buck under their wings, tutoring him about old iron. First up was a cosmetic restoration of his granddad’s 1982 FLT about eight years ago. That experience fully baked the love for old bikes into Buck’s DNA. Currently, the Carsons’ combined private collection includes about 90 motorcycles, a mix of American, English, and European machines. The assemblage goes by the name Carson Classic Motors and is housed in a 3,600-sq-ft. steel building that’s been expanded many times. I suspect the business will continue to grow exponentially well into the future if Buck has final say in company matters.

1931 Harley V back fender

Cut down and clean, classic bobber style!

The 1931 V model featured here is part of the Carson collection and represents the classic bobber style. The bike came about after a conversation that Mike and Buck had with John Cullere, a noted VL expert and restorer with an extensive collection of VL parts. John had restored a VL for their mutual friend Scott Byrd, and the Carsons loved his work, commissioning him to build this VL bobber. They wanted it built to a 1930s-’40s bobber theme, to be period correct, and bulletproof in terms of ridability.

Read more about the restoration in American Iron Magazine Issue 340!

Also available in digital format CLICK HERE American Iron Digital

1931 Harley V Model - Carson Classic Motors

1931 Harley V model from the Carson Classic Motors collection

TV Two Cam – 1929 Harley JDH on History Channel’s American Restoration

1920 JDH Two Cam

Buzz’s 1929 Harley JDH Two Cam was featured on an episode of History Channel’s American Restoration.

Text by Dale Walksler
Photos by Jim Dohms

I have always liked a challenge, and this is a great one — a worn out 87-year-old bike and only 45 days to rebuild it in front of a TV audience. To be seen on History Channel’s American Restoration, this is a behind the scenes look at what was involved in redoing this rare old Harley.

This wasn’t the first time my old friend and fellow motorcycle enthusiast Buzz Kanter has thrown a challenge at me. It’s hard to remember all the projects Buzz and I have worked on over the decades, but the reward is always a great motorcycle project, fun with old friends, and some ink in American Iron Magazine (AIM).

My guess is that most Harley riders have no idea what a Harley JDH is or represents. They look like single-cam Harley JDs, but less than 2,000 higher-performance JDHs were ever made. They were fast and reliable machines, and many were ridden hard, abused, and worn out. Eventually they became all but extinct. The few surviving examples have been scooped up by collectors, with the best selling for well over $100,000.

1929 Harley JDH before restoration

Buzz’s 1929 JDH before it got the American Restoration treatment.

Buzz bought his first JDH, a rough and rusty rolling basket case in a basement, in 1992 and immediately fell in love with these rare old motorcycles. In 2012, he rode one from New York to San Francisco on the Motorcycle Cannonball. So you know he has plenty of experience with JDH Harleys. But those are stories for another time.

What we began with on the TV show was actually a pretty good start for a project. It looked funky, but it was all there and in fair running condition. Because we had a tight production schedule to get this bike finished, it became an exercise in precise calculating of which parts got what finishes. It had to look good when finished, but we did not have the luxury of waiting for plating and painting.

If you saw the show (almost a million households viewed the first airing), you know some of this already. Bob, Buzz, and I quickly and efficiently tore it down in the Wheels Through Time workshop. We had it apart in less than an hour. Then, for the first time I can remember, I chased Buzz out of the workshop and told him to come back in a month to see the finished project. Then the real work began.

Bob White and I discovered that the frame and the forks were bent, which was pretty common — remember that these machines were raced, and that means crashed. Fortunately, we had a genuine 1920s Harley frame table at the museum workshop for just this reason. Once straightened, we sent the frame and fork out for paint. John Dills painted the components in a luscious two-tone maroon that Buzz had picked out. We tossed most of the crappy and mismatched nuts and bolt hardware and replaced a lot of it with leftover nickel nuts and bolts from a recent Crocker and other old bike projects.

1929 Harley JDH Two Cam stop taillight

Dale’s sense of humor is evident in this wrinkle to the restoration.

While waiting for the frame and fork to come back from painting, we stripped the tanks for inspection. They were worse than expected, so we opted for replacement tanks with welded seams from Tom Feezer of Replicant Metals in Pennsylvania.

Since the name of the show is American Restoration, all the parts had to either be repainted or replated. My pals at Plating Specialties in Michigan handled this in short order. I am thankful they cleaned the parts prior to plating, saving me the 20-plus hours that I did not have to spare.

1929 Harley JDH

Back to some of the details on this 1929 Harley. The front wheel had a massive British brake from the 1960s. Harley started offering front brakes in 1928, and they were less than inspiring. So this is a welcome improvement. And the forks are Harley, but from a much earlier year, meaning it does not handle like a 1929 road bike. In fact, matching up this older front end and tighter frame geometry makes it handle more like a 1940s dirt track 750 Harley racer, as Buzz was going to learn on his first ride. Next up was the handlebars, which have seen many variations over the years. I contacted Tom Faber, who makes bars for Harleys manufactured from 1909 to the 1950s. I use Tom’s bars on many of my bikes. They have never failed and have always been perfect.

Something happened to us that you won’t see on the TV show. Running tight on time with the painting and plating, we worked long hours to get the job done. It was all coming together when we almost lost it late one night while installing the most critical visual part: the right gas tank.

Want to find out what happened? Find out in American Iron Magazine Issue 338!

