Bikers Bring Motorcycle Magic to
Words & Photos: John Gunnell
The Saturday street concours held in Elkhart Lake each July is a crowd scene and a party rolled into one. The roadway that curves around the historic Siebkens’ resort fills up with high-dollar collector cars and thousands of people. But, the most fascinating highlight of the evening for many spectators is the group of antique motorcycles that park just outside the official car show area.
The Sheboygan County area that Elkhart Lake sits in is a hot bed of vintage motorcycle activity and since “gearheads are gearheads” bike collectors like Ken Schneider, Daryl Wetenkamp and Luke Griesbach take advantage of the car show—held in conjunction with the Brian Redman International Challenge vintage racing weekend—to give visitors from all over the country unique opportunity to see early motorcycle technology up close and personal. The bikes they bring all puff, and spit and run and are all driven 40 miles or so to the show.
This year Schneider-a machinist by trade-brought an early Indian that he had built for another man in the group. The bike looked every inch authentic, but was actually constructed of origiinal parts from several bikes of several different years. Its distinctive deep red tank called the Indian script in gold and it had an acetylene gas powered headlight. Schneider is a talented builder who collects vintage bike parts and turns them into functional motorcycles. However, another Indian engine that he bought from the American Pickers a few years ago has been left the way it was (frozen up) and used as a conversation piece.
Daryl Wetenkamp-who is a glazier by trade-rode his Harley-Davidson Silent Gray Fellow about 40 miles to Elkhart Lake from Manitowoc. Daryl explained to a large crowd of people how the “Silent Gray Fellow” nickname was used to tout Harley-Davidson’s very effective muffler system developed around 1910. He also noted that the exhausts could be opened up once a rider cruised through a town and got out in the country.
The Indians, Harleys and Hendersons that gather in Elkhart Lake at the head of the car show line are not official entries in the show and bike buffs like Ken, Daryl and Luke are not focused on having their machines judged to win awards or trophies. Their rewards and enjoyment come from showing people what motorcycles looked like and ran like nearly 100 years ago. They are all members of the Badger Heritage Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.