Paul Danik

My motorcycling adventures started with my brother wanting a Honda to ride to school. It was 1965, and my dad traded a local Honda dealer some landscape work for a Honda 150 Dream. It didn’t take too long for my brother to run the Honda off the road into a ditch, even though he wasn’t hurt, I don’t think he ever rode the bike again. I had been mowing lawns and had bought a nice stereo system. My brother was about to leave for college so I traded him my stereo for the Honda. I don’t know the exact ratio of hours working on the Honda verses riding it, but my tools got a lot more of a workout than my helmet.

I loved to ride the Honda around our nursery. I would race up and down each row of trees and try to make the turns as tight and fast as possible. I slowly ventured further from home to ride some of the farm roads in the area. My mom mentioned one evening that she heard that a semi-retired motorcycle racer had moved just up the road. I decided to take a walk over and see what I could find out; this was one of the best moves of my life. As I approached the couple who were doing some yardwork, I asked if he was a motorcycle racer. “Who the hell wants to know?” he asked. His wife scolded him, saying that he might scare the kid away, fat chance!!! That was my introduction to Bob “Augie” Augustine and his wife Sandie. After that I seemed to live at Augie’s as much as I did at home. Augie had done quite a bit of racing in his day and sure was a lot of help to a 14 year old kid trying to ride a 150 Honda Dream in the woods.

Sandie worked at Fran Kupec’s Honda shop and they became a very early Penton dealer. Augie mentioned to me about the Penton motorcycle and said that if I wanted to ride the local mud runs and ride in the woods, that would be the bike to get. My dad somehow came up with the money and I became the proud owner of a very early Penton. It had the 4 bolt drive unit for the sprocket and the early cast airbox. I think the serial number was around 149. I later took the airbox off and replaced it with a filtron sock style air cleaner. I hung the airbox on a nail in the nursery shop and it stayed there for 30 years until Norm Miller needed an airbox for his restoration of Penton #001. I gave Norm that airbox and I am proud to have helped him with his project. As you can imagine, it didn’t take a now 15 year old kid too long to have a few shifting problems with his Penton, mostly from power shifting second and doing wheelies up the nursery lane, even after dark with the floodlights on!!

Sachs engines were and still are quite a bit different than Hondas, so the mechanics at Kupec’s were not able to solve my shifting problems. Sandie called Penton’s and explained the problem. They said to bring the bike over and they would look at it. Since I was still too young to drive, we loaded the bike in Augie’s pickup and Sandie drove. This would be the first of many trips to Amherst, Ohio. Mr. Penton himself did my transmission repairs and showed me what he was doing. He finished up the job and turned to me, “there” he said, “Now I want you to go back to Pennsylvania and help keep these Pentons running.” I think I know how Noah felt when the Lord asked him to build the ark! After we left the shop, we went over to the Penton Farm Market. A shipment of bikes had just arrived and were to be stored above the market in the upstairs of the barn. My job was inserting the owner’s manual and assorted literature that went with each new bike through the grab hole in the crate. I also met Jack Penton on that trip. He and I sat together on some cases of oil while awaiting his dad. Jack showed me pictures of his big brother Jeff in a motorcycle magazine winning some big race. I was awestruck that this guy’s brother had his picture in a real motorcycle magazine. Almost 30 years later, Jack and I, along with several other gentlemen, sat within 5 feet of that very spot and worked on forming the Penton Owners Group.

I rode lots of mud runs, motocross and even some observed trials with my Penton. As time went on, I was able to place in my class and even racked up a few wins. With guys like Jake Fischer, Ron Bohn and the Lojack’s at all of our local events, we didn’t lack for competition. I always tried to find out where the Penton “boys” were going to be racing and tried to run against them as much as possible. There was always a special electric in the air at a race when they were there. They were the “top guns” of the races, but they were also very easy to talk to and were always willing to help a fellow Penton rider. I remember the State Championship MX race at State College, Pennsylvania. Jack and Tom Penton were there. I was able to beat Tom, but Jack won the event. Afterward, Jack and Tom came over to our truck to sit and talk. Sandie and Augie’s daughter Robin had made the trip with me and reported to her dad that things were improving. The Penton boys came over to our truck after the race instead of the other way around.

I raced a double header MX at Bel Mesa Raceway in West Virginia. I always liked that track. A kid on a 125 Suzuki was tearing up the place in practice, so I watched for him to go back out and ran some practice with him. We ran pretty hard in each of the six motos, but it was my day. I won five of them and he won the other. Afterward, a big man walked up to me and asked if I was the kid on the Penton. I said I was, he said he wanted his son to meet the guy who had beaten him. His son was on the Suzuki. We shook hands and talked for a bit. Years later, Joe Barker was staying at my house as we trained for the 1973 ISDT and as we traded war stories, it turned out he was the Suzuki rider at Bel Mesa that day. Another crazy thing happened that day. Two older riders from the Pittsburgh area came over to me and said that if I was to slow down a bit, I might make a decent enduro rider. I asked them about this enduro stuff and one thing led to another. I went with them the next weekend and rode the Little Hocking Enduro and won the C class overall, and I was hooked. Every weekend I was off to either New York or southern Ohio for an enduro. I won highpoint “B” at the Newark, New York national in my 9th enduro and received a bit of praise in the Penton newsletter. Most enduros were about 5 hours from home and many a Monday morning I had only gotten a few hours sleep before my dad would holler for me to get up as we had a landscape job to do.

I was able to make some of the Penton Dealer Schools and always really enjoyed them. Besides the daytime sessions, there were always movies in the evening. At dealer school and almost anytime I was around the Penton gang, the ISDT was always talked about. This ISDT stuff really caught my interest, all of the strange names of the foreign riders and all of the different places where they were held. When it was announced that the 1973 ISDT was going to be held in the US, I decided to give it a try. I sent my entry in for the qualifier at Fort Hood, Texas. I had no idea as to how I was going to get there. I just knew that I wanted to go, I would figure out the minor details later! I called Penton Imports and asked if they had a truck going to the qualifier. I need to get my bike there and I would ride a bus or whatever. I was transferred to Doug Wilford. I explained my situation to him and he said “Why don’t you just come out and ride down with us in the Cycleliner,” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I accepted the offer and started to prepare for the event.

Traveling with the Penton team in the Cycleliner was more than I could have ever hoped for. The event at Fort Hood was rather fast and dusty, combine that with my “stage fright” and it was a rough combination. I missed a danger sign on the trail before the first check and crashed into some boulders below a hidden drop-off and messed up my shoulder. Later that day, I crashed at speed and really did a job on my knee. About this time, I reached back in my mind and remembered what Augie told me after I crashed my brains out in a hare-scramble, “The slower you go, the faster you are.” That night the guys wanted me to see a doctor, but I opted to sleep in a hot tub of water with lots of Epson salts. I made it through the second day and the final event was the MX special test. During the MX, my handlebars broke on the throttle side. I jammed the broken bar behind the number plate and continued at a slower pace. A flagman black flagged me as being too dangerous and I pulled off the track. Mr. Penton just happened to be standing there and asked me why I stopped. I told him I was black flagged. I immediately was on the receiving end of a lecture as to how NOBODY can ever tell you to quit if you don’t want to. I went back out and finished the special test. I earned a Silver Medal at Fort Hood.

We went to Amarillo, Texas and did bike repairs and mended our bodies as the Busted Piston 2 day qualifier in Potosi, Missouri was next. I earned a gold medal at Potosi and then we returned to the Penton R&D building and unloaded the Cylcleliner. I found Mr. Penton before heading home and asked him what I owed him for the parts, motel space and all. He looked at me and said, “Paul Danik you don’t owe me anything, and by the way, there is a container of bikes coming into Baltimore and your name is on one of them.” WOW, once again I was in shock, lucky enough to get to travel with the team and now I was getting a bike. I couldn’t wait to tell Augie and my parents. I traveled with the team to the rest of the qualifiers and did rather well in all of them.
I was working a landscape project one day and my mother drove up and handed me a letter from the AMA. It stated that I had been picked to represent the USA in the 1973 ISDT. I couldn’t believe it!

The next weeks were like Christmas with the UPS dropping off boxes of new boots, riding clothes, and other items for me. I received a letter from Doug Wilford saying how he knew I would not let him or the Penton folks down, how this event was going to be tough, and how my machine would have to be prepared perfectly. I had to get busy!!

I started to run every night, not on the local track, no, I ran on the same trails that I rode my bike on. I also would push my bike up the nursery lane before starting it every time I went riding. I was told that in the ISDT no one could help you. You must be prepared to do everything yourself, including pushing your machine if you need to make the next check. I sure didn’t want to have Mr. Wilford mad at me!!

It wasn’t long before it was time to travel to Amherst to prepare our Six-Day machines. Most every time I went to Amherst and had to stay for a while, Jack would ask me to stay at their house. I always remember how Mr. Penton would walk across the road to the Penton Farm Market each morning and bring back fresh fruit for us to eat at breakfast. My race machines were never really trick or special. They were just prepared in a very precise manner to not give me any problems. Reliability was my goal. At the Penton R&D shop, the other riders were all doing little “trick” things to their machines. I had my machine tore down but I was confused by all of the work I saw being done by the other riders. After a day or so of not making any progress, I loaded all of the parts and pieces of my machine into my van and went home. I prepared my ISDT machine in the little shop at the nursery the same way as I had always done. I even put about 100 miles of easy riding on my bike before I returned to Amherst. My bike had some of the shine wore off of it when we loaded it for the trip to Pittsfield in the tractor trailer, but I had a lot of faith in it.

The whole ISDT experience was unbelievable. There were riders from different teams and countries working on their machines in many different locations. The Parc Ferme had an almost circus atmosphere to it with many tents set up for manufactures to display their items. The riders from the host country had to get their machines impounded first and I was glad when that was over.

The trails were a lot like what I was used to riding with a combination of mud, rocks and water crossings. Several items were unique to me. First off was the spectators that lined the trail and were waving the American flag and yelling encouragement’s. Second, of course, was the length of the event. This is where my training really paid off. I rode each day as its own event and really never had any major problems. My bike ran flawlessly and I didn’t fall the entire six days. Some of the special test were laid out on power line trails and it seemed like the spectators lined the entire test section. It amazes me as to how many folks that I run into today that say that they were there cheering us on, THANKS!! You were appreciated.

My main goal was to finish. At the end of each day, I would eat and go to bed, day after day. We went to a reception hosted by the AMA on Saturday evening after the event, at which time they posted the final results. I couldn’t believe it. I had earned a GOLD MEDAL!! I hurried to a phone to let my parents know and told them to call Augie and Sandie and let them know also. Now it was party time!!!

I rode on the Trophy Team the following year in Camerino, Italy and earned a silver medal. I actually rode twice as well in Italy as I did in the USA, but the event was really rough on us small bore riders. The course for each day would take us up into the mountains and back down. I had to keep the rpms up on my bike going up the mountain trails to maintain momentum. If you lost momentum, you were in trouble.

Judy and I were married in October of 1975 and I became more involved with family and working at the family business. My riding slowly took a back seat. We have three children: Sabrina, Cami, and Chad. The girls never did much riding, but Chad has really enjoyed the sport. Chad and I trail ride together and do some racing. We are both entered in the ISDT reunion ride in October. I hadn’t ridden a bike in several years when I happened to hear of a vintage trials at the Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club in Toronto, Ohio. Judy and I loaded up the kids and off we went. I was soon hooked again!! It didn’t take long and I was trail riding again. When I saw how much fun the BSA guys were having, I wondered what it would be like to have a Penton Club. When I met Alan Buehner at a Will Stoner Swap Meet, I mentioned the idea to him and as they say, the rest is history.

Augie passed away at VMD in 1998 during the Motocross. Without his and Sandie’s guidance and the support of my parents, who have both passed away, my motorcycling adventure would not have been such an adventure. Thanks to them and to all of the folks that have helped me along the way!

by Ted Guthrie

Steve Wise developing his racing skills on his Penton 125 Six Days.

Motorcycle racing is a very specialized sport, and within it are numerous individual disciplines. To succeed in any one category requires the utmost in talent, courage, athletic ability, dedication, and skill. This is particularly true at the professional level, where only the best reach the top. Very seldom, certainly in the modern era, does a rider come along who manages to excel at more than one form of two-wheeled competition throughout his or her career.

One of those very few, exceptionally talented riders, is Texan, Steve Wise. Steve was born June 2nd, 1957, in the town of McAllen, located at the very southern tip of the Lone Star state. The area around McAllen was then known as a sportsman’s paradise, and father Gary was a highly enthusiastic rider. Steve grew up with a series of Bultacos and Triumphs in the garage, and then when he was 12, Steve’s father bought him his own bike, a used Honda CL90. With miles and miles of open trails just one block from his home, Steve took to riding every day.

About this time, some of the first motocross races began to be held across the U.S. Steve’s father took him to see such stars as Sylvain Geobors, Ake Johnsson, and Roger DeCoster compete in the early Trans- Am races at MX tracks in Conroe and at the popular Houston track, Rio Bravo. Steve was immediately caught up in the action and excitement of motocross racing, and wanted badly to compete.

At the tender age of 14, Steve made his racing debut, on a Honda SL100 four-stroke. In that first race, Steve finished in third place, which is especially impressive considering that from day one, he always competed in the “money” class. The Wise’s outlook on racing was that it was going to be all or nothing. Of his first taste of competition, Steve remembers little except for the two motorcycles, which finished ahead of him that day. At the time, he was not familiar with the green bikes, or with the name on their fuel tanks – Penton.

As a very successful real estate broker and a savvy businessman, Steve’s father saw great opportunity in the fast-growing sport of motorcycling during those years, and so decided to open up a Honda dealership in McAllen, Texas, “Honda of McAllen.” With support from his father’s shop, Steve moved up to the 125 Expert class, on a considerably modified Honda SL125. On it, he began consistently winning local races, despite heavy competition from riders on more race-ready machinery, such as the first YZ Yamahas and TM Suzukis. In fact, such was the lack of parity in equipment that it was all Steve could do to hold off the two strokes.

Considering Steve’s obvious talent, his father was intent on providing him with the best, most competitive equipment possible, and soon began looking to add another brand to his line of Honda motorcycles, just for the purpose of Steve competing in the sport of motocross. Other dealers in the area already offered Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki products, so several other manufacturers were considered. These included Husqvarna, Sachs, DKW and Hodaka, but Mr. Wise finally decided on the strong-running and reliable Pentons.

His very first ride on a Penton was at Botts Motocross Park, in Harlingen, Texas, where Steve won easily. From that first ride, on a ’72 125 Six-Day, in Steve’s words, “It was all over for those other guys in Texas, no matter what they were riding.” Steve and his father started traveling to tracks all over the state, where Steve would win consistently and convincingly – often by a half a lap over second place. Steve was so fast on his Penton that he was virtually untouchable throughout the great state of Texas.

In addition to Steve’s tremendous speed, another key ingredient to his success was the performance and reliability of his Pentons. Rather than radical modifications, the bikes were instead just carefully prepared, with select, practical alterations. Koni shocks were used, with 60/90 springs, and Akront rims. The stock pipe’s tip was removed, and a Skyway silencer attached to the stinger. At first, Steve’s shop didn’t even bother to port the engine, as the bikes were plenty fast. However, they did fit a 30mm Mikuni carb, which improved the power tremendously as well as limiting the “loading up” problem of the Bing. After the Mikuni fell off once, with its rigged-up, rubber hosemounting arrangement, Steve’s father took the carb to a local machinist and had the Mikuni milled to the same size as the Bing to fit directly onto the cylinder’s manifold intake. Steve believes this one modification added some 5 horsepower or more to his Penton. In regard to appearance, Steve ran the small, Penton mx tank, painted blue. Also, white, plastic, Preston Petty fenders, handlebars to suit his preference, Uni-levers, and most memorable of all – instead of conventional racing numbers – the letter “W” on the Penton’s number plates. Many a motocross competitor throughout the state of Texas became very familiar with those “W” plates, seen most often as they were being passed, out on the track.

Steve Wise “yesterday,” making some berms with his off-road machine, a Penton Six-Day.

Steve actually competed on about 15 to 20 successive 125 Six-Days within a two-year span. Considering the purported shifting difficulties associated with Sachs engines as the shifting pin wore, Steve’s father decided on a more practical plan. Instead of replacing the pins, he would instead regularly have a fresh Six-Day uncrated for Steve so that his race motors were never touched.

With his father’s plan for a more reliable motor Steve would usually have a new Six-Days every one or two months. Plus, Steve’s used race bikes were always much sought-after, and Mr. Wise never had any problems selling them – and at a nice profit.

Steve’s only real competition throughout his home state was another young Texan, by the name of Kent Howerton. Kent was fast, but Steve recalls besting him most of the time when they competed against one another in the 125 class during this period. Steve also competed south of the border quite often, and was several times the Mexican National Motocross Champion.

By 1974, after some two years of successfully campaigning his Penton 125’s, Steve began riding the 250 class as well, on Hondas, as by now the CR250 Elsinore had come on the scene. In his first year on the 250’s, at age 16, Steve won the Texas Motocross Series 250 class, competing against such established pros as Gary Jones and Jimmy Weinert. This success led Steve and his father to begin traveling, and entering select national motocross events, where Steve finished in the top ten his first few times out. While racing local Texas events Steve continued to compete in the 125 class on his Pentons, as well as riding Elsinores in the 250 class. However, once the 125 Elsinore was released, Steve found it easier to maintain and compete on bikes that were more similar to one another than the Penton/Honda combination, and so he finally parted with his Six Day.

