Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Fat chance finding the Kenny Howard Indian he modified in 1946, the grand-daddy of all choppers...but we can ask!
I'm working with Mark Mederski and John Parham at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, to curate an exhibit illustrating the development of early American custom motorcycles, up to and including the chopper itself.  The exhibition is based on my new book 'The Chopper; the Real Story' (Gestalten), to set the story straight on the history of American custom motorcycles.

We're looking for ORIGINAL, built in the period examples of:
1920s/30s Cut-Downs
1930s/40s Bob-Jobs
1940s/50s/60s Show Bikes and flashy Bob-Jobs
Choppers of the 1960s and '70s
Cool as they are, we're not using later recreations or inspirations - we need the real deal, period-built customs, the core bikes which established the American custom style.

Do you have a bike which fits the description above, which you'd be willing to loan to the National Motorcycle Museum starting in late May of 2015?  Let us know!  It will be an amazing, never-before exhibit.

Here's the National Motorcycle Museum press release:

History of the Chopper: Bikes Wanted!

The first comprehensive history of a century of American customs has just been released - ‘The Chopper: the Real Story’ – and museum staff are working with author/curator Paul d’Orleans to create a new exhibit based on his research. Paul is a well-known writer (‘The Ride’, ‘Café Racers’, plus TheVintagent.com) and curator (most recently the Sturgis exhibits with Michael Lichter), and contributes monthly to magazines in 6 languages.

You can be part of this exhibition project, as they’re looking for some very special motorcycles.

Americans started ‘chopping’ bikes long before ‘Easy Rider’, and the late 1920s saw the emergence of the ‘Cut-Down’, based on the Harley JD or JDH, with shortened and lowered frames. Cut-Downs were hot, high-performance bikes and are rare today. Next came the ‘Bob-Job’, stripped down Harleys and Indians and even British imports from the 1930s, built to look like the new Class C racers. From the late 1940s, a few riders began decorating their Bob-Jobs, using chrome and wild paint, adding ape hangers, upswept exhausts, and small sissy bars, which by the 1950s became the established ‘show bike’ standards at combined car/motorcycle Hot Rod shows. Dragster motorcycles also influenced street customs using drag bars and raked forks. By the late ‘50s what we’d recognize as Choppers emerged, and in the early to mid-‘60s raked steering heads, extended springer forks, wild pipes, sissy bars, sculpted tanks, and moulded frames could be found under the hippest motorcyclists in America.
'Marshmallow' and her chopped Triumph, from the EasyRider archive
The long history of choppers is a uniquely American story, akin to Rock ‘n Roll in its cultural impact and global influence. The Museum will create the first-ever exhibit documenting culture and history of the American Custom Motorcycle, the cut-downs, bob-jobs, show bikes and choppers, from the late 1920s to the mid-‘70s. The exhibit will include only period-built original bikes, plus related artwork, memorabilia and photos, plus posters showing their important film roles. As a special feature, the curators are commissioning sculptures, paintings and illustrations made especially for this new exhibit.

 Do you own an original or restored 1920s-70s custom motorcycle or related memorabilia? We’d like your help to tell this important story, or if you are a fine artist who would like to loan motorcycle artwork, please send an email to Mark Mederski: mmederski@nationalmcmuseum.org
or Paul d’Orleans: thevintagent@gmail.com

Books from curator Paul d'Orléans...

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