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Pre 1916 Rallies in California in the 1970s. Part 1

November 24, 2013

Tom Holthaus from Quality Machine Shop in Santa Clara gave me a pile of old photos.  –Get in touch with him if you have a pre 1916 bike or car that needs service.  He does it all, from pouring babbit bearings, to grinding cams to rebuilding wood bodies, etc.

He was digging around in an office and found these photos that were taken in the 1970s at some pre16 tours.  He thinks it was at Hollister, and maybe the photographer was a doctor who attended some of the events back then.  No other details are known, except that Tom has written the names of some people that he remembers.  Just a few of these guys are still active in the pre16 tours, and it is really fun for me to see them in younger days.  The pics were really underexposed, but thanks to the wonders of modern computer programs, I was able to brighten them up.  A few are out of focus, but I couldn’t do much about that.TH

Here is Tom himself, on his 1915 Excelsior twin.


Bud Ekins on his Pope motorcycle.  This might be my favorite photo that I’ve seen all year.  It is Bud, it has a Pope (OHV, rear suspension, etc. engineering exotica), he’s riding down the road, and his smile and plaid flannel just make me happy.


Another good one.  Today you’ll know Steve Huntzinger as one of the very top restorers of early machines.  But 30 years ago he was a shirtless stud posing on his HD belt drive single with his Vans tennis shoes and a giant belt buckle.



I don’t know who this guy is, but he rules on this Indian.  All extra weight has been removed, bars are set low and he’s itching to go fast.  And remember that this bike isn’t in a museum, he’s on the road fighting the traffic and the stop lights.  A hero.


Start ‘em up!  This rider is on the pedals to get this other early Indian to fire.  White tires were still available back then, and you can see the adjustable handlebars and the infamous Indian control linkages that would sometimes telescope just far enough to fall apart when the rider turned the handlebars just a bit too far.


A neat Thor single.


That cowboy is watching closely.   Fearful of Indians?


A 1913 Excelsior twin.


Lysle Parker lived up in Volcano, CA and hosted some pre16 tours up there.  Here he is on an Indian, but his grandson has shown me pics of some of his more exotic machines. 


An early HD single.  I don’t know these very well.  What is the year and model?


Buster was just a kid!  He is still around, and I get to see him once or twice a year on the tours in Atascadero or Minden.  Click here or here to see him with his new Yale.


Two pics of Sam Merrill on his Pierce single.



Dick Bigness was a local SF area rider of early machines.  Victor Boocock has spoken highly of him several times. 

 TH-040TH-001 TH-028There was a great variety of machines on the tours back then.  I’ve heard that it was common to see 50+ bikes all pre1916 models on a three day tour.  And not just HDs and Indians.  Hendersons, Thors, Popes, Exclesiors, Pierces, etc are all shown just in this group of photos.  It must have been a lot of fun.  Today’s rides are terribly fun too, but we don’t see over 50 early bikes, more like 20-25.





Three pics of Thor singles and twins. 

There are 20 more pics in this series, I’ll post them soon.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2013 12:44 am

    fantastic shots pete…..i know a guy in australia who has a pierce…as well as a whole lot of other amazing bikes….beautiful.

  2. November 25, 2013 5:52 am

    how great is that. photos and a history. thanks

  3. Allan Johnson permalink
    November 25, 2013 6:41 am

    Would the photographer,by any chance, been Harry Sucher?

    • November 25, 2013 7:11 am

      I don’t think it was Harry Sucher. Tom thought his name might be Hamilton or something like that. Sucher is well known and would not have been forgotten. 🙂

  4. Marc permalink
    November 25, 2013 7:41 am

    Thanks for Sharing the Memories..

  5. ricoyam permalink
    November 25, 2013 8:19 am

    Wonderful collection of photos Pete. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous permalink
    November 25, 2013 8:34 am

    Thanks for sharing these great pics.

  7. November 25, 2013 3:52 pm

    The unidentified guy on the lightened Indian was named (Scott ?) VanHeldsen. He is no longer with us. He and his wife were the most promising young HCCA couple at the time. By the way, I bought my 1911 Chalmers 30 touring car from Joel Pencer shortly before he passed away. Good guy. There were many HCCA guys who bought bikes in the 70s and did the tours. It ended when people got older and the novelty wore off. The bikes were hard riding the old guys were not really used to taking a beating. This is what I was toldby Sam Gurnee who had an Indian. Brian in Santa Cruz

  8. Roger Brooking permalink
    November 25, 2013 11:04 pm

    Great to see these men and their beautiful machines.I love early American motorcycles.
    Roger Brooking,Devon, England, full of admiration.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    November 27, 2013 11:47 am

    Great photos Pete, it`s always good to have reminders of good times gone by, it`s so easy
    to forget. On another note, the “Classic Motorcycle” article was brill, it captures the spirit
    of riding older bikes, especially in Eire as on the Nash.
    cheers to you and yours,
    Alan H,(Wales.)

  10. Alan H. permalink
    November 27, 2013 12:00 pm

    Hi Pete,
    Great Photo of Bud, your article in (The Classic Motorcycle,) was excellent it captures the
    spirit of the era, and riding in Ireland, on the National.
    Alan H,(Pembrokeshire, Wales.)

    • November 27, 2013 1:29 pm

      Thank you Alan! Running them is so fun, I just want everybody to have the chance to enjoy it. And The Irish rally is really one of the best in the world!

  11. January 23, 2014 12:24 am

    Where are all these bikes and riders now ?

    • January 23, 2014 9:26 am

      Great question Rob! Several of the riders have passed on, but some of them still attend the pre16 tours. And some of the bikes do too, with younger riders. But some of the bikes are MIA. Maybe holed up in museums?

  12. Connie Wade permalink
    April 17, 2016 7:31 am

    Thank you so much for sharing these they warned my heart tremendously! 🙂 Ed Marek was my dad and to see him in photos on his bikes and all his friends too was awesome he enjoyed all the bike races and talking about old bikes and cars and created every opportunity to do so! Great to see that others captured those memories as well.


  1. Jerry Cordy | Occhio Lungo

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