The 1975 racing season saw former Kawasaki-sponsored Jim Weinert going to Yamaha, and so the green team was looking for a rider. Kawasaki contacted Steve Stackable, but “Short Stack” had already signed with Maico. Stackable suggested that Kawasaki contact a young Texan who had been tearing up the 125 Expert class, telling them, “You’ve got to see this kid ride!”

And so, in December of 1974, Kawasaki flew Steve and his father to California, where Steve was given one of Swedish rider Torlief Hansen’s factory KX’s on which to compete in the 250 pro class at Carlsbad raceway. With no experience on the bike whatsoever, the 16 year old finished in 6th place that day, and Kawasaki hired him on the spot.

Riding a production 250 for Kawasaki, with modifications such as a Bultaco front end, Steve posted some good results in Supercross, including a 4th place at Texas Stadium Supercross in Dallas. However, things didn’t go as well with his works 125, which Steve recalls as handling well, but way down on horsepower. “Simply put,” Steve says, “it was very slow”. Steve was still posting results in the top five, but Kawasaki was disappointed with how the bike was working and pulled out at mid-season, leaving Steve without a ride.

Noting that Marty Smith was cleaning up in the 125 class on his Honda, Steve turned back to a privateer 125 Elsinore. On it, he regained his speed, and recalls among his successes in the latter part of that season of leading Marty Smith for all but the last five minutes at the San Antonio 125 National.

For 1976, Kawasaki wanted Steve back, and promised that this time the bikes would be fast. Steve agreed to resign, but in the first race of the season found that his works 125 was still not competitive. He was so disappointed, that he immediately quit the team and went back to his privateer Honda. This was the first year that Bob Hannah appeared, riding the water-cooled factory Yamahas, and was untouchable the first half of the season.

However, at the July 4th 125 National, held at Keyser’s Ridge, Maryland, privateer Steve Wise won the event, with Marty Smith 2nd, and Bob Hannah 3rd. Steve very modestly describes that a major factor in his win was the “exceptionally smooth” track that day, as this was the only way he was able to stay ahead of the factory bikes, with their considerably superior suspension systems. This was the first time a privateer won a 125 outdoor national and since that day back in 1976, a privateer victory in an outdoor national has only happened two other times. One of those was by Mugen-sponsored Johnny O Mara and the other was by John Dowd on his home track, during a mud-infested day in the North East.

Running a limited schedule, and making only about half the races, Steve still finished 4th in the ’76 125 National Championship standings. Throughout that year, Steve had hoped to pick up support from Honda, and because the Smith, Hannah battle was raging, Honda flew Steve to Buchanan, Michigan (a round he otherwise would have missed) hoping for him to play the role of a spoiler for Hannah. They provided him a modified CR 125 to ride, but Steve found the bike to be much less competitive than his own Jimmy Strait-prepared 125, on which he had won the Maryland round earlier in the year.

Steve heard nothing from Honda for the ’77 season, but was instead contacted by Motocross Fox, who was assembling a substantial team. Steve teamed with mechanic Cliff White, and once again using a Honda – modified with a trick frame, Simmons forks, and a special pipe, made a full assault on the 125 nationals.

Steve did very well with this combination, posting strong, consistent finishes including several 2nd places, and ended up 3rd in the points. Support from Honda finally materialized as well, which included them providing Steve with the use of a Mugen motor. Then at the end of the year, Steve was signed on as a full factory Honda rider for 1978.

Honda’s team for that year was huge, with Steve and Warren Reid on 125’s, Jim Pomeroy, Marty Tripes, and Jimmy Ellis on 250’s, and Marty Smith and Tommy Croft on 500’s.

Broc Glover and his Yamaha were the fastest combination in the 125 class, and Steve worked hard to be competitive. Improvements came slowly, such as dispensing with Honda’s unsuccessful application of a 23-inch front wheel. They also received a new cylinder and pipe, which helped Steve’s results to gradually improve toward the latter part of the season.

For ’79, Steve was not only back with Honda, but also moved to California to live and train with Marty Tripes. It was Honda’s idea for Steve to encourage Tripes to train, who was notorious for not doing so. However, Steve recalls Marty as being an incredibly skilled, natural rider, who so influenced Steve during their many practice sessions together that Steve was encouraged to alter his riding style.

During the winter of ‘78/’79, Steve trained and practiced very hard, and began the season fit and well prepared. Steve was scheduled to ride the Supercross series and the 125 outdoor nationals again that year. He started out very well, with a 3rd place finish in the first Supercross event at the Oakland Coliseum. Then, after Jimmy Ellis hurt his knee, Steve was moved up to the 250’s. Aboard the bigger bikes Steve posted good results, finishing 3rd in the 250 National series and on his birthday edged out Jimmy Weinert for the win in the New Orleans Super Dome. It was at the ’79 Superbikers event in Carlsbad, California however, that Steve’s career took an unexpected step forward.

The Superbikers events were an attempt at pitting the best riders from different forms of motorcycle racing against one another, in a format that would provide the opportunity for their varied skills to be applied equally. The challenge however, was to prepare a machine which would work acceptably well in both the pavement and the off-road sections of the course. Steve adapted well, and was initially very competitive, but his Honda’s outdated drum brakes failed after just two laps, which spoiled his chance for a strong finish.

With hopes for an even better 1980 season with Honda, Steve once again trained very hard, even going to Japan over the winter, hoping to help prepare the bikes. Steve felt that ’80 really should have been his year, as he was often the fastest rider on the track, but the new RC250 Pro Link had some reliability problems. With a 10 second lead in the Atlanta supercross, the bike’s rear wheel exploded. Then, at the LA Coliseum, coming from way back in the pack and closing fast on leader Broc Glover, the front wheel exploded. Still, with other strong finishes, and despite a knee injury at the Houston Astrodome Supercross, which forced him to sit out three rounds, Steve did well for the season.

Once again it was at the Superbikers race that year where Steve was exceptional. He was clearly the fastest rider on the pavement, and was running off with the event when, five laps from the finish, lost his rear brake. The reigning 500cc World Motocross Champion Andre Malharbe, on another factory Honda was running second and moved in to try taking the win away from the young Texan, but with a tremendous display of tiresliding control, Steve managed to hold him off, thus posting his first Superbikers victory.

Steve remembers 1981 as a year when he was not as well prepared physically as in years past. His results were not to his expectations either, as his bike broke frequently and he suffered several injuries. The highlight of the year for Steve was his epic race with Bob Hannah, at the Unadilla 250 GP. Steve recalls that he and Hannah dueled with one another throughout the entire event, and both crashed in the final laps of the first moto. With Steve and Hannah down, Donnie Hansen, on another factory Honda “was given a gift”, in the form of the first moto win, but Donnie crashed out in moto 2, costing him a chance at the overall. . After his fall late in the first moto, Steve eventually finished 4th. Steve says,after another incredible duel with Hannah, he eventually won the second (moto) convincingly, and recorded a 2nd for the day, leading him to consider this as one of his most memorable events.

Steve dominated the 1981 Superbikers race, and at the end of the year, was taken totally by surprise as Honda’s offer was for him to go road racing. Honda’s road racing star, Freddie Spencer, was going to Europe, and they were looking to supplement the existing U.S. team of Mike Baldwin and Roberto Pietri. Steve tested at Willow Springs, on Freddie Spencer’s1981-series Superbike. The day was cold and Steve did not feel that he went all that fast, but at the end of the session was told that he had run within six seconds of the track record. . There were other options on the table for him, as Husqvarna wanted Steve to sign on to race the World Championship motocross GP’s in Europe, and talks with Suzuki were in the works as well, but his pavement deal to ride for Honda was the choice he made for the 1982 season.

Steve actually began the 1982 AMA Grand National season by riding the series-opening TT and Short Track events, at the Houston Astrodome. Steve could not have been in a less likely position to do well at Houston. He was not experienced at dirt track racing, his CR500-based Honda was a departure from “traditional” short track and TT machines, and Steve was quite ill, right up to the time of his events. Despite all this, and although he had to start the TT main event from the last row as the result of his transfer from the semi, Steve’s performance was nothing short of astounding. Using a motocross riding style in the TT, Steve was squaring off the turns, block passing other riders, and jumping well over the heads of his competitors over the jumps. Many of the other riders were furious, but the fans loved it. Steve was clearly the crowd favorite, and was closing in on the leaders, threatening to take the win.

With two laps to go, Steve had caught leader Ricky Graham, and looked prepared to sweep into first place. Then, incredibly, his rear brake’s anchor rod broke, totally disrupting Steve’s ability to ride the track, with only the front brake. Although Mickey Fay got back by for 2nd, Steve managed to hold onto 3rd place in the national, an incredible finish.

At Daytona, Steve ran a smooth and consistent race and exceeded everyone’s expectations by finishing the 200 in 7th place against the world’s best road racers, despite riding a yearold bike and once running off the track during the event. And, combined with his strong finish at Houston, Steve left Daytona with first place in the GNC points chase.

Gene Romero, who was Honda’s Class C team manager, was begging Steve to ride the entire Grand National Championship circuit, along with Mike Kidd and Terry Poovey. Steve was especially tempted by this prospect, and to this day feels he should have taken Romero up on his offer. Steve feels he could have had a chance at winning the GNC title, since he would have been able to campaign both the dirt track and pavement events. However, with such a full plate already, he opted to concentrate strictly on road racing.

Steve’s ’82 season on the roadracers went extremely well. He tallied consistent top finishes, and nearly won the Formula One Championship, losing out to teammate Mike Baldwin by just one point. He did win Rookie Of The Year honors, as well as being named the AMA’s Professional Athlete Of The Year. Steve is particularly proud of the latter honor, considering that in the same year, Brad Lackey and Danny LaPorte won the 500 and 250 world motocross championships, respectively.

Steve started out 1983 with even more improved performances on the pavement, finishing the Daytona 200 in 3rd place, bested only by Kenny Roberts and Eddie Lawson. He went on the win the Mid-Ohio event, and closing in on the end of the season, was leading the Formula One championship. Steve then crashed hard at Road America, and in his desire to secure the championship, came to the Laguna Seca round still injured, and there crashed very hard, this time suffering serious injuries. While recovering, Steve wrestled with the difficult decision of whether or not to continue racing. He still had more than two years left on his existing contract with Honda, but despite his tremendously strong performances, felt his drive to compete was diminished. He had a long talk with team manager Udo Getdl, and concluded it was time for him to throw in the towel on his professional racing career.

Reflecting on his unprecedented successes at the highest professional levels in both motocross and road racing, Steve attributes much of it to an improved state of mind, which came about for him in 1981. Steve was going through a difficult time at this point in his life and his career, but was able to find his way through with an incredible change in his outlook of life. He had a strong conversion to Christ earlier in the year. Then, following his retirement from racing, Steve expanded on his knowledge by attending Bible College, and becoming an ordained minister. He has since traveled the world, sharing with thousands, his faith, and conversion to Jesus Christ.

Today, Steve is still involved in ministry and has established Steve Wise Investments, in the business of commercial real estate. He is also a private pilot and owns a Bonanza F- 33, which he loves to fly. He has not been active with motorcycles for some years, but attends a few Pro races each year. Like many of us, he feels he has put on a few too many pounds, but stays active by maintaining a single digit golf handicap.

Steve Wise today, posing with his wife and children in front of his current “off-road” machine, a Bonanza F-33.

In 2003, Steve was invited to Glen Helen Raceway in California to compete in a vintage pro motocross. He was provided a 1973 Honda CR250, and would be going head to head in two 20- minute motos, against such veterans as his old friend, Kent Howerton. Steve’s two sons were extremely excited to see their Dad race for the first time, but he cautioned his children before the event not to expect too much from “old Dad”. “I told my boys that I knew I would not win, but also promised them I would not finish last.” Steve recalls.

Surprising everyone however, particularly himself, Steve got the holeshot in the first moto and stayed at the front of the pack for a while, eventually finishing 4th! He ran just as well in the second moto and, just a few turns from the end, was waved into 3rd place by the rider he had been pursuing. Steve says he was so tired at that point that there was no way he could have made a run at the other rider. However, the other fellow must have been just as worn out, and decided to let Steve by. Steve’s amazing performance brought him 3rd overall, proving that his speed and talent are still intact.

Although his professional career was spent racing for Team Honda Steve holds a great fondness for his Penton Six Day motorcycles, which he attributes to getting him started on his path to great success. Steve’s good friend, Ron Carbaugh, who himself spent a number of years working within the Honda racing department, has now turned his allegiance to Pentons, and recently located and restored one of Steve’s original Six-Days race bikes. Steve recalls that “The Sheriff” may have since then offered to sell him the bike, but he is not sure, and will have to check into it more.

Steve also feels very honored to have been inducted, in 2001, into the AMA’s Motorcycling Hall of Fame. During the induction ceremonies, Steve took some time to recount his professional career to the audience. However, noticing that John Penton was among those present, Steve purposely refrained until the very end of his speech, from mentioning how his father had become a Penton dealer in order to further Steve’s racing career. At that time he thanked Mr. Penton personally for having produced such a fine piece of equipment, and for having contributed much to his racing success.

It seems only fitting for someone with such tremendous talent and versatility as Steve Wise, to have risen to racing prominence aboard Penton motorcycles, which also are so well known for their capability and versatility. Penton Sportcycles truly were, “Built For Champions.”

photos provided by Steve Wise

Leroy Winters on his 1968 Penton Six-Days with Ralph Haslage
Winters family photo and article provided by Kevin Grimes

Frustrations Of Eight 6 Day Events

by Leroy Winters

You just can’t take away all the memories of my experiences of the SIX days. There was the battle with Russ Cooley to get your F.I.M. license, phone calls to the AMA, arguments with John Penton and the Husky Distributor, Edison Dye, K.T.M. (Penton Cycles) and even American Honda. The Frustration of eight tries in the I.S.D.T. includes the excitement, the competition, the fun times and meeting a lot of lifetime friends. Still the Frustration!

In 1956, I was the first person to win the prestigious 500 mile Jack Pine Enduro in Michigan on a light weight motorcycle! A 165 cc Harley that was changed, modified and prayed over for 3 yrs. and finally I got it dependable. Battled the Giants on that 165 Harley-- Sal Scirpo, Don Pink, John Penton, Bill Baird and so forth. Went on to win Stone Mountain, Daytona Enduro, even trophied in the Green Horn in CA. I kinda felt like David and Goliath. In 1964 after a hard run, I think it was Ohio, John Penton and I were nursing our blisters and sore bones, We agreed to try SIX days for 1965. We paid the air freight to send my Honda S-90 and John’s 250 BMW to the Isle of Manpaid airfare and expenses out of our own pocket. John and I thought we were it! With all of our trophies sitting on the shelf, and medals on our chest like Napoleon and Ceaser. What a surprise, on the third day we were out. These guys play rough. On the fourth day, I seen Sammy Miller in the wet barbour suit after he impounded his bike and shook his hand (Riding without gloves) his grip was like vise grips (ouch). The Russians coming thru and starting the second loop from the Park Ferma, taking a shot of Vodka from the team manager (frustration). Look I am in my prime, strong, cat-like reflexes and good mechanic-- I can do it! But sometimes doubt would creep in when three Zundapp riders passed me one time in Sweden, styling like McGrath.

Leroy at the 1965 Isle of Mann on his Honda

1966- off to Sweden by myself. Edison Dye told me on the phone to go to Oslo, Norway but he didn’t tell me to meet Malcolm Smith and drive a Volkswagon Bus to Husky Factory. Edison Dye said I was to ride a 125 cc Zundapp but instead I ended up on a 250 Husky. Finally, with all the frustration of just finding my way to the start line. I lost my way on the third day in a rain storm, so out again!

1967 -- John Penton and his wife Donna, along with Malclom Smith, Dave Mungenast and myself left Sweden in a borrowed Volkswagon bus and drove to Zachopane, Poland. There we meet Bud Ekins and John Nelson. The six of us on Husky’s, to be in a country where it took stamps you buy at the border to get gasoline. (we forgot to buy stamps for oil, the Volkswagon did use oil). Very hard to find a place to eat and your diet suddenly becomes very different. You have to change U.S. dollars at the border for how many days you will stay in Poland. But when you get to Zachopane, you can get twice the Zolatas on the black market. They don’t speak English. Well it’s their country so we don’t speak Polish. We have no team manager so we listen to Bud Ekins for his experience in past SIX days. The food was terrible at our Hotel and some of us got sick. I laid in my room for two days in a cold sweat and fever, plus many trips to the toilet and the toilet paper on the grade of coarse sand paper. But we all made the start line on a bunch of MX Husky’s with close ratio transmissions. Again on the third day near the finish a rod went out of the Husky while I was still on gold. The feeling that falls over you that you let the team down plus not to finish my third try in the SIX days-- frustration again!

