Motors take center stage in antique cycle show

WARREN — If it wasn’t for the motor, they’d just be bicycles.

The National Packard Museum will focus on that integral part for its 18th Antique Motorcycle Exhibit.

This year’s show tracks the evolution of what powers those magnificent machines with bikes manufactured between 1902 and 1978.

Curator Bruce Williams joked that they came up with this year’s theme because “we ran out of things to talk about,” but the exhibit will appeal to those who like to study and debate the merits of different motorcycles.

“It’s interesting to see the different motor configurations the manufacturers used — overhead valve, overhead cam, two-stroke, four-stroke, single cylinder, multi-cylinder,” Williams said.

The oldest motorcycles this year include a 1902 Sylvester and Jones, which Williams said may be the only one of its kind still in existence. Three others are more than a century old — a 1909 Royal Pioneer, a 1912 Indian Beltdrive and a 1912 Thor Single.

The Thor still has its original paint, Williams said, while the Thor is a rebuild.

“I had part of the engine for years, and he (owner Reg Riddle of Atwater) made the rest of the bike,” Williams said. “Some (parts) he found at swap meets and others he made to pattern.”

The 23 motorcycles are fewer than the show traditionally features, but they also are displaying nine motors separately. A 1909 Pierce 4 Cylinder is an example of the first four-cylinder engine by an American manufacturer, and the 1941 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead lets enthusiasts check out one of the most iconic motors in the cycle world.

Mary Ann Porinchak, executive director of the museum, said, “It’s kind of cool to pull them out away from the bike and let them see difference. They look totally different when there’s no cycle there.”

Antique motors often are easier to find than other parts.

“The motors seem to have survived better,” Williams said. “They get used in other ways. Many of them end up on farms.”

All but one of the motorcycles and motors this year came from northeast Ohio collectors, and one of the advantages of the antique motorcycle show is that it has helped collectors connect with one another.

“One fellow who bought a motor years ago was able to find a frame from someone who was here,” Williams said.