Closed for the 2023 Season | Reopening April 4th, 2024 828-926-6266

Motorcycle Racing History Rewritten!

This past season at Dale’s Wheels Through Time, we uncovered the incredible lost racing history of one of the bikes in our collection. For ten years, the FLXI sidecar racer sat in the museum with only a name faintly visible on the sidecar; Cliff Palmer. Little was known about Palmer or his racing career until his great-grandson, Andrew Hinckley, got in touch with us here at the museum. Andrew not only had Cliff Palmer’s 1926 National Sidecar Championship 1st place trophy, but he also had a scrapbook containing the history of Palmer’s entire racing career. Very rarely does any motorcycle come with such a complete history, let alone a racing motorcycle with such prominence as Palmer’s. Connecting the lost racing history between our FLXI racer and its rider has been a real treat and privilege for us here at the museum.

Digging through this album has unearthed massive amounts of forgotten motorcycle history. Palmer was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with on the track, competing against the likes of Joe Petrali, Ralph Hepburn, Jim Davis, Bill Minnick, and other big names. Palmer was such a force that he never failed to make a podium finish during his first two years of racing. In those two years, he raced 23 times and finished first in 18 of them. Despite his success, Palmer’s career never catapulted him into the realm of motorcycle legend.

Cliff Palmer

Cliff Palmer

Digging through this album has unearthed massive amounts of forgotten motorcycle history. Palmer was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with on the track, competing against the likes of Joe Petrali, Ralph Hepburn, Jim Davis, Bill Minnick, and other big names. Palmer was such a force that he never failed to make a podium finish during his first two years of racing. In those two years, he raced 23 times and finished first in 18 of them. Despite his success, Palmer’s career never catapulted him into the realm of motorcycle legend.

Bill Minnick After Winning Milwaukee Mile

The most famous existing photo of a FLXI sidecar racer shows rider Bill Minnick after winning at the Milwaukee Mile in 1925. His first-place finish in that race earned him a factory sponsorship from Harley-Davidson. Cliff Palmer, who was also at that race, finished in second place. Had Palmer won that race, his position in the motorcycle hstory books would have been assured. Palmer was also present at the July 4, 1925 race in Altoona, Pennsylvania, that would launch Joe Pertali into stardom. After Ralph Hepburn injured himself during practice, he persuaded racer Joe Pertali to ride his Harley in the 100-mile main event and split any prize he was to take. The new racer not only won but beat the track record in the process.

Palmer’s entire racing career placed him among the best, yet until his machine was found and reunited with the album, his name was lost to history. Palmer continued racing with much success until the late 1920’s. During that time, he owned and operated several businesses, including an Ace motorcycle dealership in Battle Creek, Michigan. Thanks to this lost album we can now tell the complete story of the FLXI racer and the man who campaigned it to victory many times throughout the 1920s.
Be sure to check out our YouTube channel to learn more about Cliff and our conversation with Andrew on lost racing history!

Feb 9th, 2023

The Wheels Through Time Museum will sweep you back in time with its magnificent presentation of vintage all-American motorcycles and automobiles.

FOLLOW US