Motorcycle enthusiasts attend opening exhibit at Packard museum
By Jordan Cohen
Saturday’s single-digit temperatures limited turnout for the opening of the 18th Annual Antique Motorcycle Exhibit in the National Packard Museum, but did nothing to chill the enthusiasm of the few who showed up.
“This is excellent,” exclaimed Jeff Luman of Austintown, clad in the classic brown leather Harley-Davidson jacket. “How can you not appreciate this?”
Luman said he has been riding motorcycles for 40 of his 58 years.
This year’s exhibit, which runs through May 20, features nearly 25 historic motorcycles. The oldest is a 1902 Sylvester and Jones single cylinder, much of which was rebuilt from original parts. Next to it is a 1936 two-cylinder Zundapp, which has not been restored. The German-manufactured cycle appears to have just emerged from a hard ride through a forest even though the ride probably occurred nearly 80 years ago.
Margaret Aman of Akron, accompanied by her husband, Tony, noticed some damage to the vehicle’s headlight and could only wonder about the circumstances surrounding it.
“I’d love to know about that dent,” she said.
Another cycle with neither embellishment nor restoration is a 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, which earns its peculiar moniker because for cycle aficionados, the rocker covers resemble a knuckle.
The seat on this particular cycle is torn up with a huge hole in the middle while a worn out saddlebag – also original – is secured on the right side. Rust is prevalent throughout. A sign by the cycle explains why the owner wanted nothing to do with restoration.
“Original only happens once,” it states.
Richard Seaman of Berlin Center has loaned a 1949 Harley-Davidson that he has restored to the exhibit. This model includes a hand shifter and a foot clutch or, as Seaman and Luman separately referred to it, “the suicide clutch.” Both men said the clutch deserves the reference.
“You can easily lose control of it,” said Seaman who, for that reason, has only ridden the cycle briefly on his 3-acre property.
“As long as I keep it away from the pond, I’m in good shape,” said the 67-year old Seaman, who is a year younger than his prized motorcycle. “Next year, I’m riding it or my wife’s kicking me out, one of the two.”
Seaman said he has invested nearly $8,000 in the restoration and has insured it for $30,000.
This year’s exhibit is titled “The Motor,” with displays featuring classic cycle engines such as the Pierce Four – the first four-cylinder cycle manufactured in the U.S. – and the 1914 Spacke Deluxe Dreadnought Motor, which was offered by Sears Roebuck in its nationwide catalog.
Nonetheless, the cycles, nestled among the classic Packard limousines, are bound to draw the most attention. To Luman, these pioneering two-wheelers deserve more respect than their modern-day counterparts.
“This is when it took talent to ride,” he said. “The new ones are idiot-proof.”