1968-- I meet in Austria at the K.T.M. factory with my friends Dave Mungenast and Tom Penton to drive down to San Pellegrino, Italy. At this time John Penton was getting his Penton cycles going in the states. (K.T.M.) I always did like the light weight Enduro type motorcycles. This time we had at least t-shirts that looked alike. My enthusiasm was real high that I had a motorcycle that inspired more confidence. The night we arrived, we got out of our rental cars in San Pellegrino, Italy. Here we are again, can’t speak the language, trying to figure out the gas liters and how many lira to pay the guy. I look up into the sky to check the weather - you hate to ride SIX days in the rain. My comment was, look at the stars - no rain. As I keep looking up and around it hit me. Those aren’t stars, those are houses up there. The next day we went to test ride a little - found some trails way up in the Alps. We were on a one lane trail with grass hill on our right, pretty steep/ on our left the grass about 10 or 12 inches was growing so you felt kind of confident. The farmers chickens run down the trail ahead of us. Two of them cut to the left and went thru the grass and fell end over end about a block down the slope. John, Dave and I stopped and laughed at what happened but it was just to cover up our fear. Back at the hotel I looked down on the patio from my room and three Swedes were sitting with casts on their legs. Some of the blacktop roads up in the Alps afford a magnificent view of villages dotted around. Lakes and clouds below you. It seems the Swedes like the view but would run into the guard poles (not guardrails, but concrete poles.) But, on the third day again the rear wheel bearings on the Penton (K.T.M.) went out and that welded the backing plate to the hub. I really didn’t like to be called “Three Day Leroy.”

1969 -- It was in Garmisch - Partenkirchan in Germany that I felt more confident. The Penton cycles were better and K.T.M. put more effort into organization. John and Tom Penton, Dave Mungenast and myself were the Vase Team. Except for one ski slope I couldn’t make fast enough, I collected a Silver Medal. Wow, I finished the 6 days. Now the riders that come from America were mostly Dealers that had successful businesses. I had a Honda store. Dave Mungenast has a Honda Motorcycle store and Mike Lewis was a Honda Dealer. Bud Ekins had a movie contract and had a Motorcycle business and most Americans had something going to support their vices. “Motorcycle Racing”

1970 -- Spain - I left Austria in a car with one of the K.T.M. employees and my fiancee about 3:00 in the morning and on the way to Cologne for Motorcycle Show and then down to Spain. At a intersection we hit a man in his car going to work at about 70 miles an hour at an intersection. The car flipped and when it was over, the car was upside down in a field and I crawled out with the car on fire. I had ribs broken and my fiancee died in a Munich Hospital. The driver had his face cut up. But a few days in Munich Hospital, I dragged my body to the airport and meet Dave Mungenast to get to Madrid and up to Escorial. Well, anyway I made one lap on a really nice 100cc K.T.M. bike and the ribs came loose again. Two weeks wasn’t enough to heal. Again Frustration.

1971-- Isle of Man, England - I called American Honda and got a hold of some V.I.P. people, so I took a plane to L.A. and American Honda furnished me a SL 125 Honda and helped with Parts and their Personnel. I took the 125 Honda out to Saddleback Cycle Park. Spent a day testing out there and was very pleased with the Honda 4 stroke. Honda crated the motorcycle and airfreighted it to the Isle of Man - Didn’t even take off the handlebars. Well the crate wouldn’t fit into the plane to Isle of Man so I hired a boys truck and the driver and I drove to Liverpool and set the crate on the Ferry boat and got it to the Island. The SIX days was really fun that year. The little Honda was so dependable that all I did was change the oil everyday and just “wring it’s neck“. The British just love to see the only Honda entered, plus they liked the 4 stroke sound. The only trouble was a flat front tire and the time to get a tube slipped to me, or, I just happened to look down on the ground and there lay a tube. Lost a couple minutes but come home with a Silver Medal. The final test was a Road Race. I set on the front row with all size motorcycles all around me. Flag up and Flag down and the 125 started first kick. One of the first riders away, I just left it wide open through all the gears down the Grandstand Straight to a right hand square corner and the big bore bikes were sliding, bumping, crashing but I held tight and left it on for about 3 more blocks to a right turn up hill. Malcolm Smith had just passed me on his 250 Husky and I think a Cheko rider took Malcolm’s front wheel out. I missed Malcolm and went by looking at Malcolm spinning around, kind of sitting on top of his bike. About two miles on, Malcolm passed me again and gave me a big smile with a thumbs up.

Leroy at 1971 Berkshire event
Winters family photos provided by Kevin Grimes

1972 -- American Honda flew my Honda 125 c.c. to Austria and I towed it on the back bumper of my little 600 Honda car to Czechoslovakia. It was a really hard SIX days and the 125 Honda wasn’t as competitive as the newer two - stroke bikes. My rear brake-stay broke and twisted up the brake rod. I did manage to patch it up and continue on a ways, and was out and same thing again, Frustrated!

You are only in your prime and fastest for only a short time in your life cycle, but I keep winning when I was too old. I wasn’t as fast or crazy as some of the younger riders but I would out-smart them or let them beat themselves. But in Cheko I did some soul searching as I was getting beat up and getting later. The SIX days, when I got to ride, was difficult because the Americans had very little organization or help. Most all Americans paid their own way. A lot of the good Enduro riders and Cross Country racers in American didn’t have the money or management to go as a good solid team to represent the U.S.A.

As the SIX days gets closer for the U.S.A. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I think and still have that gut feeling of being there. You’re walking into the impound area to your motorcycle and praying the tires aren’t flat. The drizzle and fog isn’t making you very cheerful. You get your hands on your bike and push it to the work area for 10 minutes with your jacket stuffed with parts you’re going to replace. Which pocket did I put that air cleaner in. where did I put the new brake pedal. The clamp I got will fix the muffler bracket.

So, I’m ready, my heart beat is up - I push to the start line - stop holding your breath! My mouth is dry! Remember, tomorrow drink more fluids. There is a Swede on my left and a German on my right. Flag up, Flag down and it started on the first kick and I am back in there riding the SIX days again. See you in Tulsa. It sure is hard to be a spectator.

“Crazy” Jake Fisher showing how to do a front wheel stand without using the front brake – Murrysville 1967

Member Profile

by Conrad Pfifer
Originally printed in the 2010 issue #47 of Still….Keeping Track

“I was sittin’ on this glass bottom boat in the Bahamas and this guy next to me asks ‘where ya from?’ I says Butler, PA. The guy says ‘the only thing I know in Butler PA is that there is a building there with a motorcycle on the roof.’ I said you gotta be kiddin, that’s my place!” The man who put the bike there is Jake Fischer, his place is Fischer’s Competition Cycle.

The motorcycle topped building is a land mark to anyone traveling on State Route 8 about five miles south of Butler PA. From the road the building looks empty. In fact the upstairs is vacant except for a few old (but meticulously restored) motorcycles on an empty floor. It is available for rent if anyone is interested. But for those who know, just pull around back (down the hill) and go through the main door sporting stickers from an era of Basani and Hooker pipes, Buco helmets and High Point boots and you will enter Jake’s place. Jake also known as Crazy Jake Fischer, a Western PA motorcycle icon is a wiry guy with boundless energy and a knack for story telling.

Jake began his motorcycle career as a 14 year old in 1952. He paid $50 for a 1936 Indian Chief from a local police department. He didn’t know anything about motorcycles but worked diligently to get it running. It had no spark. He saw a wire coming out of the engine and figured that is where the spark would originate. He took a cover off and found that the points were loose. He fixed it with a rubber band and a chewing gum foil wrapper. That began Jake’s mechanical motorcycle savvy which would bring several pristine restorations back from the salvage heaps.

Jake became “Crazy” Jake during an enduro in New Jersey. Jake states that he came to spot on the trail that had a very big log laying across the trail with “X” markers stapled all over it. There were also many spectators standing on the log watching the riders go around it. Well Jake decided that a little tree in the way wasn’t going to make him go off course so he started yelling for the spectators to get out of the way he was going over the log! As the fans were scattering they started saying that guy’s crazy, as Jake jumped the log and passed several of the “detour riders”.

His second bike was 1947 Vincent Rapide HRD. He says that he got tired of pushing the Indian so he paid $100 for the Vincent that he calls a “plumber’s nightmare”. Plus being “Crazy” Jake he always had an affinity for riding something more unusual hence the Vincents and Greeves in later years.

He began racing in all venues; drags, scrambles and enduros. Some of his best stories are about racing his nitro enhanced Vincent at the drag strips. Jake’s wife, Ginny worked at a chemical laboratory during his Vincent drag racing days. Jake got to know some of the chemists and they helped him make the fuel for his drag bike. Jake said that they would ask about the bike’s timing, compression ratio, top gearing etc and they would mix the nitromethane. Ginny would bring it home in brown glass jugs for him to use for racing on Sundays. As Jake was telling me this I was thinking… to get from the laboratory to Jake’s house Ginny would have to drive through one of Pittsburgh’s many tunnels. Hmmm, nitromethane, glass bottles, rush hour traffic, 1960’s all steel cars, tunnel? YIKES!!! Remember she has to be a little crazy too!

Jake first met John Penton on the trail during the Little Burr. Jake came across a rider with a broken Husky on the trail. Jake riding a 1967 Greeves Challenger, stopped to ask the rider if he was OK, The rider said “yes” he was OK. As Jake pulled away and noticed a name somewhere on the rider that said PENTON. It was then that Jake realized that the rider was John. Jake said that the Greeves wasn’t a great bike and the swingarm actually broke when he jumped a creek at the finish line!

Jake cresting a hill and air born on his Greeves

Jake’s first ride on a Penton was a 1970 125 cc Steel tanker that a customer brought in to his shop for service. Jake took it for a “test ride” at a local Hare Scramble. (Remember he’s crazy!) He came in second to Ron Bohn who incidentally was riding a 125 cc Penton. Jake says that the bike was light and nimble and being an open class rider, he was very impressed with it. Crazy Jake says during that time he was “kickin’ ass” against the Pentons on his open class Husky so much that John Penton asked him to try a then new Mint 400. The Mint 400 did not handle to the liking of Jake, steering and wheelbase, but he said that nothing came close in power and speed. Jake’s words, “the Mint 400 would disintegrate a Husky” speed wise. But he stayed with Husky.

He qualified and was invited to the 1972 Six Days in Czechoslovakia by Husqvarna. He was a fast, open class rider who rode stroked out 400cc bikes but the only ride Husky would give him was a 175 cc with a single piston ring. He said “I didn’t want it, it was like a toy!” But he accepted Husky’s invitation and took the offer to ride the 175. Jake was on Gold when the bike’s single piston ring started to fail and the engine was losing power. He could see the finish line, hear the bikes in the distance and knew that all he had to do was get to the finish. He was near a farm house and asked the farmer if he could help him get his bike to the finish a mile or two away. Somewhere between Jake’s thick Pittsburgh accent and the farmer speaking Czech they finally communicated enough to get the bike loaded on an ox cart. The cart started to move, albeit very slowly towards the finish. Somewhere short of the finish line they came to a stop. Jake could still hear the bikes in the distance and asked the farmer why they had to stop. The farmer said he had to feed the ox! That is why Jake ended up with a Silver instead of a Gold. But getting the Silver was worth the “ox and the cart” story 36 years later.

In 1973 Jake qualified for the ISDT in Dalton, Mass. He was aboard his trusty 400 cc Husky. Jake said it was just about idling through the course. But on the fourth day he hit a Volkswagen car broadside and went over an embankment separating his shoulder. He popped his shoulder back into place and decided to finish the fourth day.

Jake at the 1972 ISDT in Czechoslovakia
Jake on a Hercules Motorcycle

He then thought “Heck, I only had two days left, so I may as well finish.” Finish he did, winning a Gold with a dislocated shoulder.

Jake says that the ISDT was a great experience but he liked the local enduros better. “It was something the whole family could do together. Go out for a weekend and be back home Sunday.”

Fischer Competition Cycle began when Jake became a sub dealer for Triumphs, BSA, Cotton and Greeves. In later years he was a sub dealer for Bohn Cycle Sales in Pittsburgh obtaining Penton and Husky. As dealers went out of business Jake bought their inventories and parts. “I saw that a lot of dealers weren’t dedicated to the brand, they were just selling something that was hot at the time” says Jake. “Those bikes are a part of a sport that I liked.” He knew that people would need parts to rebuild those bikes after the dealers go out of business. Jake’s friends told him that in the 1960’s that they should have bought and stockpiled 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird parts. In hindsight Jake says that if he bought those parts he would be a millionaire.

One day in 1979 Jack Penton of the Penton Motorcycle family called Jake. KTM was absorbing the Penton brand and Jack wanted to know if Jake was interested in some Penton parts. “Jack said to bring a big truck. I thought Holy cow, I’m going to get 50 dealer’s worth of parts at once! I couldn’t turn it down”, stated the always animated Jake. Included in the inventory were about 300 unlaced rims, both front and rear. Jake stacked the 21” rims over the 18” and they covered his whole floor. One day a guy stopped by looking for junk and Jake said to take all of the rims stacked on his upstairs floor. Readers when you finish crying, imagining what 300 Akront, Radelli and Sun rims looked like driving to the scrap yard. You will be relieved to know that Jake kept some of those rims… so you can put away the Kleenex.

Today Jake’s place is the man cave of motorcycle man caves. Once through the multi stickered door any vintage enthusiast will go into visual overload and the past will flash by their eyes. There are new Penton and Husky steel gas tanks, shifters and levers. 1950’s riding leathers, a show case of memorabilia including FIM medals, enduro watch holders, a Visor Vu helmet visor with the little mirrors on the corners, pictures of friends and motorcycles. Triumph shop manuals, Preston Petty fenders, Husky forks and yes there are some new rims left on the shelf. This is just the front room. In the back there are pistons and sprockets that will fit about any dirt bike from the 60’s and 70’s. If they don’t fit, Jake can find or make you one that will! His work shop area is organized and very well stocked with specialty tools, hones, and spray cans of various paints, lubricants and oils. On the rack today is a 350 Hercules that he is rebuilding. Jake completed a pristine motocross version earlier in the year and is restoring an enduro version to compliment it. Further back in the shop is his ice racing Husky, several skeleton like frames, tanks and wheels from 60’s and 70’s vintage bikes. Complete engines, Husky, Sachs and even Saxonettes, which are “baby” automatic Sachs.

I once asked Jake how the heck he kept track of all the parts he said, “if I don’t know what it is, I’ll make it fit something!”

Jake doing a wheelie at the crest of a hill on his Greeves

During the first week of October 2009 I had the pleasure of attending the Leroy Winters ISDT reunion ride which Jake also attended. Each year during the event the Winters family presents an award to those who can be best described as Friends of the Six Days and the Reunion Ride for their contributions to the success of the sport. I happened to be at the same table as Jake when they called his name as recipient of the award. For one of the few times in his life, Jake was speechless. He is truly deserving of the award and appreciates it immensely. In fact I stopped by his shop the Monday after the Reunion and the award already found a place front and center on Jake’s wall.

Why is Jake with POG?? Well first he said that Husky has nothing like POG. No club, no organized rides, get togethers etc. Then he said, no it is really the people, (members) that make POG. They are nice, honest, loyal people and they love to ride. John Penton is still a very approachable, down to earth guy that can sit down and talk to anyone. FYI readers, after all of the motorcycles Jake has ridden and been affiliated with the ONLY sticker on his current car is POG member sticker.

This past fall I was fortunate to be invited to go on a ride with three generations of the Fischer family. Jake, his two sons, John and Jeff and his grandson Jeremy. Paul Danik and myself drove about two hours to the home of Jake’s son, Jeff, in DuBois PA. Jake’s grandson Jeremy was going to accompany us on this ride on his small wheel Yamaha PW 80. It was going to be one of his first real rides with the big guys.

Jake (in center), his family and friends at the 2009 trail ride

The riding area is in the central mountains of PA. Acres of fire trails and woods riding steep gas pipeline cuts and lots of rocks. It was a beautiful fall day, sun was out, warm, temperature was perfect for riding. Jake was on his daughter in-law’s XR 200 Honda, a very mild bike for him. The rest of us were on varied machines of different eras and displacements.

Jake was taking up the rear just watching everyone knowing that he could blow past any of us at anytime but he seemed to be enjoying being a spectator for once. He was watching his grandson concentrating on the trail, trying to keep up speed and not complain at all.

At one part of the ride Jeff, an ISDE vet, took us down what was to Paul and I a very rocky, steep mountain side. Paul and I were on vintage Pentons, Jeff and John on new KTM’s. We all got to the bottom of the mountain safely and went, "whew that was bumpy!" Jeremy stayed right with us on his small wheel scoot. While resting at the bottom, Jeff said we could not going any further because it was a State Forest and that we had to turn around and go back up the mountain. As I was thinking how embarrassed I was going to be falling 10 times going up the mountain, Jeff said "give me and Jeremy a head start, we’ll see you at the top." Well, see them at the top we did. Nobody fell, no one crashed and Jake was grinning like a kid that just brought home a new Penton. He was watching his grandson become a hillclimber and an accomplished trail rider.

POG is about family and people and on that day the Fischer family was the poster family for POG. The young, the old, CMF’s, ISDT and KTM’s and most of all friendship and family.

So anytime you are on the road between Butler and Pittsburgh PA stop by the “vacant” building with the old CZ motorcycle on the roof. Jake’s hours nowadays are usually Sundays but not too early because he will still be at the local flea market looking for socks for a $1 a bundle or a cash register from the 1940’s. But don’t come too late because he may be golfing or fishing. Yes even 40 years later it is still hard to keep up with Crazy Jake.

