OF MOTORCYCLES MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM
“The greatest little
motorcycle shop in the middle of nowhere”. This may describe Kersting’s
Harley-Davidson store, but built right in the middle of everything is a large
fantastic motorcycle museum, ‘The World of Motorcycles’. Ten years ago, the
museum was located on the second floor of the bike shop with a few bikes hung
above the entrance. As the buildings began to expand five years ago, the museum
occupied the far end building, but that was still not large enough to hold the
bikes, so last year a brand new building was constructed smack dab in the middle
of everything. With over 100 motorcycles, it contains most of the Kersting
collection, but there are and always will be more to add.
Jim Kersting got into
motorcycles over the summer of 6th grade. He got a frame out of a
junkyard, either a Cushman or a Simplex, and took the washing machine motor off
his mother’s Maytag. There were
only 4 bolts that held the motor down and a drive belt to go up to the mechanism
that turned the agitator. He
installed a step-starter pedal and you would think it was a hit and miss motor
because of the sound it made. A few
years ago, his son built a replica of the original, fifty years later, and it
still works fine. People who see it
now still remember it from when Jim was in grade school.
bought an Indian Sports Scout in 1954 and a Chief in 1955. He then bought a
Harley in 1956. After a couple of
years in the army, he got a Harley-Davidson franchise in 1962.
John Davidson himself signed the paperwork. Jim was now in business.
Later, he took on Gilera
but they only had 125’s. It was a good bike. He ran the Alligator Enduro one
year on a Gilera and got 4th place in the 125 class. He had been
hearing about Kawasaki and it was new to the U.S., so he researched it and they
had a nice variety of bikes, something that people could buy inexpensively and
work their way up to a Sportster or a big twin. They could ride a motorcycle and
it wouldn’t cost them very much. So
he took on the Kawasaki line in 1966. Back then, the Kawasaki distributor for
the first several years ways Dave Mehney from Grand Rapids, It was a 5-state
area distributorship, and he did a tremendous job and a tremendous justice to
Kawasaki. After a local Yamaha
Dealer had a fire and decided to quit, Jim took on that brand also.
He started collecting
motorcycles in 1967 when he was at a farm auction. There was a 1931 Indian 4-cylinder and he outbid all the
Indian collectors. It was in pretty
good shape and didn’t really need anything except an exhaust pipe. He had to
make one because he couldn’t find one. Jim explains, “Years later, I found
out it was actually a Model 32 that was built in 31. It was built after August
so it was the next year’s model, but back then the title said ‘year built’
or ‘year manufactured’. There is quite a difference between the 31 and the
32. The 32 had much nicer looking
fenders, gas tank and enclosed frame tubes running from the headstock down to
where the seat mounts.” He always
liked this Indian 4 and rides it in numerous parades, etc.
It still runs good and never needed any engine work. It was only
repainted one time.
His next collectable
came when a couple of young guys traded in a 1926 BA, which is a Harley 26 cubic
inch single cylinder bike. It is a neat old motorcycle.
He got it running, it didn’t need much more than a condenser. One time
he took it down the main street of town about 10:00 PM.
His wife’s twin brother was the town’s marshal. Jim really got chewed
out over that stunt by his brother-in-law because this Harley had no exhaust and
hardly any lights. Some people turned him in, but he wasn’t arrested for
riding that old motorcycle.
Jim started racing before
he was a dealer. He had a Harley
knucklehead and made a scrambler out of it, and raced it on the scrambles tracks
and did quite well. Jim states, “I remember racing against John Goodpaster on
his BSA. He was the only guy who could beat me on the track in Michigan City. I
tried hill-climbing, but you sat around too much, so I stuck to hare scrambles,
enduros, TT’s, etc.” In the Pro class, he rode a Harley Sprint on the
short-tracks and a Sportster on the TT’s. When Kawasaki came out with the 650
twin, he raced that also.
Then he got interested in road racing because it is so clean and easy. Jim added, “You could just go fast and turn either direction, scrape the footpegs and see if you can’t get your elbow down to the pavement.” That became his passion, road racing in the early 1960s. In 1969, he took his twin cylinder 250 Kawasaki A1R and changed it to a A7R by adding the 350cc cylinders. At Daytona that year in the 100-mile Junior Race, Jim finished fifth in a field of eighty competitors. He beat the Harleys, Triumphs, BSA’s, Yamahas and Nortons of that era. He still remembers passing Bart Markel.
