From Harley-Davidson to a Thunderbird on two wheels

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Jay Mauer

By Dale Cory

The T-shirt said it all.

“You meet the nicest people on … Vintage Motorcycles”

Yes, there were some very nice people wearing vintage T-shirts — and some very cool rides on display last weekend when the Central Alberta Vintage Motorcycle Group held its Vintage Bike Rally at the Stampede Grounds. As you might expect, given the sunny and warm conditions, many of the back roads surrounding Ponoka were also involved in the scheduled events, which included a poker run.

There were Harley-Davidson, Indian and Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BMW, Norton, Ducati … and yes, even Ted Bond’s powder blue Honda 750, complete with rear fenders, Thunderbird taillights and chrome logo, and chrome bumper.

Yes, the Vintage Bike Rally had something for everybody.

“I see lots of really nice motorcycles, going way, way, way back. What we’re trying to do is to preserve some motorcycle history, especially here in Alberta, and in Canada. We try to entice the people that have these older motorcycles to come out and show them,” said club president John Ferguson of Red Deer. “That also gets interest in restoring some of the bikes they have at home. If they meet and talk to people — and network — then they can maybe get into the older units and get them restored.”

The weekend event offered enthusiasts the chance to get together and network, and take part in events such as Saturday’s show n’ shine, a street ride through Ponoka, and a poker run through the central Alberta countryside.

“We’ve got some pretty unique stuff,” continued Ferguson while peering across the area behind the main grandstand normally reserved for cowboys but now propping up hundreds of sweet rides. “We’ve got a fellow that actually built a motorcycle with an industrial diesel engine in it. We’ve got great stuff, like a 1911 Harley that a fellow restored a number of years ago. And he’s riding it. He’s out on the poker run right now, and will be doing 66-kilometres. We have bikes from 80 cc. all the way up to probably 2,000 cc. here. There’s something for everyone.”

Ferguson felt he was offering a fairly-educated guess when he pointed to a 1940 Indian Chief, complete with sidecar, and said it could be worth in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.

As for Ferguson and his wife, Jane, who was managing the registration table, they brought a couple of bikes to show off — a 1968 Harley-Davidson Sportster, original, of course, and a restored 1968 Kawasaki 650, which was a copy of a British bike when the Japanese were just getting into the industry.

“I just love old motorcycles,” summarized Ferguson, “That’s why I’m here.”

That’s certainly the reason Jay Mauer made the trip out from Edmonton, bike in tow, to take part in the Vintage Bike Rally.

Mauer, dressed in period attire — complete with wool knickers tucked into ankle-high black boots, soft leather helmet with ear coverings, and old style rounded black goggles — could be found zipping around the wide expanses of the Stampede Grounds on his 1929 Harley- Davidson.

While it may have said Harley-Davidson on the side of the fuel tank, Mauer went on to explain it’s not really 1929 from head to toe.

“It’s got a ’29 Harley engine with a 41-up Harley transmission. It’s a three-speed with a foot shift, and the shifter is up on the tank. The rear brake is ’40s Harley as well and matches the transmission. These parts came from a flathead 750,” rattled off Mauer, while standing back and admiring the project that has taken up so very much of his spare time. “It was the last year for the really tall, skinny forks. The gas tanks are remanufactured and you can get them brand new from Europe. The tires, rims and spokes are all parts you can buy.”

This was certainly a ride Mauer was proud of. He enjoyed talking about the bike with the many patrons taking in the Vintage Bike Rally, along with his fellow riders who just had to come over and, well — network. He had a display board set up detailing his bikes’ transition into what really is a work of art.

“The bike was an inspirational thing. From an early time in my childhood, I liked these old racers and wanted to build one sometime. But I didn’t have the money, or the know-how. I’ve had a lot of help with this bike. There’s been a good 10 hands, including machinists and welders, involved. I’ve picked up a lot, and just having an interest in working with steel, and creating one-off motorcycles.

“This theme is a ’20s style Harley racer to my own specs.”

Mauer, who admits to getting his leg caught up in the chain more than a few times, started with an engine that needed machining. He believed he could work with the existing transmission. From there, he basically started at the front of the bike, and worked his way to the back.

“It was a two-year project. I spent probably a good year solid in the garage in a two-year span – so every second day I was out there,” admitted Mauer, appearing surprised the more he pondered his level of commitment. “I spent about $15,000. The frame alone cost $500 for the tubing and some castings.”

So, why commit to such a seemingly-overwhelming project?

“I don’t know. I shouldn’t have committed myself to this project. I should have found an old bike similar and modified it,” responded Mauer, appearing somewhat serious, with a dash of tongue-in-cheek. “It’s not any faster or lighter than the originals. But it is a unique, home-made racer.

“And, it’s my creation, which is kind of the fun part about it. It’s done now, and I don’t intend to build another motorcycle for a long time.”

For more information on the Central Alberta Vintage Motorcycle Group, check out: www.cavmg.net, or call the Fergusons at 403-341-4022.

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