Jake riding a 500 Triumph in 1966 at Green Valley
Jake out in front of a couple of Yamahas at an MX race

Paul Danik remembers Jake

Back in the day when you rode a local motorcycle event in the Pittsburgh area you might as well have been at a national event with the likes of Ron Bohn, Mike Rosso, the Lojack brothers, Bob Augustine and Jake Fischer usually in attendance. Some folks might have thought having these guys to contend with would be a bad thing, but the truth was it was a great way to become a better rider as you could see first hand just how fast these motorcycles could go in the hands of a capable rider.

If all the stories that circulated about Jake Fischer were true he would have had to ride day and night to accomplish all the shenanigans that were credited to him. Old Augie had known Jake for many years and helped me to get to know him during my early days on two wheels. Jake had a series of trails that he could ride from his home just north of Pittsburgh and the stories of his rides on those trails with a close knit group of friends were legendary. I remember the first time I rode some of those trails with a couple of riding buddies from the area. Many times during the ride we would stop and the stories of how Crazy Jake had jumped this creek or climbed that hill would be told, every one of the feats told would require some awesome riding and they would attribute his riding to “craziness”. But the reality was, it was more skill, desire and confidence than anything else.

When I started to ride ISDT Qualifiers Jake took notice and invited me to join him for a little Sunday trail ride from his house. When I showed up there were three other riders there and shortly there after the five of us were on the trail with Jake out front. Jake knew the trails like the back of his hand and he would always be just out of sight and all I could see was the dust hanging in the air as his big Husky ripped through the woods at a blistering pace. Every once in awhile you could spot Jake parked up ahead checking on his chasers, but just as you spotted him and he knew everyone was still coming the big stroked Husky would be gone in an blink of an eye.

As the day wore on the other three riders came up with reasons they had to take the roads back to Jake’s place, it was now just Jake on his big Husky and me on my 125 Penton. Jake always kept an eye out to make sure I was still coming but he really pushed me to expand my comfort zone of not only speed but also in going over obstacles. Jake just loved going over really big logs, or pretty much anything else lying in the woods. The log didn’t even need to be in the way, nope, Jake would go off the trail and into the woods to jump a log and make sure I took his path. As Jake explained to me later, “ when a gang of riders are waiting to go down an impossible hill one at a time, or go around a supposedly impassable obstacle, the easy way you can pass them all at one time is if you make your own way”. When we finally made our way back to Jake’s place I was totally exhausted, Jake walked into the house and brought out a bottle of his home made wine and I really don’t remember anything from that point on. I will say that the bottoms of the down tubes under the engine on my Pentons from that day on were pretty much smashed flat when I was done with a bike.

During the Six-Days in Massachusetts I would have dinner with Jake and his wife Ginny each evening and listen to Jake’s advice on what to expect and how to mentally approach the next day as I had never ridden a Six- Day event before. During the event Jake separated his shoulder and the picture of Rolf Tibblin helping Jake get his shoulder back into place along the trail is legendary, as is the fact that Crazy Jake soldiered on to a Gold medal. I was at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction ceremony a couple of years ago when Rolf Tibblin was inducted into the Hall of Fame. After the induction ceremony I congratulated Rolf on his honor and mentioned Jake and the fact that he lived not far from me. Rolf’s eyes instantly lit up when he heard Jake’s name and his comment was “ Jake is one tough guy”. This coming from the Iron Man of Moto-Cross is quite a tribute.

After many years of knowing Crazy Jake I would like to tell everyone that he has a heart of gold, a mind like a computer and a love of the sport like few others I have known. But Jake has worked for years to create his alter ego and who would I be to shatter that image.

George Bliss at the Penton 40th Anniversary event
Photo by Bill Smith


by Alan Buehner

Originally printed in the 2013 issue #60 of Still….Keeping Track

George was born on July 8, 1924 to Leah (Barnes) and Orlando Dean Bliss. His father, known as O. Dean, was a 2nd generation farmer on the family homestead in Avon, Ohio. The farm has 94 acres of land where George's grandfather, George Eugene Bliss, grew a variety of crops and raised a few cows and horses. Dean went to college and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1916 where he majored in horticulture and animal husbandry. One of his college buddies was Harold Penton (John Penton's father). Like Harold, Dean had a motorcycle, an Indian, that he also used for transportation to and from OSU. These years were way before Rt 42 came into being and they had to go to Rt 4 south from Norwalk on the all gravel road to reach Columbus, Ohio and OSU. Harold met and married Nina Musselman, also a student at OSU. Dean and Leah kept close ties with the Penton family and their families would occasionally get together and socialise.

Sometime in the late 20s Grandpa purchased a house on an acre of land on the Williamette river (north of Salem, OR) where he grew nuts and fruit trees. He purchased this property to spend his winters where the weather there was much milder than the winters in Ohio. He would return back to the farm in the early spring to enjoy the Ohio summer growing season. In those days he would do his traveling to Oregon and back via train hauling his belongings in a steamer trunk. In 1934 grandpa died when he was hit by a car on the side of the road in Avon.

In 1936 Dean temporarily moved the family to Oregon for four years to dispose of his father's property in Oregon. They traveled to Oregon in a seven passenger Packard. When news of Harold Penton's death reached Dean, he cried. Nina Penton sent her daughter Mary Alice (John Penton's sister) out to Orgegon to live with them to help heal the loss of her father.

George was the oldest of 5 children. He had three brothers; Frank, Darwin and Cyrus, and a sister, Virginia Dean. Frank died from a tragic accident in Oregon and Darwin died from a rare disease that the doctors can now treat. Cyrus is still alive today where he owns his share of the family farm in Ohio. Virginia Dean is still alive and lives in Texas.

George did not get involved with farming. He had asthma which made it difficult for him to work out in the fields, especially during grain and thrashing season. He graduated from high school at the age of 16 and shortly after, bought his first motorcycle, a used Indian 4, which the seller delivered on a an old Indian 4 with a sidecar platform. This was short lived in that the seller, in working on the engine, left out the keepers on all the wrist pins. The loose pins cut grooves into the cylinders walls and this caused the engine to smoke badly. In the summer of 1941 he obtained a summer job working for Ike Penton on the Penton family farm. He remembers Bill Penton picking up an orchard ladder and swinging it around to put it away and in the process breaking a window on the barn. Ike was upset about that and scolded his much younger brother.

In 1943 at the age of 18 he was drafted and entered the Army and became actively involved in WWII. He was trained and assigned to an Ordnance Depot Company. His outfit was shipped over to Scotland and then sent by train to Tidworth, England where the Company set up a Field Depot for the build up for the invasion on D-day. The night before D-day he was assigned guard duty where he saw the seemingly endless flight of planes heading over to France to drop bombs, paratroopers, and glider planes. After the invasion and the Allies were on the drive to push back the Nazis, his unit was transported and stationed at a Base Depot in Vincennnes, near Paris. He spent the rest of the European war at this Depot where his unit serviced and supplied parts for jeeps, tanks, and trucks. After the Nazis surrendered, his unit was getting ready to be transported to the Pacific to aid in the fight against Japan. Fortunately, while on furlough in the US the Japanese surrendered and he was discharged a few months later.

He was married in 1945 to his first wife Kay, and they had two children, Karen and David. The marriage only lasted three years.

In early 1946 he couldn't get a job right away. He bought a used Harley 80cc flathead which had a 3speed /reverse tranny and then bought a side car for it. He sold the sidecar rig and bought a 1938 61c.i. Harley knucklehead for street riding. He entered The Ohio State University in the fall where he studied mechanical engineering. It was a 5 years course where he earned a bachelor of mechainial engineering degree and graduated in 1952. He paid for his own education with help from the GI Bill and would take time off for “work breaks”. He spent some of his free time hanging around the Penton Brothers motorcycle shop. Bill Penton also went to OSU during this time period and he rode a BSA to and from OSU on his trips home. It was on one of these trips that Bill crashed and broke his foot. He wound up riding a Harley with a side car while his leg was still in a cast. Once he was healed up, he was back on the BSA. Bill also rode some enduros around Columbus and talked George into riding some of them on his 1947 350cc BSA with a solid rear that he had acquired. Of course earlier George would listen to Bill, Ted, John, and Ike talk about the Jack Pine enduro when he would hang around their shop. One of the stories was of Bill riding his first Jack Pine on a Harley 45. Bill finished the event and their mother was perplexed about his brothers sending off their younger, inexperienced brother on such an adventure.

One of his first jobs was at the Fruehauf Trailer plant in Avon Lake which he would work at off and on during his college years. He eventually wound up working at Bendix in Elyria after he was graduated from college. He worked at Bendix for 22 years where he started out as a test engineer and he finally earned the title of Senior Engineer. He then went to work at W L Tanksley Consulting in Cleveland. His connection with the Tanksley Consulting firm landed him a job with Eveready Battery Company in Cleveland on a contract basis. He was then hired by Eveready and he was employed until his retirement at age 65.

While still in College, in 1951, George took his first stab at the Jack Pine enduro aboard his '47 350cc BSA and finished the event. In 1952 he sold the BSA and rode the Jack Pine on a band new 1952 Harley “K” model on which the frame broke and he did not finish the event. He rode the same Harley with a new frame in the 1953 and 1954 Jack Pines with the same result – a broken frame and DNF. In 1955 he rode the Jack Pine with a new factory redesigned frame and finished. In 1956 he bought Bill Penton's '53 500cc Alloy cylinder BSA (this was the bike that Bill won the 1954 Jack Pine with) and rode it in that year's Jack Pine where he finished.

George and his 1957 BMW R50/2

In 1957 he did not enter the Jack Pine. He had bought a brand new BMW R50/2 from BMW dealer, John Penton and he did not have it enduro ready. He instead rode it to the Jack Pine to spectate. By this time, George was in close company with the Penton boys. They would ride their bikes together in a group to and from the events. At the end of the first day, which ended in the city of West Branch, Michigan they would spend the nights at an “Old Folks Home”. The arrangements for meeting at the Penton motorcycle shop to go to the Jack Pine would always be the same. They would tell him to be there well before 7 am. When he would arrive, their enduro bikes were all in parts and we would not leave until 1 or 2 in the afternoon after they were put back together.

It was at the 1957 Jack Pine that John broke his foot while riding his BSA. He left the bike out along the trail and was transported to a hospital. Ted asked for George's assistance to retrieve John's bike and the two of them rode out on Ted 's Harley. They found the bike just off the course where John told them to look for it. Ted noticed a rock in the trail that was actually the top of a boulder sticking up out of the trail. A little further along the trail was a small tree stump sticking up. From these clues, Ted determined that John's BSA's front wheel struck the rock, breaking some of the heads off of the spokes nipples. As John went to upshift his foot got caught between the stump and foot peg, wrapping his foot around the foot peg. Ted got the BSA started and rode it along the trail until they came to a side road. While rinding down the side road the front wheel started to get wobbly to the point where it wasn't going to go much further. He slowed down until they came upon a shed with no house in sight. Inside the shed was a vice but no tools. Ted set about removing the wheel and removing the flat tire with tools that they had on Ted's bike. About that time the farmer that owned the shed came by and while Ted explained to him what they were doing, he kept busy removing the broken nipples and all the spokes. He then relaced the wheel, spreading out the good spokes and nipples that remained. He gave George the inner tube with instructions to take it somewhere to get it patched up. George rode off with the tube and after getting more than seven holes patched up (from the spokes that punctured it) he arrived back at the shed just as Ted was finishing lacing the wheel. After reinstalling the wheel on the BSA, Ted led George down the “grade A” slag road back to town. Now if it were you and me riding that bike with missing spokes, we would be riding real careful, but not Ted Penton. He sped away on that bike like there was nothing wrong. He trusted his “emergency Jack Pine repair.”

George and his 1957 BMW R50/2
photo by Frank Conner as published in the Jan 1966 issue of Modern Cycle magazine

1958 was the beginning of a 9 year run of the Jack Pine on the BMW. In 1958 he did not finish because of deep water. Because of this, he used his engineering skills to make a snorkel from the air intake on the engine to an air box on top of the gas tank. Other modifications were made to the bike to make it water proof (see list of modifications to turn a BMW into an enduro bike). In 1959 and 1962 thru 1966 he finished the events. In 1960 he did not finish when he gave out on the 2nd day. He did not enter the event in 1961 because he went to Camp Firebird where he met his present wife, Liane and they were married soon after. They have been married for 52 years and this was the best thing that happened to him. Liane had a daughter, Christine, from a previous marriage and George adopted her.

In 1967 the Jack Pine was canceled because of vandalism during the 1966 event in West Branch by non-contestant cyclists.

When the Jack Pine was moved to West Branch from Lansing, the bikes were improving and the riders wanted more challenges and the course became tougher.

George rode the 1968 Jack Pine on a 64' 350cc BSA and did not finish when he houred out on the 2nd day.

George and his unrestored 1970 Penton 125

In 1970 he purchased his 1970 Steel Tank Penton 125 and rode it in the Jack Pine. He did not finish on the 1st day when he houred out. Only 11.9% of the contestants finished that year's event. This was the last year that George rode the Jack Pine. The course became so tough that he could not finish the last 3 events, even on the Penton, and he gave up the competition. Out of 17 Jack Pine starts, he finished 9 times.

George was a lot like John Penton. The Jack Pine became his passion. It was the biggest enduro event in the US and riders came from all over the US to ride it. The difference was that John rode to win and George rode to finish. Like John and his brothers in those days, in order to have an “enduro” bike, you had to modify a big, heavy street bike to make it work. It was a matter of trial and error to figure out what worked and what didn't. Where John was going along the path of “smaller is better”, George found the ways to make his BMW work and stayed with it. He owns 3 bikes today, his 1957 BMW, his 1970 125 Penton, and a 1981 BMW R65. One of the things that he learned from John Penton was to add an extension to his shift levers. A short extension would be welded to the back part of the shift lever to turn it into a heel/ toe shifter. The reason for this was to keep from putting your foot under the lever and running the risk of injuring your foot. He added this lever to his 81 BMW even though it was used only for street riding to avoid confusion when switching bikes.

George's Penton sat in his barn collecting dust up until the Penton 40th anniversary event. He showed up at the event with his Penton after Doug Wilford cleaned out the dried fuel and made it rideable. I remember seeing him on Sunday when everyone was getting ready for the ride to John's house. There was George sitting on his Penton with a grin from ear to ear. To an outsider it may have looked like there was an old man sitting on an old dirt bike, but I saw a young kid joyfully waiting to go for a ride with his buddies.

How to turn a 1957 BMW into an Enduro bike

This is a listing of the modifications that George Bliss made to his bike which he rode enderos on from 1958 thru 1966:

Front end – original Earls forks removed and1950's BSA forks installed

Front Fender – 1935 Ford spare tire cover

Air Cleaner – relocated to top of gas tank via hand made and gas welded alumininum ducts

Rear Drive – 7/27 sidecar drive hub

Under gas tank breather -

  1. gen/ magneto cavity
  2. carb float bowls sealed and vented
  3. air inlets for idling mixers

Crankcase breather – a/c fuel filter check valve

Speedometer – Harley Davidson with resettable trip, headling mounted with gearbox

Mufflers – Alumininum Burgess, rebuilt to accommodate VW Beetle tail pipe tips – removeable to allow reinstallation of original pipes for street riding

Footpegs – shortened 1 inch

Skid Plate – fabricated out of 1/8” plate steel to cover exhaust pipes and crank pan – removeable for street riding

Rear Fender – lower section removed – mud flap, lift handle and tail light added

Dwight Rudder holding his first trophy


by Ted Guthrie

Originally printed in the 2009 issue #43of Still….Keeping Track

Alabama native Dwight Rudder is “the real deal”. He’s been on numerous factory enduro teams, earned medals in multiple ISDT competitions, has been an “A” enduro rider for decades, and those are just a few of his motorcycling accomplishments. There is in fact a lot more to this quiet, polite fellow with the southern drawl, besides.

Dwight was raised in Greensboro, Alabama, hence the southern accent. However, where his exceptional motorcycle riding skills came from is anyone’s guess. He didn’t come from a motorcycling family, but Dwight’s father did introduce him to the sport at age 9 with the gift of a lawnmower engine-powered minibike. Dad also had a Harley 165 stashed in the barn, which was brought out and coaxed back into operation when Dwight was 12. While Dwight did put some time on the bike, he was initially scared of it. Later came another minibike, but then Dwight graduated to a Suzuki T250 Scrambler. Despite its rough and ready moniker, the Suzuki didn’t turn out to be a very good trail bike. As a result, Dwight traded it for a ’69 Yamaha AT1, aboard which he rode his first enduro in 1971 in Brent, Alabama and his second a few weeks later at the famous “GOBBLER GETTER ENDURO” in Maplesville, Alabama.

Dwight Rudder riding his 1969 Yamaha AT1

Along about this same time, Dwight’s father took him to see the motorcycling film classic, “On Any Sunday”. Although Dwight enjoyed the entire film immensely, it was the segment which featured Malcolm Smith’s performance in the International Six-Day Trial that really excited the young racer. Right then and there Dwight decided that ISDTtype competition was going to be his primary pursuit and Malcolm Smith became his number one hero. So, how did a young man correspond with his hero back in the 1970’s? Why write fan letters, of course. And, being the friendly guy that he is, Malcolm responded with letters of his own, as well as photographs of himself and his motorcycles.

