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Wheels Through Time Museum to Celebrate

Fred Ham’s Endurance Ride on
70th Anniversary 

Maggie Valley, NC, March 7, 2007 --  On April 8, 1937, California motorcycle patrolman Fred Ham rode his Harley-Davidson Model EL “Knucklehead” a distance of over 1,800 miles at a five-mile circular course at Muroc Dry Lake, averaging 76.62 mph and smashing 44 separate speed and endurance records held by the Indian brand since 1922.  Ham’s feat helped establish the reputation of the new Model EL as a superior high-performance motorcycle that would carry the Motor Company out of the Great Depression and establish Harley-Davidson as America’s leading motorcycle brand. On April 7, 2007, a team from the Wheels Through Time Museum will celebrate Ham’s record-setting ride at Talladega Motor Speedway, using a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead similar to the motorcycle used by Ham seven decades ago.  Dale Walksler, owner and curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum, located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, prepared the motorcycle and will serve as crew chief for the effort.  Wayne Stanfield, 59, of Santa Ana, California, will ride the motorcycle, hoping to travel over 2,000 miles in a 24-hour period.   Walksler and Stanfield are veterans of the Great American Race, both as competitors and teammates.  After meeting each other while competing on different teams, in 1995 Walksler fielded a 1937 Harley-Davidson that Stanfield rode from Ottawa to Mexico City, finishing 5th out of 95 teams in the Great American Race and becoming the only motorcyclist to complete the event that year.  In 1996 Stanfield rode the Wheels Through Time Harley-Davidson from Tacoma to Toronto, finishing second overall and missing victory by only one second.  In 1997 they set a cross-country record aboard a 1917 Henderson motorcycle.  Walksler says, “Wayne and I have a lot of experience working together.  I’ve proven that Wheels Through Time can field a motorcycle that can go the distance, and Wayne knows what it takes, both mentally and physically, to successfully complete an extreme endurance test.” The new Harley-Davidson EL that Ham rode in 1937 was basically a stock motorcycle, prepared by Bill Graves.  The cases, piston rod, and crankshaft of the engine were polished to reduce friction, but otherwise the motorcycle was unmodified, except that a small windscreen was added to protect the rider and a special induction tube was mounted on the carburetor to keep the abrasive dirt from the surface of Muroc Dry Lake out of the engine.  Walksler has prepared the Wheels Through Time motorcycle in a similar way.  He explains.  “It is all Harley-Davidson.  I have polished internal parts just as Graves did, but that’s it. There are no non-stock high performance parts incorporated in the engine.”  Walksler reports that the motorcycle has performed well in over 800 miles of testing.  He says, “I think we will demonstrate what a superb machine the Harley-Davidson Knucklehead was and is.  Though it is now 70 years old, I have every confidence it can achieve what it did when Ham rode it new in 1937.” When Fred Ham prepared for his record run in late 1936, he swam daily at a local YMCA, reducing his weight from 210 to 180 pounds.  Stanfield is already at fighting weight at 180 and reports that his preparation is primarily mental.  He says, “I know what it takes to do this kind of ride.  I am already in good physical condition, and I am mainly working on mental preparation.  I have been going to bed at midnight and getting up at 4:30 a.m., learning to function with a minimum of sleep.”  He adds, “I am studying diet and making adjustments that will improve my stamina and mental alertness.  We will be stopping the motorcycle every 90 minutes for fuel and servicing, and at those times I will probably walk around and stretch my legs, but I do not intend to sleep during the 24 hour period.”  Stanfield explains that if the ride can be completed without mechanical incident, the Wheels Through Time team should easily surpass Ham’s record because the original team lost a full hour to replace and repair damage caused by a stretched primary chain. As for their personal histories, there are interesting similarities between the riders, Ham and Stanfield.  Fred Ham established his reputation as a winner of California’s grueling Big Bear Enduro, and before his 24-hour run at Muroc he set several over-the-road records including the Three Flags Run from Canada to Mexico.  Stanflield’s motorcycling experience also includes off-road enduro competition plus his over-the-road Great American Race achievements.  Ages, however, are significantly different.  Ham made his 24-hour endurance ride at the age of 29, 30 years younger than Stanfield. Walksler is quick to point out that while approaching or surpassing 2,000 miles in the 24-hour period is a goal, the effort is by no means intended to upstage Fred Ham.  Walksler says, “He was one of the greatest endurance riders, and no one will ever surpass his feat at Muroc Dry Lake.  Besides, that was then and this is now.  He was on a hard dirt surface and we are at a paved super speedway.  And although we have tried to duplicate his motorcycle in mechanical detail, it is a fact that lubricants and tires are far superior today, and all of these factors will give us an advantage.”  He explains, “Our effort is to honor Fred Ham, celebrate his accomplishment, prove what a fine motorcycle the Harley Knucklehead was and still is, and publicize the unique nature of Wheels Through Time among America’s leading motorcycle museums.” The unique quality of Wheels Through Time is characterized by its slogan, “The museum that runs.”  Over 98 percent of the more than 250 antique motorcycles and automobiles on display in the Maggie Valley Facility are kept in running order and are often started and operated for the enjoyment of visitors.  Walksler says, “This is a true museum piece with which we will celebrate Fred Ham’s ride.  If it were not for the fact that Wayne Stanfield will be storming around the banks at Talladega Motor Speedway at speeds approaching 100 mph, it would be sitting quietly on display – but ready to run -- at the Wheels Through Time Museum.” The 70th anniversary Fred Ham celebration is being documented in detail in video and will be available through The Time Machine, a video series accessible through the Wheels Through Time web site.  Walksler reports, “Throughout engine assembly, machine preparation, and testing we have already completed ten shows for The Time Machine.  By the time we have finished our endurance run at Talladega in April, we will create perhaps a dozen more shows.  Subscribers to the Wheels Through Time’s Time Machine will be able to enjoy every aspect of this historic effort.  It will surely leave them with a better understanding of the wonderful accomplishment of Fred Ham and the Harley Knucklehead seven decades ago.”   Adamec’s Harley-Davidson of Jacksonville, Florida will be an associate sponsor for the Fred Ham celebration Ride.  -30-   For more information about the Wheels Through Time Museum or the subject of this press release, contact Dale Walksler at 828-926-6266 or E-mail Info@wheelsthroughtime.com.   Captions for photos provided on the disc  enclosed: Wheels Through Time Museum owner and curator Dale Walksler displays the 1937 Harley-Davidson with which the WTTM team will celebrate Fred Ham’s legendary record ride on its 70th anniversary in April, 2007. Fred Ham and his crew at Muroc Dry Lake in 1937, celebrating having completed 1,825 miles in 24 hours, breaking 44 speed and endurance records in the process.  Photo courtesy of the Don Emde Collection. 

 

 

CA Motor Officer Fred Ham, April 8-9 1937, 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

 

April 8-9 1937, 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

 

Dale and the1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

 

Dale and the1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

 

Wayne one lap to go

 

 

Information and Photos provided by Wheels Through Time Museum
Thank you to Matt and Dale