Seven historic figures took their places among motorcycling’s greatest legends Friday, Nov. 16, at the 2012 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by KTM. The ceremony is part of the American Motorcyclist Association Legends Weekend, powered by Paul Thede’s Race Tech, held at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa.
Hosted by actor motorcyclist Perry King, the event honored the Hall of Fame Class of 2012: the late Rod Bush, KTM North America president and industry visionary; world championship roadracing tuner Nobby Clark; off-road racing champion Ty Davis; 1975 AMA Supercross Champion Jimmy Ellis; pioneering female motocrosser Sue Fish; world-class bike restorer Brian Slark; and the late iconic race starter Al Wilcox.
In addition to the class of 2012, the induction ceremony recognized the outstanding careers of two existing Hall of Famers as Hall of Fame Legends: 1998 inductees Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith. Harley-Davidson Motor Co., honored Lawwill’s recognition, while Tucker Rocky/Riders’ Choice sponsored Smith. Troy Lee Designs honored filmmaker and Hall of Fame member Bruce Brown, the director of the 1970 film “On Any Sunday,” which featured Lawwill and Smith.
Kawasaki Motors Corporation, U.S.A. was the sponsor for the dinner that preceded the gala ceremony. Jeffrey V. Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Hall of Fame, welcomed a sold-out crowd to the dinner and ceremony, voicing appreciation for their support.
“Tonight, we induct some of motorcycling’s best and brightest into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame,” Heininger said. “Those of us gathered here tonight strive to make the Hall of Fame the best it can be: An institution of excellence that mirrors the remarkable accomplishments of our inductees.”
The 2012 inductees were honored with videos chronicling their careers, induction speeches and the presentation of their official Hall of Fame rings, sponsored by Zero Motorcycles. In addition to the honorees, several luminaries from the world of motorcycling participated in the ceremony.
“We’re a community that embraces the past, honors the men and women who have brought us to the present, and races ahead to an exciting future — largely unknown to us now — and we do it all with a zest for life that is second to none,” said King. “Tonight we recognize a group of men and women who have been an important part of that evolution, the Hall of Fame Class of 2012.”
The AMA Legends Weekend, powered by Paul Thede’s Race Tech, continues on Saturday, Nov. 17, with the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Dave Mungenast Memorial Concours d’Elegance bike show, featuring some of the country’s most amazing restored and original motorcycles.
Also at the event, the boards of directors of the AMHF and the AMA held a joint meeting to discuss the Hall of Fame balloting process.
The boards heard a report from a task force made up of Motorcycle Industry Council Chairman Larry Little, Ray Mungenast of the Dave Mungenast Classic Motorcycle Museum and Mungenast Automotive Group in St. Louis, and Ken Ford, a member of both the AMA and AMHF boards. The task force evaluated the current balloting process, and submitted a report with recommendations for the boards to consider going forward.
The late Rod Bush helped establish and grow KTM North America and served as company president from 1987 until his death in 2005.
Born July 6, 1955, in Huntington, W.Va., Bush rode his first hare scrambles in 1970 and three years later opened a Penton dealership in Parkersburg, W.Va., with his father. In 1976, Bush started working for Penton Imports as a sales representative. In 1978, Bush left Penton Imports to help form KTM America, later KTM North America, with Jack Lehto.
Bush took the position of KTM North America president in 1987 when the company was selling about 2,500 motorcycles a year. When Bush died in 2005, KTM North America sold approximately 28,000 units annually and had 140 employees.
Bush was represented at the induction ceremony by his wife Cheri Bush and daughter Stacy Bush.
“It is with tremendous pride and joy for our family to see Rod be inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame,” said Cheri Bush, after she accepted Rod Bush’s Hall of Fame ring on his behalf. “The outpouring of love, support and friendship that is in this room is unbelievable. Rod would have been so honored and humbled to receive such recognition from his peers.”
Derek “Nobby” Clark
Derek “Nobby” Clark’s was a member of winning race teams that claimed 17 FIM world titles in multiple displacements from the 1960s through 1980.
