Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Autobahner Profile - Gary Landeen

My first memories of motorcycles are from when I was 4 or 5 years old. Several of the employees from my father’s road construction company had Indians and Harleys and gave me rides on the tanks of their bikes. Motorcycles were always in my family. My father bought a 1917 Indian when he was 12 years old. My uncles had Indians and Harleys, too. When I was in grade school I was exposed to the Cushmans, Whizzers, HD Hummers, and Triumph Cubs that the older kids were riding to “hang out” at the Park Ridge Drug Soda Fountain.
I turned 16 in 1963. The Japanese motorbike invasion had hit Sioux Falls. Several dealers were renting out bikes for $5 for 4 hours. My buddies and I would rent them on a regular basis. I ran across a 40’s 500cc Triumph with no title, no license, and little compression for $20. I went down to the “five & dime” & bought a stencil kit. Presto - a paper plate was made and I was riding. This bike had more oil on the outside than on the inside. I rode this bike for a few weeks and had a rear blowout. I nursed it over to Roy Lodes Harley shop on Marion Rd. (Sx.Flls.) and sold it to him for the same amount I paid for it - $20.
I was without a bike until 1966 when I bought a used 250 Ducati Diana from Tom Haight (a British bike dealer in Sx.Flls). I couldn't get it running so I traded it in on a used TR6 650 Triumph. I “played in the dirt” with it until I sold it when I moved to San Francisco at the end of ‘66.
I bought a 305 Honda chopper in 1967. It looked good but needed a little “souping up”. I bought a 415cc kit, twin Amal carbs, and a Harmon Collins roller cam. This “livened” it up enough to take to the drags in Hayward, CA. In 1968 I moved back to SD and had Tom Haight put in bigger valves , port it, etc. I raced Jerry Chaney several times at Thunder Valley. This bike was a real sleeper.
Several bikes were bought and sold from 1968 to 1972 - a couple 65 Triumphs, a BSA 441 "hill climber", Hondas of various sizes. I moved to Denver in 1972 and kept only the Honda chopper. A close call on the Valley Freeway in ’73 convinced me to sell the chopper. No more bikes until 1976 when I traded a snowmobile for a 550 Honda.
In ‘77 I bought my first true antique bike, a 1946 Simplex Servicycle with 48 miles on it. I also met a collector of Indians and my dream to one day own one of for those “skirted fender” Chiefs, or earlier 4 cylinder models, or “teen” Indians began.
In 1990 I started working with Preston Evans, a wealthy auctioneer. We partnered up on buying slot machines, juke boxes, music boxes, and anything coin operated. I traveled America in search of these items for Preston but was always on the lookout for vintage bikes for myself. I bought the bikes and sold them on Preston’s auctions. I bought my first BMW, a R27. It was a little under powered for my liking and I sold it. My next BMW was a R69S purchased along with an Indian branded Royal Enfield Constellation. One of my many regrets is selling both of these. They were great bikes, but I always had to sell in order to buy the next bike. I think I bought my first Chief, a 46 model, with those proceeds.
Preston then asked me to team with him on bikes, also. For 18 years I used Preston’s money to buy any and all the bikes that I thought would make money. I would buy 30 to 50 bikes a year. We would hold an auction of antiques with the bikes mixed in. We did auctions at Alcester, SD; LeMars, IA; Eureka Springs, AR; and Atlanta among a few. When the recession came on in 2007, we shut the auctions down. Preston bought several buildings in Warm Springs, GA, and started a motorcycle museum called Art in Motion (www.prestonopportunities.com). He has approximately 140 American, British, European & racing bikes. The oldest is a 1902 Marsh.
I had a red R65 BMW when I met Jerry Zeeb. He brought me along on a ride with Autobahners Bob Vagstad, Woody Waagmeester, Dennis Erickson, and Jim Pentico. I had a lot of fun and was next invited to Dareo’s Breakfast Group. Next was an invitation to join the Autobahn Club. I went on several of the rides to Colorado; Petosi, Missouri; and Money Creek. Those are some of my best motorcycle memories. I’ve also owned a 1983 R80 BMW that I bought from former Autobahner Carl Edeburn (Brookings) along with his two 1975 Nortons and a R90RT that I bought from Lee Hendrix. I have been buying and selling bikes for 48 years but I have never owned a new bike!!
Currently I own 8 Indians in different stages of completion. Three I am building for Bonnevile, 1 for flattrack, and 1 for hill climbing. Two will be riders. I have Tom Haight’s 1956 500cc Matchless G80 CS single. There are 2 Kawasaki Drifters my wife, Pat, and I ride when we want to actually arrive at a destination. My daughter at Laguna Niguel, CA, thinks I’ve turned her mother into a Hell’s Angel. She has no interest in motorcycles.

Marty Dickerson, old-time Bonneville Salt Flats racer. CBX Honda at Thunder Valley Raceway Sep.’10. Gary purchased this 1947 HD Servicycle used
The World’s Fastest Indian movie based on his life. by Hutton-Tufty a Chrysler Dealer in Sx.Flls.

Hint from Gary: If you want to get past your spouse when purchasing motorcycles, take her out to the garage and announce, “Honey, look what I bought you”. It has worked for me every time!

by Gary Landeen

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