National Packard Museum’s antique motorcycle exhibit to open
BY GUY D’ASTOLFO
The National Packard Museum is taking a different route for its antique motorcycle exhibit. The annual show always has a theme, and this year’s focus — the motor — is a bit of a departure, said Mary Ann Porinchak, executive director of the museum.
“Instead of featuring a type of bike, we are looking specifically at engines,” she said, adding, “I got a major education this year.”
The exhibit, titled “The Motor,” opens Saturday and runs through May 20.
Now in its 18th year, the show will feature 30 vintage American, European and Japanese motorcycles built between 1902 and 1978, along with nine different motorcycle motors.
Highlights include the only known existing 1902 Sylvester & Jones, a highly sought-after 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, and a unique 1957 Ariel “Square 4” with two crankshafts.
As always, the Lake Erie Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America gets the credit for rounding up the bikes. Porinchak described the process of putting together the annual exhibit, from idea phase to wheels in the door.
“It starts around a table with a pitcher of beer,” she said. “I throw questions out: ‘What is most unusual?’ ‘What is the average person going to want to see?’
“The guys who work on this have a wide radius of friends,” she continued. “They put the theme out and start asking questions at meets. Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody. It comes together magically.”
Widely recognized as one of the nation’s finest motorcycle exhibits, the National Packard Museum’s exhibit has received a number of awards and recognitions, including the Antique Motorcycle Foundation’s highest honor, the Award for Excellence, as well as three-consecutive first place awards in the Interpretive Exhibits Category from the National Association of Automobile Museums.
It attracts visitors from across the country and around the world. Its goal, according to Porinchak, is to educate people about the role motorcycles have played within the broader story of transportation history.
It also promotes the preservation, restoration and collection of antique motorcycles.
“We always try to feature something different,” said Porinchak. “We never did a show on the engine before, and we have some very beautiful and really unusual ones. Motorhead guys will be very happy with it, and our regular visitors will be amazed at the ingenuity that went into them. It’s almost as amazing as a car engine, and maybe more so. They tried a lot of different things over the years. One of them must be 3 feet wide.”
This exhibit will trace the evolution of the motorcycle engine, which dates back to 1885 Germany, when Gottlieb Daimler mounted a single-cylinder engine onto a bicycle frame.
The first successful production motorcycle, introduced by Hildebrand & Wolfmueller in Munich, Germany, in 1894, was powered by a water-cooled parallel-twin engine.
Motorcycle production was revolutionized in 1895, when French manufacturer DeDion-Buton introduced a lightweight four-cycle internal combustion engine suitable for motorcycles. The DeDion-Buton engine design was licensed to more than 150 manufacturers and was copied by many other makers, including Indian and Harley-Davidson.
The exhibit will compare and contrast various motorcycle motor configurations from the simple single cylinder, to the popular V-Twin, to the high performance four-cylinder motors used on sport bikes.