Allstate Motorcycle Chopper Story Presented By J&P Cycles Exhibit

1choppperThe exhibition will be opening June 20 at National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.The National Motorcycle Museum is assembling the first-ever exhibit comprehensively documenting the evolution of the American Custom Motorcycle; the cut-downs, bob-jobs, show bikes and choppers, from the late 1920s to the mid-’70s. Opening in June 2015, the Allstate Motorcycle Chopper Story presented by J&P Cycles exhibit will include only period-built bikes, plus related artwork, memorabilia, film posters and photos, plus contemporary artwork commissioned for the show.

2choppperThe long history of choppers is a uniquely American story, akin to Rock ‘n Roll in its cultural impact and global influence. The National Motorcycle Museum has located over 20 great but typical period custom motorcycles for the show.

“We put the word out to try and locate period builds, and the results have been good. Many original paint machines, some pretty outrageous, built in the 60’s and 70’s, were saved “as-is” and are still out there. They will be part of the show,” says Paul d’Orleans, guest curator for the exhibit.

Americans started ‘chopping’ bikes long before ‘Easy Rider.’ It all began in the late 1920s with the ‘Cut-Down’, based on the Harley JD or JDH, with shortened and lowered frames.  Cut-Downs were hot, high-performance bikes and are very rare today. Next came the ‘Bob-Job’, stripped-down Harleys and Indians and even British imports from the 1930s, built to look like the new Class C dirt-track racers.  From the late 1940s, a few riders began decorating their Bob-Jobs, using chrome and wild paint, adding ape hangers, upswept exhausts, and small sissy bars, which by the 1950s became the established ‘show bike’ standards at combined car/motorcycle Hot Rod shows.  Drag racing motorcycles also influenced street customs using drag bars and raked forks.  By the late ’50s what we’d recognize as Choppers emerged, and in the early to mid-’60s raked steering heads, extended springer forks, wild pipes, sissy bars, sculpted tanks, and moulded frames were ridden by the hippest motorcyclists in America.

As a great coincidence, the first comprehensive history of American customs was recently released – ‘The Chopper: the Real Story.’ Museum staff asked  author/curator Paul d’Orleans to create the new exhibit based on his research for the book. Paul is a well-known writer (‘The Ride’, ‘Café Racers’, plus TheVintagent.com) and curator (most recently at the Sturgis ‘Motorcycle as Art’ exhibits with Michael Lichter), the Custom & Style editor for Cycle World, and contributes monthly to magazines in six languages.

Make plans to see this exhibit during the National Motorcycle Museum’s June 20 Vintage Rally event or any time through May 2016 when the 12 month temporary Allstate Motorcycle Chopper Story exhibit will be dismantled. If you own an original or restored 1920s-70s custom motorcycle or related memorabilia, please contact the Museum as there may be room for good last minute additions.  If you can help to tell this important story, or if you are a fine artist who would like to loan motorcycle artwork, please send an email to Mark Mederski:  mmederski@nationalmcmuseum.org, or Paul d’Orleans: thevintagent@gmail.com

Zipper's

4 Responses to “Allstate Motorcycle Chopper Story Presented By J&P Cycles Exhibit”


  1. 1 TJ Martin Apr 4th, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    With P d’O at the helm … its all but guaranteed to be one mighty fine show . Especially with the demands Paul is placing on the perspective bikes being offered . If only I could carve out the time to go myself …. snif ..

    TJ ; aka GuitarSlinger … 😉

  2. 2 Sharkey Apr 4th, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Wow…genuine chopper archeology…wish I could see this show; would be nice if it could travel…
    So rare that we get to physically see genuine motorcycle history

  3. 3 nicker Apr 4th, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    RE:
    “… locate period builds….. built in the 60’s and 70’s, were saved ‘as-is’ …”

    I keep telling myself “…that’s not old! that’s not old!….”
    But the mirror keeps reminding me that it is….. 🙁

    -nicker-

  4. 4 takehikes Apr 6th, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    these kinds of things usually miss by a wide margin.
    Most of the books have tremendous amounts and types of errors about the bikes of that time and type.
    I was there and I know.
    I wish them luck hope it turns out well.

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