Meanwhile, Dwight had moved on to a Yamaha CT-2 175, followed by a 175 Jackpiner, and then a Penton 125 Six-Day, on which he began competing in 2-Day Qualifiers. At the Ft. Hood, Texas Qualifier, in 1975, Dwight had stopped alongside the trail to fix a problem with his Penton’s throttle cable when none other than Malcolm Smith himself stopped to see if he needed any assistance. Dwight already had the cable repaired, but he did however accept Malcolm’s offer for them to ride together. And so it was it was that Dwight found himself riding in the company of his boyhood hero.

This very special experience came to a premature end though, when Dwight’s 125 Six-Day sheared its shift key. By the time Dwight managed to get in off the course, it was late and nearly everyone else was packed up and gone. Among those still around however was Malcolm, who promptly came over to talk to Dwight. Malcolm complimented the young Penton rider on his fine ride earlier in the day and when Dwight introduced himself, Malcolm’s eyes went wide and he took a step back. “There used to be a kid by that name that wrote fan letters to me!”, he said, partly surprised and more than a little impressed as Dwight turned a very embarrassed red. Dwight recalls that he will never forget this initial meeting with Malcolm Smith. The entire experience, from riding with his hero, to Malcolm actually remembering him from the fan letters, absolutely galvanized Dwight’s opinion of Malcolm Smith as a top rider and as a wonderful person and they remain friends to this day. Dwight Rudder rode this prototype 125cc

Dwight Rudder rode this prototype 125cc Hercules to a third in class at the 1975 Loco Ciento qualifier.
Dwight riding a prototype Hercules 7 speed 125 at the Loco Ciento 1 day qualifier in September 1975

Dwight continued competing in the Qualifiers, and did quite well. He met the Penton family and the entire Penton team, and was very honored when Dane Leimbach invited him to pit out of the famed Penton Cycleliner. Then, during the offseason, just after moving from Alabama to a new home in Jackson, Mississippi, Dwight was contacted by Doug Wilford, with an offer to ride Hercules motorcycles the following year. Doug had at that time recently taken a position with the Hercules importer and recognized the talent and potential of this young rider.

The first time Dwight had any experience at all with the Hercules motorcycles was early September, 1975, when he met with Doug at Tennessee’s Loco Ciento 1-Day Qualifier. There, he rode a prototype 7-speed Hercules 125. Despite drowning the bike out in a creek crossing due to what Dwight determined later to be poorly placed louvers in the airbox opening, Dwight tied for 2nd place in the 125 class with his friend, Teddy Leimbach. Steadily gaining experience through this and other strong rides aboard both six and seven-speed Hercules 125 and 175 models, Dwight remained with the team from 1975 through 1977.

Dwight at 2 day qualifier with his factory Hercules GS 125/7A bike

Dwight’s performances during this time qualified him to ride the ISDT in ’76. Unfortunately, he was denied the opportunity by Al Eames, who told Dwight that he didn’t have enough experience. “Rider selection for the ISDT team was not an entirely Democratic process back then”, Dwight comments dryly. Dwight also qualified to ride the ISDT in 1977, but was injured prior to the event. This particular injury was not the result of either a motorcycle riding or racing accident, but rather from another aspect of Dwight’s amazing life experiences.

This goes back to Dwight’s father, who was in the Air Force. Although Mr. Rudder did not serve in the USAF as a pilot, he did earn his pilot’s license while in the service. He then started his own crop dusting service in Alabama and later in Mississippi. Exposed to his father’s experience and influence, Dwight earned his student pilot’s license at age 14, followed by a commercial pilot’s license as soon as it was legal to take the test. And so, it was in one of his father’s crop dusting planes that Dwight suffered injuries which prevented him from participating in the 1977 ISDT. While flying over a particular farm field in Canton, Mississippi, while crop dusting, Dwight saw that the aircraft was going to come too close to some power lines. He managed to avoid the power lines by flying under them, but then could not quite clear the trees on the other side. A large tree ripped one of the plane’s wings entirely off, causing the aircraft to spin three times before crashing into the ground. Dwight suffered a broken collarbone, as well as a concussion so severe that it left him blind for several days. This unfortunate situation did result in one positive however, as it was during his recovery time that Dwight began to date a young lady named Debbie whom he had met some time before. The courtship blossomed and Dwight and Debbie eventually married, the union having lasted now for more than 30 years.

The year after his accident, Dwight was selected to ride on the brand-new Yamaha factory enduro team, along with Dane Leimbach, Carl Cranke, Chris Carter, and Jim Fishback. And, Dwight once again qualified well enough to ride the ISDT. Once again however, he was denied the chance to ride the event, this time by “team politics”, as Dwight puts it. The AMA wanted a SWM rider on the team and told Dwight that they had enough Yamaha riders. (That SWM rider went out on Day 2).

The Yamaha ride lasted only through the 1978 season, as the team was dissolved after just one year. However, Dwight did pick up partial support from Suzuki for 1979, and aboard the yellow bikes rode his first ISDT, held that year in Germany where Dwight earned a silver medal. Riding for Suzuki again in 1980, Dwight missed out on that year’s ISDT due to a dislocated ankle suffered at the Trask Mountain Qualifier.

Riding the 1979 ISDT in Germany
Dwight waiting at the Tech Inspection with his Suzuki PE125 Concept bike at the 1981 ISDT event held at Elba, Italy.

In 1981, Dwight was convinced by Suzuki to assist in creating and campaigning a one-off concept enduro bike. The machine was based on an RM125 motocrosser, but was fitted with different gearing, altered power characteristics, modified suspension, a lighting coil, enduro lighting, and a larger fuel tank. This motorcycle became the world’s only factory PE125. Dwight qualified on the bike for the ISDT, which was held that year on the Island of Elba, located in the Mediterranean Sea. The Suzuki performed well, and Dwight was well on his way to earning his first gold medal when the bike’s pipe cracked during the final moto. The resulting devastating loss of power dropped Dwight in the field, resulting in a silver medal finish. Surely an outstanding performance regardless, but sadly just short of Dwight’s ultimate goal.

In 1982 Dwight signed on for a support ride with Husqvarna to campaign a 125XC. He qualified once again for the ISDT, held that year in Czechoslovakia, an event which would become known as one of the toughest ever in the history of the Six-Day Trial. In terrible conditions rain, cold, mud, and more rain, over some of the toughest terrain imaginable, all the riders in the event struggled.

Dwight performed well on the little 125 Husky until the third day when he blew out his knee. He continued to ride however, in tremendous pain, and unable to even stand on his right leg. Also, through a combination of the wet and cold conditions, Dwight suffered hypothermia. And yet, through shear determination and by carefully limiting use of his injured knee, Dwight managed to finish the event - one of only 8 Americans to finish, out of 36 that started. He credits part of this accomplishment to, of all sources, riders from the Czech team with whom he had made friends. These competitors, who had dropped out of the event due to mechanical problems, would go out to the really impossible sections of trail and wait for Dwight to come along, then help him through. Such outside assistance was not entirely illegal in this particular ISDT, as even event Course Marshals were involved in assisting riders through certain impassable areas. The conditions were that tough.

For the 1983 season, Dwight decided to switch to competing in the U.S. National Enduro series. He started out riding a private Maico Enduro, but soon decided the bike was not well suited for enduro competition. He then switched to a 250XC Husky, and promptly won the A-class overall in his first National Enduro (Little Harpeth Nat’l Enduro). Dwight went on to finish the season first 250A, Overall A, and 5th overall for the year, then moved up to the AA class. In 1985 he rode a 350 KTM, then in 1986 was selected to ride for Kawasaki’s Team Green, on a KDX200. Dwight enjoyed a number of good rides aboard the KDX that year, including a third place overall in the Jack Pine Enduro.

In 1987, Al Baker offered Dwight a ride on XR250 Hondas. Together with Al, Dwight modified the bikes, increasing displacement to 280cc, along with numerous other modifications and improvements. On one of these XR’s, Dwight rode the ISDT that year in Poland, competing in the 350 class. Riding on Gold time, Dwight crashed hard on the last day. He got up and continued on, but at the next checkpoint noticed oil leaking badly from the bike. An inspection showed that the crash had apparently knocked a hole in one of the sidecases. Working frantically, Dwight was able to clean the case well enough to get some epoxy to at least stem the oil loss. Armed with a couple of extra bottles of oil, Dwight took off down the trail. He had lost much time however, and saw his gold medal slip to a bronze by the finish.

Determined to wring even more power from the XR250 motor for the next year, Dwight punched it out to 300cc and installed a custom built Poweroll stroker crank. Despite Al Baker’s concerns that the motor would never last, Dwight began competing on the bike and found it to be reliable as well as a virtual rocket. Unfortunately, on the eve of that year’s ISDT while putting the bike through final tuning, the engine did blow up. In desperation, and with no time to spare, Dwight and Al took the motor from Al’s personal XR and installed it in Dwight’s bike. While not on par with the power Dwight had built into his own motor, the one from Al’s bike would have to do. Only one problem – Dwight noticed that there were no serial numbers on the cases. Al explained that through all the development work he had done on the motor, the cases were “replacement” parts and so had no factory serial stampings. With nothing to lose, Al produced a set of metal engraving stamps and he and Dwight proceeded to mark the cases with the ID: “OICU812”. And, with this fictional serial number the bike passed tech inspection and Dwight rode it successfully in that year’s ISDT.

For the 1989 season, Dwight duplicated his ’88 XR300, but this time supplemented with a higherperformance cam, supplied by Mega- Cycle. The stroker crank was once again employed as well. Dwight had determined that the ’88 failure was the result of a mechanic failing to re-weld the crank properly, and so felt confident of the reliability of this setup. Besides, the bike was now even more of a rocketship. Dwight reports that the power he got out of the little four-stroke engine was just amazing. And, the bike’s overall performance was vilified by Dwight’s successful ride to a Gold in the German ISDT that year.

For 1990, Dwight went back to Suzuki for a season, riding a DR350. Aboard it, he won the 4 stroke A class in National Enduro competition. Then, for the next few years he returned to riding Honda XR’s – but this time on the booming 600’s. For several years he continued to ride the big Honda four-strokes, regularly winning his class in national competition. Dwight’s final ISDT appearance was in 1994, when he competed once again on a modified XR250 (315cc) Honda, and earned a silver medal. In his 7 ISDT and ISDE competitions, Dwight earned 1 gold, 4 silvers, and 2 bronze medals, finishing every event.

Dwight riding his Honda XR400 at a Reunion Ride event

So, with all these experiences under his belt, what is Dwight Rudder up to these days? Well, he still competes occasionally in National Enduros, and consistently places well in the Super Senior Class. He also rides the Senior A class in Southern Enduro Riders Association events. He also collects vintage motorcycles, which presently number “about 70” according to Dwight. Note that all of these bikes are “riders”, and almost all are vintage enduro bikes. Dwight has a couple of older street bikes, including a 1989 Honda GB500 single – well known among collectors for its classic British club-racer styling. And of course several Pentons are part of Dwight’s collection, including at present a Steel-Tanker Bershire, a Steel-Tanker Six-Day, a CMF Six- Day, and a ’73 Jackpiner. His preference in regard to collecting and maintaining his bikes is originality, Dwight reports. He likes the bikes to maintain their original appearance and performance. There are a few exceptions of course, such as his slightly modified 1987 Honda XR200R that he rides in Post- Vintage and modern events, as well as a somewhat “breathed-on”, modern, aircooled, Honda CR230F that he is currently racing in the modern Enduros and in Hare Scrambles. Dwight is also a history buff, participating in Civil War reenactments. And, he maintains his pilot’s license and love of flying as well, having recently owned and flown a replica of a 1916 WWI French Nieuport aircraft.

Dwight has worked for the wholesale motorcycle parts distributor, Parts Unlimited since 1987. Wife Debbie is involved with the motorcycling sport as well, having pitted back in the old days not only for Dwight, but for the Yamaha and later the Suzuki and Husqvarna Enduro Teams. Today, Debbie continues a role she has held for some years as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Southern Enduro Riders Association. “She knows her stuff, too” Dwight says. “Why, over the years many top riders such as Dick Burleson have approached her to ask questions in regard to the association’s rules and regulations.” Debbie tried her hand at enduro competition, but these days is content primarily to zip around to gas stops on her street-licensed Yamaha TTR125.

When asked about stories from the old days, Dwight says that he hardly knows where to start. Some of the stories involve riding and racing of course, but there are also “behind the scenes” recollections. One such story is from the ’82 ISDT in Czechoslovakia. Dwight described how the British team, in a fit of overzealous revelry, hoisted a GORI motorcycle up on top of the entrance awning of the hotel where the English-speaking riders were staying. Responding to the disturbance from this activity, the local police arrived and burst into the hotel room, through which the bike could be accessed. By coincidence, said room was occupied by Jack Penton, who had no idea what was going on and was more than a little concerned about a group of Czech Republic Police storming into his room. However, they merely wanted to haul the little motorcycle through Jack’s window in order to return it to street level and to its rightful owner.

Dwight making a river crossing at a Reunion Ride event on his 1972 Hercules K100 GS bike.
Dwight leading Paul Danik in the final special test at a Reunion Ride event.

Like all of us, Dwight is feeling some aches and pains these days and injuries from over the years have begun to catch up with him. He has the bad knee, issues with the rotator cuffs in his shoulders, and has had surgery on his back as well as some work done to repair a nerve in his neck. However, you wouldn’t know it by the way the man still rides. And so, look for Dwight at this year’s ISDT Reunion Ride. You’ll never know what bike he may turn out on, but just look for one of the really fast guys, sporting an American ISDT helmet, and who talks with an unmistakable southern twang.

by Ed Youngblood

Originally printed in the 2006 issue #33 of Still….Keeping Track

Dave Mungenast at the Six Days in Germany in 1969 photo by Siegfried Heim

Dave Mungenast was a man of many parts who seemed to earn success at everything he tried. Though he built a business empire in automobile sales and commercial real estate, his first love was motorcycling, and it remained the activity where he maintained his dearest friendships even as he expanded his involvement in other spheres of business. Only now, following his untimely death, is it becoming understood just how much Mungenast achieved as a pioneering motorcycle dealer, a world-class endurance rider, a motion picture stuntman, in automobile sales and commercial real estate, and as a philanthropist who generously supported many national and St. Louis-area nonprofit organizations. His friends and colleagues in one area of his life often knew little or nothing about his activities in another, not because he was secretive, but because he was a deeply modest man who always focused his conversations on the interests and achievements of others rather than himself. Within the greater arc that was Dave Mungenast’s life, the Penton motorcycle might be mistaken for only a footnote. It was one among many brands he rode and sold, and in the nine times he rode the ISDT, only a third of those were aboard Pentons. However, the amount of time he spent in the saddle of a Penton does not tell the whole story. Far more important than his involvement with the brand was his friendship with John Penton that, over the years, became a kind of brotherly love that the most fortunate of us can achieve only a few times in our lives.

Dave Mungenast was born on October 1, 1934 in South St. Louis, an area that had been populated during the 19th century by educated and industrious Germans. High achievement was modeled throughout his family history, including an ancestor who had been one of the master builders of Gothic cathedrals in Europe, and his own father who became a co-founder of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in October 1915. Dave was the fifth among six children, and all of his older brothers earned honors in school, and some went on to achieve distinction in World War II and subsequently in their business careers. To the contrary, Dave earned a reputation as the black sheep of the family, getting expelled from several schools and helping found a motorcycle gang that he and his buddies called “The Dirty Dozen.” Years later, one of them would say, joking, “I think there were seven of us.” Dave’s first motorcycle was a used 1946 Indian Chief that never made it home because he wrecked it along the way, and his first new motorcycle was a 1954 BSA Gold Star. As bleak as his future may have looked to his parents at this time, it was motorcycling where Mungenast found an interest on which he could focus his energy and entrepreneurial talents. Working at Bob Schultz’s shop, he became a skilled mechanic and learned sound business practices, and his preference for off-road motorcycling taught the skills that would eventually earn him notoriety as a world-class rider and Hollywood stuntman.

Dave met Barbara McAboy at Mary Ann’s Ice Cream Parlor, the local teen hangout, in 1953, the same year that he and his off-road motorcycling buddies formed the Midwest Enduro Team. He and Barbara dated for a while, but his half-hearted efforts at St. Louis University were going nowhere and he dropped out to join the Army, signing up for Airborne and the Special Forces, not because he was gung-ho but because it gave him a higher pay grade. In the Special Forces, the previously shiftless Mungenast learned of his inherent leadership ability and gained confidence in his physical skills. In addition to Airborne he became an underwater demolition expert and was later sent to Korea where he was selected as a member of the elite Honor Guard. Dave Larsen, his lifelong friend and employee, says, “In the service, Dave learned how to focus. He returned to St. Louis a different man.” It is likely that being a Green Beret was not the only factor that changed his life, because upon coming home he began to see Barbara again, and married her in January 1959. On April 1, 1960, David, Jr. was born. In addition to being a new father, Dave, Sr. was holding down two jobs and completing a degree at St. Louis University. It was as if Mungenast had made a commitment to leave behind his teenage rebellion to become a good husband and father, building on what he had learned about his character and inherent skills through service in the Army.