This qualified him one of
the only forty H1R built in 1969 for the March 1970 Daytona race. This
3-cylinder 500cc racer was very fast. He qualified at 156 MPH, 3rd in
class for the Junior 100, and he sat in the center of the front row. His drastic
mistake was not putting new plugs in, he chose to use the plugs that were in the
motorcycle for the race and fouled the center plug on the line.
So he couldn’t keep up and had to pull in and change the fouled plug.
They had a mandatory gas stop back then, and when he rejoined the race, he was
with a few riders he knew. He thought he’d show those guys how to ride. He
bent down underneath them and then turned up the wick and the front wheel came
off the ground on top of the banking, he was sliding in every direction.
He quit racing AMA
professionally a few years later, about 1972.
Jim said, “ I still have my H1R and A1R road racers because they were
not too salable. I’m happy they weren’t salable because they are such dandy
collector motorcycles. They
aren’t even in the museum yet, but they are part of the collection that’s
still in the main store.”
He currently runs vintage
bikes at Davenport. It gave him an
opportunity to run his Harley Sprint again.
He got it going again after all those years in the rafters.
“It ran really good again, and I got 2nd place in 1994, 30
years after running the same bike at Santa Fe Speedway in Chicago” Jim stated.
A few years ago, he
had an opportunity to buy a 1914 Harley, and he raced it in the Board Track
Class, no brakes and no clutch. This ’14 model has a two-speed in the rear
hub. He did ok, got fourth one year and had trouble with the rear hub gearbox
the next year. Over the years he says he has a great time racing a Davenport
because his son races with him. It’s a great time for the family.
Located in the center of
the new ‘World of Motorcycles Museum’ is a one-half scale replica of his
first shop. This first shop was built to be a repair shop. It was called
Kersting’s Welding and Repair Shop in 1961. In this old shop, the living
quarters were about 30’ x 28’, and the workshop was 40’ x 28’ which gave
him two nice big overhead doors and a little room to have a little showroom for
about 4-5 motorcycles. He continued
to work on tractors and cars for probably a year or two, and then he got so busy
fixing and selling bikes that repair of cars and tractors was dropped. He was
having fun, and it just became a way of life.
The original old building
is still encased within the new building and now has about 27,000 square feet,
plus there is 10,000 square feet of museum.
The first museum was on the second floor, which was created by connecting
two buildings together, and some of the bikes are sitting on the rafters of the
other buildings. He is going to
keep it open for awhile because people would miss seeing those neat old bikes up
there if he moved them out.
There are 110 bikes on the
floor of the museum right now, and he has about 40-50 more in storage.
He actually needs to clean up some more of the machines right now, and
perhaps even sell a few to buy something different.
He has duplicates of a few like his XLCR. He has two of them, but the
problem is which one to sell because they are both really nice.
He also has a couple of 1965 Panheads, the first year for the electric
starter. He will perhaps sell a few to get funds to buy some more.
This museum has all brands
from many different countries. The complete collection of 3-cylinder
Kawasaki’s are grouped together. The European bikes are in the back section.
There are two rows of American made bikes. Which one’s are Jim’s favorite?
He is very partial to the 1910 Harley-Davidson. When asked if he is ever going
to restore it, Jim says, “It took ninety-four years for that paint to look
like that, you could never duplicate that paint. The engine has never been apart
and it runs perfectly.” He says
he loves to ride his Moto Guzzi 500cc ‘salami slicer’. It runs as perfect as
when it was new.
The ‘World of Motorcycles
Museum’ is a 501C-3 educational foundation, educating people on the life and
times of motorcycling and the men and women who rode them. It is owned by the
Kersting family. Jim has donated a few motorcycles each year and plans to do so
continually. School kids come out
and tour the museum. The Boy Scouts have also come out and toured, and he talks
to them about the motorcycles. Donations
can be made to the museum and there are some tax benefits depending on the
donor’s tax level.
As far as volunteering to
work at the museum, some of his customers are retired and looking for something
to do, and they volunteer to sit in so Jim can go riding for a day or two. The
museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, but closing at
4:00 PM on Saturday. On Sundays, if
there is a good-sized group that would like to come in and tour, they can call
the museum at 574-896-3172 to make arrangements to have it open.
If a club wants to organize a ride, parking can be arranged and the
museum can be open as a destination. The
tour takes an hour or two. There is no admission charge, but donations are
appreciated. May 31, 2003 was the official grand opening of the new
Each year in June, an
antique swap meet is held on the 40-acre field where the Museum, Harley,
Kawasaki and Yamaha stores are located. The
Museum and stores are located 4 miles south of North Judson, Indiana on Indiana
State Highway 39.
from Kersting’s Files and Dan Schmitt
Visitors as of 02/10/2011
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