Also available in digital format CLICK HERE American Iron Digital

Be sure to check out the work of award-winning photographer Jim Dohms, a regular contributor to AIM, while you’re at it! 

1929 Harley JDH Two Cam on American Restoration

Dale kept Buzz in suspense and didn’t let him see the restoration job on his 1929 JDH Two Cam until the very last minute.

Motorcycle Cannonball 2016 Video – Stage 5 Start

Runnin’ Rabbits Films captures the start of Stage 5 of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball Run as riders set out from Bloomington, Indiana.

Day 3 Motorcycle Cannonball – American Iron Report

This event for 1916 or older motorcycles to ride across the US from Atlantic City, NJ to Carlsbad, CA looks to be the toughest one yet. The first Motorcycle Cannonball (2010) was for 1915 and older bikes from Kitty Hawk, NC to Santa Monica, CA. The second one was in 2012, for motorcycles 1929 and older, from New York to San Francisco, CA. And the third one was Daytona Beach, FL to Tacoma, WA for up to 1936 motorcycles.

Motorcycle Cannonball riders do whatever it takes to get in the miles each day, including pushing up the underpowered Class I bikes up the steeper hills.

Motorcycle Cannonball riders do whatever it takes to get in the miles each day, including pushing up the underpowered Class I bikes up the steeper hills.

This year, the age of the bikes was dropped back to 1916 or older, so all motorcycles are at least 100 years old. Scoring is pretty basic, the rider gets a point for every mile he or she (3 women riders started the event, including American Iron Magazine columnist Cris Sommer Simmons) rides on the course and during the allocated time. If the bike is picked up and trailered 15 miles, he or she loses 15 points. In take by 10 minutes at the end of the day – you lose 10 points.

Bill Rodencel is riding a boardtrack-styled Class II Harley with 2 cylinders and a single speed.

Bill Rodencel is riding a boardtrack-styled Class II Harley with 2 cylinders and a single speed.

Class I bikes are single-cylinder, single-speeds, Class II is multi-cylinder single-speeds, and Class III is multi-cylinder and multi-speed transmissions. In the event of a tie, the older bike scores higher, then Class I beats Class II and Class II beats Class III. If there is still a tie, the older rider scores higher than the younger one.  Got it?

This year’s event has been the most challenging yet with many seasoned riders already dropping out of the event with mechanical problems they can’t fix. Typically the riders fix the machines on the side of the road or at the host hotel’s parking lot at night. One of the biggest issues here is the lack of available parts for bikes this old, and many of the riders wanted the edge of older machines if possible as they score higher.

Second place (at the end of Day 3) Frank Westfell rolling the day's route sheet into the route holder on his 1912 Henderson. Each rider gets the next days route and needs to load it on his or her

Second place (at the end of Day 3) Frank Westfell rolling the day’s route sheet into the route holder on his 1912 Henderson. Each rider gets the next day’s route and needs to load it on his or her “1916 GPS.” Electronic maps and devices are not allowed.

At the end of Day 3 of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, the top 5 riders, in order, are:

#1 Dean Bordigioni on a Class I 1914 Harley

#2 Frank Westfall on a Class II 1912 Henderson (he is reported to have bounced off an 18-wheeler truck yestarday but got in with full points)

#3 Mark Loewen on a Class II 1912 Excelsior

#4 Bryne Nramwell on a Class II 1913 Henderson

#5 Fred Wacker on a Class II 1913 Indian.

Of the 89 machines to officiall start the event this year, only 27 are still holding full points at the end of Day 3.

CLASSIC AMERICAN IRON NEWS! 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball off to Difficult Start

The 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, a coast to coast endurance ride for motorcycles at least 100 years or older, started with real issues. I have ridden in all three prior Cannonballs and opted out of this one. However I did ride down to the start of this year’s event with my Cannonball partner Paul Ousey. We were surprised at some of what we saw.

On day one, the Cannonballers had to ride four or five miles from the host hotel to the boardwalk for the official start of the event. I saw four Cannonball bikes on the side of the road with mechanical issues and the event had not really even started yet!

Some of the bikes at the start of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

Some of the bikes at the start of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

At least two of the bikes at the start did not even cross the starting line on the first day. Mechanical issues seemed to plague the machines and they had thousands of miles in front of them.

I have heard reports of multiple break downs and other mechanical problems on the first day, including one racer’s bikes (a 1916 Harley Twin) catching fire.

1914 Harley Twin on fire day one of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball

John Pfeifer’s 1916 Harley Twin burst into flame after  a rocker arm reportedly broke and the pushrod punctured the gas tank on Day One of the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball.

Nearly a third of the all motorcycles that started the Motorcycle Cannonball on Day One ended up in trucks or trailers – including seasoned Cannonball riders. Not a good way to start the competition.

If anyone thinks a ride like the Motorcycle Cannonball is easy, you are badly mistaken. This is tough on the rider and the machine. We at American Iron Magazine salute our riders and wish you luck in this tough event. More details and results to follow as we get them. – Buzz Kanter, 3-time Motorcycle Cannonball rider 

1951 Harley Factory Flathead Race Motorcycle

How much do you know about the 1950s Harley WRTT racers?

Our Buzz Kanter learns more about them from his friend Leo Hulnick, and shares with us.