Hall of Fame News

Reitwagen Revisited

Carlton visits own creation at AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

When one begins their journey through the vast catalog of items at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the replica of Gottlieb Daimler’s 1885 Reitwagen is there to welcome them to the world of motorcycling.

As one of the constructors of the replica, Jim Carlton’s first-ever visit to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum on Oct. 3 started with his all-familiar bike. With the added significance of strolling through the halls that house his historic replica, Carlton found himself excited by the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of motorcycling’s most significant bikes, memorabilia and figures.

“In a way, it feels like I’m coming home,” Carlton said of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. “I love this kind of thing and seeing [the Reitwagen] in conjunction with [the museum], it’s like a pedigree.”

Inspired by friends Ray and Roy Behner and Fred Hoffman, with whom he constructed the 1885 Reitwagen replica, Carlton decided to build the replica using only a small photograph found in a book. Beginning construction in 1984, Carlton and Co. completed the bike in time for the Reitwagen’s centennial celebration in 1985 — where the motorcycle made an 11-mile journey during the ceremonies.

“They found two big steel wheels, and they built this ridiculous motorcycle,” Carlton said. “I looked at that book and I saw that, and I was like ‘Whoa.’ And I walked in and I said, ‘Guys, I’m going to build the wooden equivalent of what you’re doing.’ Just this big audacious thing. And that picture caught me, them having built this ridiculous thing. I thought I can build a ridiculous thing too.”

Regarding the Reitwagen in the museum, Carlton conducted a few quick tests on the bike during his visit and deemed that it could still start and run with efficiency.

Carlton, who built two additional Reitwagen replicas, was fueled by his interest in life before easily accessible electricity and wanted to delve into that world. Along with his trio of Reitwagen replicas, Carlton has also reproduced a replica of Karl Benz’s tricycle and built an original pioneer log cabin on his farm.

“My motivation for all of it was that I was trying to capture a past that I never lived in,” Carlton said. “I wanted to know, from horse-drawn to automotive, what it feels like to hear this thing sputtering away [as] you start to move under its own power.”