For 25 years, Clark was one of the world’s leading motorcycle race mechanics. In addition to the Grand Prix world titles, earned in classes ranging from 50cc to 500cc, he helped win three Daytona 200s, one Daytona 100, four Imola 200s and eight Italian championships working with some of the greatest motorcycle racers in history.
Clark, born Sept. 29, 1936, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). not only excelled at the highest level, tuning for some of history’s greatest racers, but also worked with racing’s most memorable personalities, including Hall of Famers Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini and Roberts.
“I would like to thank everybody who supported me for the Hall of Fame,” Clark said. “It’s a pleasure to be honored in this way. I’ve very humbled to be here tonight. I’ve been privileged to have motorcycles in my life.”
Ty Davis, born April 5, 1969, in Hesperia, Calif., is one of the most-versatile off-road motorcycle racers in the history of American competition. He has won amateur and professional titles in motocross, hare scrambles, AMA Supercross, AMA National Hare & Hound and AMA National Enduro. He has won the Baja 1000 four times and has been the top American rider at the International Six Days Enduro six times.
Davis, the AMA Athlete of the Year in 1995, won the AMA National Enduro Championship in 1995 and 1999 and the AMA Hare & Hound National Hare & Hound Championship in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
Although Davis, who currently runs Zip-Ty Racing Products, is mostly remembered as an off-road racer, one of his most high-profile titles was in 1990, when he won the AMA 125cc West Regional Supercross Championship over future Hall of Famer Jeremy McGrath.
“I feel that I am a pretty lucky guy,” Davis said. “I have experienced a lot and seen a lot and have been with, and met, some of the biggest names in our industry. I would like to thank the AMA and the voting staff for honoring me as a Hall of Famer, and I want to thank my friends and family for being here tonight. ”
The heyday of Can-Am’s factory motocross campaign is forever connected to the outstanding career of Jimmy Ellis. Born Oct. 19, 1955, in Middletown, Conn., Ellis started racing in New England in the 1960s, and by the time he joined the Can-Am factory team, he had won seven New England championships.
In 1974, riding the works 250 Can-Am, he finished third for the 250cc national title, collecting two overall wins. In 1975, Ellis won the AMA Supercross 250cc championship by sweeping the four-round series, punctuated by a dominant victory in the high-profile finale at the L.A. Coliseum.
Ellis continued to give Can-Am top finishes through the 1977 season, after which Honda snapped him up for its U.S. factory team. Ellis was a contender on the national circuit for a few more years-finishing second to future Hall of Famer Bob Hannah for the 250cc national championship in 1978. He transitioned into retirement during the 1981-82 seasons.
“I want to thank the AMA and the Hall of Fame, Jeff Smith, Tom White, Mom and Dad, my family, my partner Vicky,” Ellis said. “Being on this podium is like winning the Los Angeles Coliseum Supercross in 1975! Thank you!”
Sue Fish was born Nov. 9, 1958. Her father, who competed in dirt track and hare scrambles, taught her how to ride when she was 11. By 14, she started racing, winning her first race that year.
At age 19, Fish advanced to the AMA Pro Racing national circuit. In addition to dominating the female ranks, having won the 1976 and 1977 Women’s National Motocross Championships, Fish, who currently lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., was one of the first women motocross racers to hold a professional racing license from the AMA and compete regularly against men.
Known by the nickname, “The Flying Fish,” she raced in the AMA 125cc National Motocross Championship. Fish put her talents to work on the big screen as well, working as a Hollywood stuntwoman. Her credits include “Terminator” and “Footloose.” She also traveled as part of Evel Knievel’s stunt show in Australia.
“It is a surreal experience to be recognized for simply doing what I love,” Fish said. “And to this day, feel most passionate about riding and racing motorcycles. I would like to thank my family and friends for giving me support I needed to able to have pursued my dreams. I am humbled to be among my heroes and the legends of our industry.”
Brian Slark, who was born in London, England, on Feb. 2, 1938, was a moving force in the creation of a vibrant motocross-racing community in the United States in the 1960s.
Slark helped organize motocross tracks, promoting the sport by teaching famous people-including then-teen heartthrob Bobby Darin-to ride motorcycles and importing and building Rickman Metisse and Cheney motocrossers.
