Thursday, November 13
Jeff Baer's hillclimber
Got another message from Jeff Baer the other day (check out his flathead racer below). We've been featuring a few bikes from his enviable collection in the mag, and Jeff just keeps revealing more and more amazingly cool stuff! His house looks like a museum. So anyway, Jeff knew that I liked hillclimbers, so sent me these shots with a very cool story to go with them:
"Guy, I noticed on MySpace you mention that you like Hill Climbers. Attached is a picture of one of my Hill Climbers. It won several National championships. In 1939 by A.W. French and two in 1952 by Larry Franz.
I actually met Larry Franz Sr. by accident before he died. I was at an antique motorcycle meet in Ohio a few years after I bought the hillclimber (at the same meet). I saw an old guy with couple of hillclimbers on display and started a conversation with him. I told him I had a hillclimber and knew nothing about it. I began describing the bike to him and he finished the description and told me that it was the bike he won two national championships on in one day in 1952. He also told me some history on the bike and told me what issue of the Harley Enthusiast Mag it was in (which I did not write down and tequila erased most of the info from my memory that weekend). I did manage to get his address written down though. Later that year I found the magazine (September 1952) and had an enlargement done of his article and mailed it to him with a thank you note. I asked him about the history of the bike. I did not get any response.
A couple of years later his son Larry Jr. called me. He found my address in his father's stuff and told me he passed away and thanked me for the poster I sent him.
Fast forward to 1996. I was moving and while cleaning out an old desk I came upon an unopened large envelope. I opened it up and it was unfuckin'real! It turns out that a month after I sent Larry Sr. the poster and thank you note (years ago), he had mailed me a letter including the history of the bike from 1939 to the 1960's and enclosed pictures and everything! My ex wife must have gotten the mail that day and stuffed it in the drawer by mistake! Holy shit, this was the coolest fuckin' thing. Unfortunately I found it after he had died.
Fast forward again, a couple of more years go by and I run into his son Larry Jr, at the same swap meet in Ohio. He has a bunch of his dad's stuff including another hillclimb bike his leathers, helmet, boots, spares, jerseys, etc. I bought it all of course!! Larry Jr died last year and his father's Excelsior hillclimber sold at a swap meet in Pennsylvania. I walked up just as the deal was done. (It went for considerably more then I paid for all the stuff I ended up with).
So that's the story, over a period of years this bike and it's history came to me as if it was meant to be...just lucky I guess.
I attached a drunken picture of me the day I bought the bike. I don't remember how I got the bike up or how I got it back down...I'm sure it wasn't pretty. Jeff."