One of Mungenast’s two jobs was back at Bob Schultz’s motorcycle dealership. The postwar American motorcycle sales boom had begun, and when Schultz opened a second shop, Dave became general manager of the original store while still performing his duties as a mechanic. Honda had just come on the scene, and Dave was quite impressed with its design and quality. In 1964 Dave won a 24- hour national championship marathon at Riverdale Raceway near St. Louis aboard a Honda scrambler, giving the brand its first national championship in America. He won the event again in 1966. Dave felt there was a great future in motorcycling, and Schultz thought there was a great future in Dave. Schultz tried to get Mungenast to come into the business as a 50/50 partner, but the young father could not come close to the price of buying in. He told Schultz, “I can’t raise that kind of money. I could probably get my own Honda franchise for less than that.” Schultz encouraged him to take this course with his blessings, and in January 1965 Mungenast opened his new Honda store in a small storefront on Gravois Road in South St. Louis. Dave Larsen recalls, “We would uncrate and prep motorcycles late into the night, and by close of business the next day they were all gone.” With success seeming to come easy, by the end of 1965 Mungenast acquired a Triumph franchise to expand his product line. He and Bob Schultz remained fast friends for the rest of Dave’s life.

But things changed as the war in Vietnam heated up. Credit to buy a motorcycle became impossible for any young man with a 1-A draft status, and Dave’s business began to go sour. The Mungenasts now had two young sons (Ray was born in July 1961) and Dave had expanded into automobiles, taking on a Toyota franchise in 1966 before the downturn had begun. Despite the good reputation Honda and other Japanese brands had established with their motorcycles, Americans still did not think much of little Japanese cars, and it became a struggle for Dave to keep his business going and provide for his family. Still, in these difficult days, Mungenast found the time to pursue his personal passion for offroad riding. Edison Dye and John Penton had become Husqvarna distributors, and Mungenast added Husqvarna to his product line. John Penton had met Dave at national enduros, and he recommended to Dye that Dave become a member of a team they were forming for the ISDT that would be held in Poland later that year. Suddenly, Mungenast found himself among America’s greatest off-road riders – John Penton, Leroy Winters, Malcolm Smith, Bud Ekins – and in world class competition. Like any new and unseasoned IDST rider, Dave was over-excited and tried too hard. Smith recalls, “I followed him, and I have never seen anyone crash so many times and still finish.” And astonishingly, riding a Husky that looked like it had been put through a crusher by the final day, Mungenast won a gold medal. He was hooked on the Six Days and set a personal goal of riding ten in succession.

Torsten Hallman visits Dave's shop in 1967 when he becomes a Husqvarna dealer.
At the Six-Days in 1968. (L to R) John Penton, Dave Mungenast, Leroy Winters, and Bud Green.

Early in 1968 John Penton introduced his namesake motorcycle, and later that year Dave Mungenast was invited to ride a Penton-sponsored U.S. Vase Team along with John, Leroy Winters, and Bud Green. It may have taught him about beginners luck, because this time he did not earn a gold medal, nor a silver. Still, he finished the event to earn a bronze, which is no mean feat. Riding that year created considerable stress in the Mungenast household because Barbara was pregnant with their third son Kurt, and she was due while Dave was away. But, thankfully, Kurt decided to be late and was not born until Dave returned home. Twice more Dave would ride a Penton at the ISDT, in 1969 in Germany and in 1971 at the Isle of Man. In 1970 in Spain he switched to Husky, which did not bring him luck. It was his first time to fail to finish due to a disastrous crash where he knocked himself unconscious and broke several ribs. For his last two Penton rides he earned silver in 1969 and gold in 1971. Mungenast would ride the ISDT four more times. A factory Honda ride brought his second DNF in Czechoslovakia in 1972, he rode a Triumph to silver medal in the United States in 1973, then for Rokon in 1974 and 1975. In Camerino, Italy in 1974 he earned bronze and at the Isle of Man in 1975 he failed to finish due to injury. There are several stories which prove that Dave Mungenast – just like John Penton – was a true-grit, never-say-die endurance rider. In 1969 Dave separated his shoulder on the first day at the Jack Pine, on the eve of leaving for the ISDT in Germany. A friend took him to the hospital, then said, “Well, I guess we can head back to St. Louis.” Dave said, “No, I have to ride tomorrow, and no one can tell John. If he learns I’m hurt, he might cut me from the team.” During qualifying in 1974, Mungenast broke his hip. Still, he made the team and rode his Rokon to a bronze medal that year. Also, he may be the only man to have won his class at the Jack Pine with a broken leg!

Dave with his wife, Barbara, at the Six-Days in Massachusetts in 1973.
Dave with Burt Reynolds on the set of “The End,” in 1976.

Mungenast never fulfilled his ambition to ride ten ISDTs in succession. In 1976 he failed to qualify for the American team. He probably could have gotten a ride through Canada or Mexico, but he had opened a new Honda automobile store in 1974, and the businesses were still struggling. Later he would see it as providential that he did not ride the 1976 ISDT. He explains, “Otherwise, I would not have been home to take that phone call.” The phone call he was talking about was from an old friend, Stan Barrett, who was pursuing a career in Hollywood. Barrett recruited Dave to do stunt work for several Burt Reynolds movies, including “The End,” “Hooper,” and “Cannonball Run.” Over the next eight years he would also work in “Airport 77,” “Stormin’ Home,” “Harry and Son,” and “Welcome to Paradise” where he and two other riders jumped their motorcycles off of a pier into the ocean. He described the stunt, which earned a nomination for Stunt Man of the Year, as the most frightening thing he had ever done in his life. As a stuntman, Dave got to work with Paul Newman, Jackie Chan, Christopher Lee, Jack Lemmon, and many other stars in addition to Burt Reynolds, and it turned him into a bit of a local hero in St. Louis. The radio and newspaper interviews that resulted from this work put his name in front of the public, and by the time Mungenast’s career in the movies came to an end, his businesses were beginning to turn the corner. His Honda store had become so successful that the company chose Dave as one of only 50 dealers in the nation to open an Acura dealership when the new brand was introduced in 1984. Subsequently, he opened a Lexus dealership in St. Louis and acquired a Toyota/Dodge dealership in Alton, Illinois. Over the years, he developed such a reputation for fair dealing and customer service that his stores almost never advertise. Rather, they rely on word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. Dave, Jr. explains, “today, the only time we do any conventional advertising is when one of the OEMs offers a co-op promotion so good that we would be foolish to turn it down.”

As the three Mungenast sons – Dave, Jr., Ray, and Kurt – matured and took over the day-to-day management of the dealerships, Dave and Barbara began to find more time to devote to philanthropy and community service. They created the Dave and Barbara Mungenast Foundation through which they have supported many charitable organizations. Also, Dave devoted his time and experience to service on the boards of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the Wheels Through Time Museum, St. Anthony’s Medical Center, and other non-profit organizations. They have been big supporters in both time and money to the Boys’ Club of St. Louis, the YM/YWCA of South St. Louis, and Marygrove, a Catholic organization that helps young people at risk. He has also been chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. Through these activities, the Mungenasts have met with many government leaders, including three presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

Many early Honda dealers who got their start with motorcycles then got wealthy selling cars began to behave as if they were too important to mess with the “lower class” business of motorcycling. This was never the case with Dave Mungenast, and he proved his dedication to motorcycling when in 2000 he opened Classic Motorcycles LLC, a free-admission museum in the very store front on Gravois Road where he had his first automobile dealership. Over the years he had accumulated an impressive collection of rare and beautiful vintage motorcycles, and these have been placed on display along with the collections of other enthusiasts. For example, Bob Andersohn’s amazing collection of steel tank Pentons can be viewed at Classic. The facility often opens its doors to special events, including gatherings for motorcycle clubs. It is under the management of Dave Larsen, who joined the Mungenast organization as its first employee in late 1964.

Dave with Lars Larssen and John Penton at Lars's Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction, 2002.
Dave with Dick Mann and John Penton at the ISDT 30th anniversary in Massachusetts, 2003.

Those who were close to Dave Mungenast understand that yet another chapter of his life was only beginning. With the boys and veteran employees keeping the businesses humming, Dave and Barbara were beginning to enjoy the fruits of their lifetime of work. They had acquired large tracts of land in rural Missouri. On one they had built a retirement home where they raised horses, bison, llamas, and cattle, and hosted their thirteen grandchildren to visit and ride ATVs with Dave. On the other – near Branson – Dave had big plans to restore the old town of Garber as a historical and cultural center. He had other plans for holdings near the Mungenast marina at Lake of the Ozarks. Barbara had been developing her career as a fine artist for many years, and had begun what will be her masterpiece, a larger-than-life patriotic bronze monument that will be displayed at Fort Myer, Virginia. And Dave was finding time to continue his love of off-road motorcycling, riding the Colorado 500, Malcolm Smith’s Baja Ride, and other charity events. By all appearances, it seemed that this man who had accomplished enough for several lifetimes would easily put another ten to fifteen years into his grand plans. Speaking of Dave’s physical fitness, less than a year ago Malcolm Smith said, “At 72, Dave is a man who rides a motorcycle like a good 50-year-old.”

Tragically, early in 2006 Dave began to experience some unusual memory loss and weakness on the left side of his body. But it was with Barbara where the crisis began when on April 26 she had a heart attack. With St. Anthony’s medical center only a few miles from their home, Barbara drove herself to the emergency room, demonstrating the self-reliance she had learned during the years when Dave was away so much pursuing his business and motorcycling careers. It was a mild attack, and the prognosis was hopeful, but three days later additional bad news arrived. Dave had been checked out for his recent symptoms, and on April 29 he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Thereafter, his decline was swift, and in July he was admitted to hospice. Dave died on September 20, 2006, leaving his family, friends, and more than 450 employees still stunned in disbelief. For a period of time during his illness, Dave and the family would accept no visitors. With the typical attitude of a great endurance champion, he was determined to win, choosing to focus all his energy and concentration on the fight. But when he accepted that he would not recover, Dave turned his attention to the friendships that had meant so much to him. John Penton was one of the first people he asked to see, and among the others were Malcolm Smith, John Sawazhki, and other great motorcycling friends.

Six Days riders (L to R) John Penton, Leroy Winters, Tom Penton, and Dave Mungenast.

In 1975, the year when Dave competed in his last ISDT, the Eagles released their hit song “Take it to the Limit.” It became his favorite song, and its title seems to embody the attitude with which he approached every aspect of his life. Whether it was endurance riding, stunt work in the movies, or big risks in business, Dave Mungenast took it to the limit, always doing his best to excel in whatever he did. A biography about his life has just been published and is entitled, “Take it to the Limit: The Dave Mungenast Way.”


Dave Mungenast's son Ray founded the Classic Bike Headquarters motorcycle museum in Villa Ridge, MO which includes Penton motorcycles. More info at

The Mungenast family also has Pentons on display at their dealerships in St. Louis, MO. More info at

Member Profile

Dave Duarte - Working as Penton Assistant Manager

I was born in Auburn, CA. and was raised in Loomis, CA.on a 40 acre fruit ranch. I have four brothers, Richard, Edward (deceased), Frank, and Donald and two sisters, Linda and Donna.

At 7 or 8 years old, I was driving vehicles on the ranch. We had an orchard truck, which was a Ford model A flat bed truck, a farm tractor, and caterpillar tractors. I would work tilling fields, cultivation, and digging ditches around trees. The trees were irrigated and the ditching was important in getting the water to each tree. We grew peaches, plumbs and pears.

At the age of 15, I was working one of the local farms making wooden crates (400 to 500 a day), I would dump the fruit on the conveyor belt and the women workers would pick though the fruit and pack them into baskets. The baskets would then be put into the wooden crates. I would load the boxes onto a flat bed truck and take them to the fruit shed in Loomis for transport by rail.

My first motorcycle was a 1947 Cushman Eagle – I couldn't keep it running. That was around 1953. It had a 2 speed shift on the side. I paid for it from the money I earned working the ranch and neighbor's farms. I was 12 years old at the time. I would drive it all over the place when I could get it running.

I graduated from high school in 1959 and I was working for my uncle in construction building homes for about year and half. I got married in 1960 to Joyce. We had 5 children, all girls, Roxanne, Julie, Carrie, Kimberly, and Marcey.

After working the construction job, I went to work at Aerojet, a manufacturer of rocket engines. I started out doing plating and chroming, then later I became an inspector for the rocket engines using magaflux and die penetrant – checking for cracks. I worked there for about 4 years, then Aerojet had a massive layoff, and I was let go.

In 1964 I got divorced and joined the merchant marines where I traveled to the orient, South America, and Alaska, on an oil tanker. It was very hard work. I would go out for 3 months, come back 3 months and then pick another ship. Over time you would build up seniority. I did this from 1966 to 1969. While home on leave I would race motorcycles. It was one of the best things that I did in my life. I was very good at racing as long as I didn't fall off, however working on the ships for 3 months slowed up my racing career.

The local motorcycle shop in Loomis was Genes automotive Suzuki. He opened this shop in 1961 strictly for automotive repair. In 1964 he became a Suzuki dealer. He was one of the earliest Suzuki dealers in California. Lars Larson set him up as a Husqvarna dealer in 1967 and then Pentons. I hung out there all the time. My first real bike was a brand new 1965 Hodaka Ace 100. I stripped off all the lights and made it into a race bike. I raced all the races 2 times a week – mainly TTs and rough scrambles. I rode for a couple of years until 1967 when I started riding a Husky 250s in TTs, rough scrambles and then MX. I was a shop-sponsored rider for Gene. Bill Onga was Gene's chief mechanic, who won the 1969 Elsinore Grand Prix. So, Gene was a good rider and an excellent mechanic. Gene and Bill prepared the bikes and I rode them. Gene and I were good “mud runners”. I purchased my motorcycle at their cost and they would prepare it. Sometimes they would have a different bike for me to race. I raced mostly Huskys until the Penton motorcycles arrived.

One of the Lodi Cycle Bowl scrambles races in 1968 near Stockton, CA. Dave is in the center riding a 1967 Husqvarna 250. These races were held every Friday evening. All the big names raced there, Jimmy Odum, Dick Mann, Dan Haaby, the Jorgansons, Kenny Roberts, etc.

In 1967 I was one of the 12 founding members of the Dirt Diggers M/C club in Northern CA. The club is still going on today. I went to the 49th consecutive national Hangtown MX this year. We put on the first Hangtown MX race in January 1969. We had all the top riders, Gary Bailey, Dick Mann, John DeSoto, Ronnie Nelson and others. We offered a larger purse than what the AMA would offer for their nationals, so we went outlaw. This was a big money looser for the club as it rained (really bad weather) and we had to pull all the spectators cars out of the mud after the race. We made up for the loss later in the year where there was better weather and a much bigger crowd. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Hang Town race.

Before the Penton motorcycle, I worked for Aragon Distributing in Monrovia, CA. They sold motorcycle accessories and I worked as a salesman for them. My sales area was from Reno, Nevada to San Jose, CA. I worked there from late 1968 to early 70. During this time period my leg got busted by Donnie Emler, the owner of FMF Racing at Mammouth Mountain MX track. (Donnie built motorcycles and was a great tuner which led him to building exhausts). I was riding my Penton leading the pack and I fell in an off camber turn. Donnie was on an American Eagle and ran over my leg while I was picking my bike up. This put my racing on hold until I healed up. I still did my work at Aragon during the time it took my leg to heal. That was one of the many bones that I had broken during my racing career. Back in those early years, there was very little protective gear to wear for racing.

Lars set Gene up with the Penton franchise (in 69). They then provided Penton 125 steel tank Pentons for me to ride.

Lars handled the NW distribution of Pentons out of El Cojone for Torson Hallman Racing (now called THOR) for a short time until they they decided that they only wanted to sell clothing to the dealers. The distribution of the Penton motorcycles was then picked up by Fred Moxley some time in 1969, located in Medford, Oregon.

Photo taken at the Elsinore Grand Prix in 1970. Dave is on the left riding a Penton 125. This event is run every year. It is the event shown in the film “On Any Sunday” with Malcolm Smith winning it in 1971 and lapping almost all the entrants at least once.

In 1970 Fred Moxley brought Penton motorcycles from Medford, Oregon to Sacramento for west coast distribution in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, and Montana, This led to a better ride for me, for I was now sponsored by Fred Moxley. I received no money, just a new bike to race. I won a lot of trophies. I rode for fun and got to go to a lot of places to race MX, enduros, cross country, and desert races. There were a lot of desert races in Nevada that I went to. I shied away from MX races because you mostly waited around for your class to race. In desert racing you rode for 3 or more hours straight. I rode a lot of desert races and enduros. I began to like riding most of the day and not waiting. Even though I was still riding Pentons, I also rode Puch 125s.

There were 2 different distributors for Puchs on the West Coast – Ted Lapadakis and John Penton for a brief time. In 1972 or 73 I was working for John Penton selling Puch 125 & 175s. They were good and fast and I set up a lot of dealers with them. There was a war going on with them (Puchs) here because of the 2 distributors. Ted Lapadakis was both Puchs and DKW distributor on the West Coast in Southern Cal. DKW was Penton's biggest competitor on the West Coast.

In 1970. I was hired by Fred Moxley as a parts warehouse manager. I was then put on the road as a Penton rep for the West Coast, setting up new dealers and servicing existing dealers. In 1973 I was brought in as assistant manager for the warehouse. Fred taught me the whole business.