Slark later helped the late-Dave Mungenast, who is a member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, create a motorcycle museum in St. Louis. Slark also helped create the world-class Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Ala.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank my wife, Dian, who is always supportive and buys me motorcycles, how cool is that!” said Slark, as he accepted his honor. “I’d also like to thank Bud Ekins, for giving me the opportunity to come to this wonderful country; Nick Nicholson, who gave me motorbikes to ride and inspired me to ride the ISDT; Dave Mungenast Sr., a mentor and a friend; and last but not least, George Barber, who gave me the opportunity to be part of creating a world-class museum.”
Born in Trenton, N.J., in 1919, the late Al Wilcox began riding motorcycles in 1936 and began racing in 1947, but he is known to most of the racing community as the iconic race starter “Airborne Al.”
Wilcox’s race career spanned 19 years-from 1947 to 1966. Not only did he do well as a speedway racer for four years, but Wilcox also finished well in TT, dirt-track and even hare scrambles races over the course of his long career.
Wilcox, who passed away in 2011, began flagging races in 1959 and increased his flagging duties after ending his racing career. He flagged the famed Daytona 200 motorcycle race for many years with AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame flagger Duke Pennell. He became known as “Airborne Al” because of his unique flagging style that involved jumping up in the air at the end of a race.
Wilcox was represented at the induction ceremony by friend Roger Lyle.
“During his racing career, Al went to the starting line over 3,000 times,” Lyle said, as he accepted the honor on Wilcox’s behalf. “He was the ‘starter to the stars’ for 52 years. Al Wilcox touched the lives of everyone who had the pleasure to meet and speak with him about his passion for motorcycles and the racers who put it on the line. ”
Hall of Fame Legend Mert Lawwill
This year, the induction ceremony honored famed national dirt-tracker Mert Lawwill as an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend.
Lawwill, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, was one of the top professionals on the AMA national circuit during the 1960s and 1970s. He was the 1969 AMA Grand National champion and “On Any Sunday” chronicled his bid to defend his title during the 1970 racing season. By the time Lawwill hung up his racing leathers in 1977, he had amassed an incredible 161 career AMA Grand National finishes during his 15-year racing career.
Lawwill went on to become one of the top motorcycle racing frame designers and builders. He then used his expertise to create custom racing mountain bikes that won numerous national and world titles, as well as prosthetic devices to enable amputees to ride motorcycles and bicycles.
Lawwill thanked a number of people who contributed to his career, particularly Malcolm Smith, Bruce Brown and Steve McQueen, telling a story about a time he crushed his hand seemingly beyond repair and McQueen helped him find a doctor and paid his medical bills to have it fixed.
“I also want to thank everyone who came out tonight,” Lawwill said. “I really appreciate being recognized as a Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend.”
Hall of Fame Legend Malcolm Smith
Off-road racing icon Malcolm Smith was also honored as an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend this year.
Smith, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, was a pioneer in off-road motorcycling. He earned early fame for his accomplishments in the Baja 1000 and for his gold-medal winning rides in International Six Day Enduro competitions.
His reputation extended beyond the motorcycling community when he appeared in “On Any Sunday.” The scenes of Smith and Lawwill play riding with popular actor Steve McQueen showed non-motorcyclists across the country just how fun motorcycling could be. The movie helped launch an explosion in the popularity of off-road motorcycling in America.
Smith went on to become a successful businessman with his Malcolm Smith Motorsports motorcycle dealership in Riverside, Calif. Today, Smith is also revered as one of the leading charitable supporters in the motorcyclist industry.
In accepting his honor, Smith thanked a number of people who had an impact on his career, including Bruce Brown, who produced “On Any Sunday.”
“I had no idea that Bruce was making the most timeless motorcycle movie ever and I would have such a big role in it,” Smith said. “Thank you again, Bruce!
“Many, many more people have helped me in my life. I can’t thank them all or we would be here all night,” Smith said. “I’ll leave you with one thought. What would your life had been like if you hadn’t discovered motorcycles.”
Image courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame