Wednesday, March 10, 2010

THE ORIGINAL 'CAPTAIN AMERICA'

The caption on the photo says 'Grasstrack, Cedarburg, Wisconsin'.  The date is July 1942, and I've never seen an earlier photo of a motorcycle with an American flag painted on the tank.  While I'm sure Ben Hardy, creator of the 'Captain America' chopper for the film Easy Rider, had never seen this particular motorcycle, it remains nonetheless the progenitor of that 60's icon.

The 'Bobber' movement grew out of the American predeliction for chucking heavy stock mudguards into the weeds in the search for lighter weight and livelier performance, and 'bobbed' motorcycles (so-called for their truncate tails) first appeared in the late 1920s.  They make an interesting contrast to hotted-up road/racers in the rest of the world, which generally included full, if narrow, mudguarding; the Bobber aesthetic grew directly out of Dirt Track racing in the States, as there was virtually no paved-road racing domestically pre-war, and the requirements are quite different from the European Grand Prix scene.  And, typically, the fast crowd wanted to be seen riding what their track icons rode...the rules applied then as now, and since Indian and Harley didn't sell Dirt Track Replicas, the lads made them at home.

The Bobber evolved post-war into the Chopper, which flowered in the 1960s, but had it's own origins as far back as the late 1940s... which will be discussed Later; Who invented the Chopper?

(photo copyright The Vintagent)

4 comments:

drsprocket said...

Paul, that's a nice '40 45" bob job (correct term, bobbers are for fishing) in the background w/ '42Michigan plate. That Indian 101 scout w/ Sport Scout upperend and left hand shift w/ righthand throttle ain't no slouch either. Nice photo. RLO

drsprocket said...

Paul, Forgot to add, The seats are both english style (H-D did use these for their export models though). One cover has seperated from it's frame it was ridden so hard. I'll bet they used these seats as the Bates style solo saddles hadn't been developed (after the war?) yet and they didn't like the big stock pans to slid around on while racing.

vintagent said...

Hi Rich,
thanks for enlightening me on the Scout; I could tell it was a 101 but the engine threw me - Sport Scout on a 101 bottom end? Looks right to me.
I think Bates appeared in the 1950s, I can't recall seeing them earlier, although there were plenty of aftermarket parts suppliers prewar (clearly, with those Terry saddles).
Thanks for your keen eye!
Pd'O

Dave said...

Finally...I've been searching for a sight that delves into the "old times" aspect of motorcycling, the stories from years gone by and such. I reckon that's why I like the retro look of my '09 FLSTN. I was just born too late...