In the early 1950s, three underdog riders were winning AMA Grand Nationals against their better-funded factory rivals out of Europe and Milwaukee, Wis. Whether it was the Springfield Mile, the Charity Newsies or Daytona, Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill and Ernie Beckman put their Indian motorcycles on the top step of the podium.
Known as the Indian Wrecking Crew, Tuman, Hill and Beckman made an indelible mark on the history books and solidified Indian Motorcycles’ reputation as one of the 20th Century’s greatest marques.
On July 11-13 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days will celebrate the careers of these great racers, with surviving members Hill and Tuman serving as grand marshals. Beckman, who won three AMA Grand National events in his career, including the last AMA Grand National race won on an Indian, died in October 1999.
Tuman was the last single-day winner of the AMA Grand National Championship at the Springfield Mile in 1953 before the AMA Grand National Championship Series was created in 1954. That win also marked the last time an Indian rider won the prestigious AMA Grand National No. 1 plate. Tuman won a total of five AMA Grand Nationals during his professional racing career that spanned 1947 to 1955.
“Indian motorcycles have a special place in history,” Tuman said. “In those days, when folks were looking for something to take their mind off the war, Indian racers saw some success, and those who witnessed that remember the brand as something from those glory days of racing. It will be fun to spend some time talking about those old stories this summer at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days.”
Hill was AMA National Champion in 1951 and 1952 by virtue of his victories on the Springfield Mile. Hill won a total of 12 AMA Nationals during his professional racing career spanning the years 1947 to 1959. Hill’s first win, in Atlanta on Aug. 8, 1948, was one of the most memorable races in AMA racing history. Hill and Billy Huber crossed the line in a dead heat and both were declared a winner, the only time that has happened in AMA Grand National competition.
“In those days, if you wanted to be successful as a racer, you had to do everything yourself,” Hill said. “Engines had to be built and modified to race them as hard as we did. Bill and I have been friends — not only friends, but like brothers — for all these years, and we’ll really enjoy sharing stories of our Indian motorcycle racing days with the fans.”
AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days serves as a primary fundraiser for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. It features all types of classic motorcycles and honors the riders who made them famous. Activities include the AMA Vintage Grand Championship, featuring national championship road racing, motocross, hare scrambles, trials and dirt-track, along with North America’s largest motorcycle swap meet and vintage bike shows and awards.
While vintage bikes take center stage, there is something for all motorcycle lovers at the event, including stunt shows, demo rides of current production bikes including Indian Motorcycle, the annual AMA Life Member breakfast, and seminars on a number of topics by noted motorcycling experts.
Advance tickets are available to the general public at www.midohio.com, with all children under 12 admitted free with a paying, supervising adult.
For more information about BikeBandit.com AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, featuring Indian Motorcycle, see www.amavintagemotorcycledays.