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The Legend Lives On

Things that other people can do without, seem to be the things I can't live without, and I have found those treasures participating in one of my favorite pastimes, swap meet rummaging. One brisk September morning in 2004, I found myself in Davenport, Iowa for the Antique Motorcycle Club of America swap meet. While digging through the mountains of other people's junk, I was surprised to see "it" sitting there. Perched on top of a milk crate was the most beautiful "for sale" sign my eyes had ever seen. There it stood in all its glory, stopping me dead in my tracks, a 1912 Michaelson Minneapolis motorcycle engine. This is what I would consider to be my Holy Grail and I would do anything to get that engine in my hands, I introduced myself to the dealer that had the engine for sale, and told him my family's connection to that engine. He shared with me, that many years ago he bought an old Flanders Motorcycle. He swapped out the Michaelson motor for an original Flanders engine. The best part of the deal was he told me that the Minneapolis motor ran like a top before he took it out of the bike. I would have paid any amount of money to be the new owner of that priceless engine but he was only asking $3,500. I held my engine like a proud papa, with a grin that reached from ear to ear. And, as I walked through the exit doors, I thought of how my grandfather had once done the same. Over the years, I have been asked "Why don't you buy one of the old motorcycles that your family built?" I would always respond the same, "That was my family's history. I make my own history". I am very proud of my heritage, and the many accomplishments that my family achieved while they manufactured the Michaelson and the Minneapolis Motorcycles. Now all of a sudden, I own a part of the Michaelson history, I started thinking what I am going to do with that engine. My first thought that I was going to build a copy of the 1915 Michaelson three wheel Motorcycle known as the "Tri Car" but when I was out for speed week at the Booneville Salt Flats, One of my fellow racers told me that they had just finished shooting a film called the worlds fastest Indian. This film is about the life story of Burt Munro. It is an incredible movie. Over the years I have read a number of articles about Burt and his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle. This guy new how to work with his hands. He was innovative, and with very few tools, he managed to make his own pistons and many other components for his bike. With the odds against him, he set many speed records with his 1920 Indian, including one run over 200 mph. When I went to see Burt's Film, I sat thinking how I should honor my family by building a streamline motorcycle out the Michaelson motor I had just acquired. I dreamt of seeing it on the Bonneville Salt Flats, what a great tribute to 6 generations of Michaelson thrill seekers that would be. I would name the motorcycle "the legend lives on". At first I thought this project was going to be a piece of cake. Then reality hit me; how do I build a streamline motorcycle when they did not even have streamliner bikes back then. So I guess my challenge was not to restore the bike but to create a whole new one with a mix of present and past. That way I could incorporate my style of building and still feature the 1912 engine as the "star" of the bike. I began with building the frame out of 4130 chrome moly tubing and bent up the light weight frame rails. The frame was about 10 feet long and would give the bike a long sleek look. I used an unconventional ball-bearing center hub to steer the bike. Seeing that the motorcycle was only going to be used on a straight race course, I didn't have to worry about its limited steering radius. I added a shock to the steering arm to help cut down on any wobbling. I decided to build the handle bars out of 6061 T-6 aluminum. These are very unique looking handles that took a lot of machine work to get them to look the way I wanted them. I also added a quick release on the handle bars to I could take them off easily by just pushing a pin. This was necessary so when doing maintenance I could easily remove the body off of the chassis without spending a lot of time removing the handle bars. I built the body out of 3003 H14 aluminum. Many years ago I bought a spinner off an airplane at a swap meet, that spinner made the perfect nose cone on the bike. I fabricated some aluminum to cover up the hole where the prop was originally located. I brought the nose cone to a friend of mine, Dan Fate, who had the tools to make two pieces with louvers on them to cover up the other two holes on the nose cone, now the bike started to take on an art deco look. This got me thinking, what else could I do, to follow through with this look. I always liked the way the old fighter planes looked with there boxy looking wind shields all pop riveted together. So I cut out a piece of cardboard using it as a template. I liked my first prototype so I went ahead and made it out of aluminum. I added a plexy glass to the frame work and the button head screws gave a nice contemporary look. I really like the way the bike was headed Next, I was going to take on building the seat. I got to thinking in the last number of years most of the things I have been building have had rockets on them. That night while I laying in bed I remembered that many years ago, sometime in the early 60's, I had bought a bunch of aluminum nose cones. They came from the Honeywell surplus store in Minneapolis and were off of ballistic missiles. Being the pack rat that I am, I still had them stored in the back room of my shop. I used the curve section of the nose cone by cutting out the top of the seat with a saber saw. I made the side pieces using a sheet metal roller and did a little shaping using a hammer and a dolly. I used a 4 speed transmission and clutch set-up out of a 1960 BSA Motorcycle. I used to race BSA bikes and I was familiar with their transmissions which would make it easy to work on. I bent up a real slick looking exhaust pipe out of stainless steel. In February, at my annual Super Bowl party at my house, I invited many of my antique motorcycle buddies. I surprised them all by starting the bike up for the first time, My friend Mike Wagner took on the honors of kicking it over, we shot a little ether into the carburetor, and after a couple dozen hard kicks the motor came to life. It sounded absolutely incredible; I was a proud papa again. The crowd was enthusiastic as I was. Seeing that all the mechanical and fabrication work was done I disassembled the whole bike, we then brought all the aluminum parts to Joe Deters Metal Finishing. I had him polish and chrome everything. I brought all the body parts and frame to my good friends Bruce and Kelly who own company called Wizard Custom Studios, St.Croix Airbrushing. Bruce had the frame sand blasted and painted it gloss black, I had a real hard time deciding what color to paint the bike until Bruce showed me some paint that he had sitting on the shelf that came from the House of Color, the paint was called Blue Blood, I have never seen a nicer red then Blue Blood. Bruce applied several coats of red and clear. Kelly did a great job air brushing the Michaelson logo on both sides of the bike. Mike Hovland pinstriped the bike for an added extra touch he then put the number 17 in gold leaf on the side of the seat, I picked 17 because over the years that number has been very good to me. The black leather upholstery was done by Jennie Bloedorn. After a week of assembling and detailing, the bike it was finally finished. I am very proud of how the bike turned out and my perseverance for six long years in designing and building it. I named the bike the legend lives on because of my family history that was passed on to me. When I pass on, I am sure my family will be as proud as I am of this Michaelson Motorcycle. My son Buddy and I entered the bike in the 56th annual G.S.T.A. Rod and Custom Spectacular. He was a big part of the reason I built this bike. I wanted him to see the process but even more so I wanted to carry on the tradition of Michaelson innovators. "The legend lives on" in name and in spirit and it won first prize in its class. The Michaelson Legend Lives On……

 

 

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