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Kannonball KannenbergWeb Exclusive
Graduating from Washington High School in 1961, Denny “Kannonball” Kannenberg had already been riding and racing motorcycles for five years. The first bike was found in an Argus Leader ad: a 1956 Triumph Tiger Cub for $350.00.
Membership in the Sioux Valley Cycle Club wasn’t an approved “school” organization, nor was it included in the yearbook credits for graduates, but it was the club Denny was most interested in, and most active. Thursday nights at Shadco Motorcycle Shop were almost as religious as confirmation on Wednesdays. SVCC sponsored a river run ice race in the winter of 1957. Starting on the Sioux River at Tuttle Park, the green flag waved about 50 riders into action. When the checkered flag dropped in Baltic, beginners luck shined bright and Denny crossed first. The Sturgis Rally, 1959, was probably the first “race bike trip”. Bob Gilespie (local motorcycle dealer) delivered Denny’s new 1959 Tiger Competition Cub to Sturgis for the rally races. Continuing from Sturgis the following summer, Denny, Randy Hall, Bill Mellenberndt & Tom Margeson, all from Sioux Falls, trailered their bikes to California to test South Dakota vs. West Coast riding skills. The California boys quickly let the Midwesterners know they needed improvement. The following year some of those same guys tried college at Southern State Teachers College and found they needed improvement there also. It didn’t take much wrangling to get roommate approval to rebuild the motor for his 500cc Triumph in the living room of student housing. By spring, the motor was back in the bike and after a series of races during the summer that accumulated points for the title “Mr. Motorcycle South Dakota” the trophy was his. That 500cc Triumph was purchased with money Denny had saved by collecting pheasant feathers and drying them in his Dad’s garage then selling them to an exporter.
In 1963, Denny married Kari Denevan and moved to Minneapolis where he worked for Gopher Motor Rebuilding by day and Apple Valley Cement by night, and raced every weekend. Summer of 1964, he was riding for the first Honda Dealer in the Twin Cities, Kenny DeGonda. With Kenny’s support, Denny was able to compete and accumulate points and win the Five States Scrambles Championship.
During the early 60’s, Denny earned the Minnesota State Championship four years in succession. Over the next few summers, racing every weekend involved thousands of miles in travel and the beginning of collecting motorcycles of every make, model and vintage. Street bikes, dirt bikes, British bikes, Italian bikes, Japanese bikes all found their way to Denny’s small garage. Soon the garage became a larger building, then two and three followed. By this time, Denny had left his Gopher Motor days behind, and started a fast growing motorcycle shop in St. Louis Park, MN called Sport Wheels, adding a second store location in Jordan, MN in 1974. A few years later a third location would come.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, many interesting motorcycles and several locally significant cars have come and gone through Sport Wheels. One such car was the familiar 1954 Corvette “The Pizza Man” originally owned by Earl Britt of Sioux Falls. It came to Kannenberg in the early 1970’s and was in various stages of restoration until completed and sold to a collector around 1995. Another was a Lamborghini Mura previously owned by race driver Salt Walters. Presently he still has a popular winning GTX drag car called the “Recycler” campaigned by Dick Dykes of Worthington, MN. His favorite was a 1968 L88 Corvette, probably because it was one of the fastest models to ever come out of Detroit. The most unusual was the “Proud American” rocket hauler. It was part of his collection for over 25 years, and only recently sold to a collector who took it to the Barrett Jackson auction in Phoenix, January 2010. Although it was the center of attention for one of the fantasy bids at the auction and probably photographed thousands of times, it remains in the collector’s garage. On the bike side, one of the favorites has to be a early Indian Factory Flat Tracker with lots of race history now owned by Gary Landeen of Sioux Falls. Another would be a XR750 Harley that was an Evel Knievel jump bike now owned by the Nelson brothers on display at their Deadwood casino. Presently, Denny still has a collection of dirt track racers on display at Sport Wheels in Minnesota.
These days Denny spends his spare time in the seat of his 1800 Gold Wing, logging thousands of miles each year. Destinations such as Alaska, Newfoundland, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are just a few. Living only a few miles from Sturgis during the summer months, Denny finds the Rally and Cool Deadwood Nights as favorite gathering spots for old friends and new acquaintances.
His bucket list got shorter by one item the summer of 2010 as he took in the Isle of Mann races in England. One lap is 38 miles and they average over 130mph through villages and towns on narrow country roads. This was the 107th running of the event. Drawing spectators from around the world, a race of such magnitude showcases the influence of the motorcycle. Most fans come just to enjoy the experience, but for Denny it was different. Going fast, be it in cars or on bikes, has been a lifetime pursuit. He has channeled time, energy, and a lot of thought into a one-of-a-kind collection of cars and bikes.
On your next trip to Minneapolis stop by, we are stone’s throw off Hwy. 169 just south of Shakopee, MN.