A new exhibit has opened at the National Motorcycle Museum.

A 1911 Aerohydroplane now dominates the main showroom as the museum unveiled its Early American Transportation INNOVATION exhibit.

According to a press release from the museum, about two years ago the museum found out about an aviation and cycle car collection in Minnesota that needed a new home, thanks to a tip from a museum supporter.

It was the cycle car that initially piqued the museum’s interest.

“They use motorcycle engines. So that’s where the relationship started,” Mark Mederski, special projects coordinator, said. “We already had a couple of cycle cars in the museum and people really enjoyed them because of the oddity.”

The vehicle uses an engine, much like those used in Harley-Davidson, Waverly and Jefferson bikes. The cars have a narrow track and are more lightweight compared to other automobiles.

One of the biggest challenges of the project, was the transportation of the large biplane from Minnesota.

“It’s kind of like the reverse of building a boat in a basement,” Mederski said.

In 2016 the plane was disassembled by three antique aviation experts, loaded into two tractor trailers and brought to the National Motorcycle Museum where later the men reassembled it. Having the three volunteers that helped was crucial to the hurdle of how to properly reassemble the massive plane, a process that began in February.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched to bring the items to the museum. The pieces were significant for their innovation, the work of Chicago aviation inventor James Stephens, which inspired the rest of the exhibit. The exhibit features innovative pre-1920 American motorcycles, bicycles, toys and memorabilia.

"So many interesting approaches to transportation were tried, so many patents established in these early years. The motorcycles, bicycles and the airplane show so much interesting and creative American innovation," National Motorcycle Museum Chair Jill Parham said. "This was a challenging project in so many ways. We are grateful to the Minnesota Air and Space Museum for donating the collection, the monetary donations of support and for all the volunteers who helped get it installed in our Museum."

One of the more intriguing new pieces that the museum borrowed for the exhibit is a Thomas auto-bi, which came to the museum from Utah and is the oldest motorcycle in the exhibit. The machine was available completed, or as a kit, where the motor could be assembled and put on the bike frame.  

Other motorcycles on display include a replica 1869 Roper Steam Cycle, Flying Merkel, Iver Johnson, Reading Standard, Excelsior, Thor, Sears, Thomas, the very rare Blue Bird and Crouch plus fine Indians and Harley-Davidsons.

The museum is open from 9-5 every day, with the next day the museum is closed being Thanksgiving.

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