The warehouse was stocked mostly with just parts and accessories. There were rarely any Penton motorcycles in stock. The bikes were sent from back east to the trucking companies in containers. Fred and I would then go to the trucking company, open the containers and then put shipping labels on the crated bikes for shipment to the dealers. West Coast Dealers were always complaining because they could not get enough Pentons to sell especially the 125s. When the 250s came out we had some of those initially stocked in the warehouse.

We had Wassel Mudlarks to try and sell on the west coast. We had trouble selling them here just as John had trouble selling them back east. We would set up new dealers with the “package deal”. John did not load us up with them. We had no more than 40 or 50 and this allowed us to get rid of all of them pretty fast.

I first met Carl Cranke at 3 Sar Raceway in the Sacramento neighborhood where we raced dirt track. Carl was sponsored by Marion Pyle (called the “Big O”) Orangevale Motorcycle Center in Orangevale, CA. I was a novice and Carl was working his way up to becoming an expert. We would see each other at all the races. Because of Carl's reputation as an excellent mechanic and go fast racer, Fred hired Carl in 1971. Carl wrote technical manuals and would troubleshoot problems for dealers. He had a whole service shop set up for this. We took good care of all the west coast Penton dealers. It was Fred who recommended Carl to JP to consider him for become a Six Day rider.

In 1974 my life changed when I got custody of my kids. This was also the same time when the deal was made to turn over distribution of the Penton motorcycles in CA. to KTM.

Fred decided to leave and he opened a Mexican restaurant in Oregon. Fred mentioned me to John Penton to take over the warehouse operation (in Sacramento) for Hi-Point products. There were no more Penton Motorcycles to be sold on the west coast, they became KTM motorcycles. The distribution of the KTM motorcycles and parts was taken over by Ted Lapadais at his warehouse. This was a confusing time period. At the races there would be bikes branded with KTM and some with Penton. Some racers would remove the KTM decals and put Penton decals on their bikes. Other racers would remove the Penton decals and replace them with the KTM decals.

I had the opportunity to attend nine ISDT events as a support rider and working the check points for the Penton Six Day riders. John paid for all my travel expenses to these events. KTM would supply a bike for me to ride. The reason I was able to go to all of these Six Days events was because of my Sales manager Bruce Young. He was my right hand man. He would run the business for me during the 3 weeks that I would be gone.

My very first Six Days event was Camerino, Italy in 1974 where I got to be with all the Penton riders, Frank Gallo, Kevin Lavoi, Jeff Hill, Danny Young, Dave Mungenast and Paul Danik. I had a ball and so much fun at all of them. Previous to the 1974 event, I rode ISDT qualifying events in McMinnville, OR and Bad Rock, OR.

John owned a small car, I think that it was a Fiat, that he kept over in Austria and he would use it to drive around to meet with the manufacturers. I got to go to a lot of places with John in that car after the Six Days events in Europe were over.

I was with John Penton when we met the owner of HIRO. We went to lunch with the owner of HIRO when John made the deal to buy the HIRO motors.

I went to Alpinestars with John and we stayed at Santi's house. Santi did a lot of the designing of the boots himself. The boots at that time were made at his factory in Italy by a lot of women at sewing machines.

I went out to dinner a couple of times with John and Erik Trunkenpolz. Erik was a very quiet guy.

I stayed at Kalman Cseh's house once. Kalman would do the language translation for Erik Trunkenpolz and John Penton. When Kalman left KTM he became a distributor for Scott. He had a warehouse in Austria and I got to tour it.

John did all of the driving in that small car and he drove it fast. I remember us pulling into Paris one night and parking near the Eiffel Tower to get some sleep. It was all lit up and I was all excited looking up at it. I told John that I wanted to go see it in the morning and John said OK. The next morning I woke up with us traveling down the rode and I never got to see it. Traveling with John was straightforward. When we stopped for gas we would buy something to eat. If John would get tired, he would pull over off the road and take a 10 minute nap.

I was at the KTM factory several times. I took photos of the conveyor system where there would be moped and bicycle parts traveling along the assembly lines with Penton motorcycle parts. Drinking beer for lunch and on breaks by the employees was acceptable behavior over there. There were even beer vending machines in the dining hall. I find it funny that there were many times when we would open up a bike crate in California and find beer bottle caps inside.

Dave riding a KTM moped at the KTM factory. Matt Weisman is in the background.

I became the General Manager for Hi-Point Racing Products when KTM took over the motorcycle distribution. We sold all the Penton/Sachs parts off to dealers in bundled deals. All the brochures, and manuals went into the dumpster. Most of the parts for the KTM powered Pentons were sent back to Texas or Ohio warehouses. There were no motorcycles in the warehouse.

No motorcycle parts or inventory were sent to KTM's new warehouse in Southern Cal. We (the West Coast operation) were officially out of the Penton business and into only the Hi-Point business.

When I took over the Hi-Point warehouse, I started making t-shirts, green and gold Penton leathers, jersies and many other items that were sold exclusively on the West Coast. The clothing lines were a good thing for us. The West Coast warehouse was in debt to Penton East (for things like rent and it's share of advertising) and we were able to pay them back what we owed them.

I would go to meetings at the Penton Lorain warehouse to meet with Larry Maiers, Matt Weisman, Elmer Towne, and other key employees to discuss what items were needed. We talked about what we were going to do and this is how many new products were added every year to the Hi-Point catalog.

When I would travel east for the meetings I stayed mostly at Matt and Barb Weisman's house. Sometimes I would stay at John's house and other times at Elmer and Kathy Towney's house.

I met Teddie Leimbach at some Six Day qualifiers and I would see him on these East Coast visits. I was at the Lorain warehouse in 1980 the day that Teddie was in the car crash with the truck. He was a very talented rider. I went to dinners at Pat and Paul Leimbach house during some of these visits also.

I had met Ted Penton back when Fred was distributing the Penton motorcycles and would also see him on my trips to Lorain, OH. He would occasionally show up at the Sacramento warehouse. He was a character. I got to see the prankster side of Ted Penton when he came over to California. We went on a tour of the ship, the Queen Mary, in Long Beach. During the tour we were escorted down into the engine room. When the tour guide continued on, Ted stayed behind and was trying to get one of the engines to start. He did manage to get some of the lights to come on before the tour guide came back and chased us out.

I remember being at a Hi-Point sales meeting in Lorain, Ohio. Larry Meiers, Matt Weisman, Elmer Towney and many Hi-Point employees were there. So here we were discussing products when John walks in. He was wearing his standard uniform, a green sweater, grey pants and mason shoes. His sweater was burnt, his eyebrows and hair were singed. The hair on his hands were also singed and he had an odd look on his face saying, “you would not believe what just happened to me.” He was at one of his properties where he had natural gas wells. He was looking down into one of the wells and lit a match. I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what happened. It is a miracle that he did not get seriously burned.

John would have an auditor come out once a year to audit our books. When I ran the warehouse I did it like I owned it. I was frugal with all my expenses with no extravagant spending.

Hi-Point Products sponsored riders like Danny Magoo, Kenny Roberts, Bob Hannah, and Ricky Graham to use Hi-Point products and show the Hi-Point logo on their clothing.

Boots were the most popular item that we sold. We could never get enough and they were back ordered all the time. The crazy thing about the boots was even though they were a big seller, there was very little profit margin in them.

Other popular items were the Hi-Point oils, jerseys pants, gloves, plastic fenders, tires, and Sun rims. We sold a lot of most of the items that were listed in the catalog. There were unique items shown in the catalog that were developed from back east, such as folding shift levers, enduro equipment, magnifying glasses (for holding a pocket watch), route sheet holders, tank bags, and tool bags. Heavy duty inter-tubes were a hot items for us. We would set up a display at the annual Long Beach dealer show to showcase the Hi-Point products.

John Penton and the Hi-Point “Cycleliner” This is one of the three buses that John had purchased.

In the early 80s my partner and I built the building we were in and it was our 3rd move. The space was shared with my partner's business. Like the other two buildings, there wasn't enough room for all the new products that kept arriving, but we made it work.

When I built the warehouse. I had to build a special room to house an IBM 3200 computer. It was a huge piece of equipment that was noisy and needed to be air conditioned. I had a couple of great gals that knew how to run it. It's hard to imagine that today's cell phones are faster and have more memory and computing power than that IBM.

I knew Malcolm Smith back in 1971 when he was working at K&N. I would see him at races, qualifiers, and dealer shows. We always called Malcolm “smiley”.

In 1988 Malcolm Smith made a deal to buy the Hi-Point product line. The deal consisted of all the existing inventory except the obsolete Sachs stuff that was still around. I worked for Malcolm running the warehouse. Since I owned the building, Malcolm became my new tenant. I ran the whole business for him, buying the products and paying the bills. I would attend regular meetings in Riverside where I would meet with Malcolm and his sales team.

Malcolm had 3 key people, Wayne Cornelius, Jimmy Lewis, and Gary Drean.

Drean was the computer guru and accountant. He supplied new computers for my warehouse when Malcolm took over. Gary flew his own private plane from Riverside to Sacramento to deliver and set up the computers.

Wayne Cornelius was product manager for Malcolm Smith in Riverside. He was a smart designer. He came up with fancy gear, and got us into water sports clothing. Malcolm Smith Racing Products made a re-surge in sales because of this. We got involved with some splashy stuff with the Jet Ski craze.

Jeremy McGrath was sponsored by Malcolm under the Hi-Point name in 1988 before he got picked up by Honda. He was discovered at Mammouth Mountain MX, a ski resort in the mountains NE of LA. This is a big event held every year in June. Riders at that time, who were under motorcycle company contracts, generally were allowed to obtain clothing and gear sponsorships of their choosing.

In 1990 an Asian company (corporate raiders) made a deal with Malcolm to buy Malcolm Smith Racing Products. They took out huge loans on the business and payed themselves lavishly. Their dishonesty wound up driving Malcolm Smith Racing Products into bankruptcy. Rocky Cycles (known now as Tucker Rocky) wound up buying the business at auction. What was left of the inventory at my building was moved to the other warehouse buildings in Riverside and that was when I left.

Photo taken at 1979 ISDT event in Germany showing Frank Gallo doing a tire change. Some of the other people in the photo are: Mr. and Mrs. Lavoie, Kevin Levoie, Kalman Cseh, Doc Hill, Dan Dillon, and Linda Davis

I ended up selling my half of the building to my partner. I did not do anything for a while. I worked for about a year for a friend installing car alarm systems in new cars for dealers.

I then went to work at Seafood Suppliers, Inc. a wholesale sea food business owned by Bill Dawson, who was one of the founders of the Dirt Diggers. He owned a warehouse right on the docks in San Francisco. I commuted to San Francisco for this job staying at his home during the week and traveling back to my house on the weekends (a 2 hour one way drive). His business consisted of buying fresh caught fish from the fishermen, at their boats at the docks. The fish were then taken to his warehouse where they were cleaned, filleted and packed. His customers were all distributors who sold to restaurants. For this type of work, the day generally started at 4 am. I handled the sales, talking to customers, and kept track of the inventory.

To meet our customer's needs, other varieties of fish from the East Coast and Canada were air freighted in, along with oyster and clams from Boston off Cape Cod. Air freighted shipments had to be picked up at the airport to meet our customer's requirements. This would become nerve racking when there would be flight delays.

I did this job for about 2 years. Bill was having some problems in running his business and making a profit. He was in debt and I helped to get things in order and pay off the debt. This was a fun interesting experience for me.

I then went to work with my brother, Frank in construction – mainly fire restoration. I worked in the office with him for about 2 years. It was a very successful business that was sold to our nephew. It involved mostly insurance claims. We were basically fire truck chasers. We would find out where the fires were at and go there before the fire trucks left. We dealt with home owners who were panic stricken and in a state of shock. We would explain to them what was going to happen and that their insurance company would be paying for their stay in a motel until their house was fixed up. We would then get their permission to board up the house. We would then get back to the homeowner with a price quote to fix the house back up. In most cases the insurance company would approve our quote and we would get the job. It was a dirty business, dealing with smoke damage and soot, but it was a fun business.

Up until just recently, starting in 2000, my younger brother Donald and I were buying houses, rehabbing them and then reselling them. My brother was the genius. He had years of experience as a carpenter dealing with dry rot. He could do everything, carpentry, electrical, plumping, drywall, anything and everything except carpeting and roofs. We kept some of the rehabbed properties to rent. We are now down to one last one. He had the talent and I had the money. We focused mainly on foreclosures, bank owned and condemned houses.

I became officially retired in 1999. I did all of these and other things to keep busy and make up for the retirement plan that I never had.

Jack Penton on a Husqvarna at the 1979 ISDT in Germany. On the left is Ted Leimbach and next to him is John Penton.

I found out about the Penton Owners Group from Bruce Young at Western Power Sports. I joined in 1999 (member no. 230). I think that it is pretty neat.

I was at the 2000 AMA Vintage Days event at Sears Point where Penton was the feature marque and John Penton was the Grand Marshal. That was a great time. I remember John taking the parade lap around the race track and going the wrong way. I hung around the booth talking with Matt Weisman and even helped sell T-shirts one of the days there. I remember it being a good size event. There was also a cook out at a city park one evening. That Vintage Days event was also the last time I met Jim Pomeroy.

Todd Huffman did a very good job with the making of the John Penton movie. He did an hour and a half interview with me in California and I am in the movie twice for about five seconds. When the movie came out, I went to two of the showings at the movie theaters. One was in Sacramento the other was in Placerville, which used to be called Hangtown before they changed the name. In watching the movie I learned some things about John Penton that I did not know. After traveling with him all those times and being at meetings with him I thought that I knew all about him.

This photo was taken during my time at the 1978 ISDT event held in Sweden. L to R – Kalman Cseh, Bruno Ferrari of KTM Italy, and Dane Leimbach

I am blessed for being involved with motorcycles, the racing and all the wonderful people that I worked for and was involved with. Without these contacts I would never have been able to travel to Europe and meet some of the people involved in the motorcycle industry. This was a great experience for me during this lifetime. I wouldn't trade these memories for anything.

by Alan Buehner

In my conversation with Penton owners for the past several years, most people would ask about John Penton during the conversation. For some strange reason, during many conversations I would have with West Coast Penton owners the name Carl Cranke would be the first name asked about. During some of the monthly meetings, I had heard about Carl and what a talented rider he was, but I never expected him to have the following that he does. I met Carl for the first time in April at the AMA Vintage Days event at Sears Point where “Penton” was the feature marque and he took time off, away from his family to join us at the event. The following is a little background on Carl and some of the stories that he shared with us.

Carl Cranke was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana and raised in northern California. He was a quiet kind of kid while growing up but that all changed when he discovered motorcycles.

My first bike.

“While I was going to high school in 1964 there was a motorcycle shop along the way to and from school. It was Orangevale Motorcycle Shop that sold Suzuki, Triumph, Greeves and Maico motorcycles. In order to hang around the shop and get to know more about these wonderful machines I offered my services to help out in doing anything. The owner,  Marion Pyle, gave me the job of cleaning the cosmoline off of the new bikes. This was coated on the bikes to protect them from the elements during shipment. No one at the shop enjoyed this chore but I eagerly jumped in to do it. It was a messy job that required using a solvent to remove all that sticky goo from the bikes, but it got me into the back part of the shop where I could see all of that things  that go on with fixing, repairing, and building bikes.”

“After a few  months  they  put together a specially tuned 50cc Suzuki for me to ride at  3 Star Raceway,  the local dirt track which was a 1/10 mile oval flat track. In those days, the novice riders were lined up on the front line. As riders would show their skills by winning races, they were moved back to the next row behind the novices. The more you won, the further back you were placed for a starting position with the best riders on the back row.”

“So there I was at my first race on my very own race bike and I never told any of the guys at the bike shop that I never even rode a motorcycle before.

“At the next race I was put on the second row because of my win at the last race. This meant that I would have to pass the riders on the front row and I told Bob Taylor that I did not know how to pass and I asked him what I should do. He took me out onto the track with my bike and placed it on the outside berm. “This is where you ride your bike. Keep it wide open until you pass everyone” he told me. So, that is what I did. I put the bike on the outside cushion and rode it all the way around the track. I had a couple of tight squeezes when I passed some riders who were also riding the outside edge and I somehow managed to get between them and the fence.”

“I always rode the cushion and I did it with the throttle wide open. My bike was so fast that I won every race for the rest of the season. The more races I went to however, I did notice that the bike was becoming a little harder to control if I would let up on the throttle and I would have to make sure that it was kept wide open to prevent that small bike from bogging down. I found out later that  Bob was gradually upping the gear ratio on the bike for each race I went to. This is how I learned how to race dirt tracks”

Carl, you won many dirt track races, what brand of bikes did you ride.

“I was riding Suzukis, Triumph, Bultaco, & Jawa. My favorite bike was a  special Triumph Cub short tracker.I liked Bultaco for TT and scrambles.”

Where did you do your short track racing?

“I raced all over northern California and southern California. In my pro novice year, 1968, I was the HiPoint novice shorttracker in the nation.”

You competed in desert races. What brand and sizes of bikes did you ride and which was your favorite brand and size?

My first desert race I rode a 73cc Sachs. I loved to ride Pentons later on in my career. It was great to win overall on a 125cc bike.”

You then moved into riding MX. What brand and size of bikes did you ride and which was your favorite brand and size?

I rode motocross because I could ride three classes (125, 250, open). That was 9 20 minute motos in one day! At first I rode a DKW 125 (before Penton). In the 250 class, CZ was my favorite! In the open class I rode either a 360/380 CZ or sometimes a 400 Husky. That was a trick switching sides shifting as you rode 9 motos.”

It was Carl’s early experience with Bob Taylor, a mechanic at Orangevale Motorcycle Center, that he learned not only how to ride but how to repair motorcycles and make them go faster. Bob taught him the tricks of how to port the cylinders of motors. Carl was always known for never leaving home without his grinder. He was the master at taming the KTM 250 motors to make them more powerful and controllable.

The Penton experience

“In 1971 the West Coast Distributor was after  me to ride a Bultaco at the local tracks. I did not like Bultacos and I turned him down. I had my eye on riding a Penton. I went to the local  dealership and asked them to sponsor me with  one of the new Pentons to race at the local MX tracks. They turned me down because they were sponsoring another rider. I was upset with being turned down and decided that I would have to prove myself by beating their Penton rider. I took advantage of the Bultaco dealer by accepting his offer to ride the Bultaco. I raced it once at the next MX race  and won. I went back to the Penton dealer  and they gave me a Penton  to ride. That was the last time I ever rode a Bultaco.”

“In early 1972  I read about the I.S.D.T. events and had a desire to compete in it. Fred Moxley of Penton West contacted John Penton about my desire to ride the qualifiers for the upcoming ISDT event and what a talented rider I was. John had doubts about me because I was one of those California riders. John knew California riders could ride in the desert but that they did not have the skills to ride the woods, water, and mud of the Enduros in the east. Fred persisted and John agreed to meet me  and check out my riding skills. When I met John for the first time, John knew that he was wasting his time and I became known as that long haired hippie from California.”

“I was given a new 175cc Puch by John to ride in the last 2 day qualifier of the season in southern Ohio. It was a nasty event with lots of mud holes. Out of  200 starters, only very few  riders finished the course. I was one of them and I came in 2nd. Only two gold medals were awarded. Carl Bergen on a 250 Husky came in first and I on my 175 Puch. John was impressed (since he knew that there was no way I could finish the event let alone win, riding that bike) and he gave me a place on the 1972 Trophy Team. That  Puch was a piece of junk. Before I rode it in the event, I pulled the motor apart and ported it out to obtain all the power I could out of it.”

Carl qualified and went to his first I.S.D.T. event in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czechoslovakia where he won a Gold medal riding the 125cc class.

Carl shared a story about his experience at the Isle of Man, England  event held in 1975 during which he was riding a Penton in the 350cc class.

“1975 was the last year where on the sixth day the special test was a road race run on the city streets and riders rode their bikes equipped with knobby tires. All of the following Six Day events had their special test run on a natural terrain course and run as a MX race.”

“Jack Penton rode the special test first. I asked him how the course was. He said that it was OK and that I should have no problem taking the corners because the knobby tires would slide around the turns just like dirt track racing.”

“I grabbed the lead in my race. At the first turn I set the bike up and gassed it to slide around the turn. The bike kept sliding and I wound up going up and over the curb. Behind me were two CZ riders on their Jawas. As I jumped the curb, I remember them riding by, you know their riding style, sitting straight up even in the turns, riding side by side. As they negotiated the turn, They turned their heads to watch me hit the curb, then turn their heads back to continue on their way. When I saw them the way that they looked at me, I could sense what they were thinking (typical American rider, careless and rash with no sense of consistency). This embarrassment motivated me to turn this road race into a flat track and catch up to these guys. I pored it on and soon caught up with them at another turn in the course. They were riding side by side when I went around them on the outside, tucked in, sideways, Freddie Nix style.“

Carl was the only American rider to win that special test. He took home a Gold medal

On July 8, 2000 Carl Crank was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio.

Carl Cranke and the Penton 250 that he borrowed to ride around the Mid-Ohio track as one of John Penton’s honor guard.


Related Tech Tips

CARL CRANK PORTING SPECS for 100 and 125cc Sachs Cylinders




Wikipedia article on Carl

Al Born on his new Penton (serial no. v003) at Dalton, Georgia - March 1968 before it had any mud on it. Al was at Dalton to ride the Stone Mountain Enduro. He was the first person to buy a Penton Motorcycle.


by Al Born

Originally printed in the 2002 issue #15 of Still….Keeping Track

I received my introduction to motorized 2 wheelers in the summer of 1946 on my cousin’s new Whizzer motor bike. I was 12 and he was 13 at the time and even though this was a real genuine Whizzer with heavy duty spokes and such, my memory says that we pretty much rode it to the ground that summer. There is a lot of hills down there in West Virginia and even though that Whizzer ran pretty good, we still did a lot of pedaling, especially when we were riding double. Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I guess you could say that I “was hooked”. We rode that little Whizzer until it finally died near the end of the next summer. Then I just dreamed of owning a “real” motorcycle some day. I graduated from high school when I was only 16 years old and could not get a good paying job at that age. So, I guess you could say that I just kept on dreaming as I sure couldn’t afford a “real” motorcycle.

During the summer of 1952, one of my friends who was a couple years older than I bought a 1946 Indian. It was a large one with a 2 cylinder engine that was hard starting and very heavy. We pushed it a lot and rode it a little in some way or the other. It also damaged my cousins barbed wire fence (with her on it) and tore up about a half acre of my Dad’s corn field when it got away from my friends younger brother. In September of ‘52, my friend went into the Korean war, so the next month I came to Ohio for a better job. I went through some hot-rod Mercurys for the next 3 or 4 years, but the yearning for a “real” motorcycle never left. I finally got a good job at Ford in January of 1955, so I was soon thinking of getting my own two wheels with a motor. One day I was driving up Elyria Avenue in Lorain and there in a used car lot sat a pretty, blue, 1951 125cc Harley Davidson with a “for sale” sign on the windshield and I knew I had to have it. So, I used some of the money I was saving for my next Mercury and I became the proud owner (at least I thought) of this pretty blue Harley. Well, it just didn’t turn out to be the “jewel” that I thought it was. It had wiring/ ignition problems that I just couldn’t get all straightened out, so I spent some time pushing this “Dream Machine” too. The only good thing about that little Harley was that it pushed much easier than that old Indian that we had pushed around in those West Virginia hills. Thank goodness, fall finally came and I put that little Harley in the shed for the winter. Around February 1956, a guy at Ford that everyone called Cowboy and I were talking one day and he said that he had a 1949 45ci Harley with a 3 speed transmission that he wanted to trade for a small motorcycle. I began thinking that here was my chance to unload my pretty blue Harley. The “catch” was that his motorcycle had back-fired through the carb and caught it on fire. It had burned the wiring, seat cover and pad, rear tire as well as melting most of the paint from the gas tank. He led me to believe that I was getting a good deal, as the parts wouldn’t cost too much. So, we traded even up. I went to work and painted (by hand brushing) the gas tank while waiting for the wiring harness to come. It finally came and when I put it on, it started right away. It would start real easy when it was cold but not when it was hot. I soon discovered that the carb adjustments were warped from the fire, so I usually rode with one hand on the carb turning the adjustment screws, trying to keep it running half-way decently.

One evening Ralph Haslage came over to my house and he was riding a beautiful 650cc BSA twin. He took me for a ride and when he changed to second gear, my feet went up past his head and I knew for sure that this was a “real” motorcycle and I had to have one. The next evening Ralph and I went to Penton Brothers Motorcycle shop and they had a nice 1955 BSA 500cc twin. I talked to Elmer Reichart about trading in my Harley which he didn’t seem interested in at all. About that time John and Ike came into the shop and when Elmer told John about my Harley, he just laughed and told me that if I wanted the BSA I would have to buy it without a trade, which I did that night. That BSA became my first “REAL” motorcycle as far as I was concerned. I rode it a lot that summer and all of the next year which was 1957. Back then the motorcycle shop was open on Friday nights and a lot of guys spent their Friday evenings there talking motorcycles and drinking coffee with John, Elmer and sometime Ike and Ted would drop by as they were running the Machine Shop at that time.

In the late summer of 1957, Ralph took me to a Scrambles race at the Meadowlarks track in Amherst, Ohio. My most vivid memories of that day was seeing George Singler broad-sliding his BSA around the sharp turns while standing up. I had a problem believing what I was seeing. I remember telling Ralph while on the way home that if I could ride a motorcycle like George did that I would be the happiest guy in the world. Needless to say, George became my motorcycle hero on that day.

In the winter of 1957 and 1958, a group of us from Avon, Lorain, and Elyria organized the Avon Cycle Club which was in existence for 7 or 8 years. We rented a farm on Lunn Road in Strongsville and proceeded to build a Scramble track. One Saturday after we had finished grooming the track for our first race, the guys that had their scramblers there decided to have a little race to check out the track. I joined them with my “real” BSA street bike and to my surprise, I beat them all. My bike did have a nice set of STS tires which worked nicely on that track. Anyway, after that little deal, I knew I was hooked on racing and that there was no way out. Later on that summer, I bought a well-used 250cc Maico from Sills Motor Sales in Cleveland. My first official race was the “Buckeye Sweepstakes” at the Meadowlarks track and I was running second to Bud Ward in the feature race when my engine seized so tightly that it bent the connecting rod. I then bought a new 250cc Maico from Sills and I traded my first “real” motorcycle for a BSA 500cc B-33 model that I loved to race even though it was heavy and under-powered against the Gold Stars, Triumphs, Matchless, AJS and Velocettes. I would usually be in the top three and I even won a few times. As a matter of fact, I was able to beat my hero, George Singler a couple of times during the summer of ‘59. I know that one time it was at Alliance, Ohio, and I think the other time was at Mineral Ridge, Ohio. I know that both times I had trouble getting my “Big Head” into the truck when it was time to go home.

During the winter of 1959-60, Ray Sill who owned Sills Motor Sales told me at one of our CRA meetings that he was building a 650cc Triumph for scramble races ant that he wanted me to ride it. It sounded like a pretty big task, but my friend Bill Horton who was working for Ray at the time talked me into buying it. He knew it would be a good motorcycle as he had done some of the work on it. I traded the Maico in on it and took it home and put it in the utility room and began the chore of making it lighter. Ray had given me two “shorty” exhaust pipes for it and I put a moped gas tank on it. I used a BMW rear fender type of seat that I drilled a lot holes in the seat pan and removed most of the padding. Also, I bobbed the fenders, drilled centers out of shock bolts, axle bolts, and any other bolts of any size, and was able to get that monster down to 261 pounds. It was really fast and I geared it for 2nd gear starts which worked great for my weight. Counting heat races, semi-finals and finals, I raced that Triumph 36 times that summer and won 32 of them. I’m sure that I was into the first corner first all but five times out of those 36 starts. One of the wins was the “Buckeye Sweepstakes” race win that year at the Meadowlarks track in Amherst. The amazing thing about the Triumph was it’s dependability. My only work on it consisted of oil changes to the engine and one oil change to the forks, cleaning the air cleaner and spark plugs occasionally. It finally seized up at Norwalk as I was leading the last race of the year.

John Penton talked be into buying a used 175cc NSU that Norm Smith had traded in. He wanted me to try some Enduro riding in 1961. I believe that the NSU weighed about the same as my Triumph had. It was a rugged little motorcycle and I rode it on TT tracks and on Scramble tracks as well as a few Enduros. I was riding it at Smith Road Raceway in September of that year when I got my left leg all torn up by Tom Hodges’s rear wheel and sprocket and ended up in the hospital for a week. In December of that year, I rode a 75 mile enduro at Mansfield even though it was still difficult to walk. My NSU sheared the key in the automatic spark advance and luckily my friend Bill Horton came by. His big Matchless had started leaking gas, so we put my gas into his tank and he towed me to the next road because I certainly wasn’t able to push it. I only rode occasionally during the next four or five years thanks to Brown Warner and Bill Kennedy for letting me ride their BSA and Triumph respectively. I went through the Millwright Apprenticeship during this time and did not really have the time to do much racing due to a lot of overtime and going to school.

Then in March of 1966, John Penton talked me into buying a little Honda S-90. This was a time when Hare Scrambles was really coming into existence. We did some “trick” things (all legal) to the engine, lengthened the swing-arm 1 and 3/4 inches, stiffened the fork springs, installed some flat aluminum fenders and changed the handlebars and was ready to go. I rode mostly Hare Scrambles on it until the Pentons came out, but also did some Enduros and a few TT races (with knobbed tires). From April of 1966 until March of 1968, when the Penton come out, I was able to win my class over thirty times including a State Championship in 1967. Three times that little Honda won me overalls at Lagrange, Galion, and at Mansfield, Ohio on muddy tracks. I sold my trusty 90 to a friend at work in the summer after the Penton came out. His two teen-agers rode it for years until they broke the frame at a point where I had put a large hole for frame breathing. They kept riding it with the sagging frame until they finally collapsed the rear hub assembly. I sold the same man a Honda SL 125 in 1976 and he gave me back my little 90. IN 1981, I rebuilt that Honda with parts from a “parts bike”. The engine still ran great and does yet to this day. It was quite a reliable motorcycle, but when the Pentons came into existence it put my little trusty 90 into the antique class.

Al Born riding his Honda 90 at a Hare Scrambles at the Amherst Meadowlarks track in 1968. He had many 100cc class wins with this bike including several overall wins in the Hare Scramble events. Photo is from Al Born's scrap book collection.
Mansfield M.C. Hare Scramble September 22, 1968. Al Born won the 100cc Class, the Season High-Point trophies in the 100cc and 125cc Classes as well as winning the season Overall Hi-Point trophy.
Al Born in 1981 with his restored Honda 90 and some of the trophies it won

When the new Penton Six Day came out, I told John that I would wait until he made a 100cc so I could stay in the same class, but he insisted that I ride one of the 125s and he promised me that as soon as the 100cc engines were available that he would give me a new engine, which he did in August of that year. Anyway, I bought the very first Penton that was sold, its serial number being V003. I also had the honor of being on the first official Penton team which came about at the Berkshire Trials in Massachusetts. The team consisted of Leroy Winters, Tom Penton, Bud Green and myself. I guess that I didn’t realize it then, but I was riding with some high caliber people. I only got a bronze medal that year, but our team won the manufacturers award. That was the year that John Penton was the only gold medal winner on his Husky. I got to ride the Berkshire again in 1969 on the Penton team who again won the manufacturers award. This team consisted of Leroy Winters, Tom Penton, Doug Wilford, and myself. This time I was fortunate to be a gold medal winner. To this very day, I still have a feeling of pride for being on those first Penton teams and I am grateful to John for having confidence in me.

I kept riding Hare Scrambles, Moto-cross and a few TTs on that old number 3 Penton until May of 1970, when I purchased a new Berkshire 100 which I rode until the late fall of 1970 when I decided to leave it up to the younger fellows. I gave that Berkshire to my son John, who raced it up until 1976. He did a restoration on it in 2000 and he won the “Best Berkshire” award at the 2000 Vintage Days when the Penton was the featured motorcycle marque. My restored number three Penton was the featured motorcycle at Vintage Days mentioned above, thanks to the nice restoration job by Kip Kern. It is presently in the “Hall of Fame Museum” and is scheduled to be there until September of 2002. For this honor, I would like to thank John Penton, Kip Kern, Ed Youngblood and all the board members of the Penton Owners Group.

Al Born on his Penton V003 at the Amherst Quarries Hare Scramble in Ohio (July of 1968)
Al Born with the restored Penton

Many of you know, but some don’t, that I lived in the apartment over the Penton Brothers Machine Shop for four years (March of ‘67 thru March of ‘71). Having a nice place to work on my motorcycles, the use of the tools and especially for use of the power washer certainly made keeping my motorcycles race ready a whole lot easier, and for that I also want to “Thank” John and his family.

I used to wish that I had been born a few years later so that I could have raced the more modern motorcycles, but when I look back at everything, I just thank God for everything he allowed me to enjoy in the motorcycling world. Being a part of the Penton motorcycle development era and living at Pentonville while Tom, Jeff, and Jack were teen-agers and becoming young men were very interesting years. Sometimes I would take the boys racing when John was gone and sometimes I would sign as their guardian so they could race and guess what - they usually beat me.

Traveling with John was always an “EXPERIENCE” and I found out in 2000 when he, Paul Danik, and I went to Vintage Days West in California that John hasn’t changed a bit. For all these pleasant memories, I’ll be forever grateful to John Penton and for the opportunities he made possible for me.

I am currently serving as Secretary for the Penton Owners Group and enjoy meeting with the “guys” on a monthly basis. I feel very privileged to have been on the committee with Matt Weisman and Jack Penton as Mr. Youngblood was writing the “John Penton” book. I presently ride a 225cc Yamaha Dual-Sport which I occasionally take to West Virginia for a little trail riding. Also, I ride on the secondary roads around home a little, but not very much. The reason it is a Yamaha is because it is the only street legal off-road motorcycle that I can sit on and touch the ground. I have been fortunate to have owned several “REAL” motorcycles since buying that BSA from John, but it was the motorcycle from which I learned that it was more fun to ride them than to push them and work on then all the time.



Al Born's motorcycle scrap book is part of the Amherst Public Library Digital Collection. You can view it on their website. (link)