Packard Museum to offer exhibit of bobbers, custom motorcycles

WARREN – The National Packard Museum’s 13th annual antique motorcycle exhibit, “Motorcycles ABC: Antiques, Bobbers, Customs,” opens Jan. 12.

The exhibit is presented in conjunction with the Lake Erie Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) and will feature three different types of motorcycles: antiques, bobbers, and custom bikes.

It will run through May 19 and there will be more than 30 motorcycles on display featuring a few very rare antique motorcycles, including a 1911 Flanders and a 1917 Dayton; a number of significant American, European, and Japanese bobbers, including an award winning 1940 Indian Scout bobber; and several vintage and modern custom bikes, including Evil Knievel’s own 1988 Knievel Cycle Chopper, built by the Evil Knievel Motorcycle Co.

The museum’s Executive Director, Mary Ann Porinchak, said, “The purpose of the annual Antique Motorcycle Exhibit is to educate audiences about motorcycle history, and to promote the preservation, restoration and collection of antique motorcycles.

“The exhibit is also designed to raise awareness of the significance of the motorcycle to transportation history and to cultivate an interest and appreciation for the conservation of transportation related history among motorcycle enthusiasts,” Porinchak added.

Bobbers predate “choppers” by a couple of decades and were a product of the 1920s when the front fender was discarded and the rear fender was trimmed (bobbed) considerably while all the unnecessary parts were removed to reduce weight in exchange for more speed.

The first bobbers closely resembled factory race bikes of the era.

The style is considered the earliest form of motorcycle customizing and really caught fire after World War II when new motorcycles were scarce but there was an abundant supply of cheap surplus war department bikes. Returning GIs bought these motorcycles, removed the unwanted parts, bobbed the fenders, and sometimes exchanged parts from other brands of bikes to pep up the performance.

Most of the 1940s bobbers were Harley-Davidsons or Indians and these motorcycles will be exhibited alongside the museum’s Packard automobile collection.

In the 1950s and 1960s, British-built Triumphs and BSAs were commonly chopped or bobbed because of their light weight and performance and because they were less expensive and readily available. In the 1960s, custom designs became more radical as frames were cut and modified and front forks extended, giving birth to the “Chopper” craze, immortalized in the film “Easy Rider.”

“Custom” motorcycles date back nearly to the birth of the earliest motorcycles, as generation after generation of owners strove to improve the performance or appearance of their machines.

Due in large part to the popularity of television series such as “American Chopper ” and “Biker Build-Off,” custom bikes have made a big comeback over the past decade.

The state of Ohio issues vintage vehicle plates to any motorcycle that is 25 years old or older; a bike must be at least 35 years old to be classified an “antique” by the AMCA.

For judging purposes, antique motorcycles must be restored to their original factory condition to be eligible. The most coveted antique bikes are un-restored survivors with all original parts and paint.

The National Packard Museum is open Tues.-Sat. noon to 5 p.m. and Sun. 1 to 5 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors (65 and older) and $5 for children (7 12), children under 7 are free. Cameras and flash photography are welcome. For more information visit or phone 330-394-1899.