Monster sighting leads to Von Dutch, American Ironhorse discovery

I can’t remember if it was Leno, Carson or Letterman that coined the phrase “Things that make you go Hmmm?” but that is exactly what I thought when I came down the highway and came across this. . . uhm . . . motorcycle.

I had to stop. I can’t say I have ever seen a Monster Motorcycle. Sure there have been plenty a Monster Truck siting, a few demonstrations at outdoor fairs and even an arena show or two in my life but never a Monster Motorcycle.

This thing stood about 10 feet tall and when I stood next to it, my head barely passed the foot pegs.

“Does it actually run,” I inquired.

“Oh yes. It goes about 50 km/hr,” was the response.

“Who owns it?”

“It belongs to Western Country RV down the road.”

Western Country RV? I had a chuckle to myself. An RV dealer with a Monster Motorcycle – really? However, when I entered the RV lot and saw a Monster Fifth Wheel attached to a Monster Truck, I knew I was in for a story.

Walking into the showroom, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Laid out before me were not one, not two but an entire showroom full of custom motorcycles. I had just found a hidden treasure.

These weren’t just any motorcycles either. They were custom hand built Von Dutch (California) and one of a kind American Ironhorse (Texas) motorcycles but what were these popular Americans doing here?

Marvin Anderson, general manager of Western Country RV in Kelowna took time out to answer the questions that were popping up by the second.

Originally from Wetaskwin, Alberta, Anderson was transplanted to Kelowna about a year ago to take over the dealership. The motorcycles came with him.

Anderson admits his passion for riding started when he was just a child riding dirt bikes and it has progressed from there. He is also the proud owner of one of the American Ironhorse choppers.

“I just like to ride,” said Anderson.

“I like to ride too,” I laughed, “but I don’t have 300 custom bikes.”

American Ironhorse once boasted production line sales of 3,000 bikes a year and then became a victim of the U.S. recession and went bankrupt with a huge pile of debt. As for Von Dutch, the death of it’s namesake, Kenny Howard, a motorcycle mechanic and ‘pin stripe architect’, caused the ‘name’ to be sold by his daughters and the motorcycle side of things came to a halt.

Anderson says that all the bikes were acquired when a financial company approached the RV dealer looking for assistance to sell the bikes. Originally starting with 300 models two years ago, there are approximately 100 brand new, never been ridden, no two the same, bikes looking for owners with wallets that can afford between $25,000 and $50,000 hobbies.

“The American Ironhorse bikes are production line bikes,” said Anderson, “but the Von Dutch are custom ‘one of’, every one of them are hand built, one at a time.”

But what I really wanted to know was who made the Monster Motorcycle and what was it?

The Monster Motorcycle is a 1997 Harley-Davidson softail and its sole purpose is to get attention. The bike is used at community events like fundraisers and parades to draw people in and help raise money. The company also uses it’s Monster Truck, Monster Fifth Wheel and other gimmick type rides for the same entertainment value.

“We do a lot of fundraisers and charity events,” said Anderson. “Last year we raised about $140,000 dollars for charity in Alberta.”

Any parent knows that kids are crazy for Monster Trucks. Western Country RV decided that a Monster Motorcycle would add to that fascination.

“We have been Monster Truck crazy,” said Anderson. “The bike came about from a guy down in Texas. We drew up some blue prints, it was all on paper and was just an idea and then the paper became aluminum, chrome and steel.”

Built six years ago, the bike drives (“if anyone is crazy enough to ride it”), and it balances on its own two wheels. There are several in the world that are bigger than this one but this one rides without training wheels for balance.

“The engine is just an S and S, 124 cubic inch, with just some gear reductions through a transmission and transfer box that drives the 70 inch back wheel that it balances on,” said Anderson.

The front wheel came from a John Deere tractor. Even though the bike is operable, on a hot Okanagan day, when the oil temperature reaches between 210 and 260 degrees, it will only last about 10 to 15 minutes. In cooler temperatures it can go all day ‘until it runs out of gas’.

Like the Von Dutch and American Ironhorse bikes in their showroom, the Monster Motorcycle is a one of a kind collector and will ‘never be sold and we will never build another one.’

The blueprints will be kept secret and the bike will retire to the collection museum of Western Country RV owner, Bruce Irvine.


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