(from May 2, 2015)
Slimey Crud Motorcycle Rally
It was once again time for the Slimey Crud Film Festival and Rally. The Film Festival is done in May to celebrate the beginning of the season. This year it was a short film of a group of Brits and a Vincent, called Epimethius, and its owner, John Renwick. Look it up! We watched them on the dyno with methanol and nitrous oxide. John is 75 years old in this film. There are other U-Tube videos of him and it is truly an inspiration to us geezers to see someone else that that still has the fire. It is also a testament to his wife’s patience, especially after the crash of the streamliner at the Brighton Speed Trials.
The feature was the story of John Penton. He is a remarkable individual from Amhearst Ohio who developed the Penton brand of off-road motorcycles. The early days of his biography give an indication of things to come.
His racing career began in the early 1950’s and when he began to work with KTM in the early 1970’s I felt a connection to the movie right away. Until the 1980’s most competitive dirt bikes used for motocross (a newly introduced sport to the U.S. in the late 1960’s) were often modified trail bikes. A big aftermarket developed from suppliers such as Torsten Hallman (now Thor Products), and many others. My first three motocross bikes were converted street bikes, much like the process used by Jon Penton and his Harleys and BMW 250 enduro bikes. Preston Petty fenders, Gunnar Gasser throttles and grips, and High Point Boots and tires, among many.
It reminded me of the early days of my racing and the challenge of making a racebike you could do well with. To be able to say at the end of the day, while holding a trophy, that it was your creation that survived and carried the day is a satisfaction not known by many then and many fewer now. I still get that buzz even now 45 years later! Racing a showroom vehicle of any type just doesn’t cut it! Just look at the difference between a 1983 Superbike and those now (no comparison).
The story of the development of the Penton Brand of motorcycles is explored, along with John Penton’s desire to compete at the world level in the form of the ISDT (International Six Days Trials). That was the toughest if the tough at that point in time. Paris-Dakar was yet to come on the scene with that amount of fanfare and national politics.
As John Penton’s work with the KTM factory progressed, the improvement and specialization that accompanied the bikes’ development became apparent.
The onset of the Japanese manufacturers in the late 1970’s and 1980’s spelled the demise of the European manufacturers such as Husquavarna and KTM from a pricing standpoint. KTM, and by association, Penton, became less financially viable and ultimately KTM took over the sales and distribution of the motorcycles in the US.
This movie showed the path and events that led to the demise of Penton, High Point Brands, and the ISDT.
John Penton’s continued enthusiasm and ability to adapt is a heartening aspect of this documentary. He didn’t face financial ruin even with the closing of Penton. A customer from Amhearst, Ohio said he met Donna Penton at a Farmer’s Market the Pentons ran, but was unaware of the extent John and the family’s involvement in motorcycling.
Even though the movie became a bit of a commercial for KTM, I heartily recommend it!
The rally the next day was spectacular in its attendance and variety, with the excellent weather as the catalyst.
The next Slimey Crud Rally is the first Sunday in October. Remember they are the first Sunday in May and the first Sunday in October. Bring your friends!