Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Ad That Got To Rollie Free

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Following their Daytona Beach records in March 1937, Harley-Davidson ran this ad in the April Motorcyclist. The hype about the 45 cubic inch (750 cc) record irritated Rollie Free, who had for years promised 90, 100, or over a 100 mph to his Indian riders of both 750 cc and 1200 cc models. Free's fee depended on the speed wanted. At the time of the Harley 750 cc record, Free had faster Indian 750 cc bikes roaming the streets and byways of Indianapolis. One of his customer's had a 1200 cc Chief that would turn an indicated 112 mph. Free decided to go to Daytona Beach, and put his Indians to the test.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Previously Unpublished Picture #8

I would've used this classic Rollie flat-out pose, if the picture had been available in time. This photo was taken in Free's service station, along with the "phony" handshake shown on page 109.
Rollie Free Scrapbook (Roland Held, preserver)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Previously Unpublished Picture #7

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September 13, 1948. During previous runs, Rollie Free's leathers have torn. The gray area on his left leg is a series of tape strips used to patch the damage.
Rollie Free Scrapbook (Roland Held, preserver)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rollie Free's Business Cards

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I had only one visit with Rollie Free, on Sunday, September 14, 1980. We met for about three hours at the Free's apartment in Hollywood. Near the end of the visit, Rollie showed me some business cards, commenting, "A fella from Massachusetts made me these business cards." I said, "Can I have one?" Rollie answered, "You can have as many as you want." I picked up six cards, then asked Rollie if he would autograph one to me, which is the card you see here. I then asked him to sign his name on the back of another card. Rollie died four weeks later. I kept that second signed card, waiting to find the right recipient, until September 21, 2000 -- 20 years and one week. At Bonneville, with the famous "Bathing Suit Bike" on its first return visit, I presented the second card to the motorcycle's owner, Herb Harris.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Previously Unpublished Picture #6

This is a September 1948 shot. Rationale: The long shadow and the orientation of the mountain range are the same as in the 1948 Life magazine picture that forms the book's title page. However, this from-the-ground shot lacks the drama of the title page shot made from the officials tower. Rollie Free Scrapbook (Roland Held, preserver)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Previously Unpublished Picture #5

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Here we see 16 year old Albert Held who was assisting with the "bathing suit" record on September 13, 1948. Albert's eye-witness account of the record run is quoted in my book. The blurred picture is the work of an amateur, perhaps Rollie or Margaret Free. Rollie Free Scrapbook (Roland Held, preserver)

Previously Unpublished Picture #4, The "Cigar" Poem

I should have mentioned that this picture (the "cigar" poem) comes from the collection of Roland Held, who was called "little Rollie" as a child, and of course was named after Roland "Rollie" Free. Roland Held's father, Mel, was a close friend of Rollie Free from their days working at Hill Field in World War II, and until Rollie's passing in 1980. Mel assisted in the 1948 "bathing suit" record. Roland Held was willed Rollie Free's main scrapbook collection of original photos, correspondence, and clippings.

Previously Unpublished Picture #4

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W. "Ray" Stearns was Rollie Free's shop mechanic at the Indianapolis Indian Shop from the mid-thirties through 1941. Stearns, an amateur poet, penned this note to go along with his 1936 Christmas gift to Rollie, a cigar.

Friday, November 23, 2007


This is Rollie Free's little black book that I refer to in "Flat Out!...."  Mike Parti gave the book to Max Bubeck, and Max gave the book to me.  Here are the Vincent H.R.D. Rapide specifications and performance at Rosamond Dry Lake in 1947, and Rollie's commentary, including misspelling the name (Phil) Irving as "Ervin."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Previously Unpublished Picture #3

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This is Rollie Free at the 1934 Jacksonville 200. The bike is a 1933 Indian Motoplane. This bike is also shown in Previously Unpublished Picture #2, behind Rodenburg's #17 Indian 101 Scout.

The picture is from the Rodenburg Collection preserved by Rick Moore and copied by Drew Crafton, both of Indianapolis.

Previously Unpublished Picture #2

To enlarge the picture, click on it. To return to the blog-page format, click on the "back" symbol of your browser. From Rick Moore, keeper of the Rody Rodenburg collection, and copier Drew Crafton, comes this picture of Rollie Free (right) and Rody Rodenburg. The 101 Scout racer is the same as pictured on page 26 of "Flat Out!...." The number "17" can just be made out on the front number plate. The page-26 bike also displays "17" but with the number-plate on the side and Rodenburg wearing a different sweater. Note the brick road. This confirms the Jacksonville, Florida, race course (because of the page-28 and page-30 photos) for both the page-26 photo and this posted photo. Note the two cars in the background. These are the same two cars in the page-26 photo. Since Rodenburg won the 1935 Jacksonville 200 on a Sport Scout (page 28 and 30 photos), and the Jacksonville 200 was run only in 1934 and 1935, these data confirm this posted picture and the page-26 photo are scenes from the 1934 Jacksonville 200. Evidently, this posted photo and the page-26 photo represent two different days at the 1934 race meet, a practice day and race day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Previously Unpublished Picture #1

Every time one of my books comes out, pictures emerge that I regret not having in time for publication. Here's the first of quite a few of these that I will be posting.
Date unknown. Rollie Free is prepping a 101 Scout racer. The picture comes from the Rody Rodenburg collection in the custody of Rick Moore of Indianapolis. Drew Crafton, also of Indianapolis, copied the picture and sent it to me. On page 26 of "Flat Out!....", Rodenburg is pictured on a 101 flat tracker. The bike in this picture has a shorter rear fender than the bike on page 26.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bout of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Hello out there,

I'm sorry to have been absent so long. I had wrist and hand pain, culminating in carpetl tunnel surgery. But I'm keyboard-capable again, so I'll be posting something substantive soon.

Thanks for your kind words in your post, Patrick.

Jerry Hatfield