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Taking a Ride Through Motorcycle’s Rich History at the Petersen

One of the early 1900s motorcycle displays at the
One of the early 1900s motorcycle displays at the

Updated July 16th, 2021

Los Angeles, CA, July 15, 2021 – LA-based Petersen Automotive Museum and the Motorcycle Arts Foundation celebrated the opening of “ADV Overland”, an installation featuring 23 extraordinary multi-terrain motorcycles of historic and contemporary significance and capturing the spirit of freedom and love of adventure synonymous with the sport.


“This exciting, first-ever collection of round-the-world overland racing and off-world overland vehicles is the perfect pandemic escape hatch,” said exhibit curator and motorcycle enthusiast Paul d’Orleans, co-founder of the Motorcycle Arts Foundation headquartered in New York. “Most of these extraordinary machines have never been publicly displayed and absolutely radiate the spirit of adventure—some even retain their original accessories, 90 years later.”


Full throttle that. The Petersen’s third-floor Richard Varner Family Gallery has been transformed into a motorcycle time-capsule from early the 1900s to present, including George Wyman’s 1903 California, the first two-wheeled motorized vehicle to travel coast-to-coast from San Francisco to New York. For those keeping score, just 20 days later, Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson accomplished the same feat in the 1903 Winton Vermont car.

Doug Wothke's 1948 Indian 348 Chief and Harley-Davidson Panhead Chopper on display

Sponsored by Harley-Davidson, the exhibit also showcases the LiveWire Motorcycle, Harley’s first foray into electric vehicles, and the 1974 BMW R60/6 driven by Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to ride around the world.  Additionally peppered throughout the exhibit is a handful of rally cars that ran the legendary Baja 1000 race, including the 1969 Ford Bronco “Big Oly” and the Honda N600 Baja, Honda’s first factory race car to hit stateside.


During the commemorative event, d’Orleans hosted a panel of motorcycle enthusiasts associated with various bikes featured in the exhibit, such as Doug Wothke, Torsten Zorn, Julian Heppekausen, Dan Green and Travis Fulton. 


Wothke rode both his 1948 Indian 348 Chief and Harley-Davidson Panhead Chopper, both on display, four times around the world.    


“I just headed east,” Wothke joked when asked how he got around. “When you get into a city it could be tough. Sometimes I would hire a cab driver to take me from one part of the city to the other. I got detained in Switzerland and Iraq. Did you die? No, so it’s a great story then.”


Torsten Zorn, lead spacecraft engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, helped provide two model Mars Rovers for the exhibit as the originals are still on the Red Planet.

           A model Mars Rover donated to the "ADV Overland" exhibit by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“It’s an interesting synergy between ‘ADV Overland’ and what we’re trying to do on Mars,” explained Zorn. “Anybody who has ridden a car or bike off-road understands the importance of making decisions on routes when dealing with various terrain.”    


Also lending itself to space travel in a fictionalized way were replicas of the chariot vehicles from the original 1965 Lost In Space series and Netflix reboot.


The first and only person to win the Baja 1000 in a Triumph bike, Julian Heppekausen, accomplished something rally race founder Bud Ekins could not. Heppekausen’s 1966 T120 is on display at the exhibit near the entrance.


“It’s a funny thing because it was more about the motorbike and the experience,” said Heppekausen. “The adventure and community were everything for me.”


Considered a classic in the literary world, One Man Caravan was a story about Robert Edison Fulton Jr. and his world adventures with his 1932 Douglas “Mastiff.” His son Travis Fulton used his time during the panel to discuss the many adventures of his father alongside that legendary bike.

                        An early 1960s three-wheeled bike on display at the "ADV Overland" exhibit.

“One thing that impressed me about that Mastiff bike was that it did 40,000 miles of rough road and the clutch survived the entire time,” said Fulton.


“ADV: Overland” runs through March 2022.  Tickets can be purchased here.


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