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One Man's Love Affair with Antique Motorcycles
Gary Landeen’s interest in motorcycles started at an early age. His father purchased a whizzer motorbike at auction for Gary’s cousin. It was the first time Gary saw a motorized 2 wheeler.
Gary’s father owned a road construction company. Several of his employees owned Harley and Indian motorcycles. Occasionally they would give him a ride, perched on the seat in front of them. He was thrilled both with the ride and the beauty of the bikes. The skirted fender Indians left an impression on him, that he never forgot.
By the time he turned 16, (1963) he was a complete “motor head”. He operated heavy equipment for his dad in the summertime, and saved up enough money to buy a 1927 Model T Ford Hot Rod. It had a 265 cubic inch Chevy V8 engine, with 3 deuces. Next came an old Triumph 500 motorcycle with no title. He stenciled a paper plate so he could ride it and rode it out to Wall Lake. While showing off, spinning the cycle around on the gravel beach road, the rear tire blew out. He rode it back on 41st street with the flat tire to Roy Lodes Harley shop. Not having enough money to buy a tube and tire, he sold it to Roy.
With money being tight and the desire to ride growing, Gary rented cycles for a while. Suzuki City and Shadco Cycles rented 80cc motorbikes to the public for $5.00 for 4 hrs. He and his buddies rented them on a regular basis. They would get a girl on back, and cruise the town, or ride to Wall Lake.
In 1966 Gary bought a 1966 375 hp 396 Chevelle, which he drag raced on I- 229 between Western Ave. and Minnesota Ave. on weeknights, and area drag strips on the weekends. He sold it to his brother in ‘67 and hitch hiked to San Francisco. Gary spent some time in the Haight Ashbury district checking out the hippie movement. While there, he acquired a tricked out Honda chopper. It was fast and a “head turner”. With long hair, mustache, sideburns, bell bottoms, and a chopper, in 1967, he was “way cool”.
In 1968 Gary married Pat and moved back to Sioux Falls. They didn’t have a car, but Pat had a Honda 50 stepthrough, and he had the 1st chopper in Sioux Falls. From then on the garage seemed to collect bikes. There was a 69 BSA 441 Victor, 67 Triumph TR6, 250 Ducati, SL100 Honda, none of them stayed long.
One particular bike Gary remembers well is the BSA 441 Victor. We would take that bike to the Canton hill climb. The hill didn’t look so steep from the bottom, but when he crashed 3/4th of the way up, and had to ride it back down, it looked like Mt. Everist. Another bike that Gary remembers fondly was a Honda chopper. He would take that bike to Thunder Valley Dragways and race on Sunday afternoons. He has a few trophies to show for it and even raced Jerry Chaney whose father once owned the Harley Davidson BSA and Yamaha dealerships in Sioux Falls.
In 1971, he sold all the bikes (except the chopper) and moved to Colorado. The trip there was very memorable. He was riding on the Valley freeway when the rear fender dropped onto the rear wheel, and locked up the wheel at 70 mph…close call. Shortly after that he placed an ad in the Rocky Mountain News, and sold the chopper. Bikeless again!
In 1975 Gary moved back to Sioux Falls. He started buying antique cars and bikes: 1940 Ford, ‘26 Chevy truck, ‘35 Dodge, ‘37 Dodge, ‘56 Pontiac Hearse, several Japanese, and British bikes and the list goes on. However, none of them stayed long. By 1979 he was bikeless again.
In 1987 he bought an ‘81 Honda 900 custom, and started riding again. In 1991 he bought a 1946 Indian Chief. It was love at first sight. “Oh she was pretty”, Gary says, “just the way I remembered them from my youth”.
After that time Gary started buying all types of older bikes: Indian, Henderson, Excelsior, BMW, Matchless, Norton, Royal Enfield. He bought anything and everything. It didn’t matter as long as it was at least 35 years old. Gary says he didn’t want to own one bike, he wanted to own every bike once. The search took him to every corner of America and parts of Canada. He says he has been on every road in America at least twice!
In 1991 he met Preston Evans, an auctioneer from the Atlanta, GA area. They had the same interests in anything old and rare. Gary owned a few old slot machines and jukeboxes, but Preston taught him about music boxes, watches, automated dolls, and mechanical marvels Gary says he didn’t know existed. Together they went on the Indian produced approximately 44 more engines patterned after the 6, 1939 engines, and 20 complete bikes called 648 scouts, to put into the hands of select riders. This placed Indian back into the limelight, until Indian went out of business in 1953. With no spare parts available, racers had to find another brand to race. This Indian was the last to compete in a national event at the Sacramento mile in 1967. Denny Kannenberg, formerly from Sioux Falls, raced the bike in 1988 at Sturgis and Davenport Iowa, winning both races. Gary raced it in Davenport in 1999. The head gasket blew in the finals, so he had to tear it down. This is where he saw the incredible workmanship inside. He knew somebody important had owned this bike. This started Gary on his search for who owned the bike, modified the engine, and rode it. Ten years later the majority of owners, riders and racers have been identified. Gary took the time to visit all of the cycle’s owners at their homes, mainly in California, and collected their stories, pictures, and racing attire.
Gary went to Bonneville Salt Flats twice in 2007 with Leo Hess and his team from Full Blast Engineering to break the world land speed record of 350 mph with a highly modified streamliner motorcycle. Mechanical problems kept the team from attaining their goal. Presently, Gary is working on a 1937 Indian racer, with the hopes of breaking the unstreamlined record of 133 mph.
Today Gary owns his own real estate company in Sioux Falls. He earns his living buying and selling real estate but he jokes that it only serves to fund his habit for his passion…buying and restoring antique motorcycles.