The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inducted eight new members and honored an existing member as a Hall of Fame Legend on Thursday evening at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Husqvarna Motorcycles, during the opening day of the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando, Fla.
Master of ceremonies Perry King and host Laurette Nicoll presented the compelling stories of the Class of 2016 to the audience, which included the inductees’ families, friends and fans. The newest Hall of Famers are: motorcycling pioneer Gloria Tramontin-Struck, desert racing champion and tuner Chris Haines, the late motorcycle designer and engineer Charles Franklin, race frame builder Jeff Cole, road racing champion Miguel Duhamel, dirt track racer Ronnie Jones, desert racing champion Jack Johnson and engine builder and tuner Dennis Mahan.
“Whether establishing new boundaries of speed and skill, tuning machines or managing teams to their maximum potential, charting unknown territory as captains of industry, or spearheading movements that have altered the course of motorcycling, each of these trailblazers has earned a place in history,” King said. “Their legacies are preserved in the Hall of Fame, lighting the way for future generations to lay it all on the line and become the best that they can be.”
The inductions followed the Hall of Fame Dinner, presented by Suzuki Motor of America, and included videos extolling each honoree’s achievements, as well as the official presentation of their Hall of Fame rings.
Hall of Famer Dick Burleson was recognized as an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend. Selected from existing Hall of Famers, legends’ accomplishments transcend their categories in impactful ways. Along with Burleson, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legends include Mark Blackwell, “Willie G.” Davidson, Roger DeCoster, Torsten Hallman, Bob Hannah, Mert Lawwill, Wayne Rainey, Kenny Roberts and Malcolm Smith.
In addition to presenting sponsor Husqvarna Motorcycles and dinner sponsor Suzuki Motor of America, supporters of the induction ceremony included platinum sponsors American Honda and Indian Motorcycles. Also supporting the event were GEICO Motorcycle, Avis/Budget, Federal Motorcycle Transport, Dunlop Motorcycle Tires, Motion Pro, K&N, Wells Fargo, Kawasaki, Motul, Sena, Chet Burkes Productions and AIMExpo.
Born in 1925 in an apartment attached to her family’s motorcycle shop in Clifton, N.J., Gloria Tramontin-Struck is the reigning matriarch of the women’s riding community. A member of the Motor Maids since 1946, she embodies the mission of the organization by riding her Harley-Davidson to events such as the Sturgis motorcycle rally and Daytona Bike Week from her New Jersey home.
“I’m now 91 years old, still ride two wheels, always will,” Tramontin-Struck said at her induction into the Hall of Fame. “As a 70-year member of the AMA, I sincerely thank all who voted for me.”
Tramontin-Struck thanked her late brother Arthur, who introduced her to riding, and her daughter and longtime riding partner, Lori Struck-DeSilva. She also thanked the Motor Maids, the iconic women’s motorcycling organization that she’s been a member of since 1946.
In her lifetime, Tramontin-Struck has ridden in all 48 continental states several times over, as well as in Europe. In the 1950s, she earned continental notoriety by completing a high-profile adventure ride in Canada from Toronto to Montreal.
“I find motorcyclists to be the most caring, giving and patriotic people on Earth, and I’m proud to be one of you,” Tramontin-Struck said.
Chris Haines has competed in, or built race bikes for, several forms of AMA-sanctioned motorcycle competition over the past 45 years. After beginning in dirt track, Haines became a speedway mechanic, working with AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Bruce Penhall. Next, he worked with Hall of Famer Tony DiStefano on Team Suzuki. Then came American Honda, where Haines grew his reputation as motocross’ premier 125cc two-stroke tuner. As a mechanic, he was part of six winning U.S. Motocross of Nations teams and four AMA National Motocross Championship teams.
“I’ve always enjoyed being part of a team, and I’ve been partnered with amazing people I learned from every day,” Haines said. “I was always proud to be a member of a great team, and that’s what’s great about motorcyclists — the camaraderie and being associated with the great people of the sport.”
Haines said that, in addition to all of his time on Team Honda, his greatest memories were formed working as a tuner for the 1981 Motocross of Nations campaign, when the United States won the event for the first time in history.
Haines also was an exceptional racer in his own right, winning several Baja 1000 and Baja 500 class championships with fellow Class of 2016 member Jack Johnson. Haines also has won the world-famous Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
Indian motorcycle racer, factory engineer and designer Charles Franklin helped establish Indian’s early competitive reputation, as well as many of the company’s iconic models. He was a member of the Indian 1911 TT race team that developed the free-engine clutch and countershaft change-gear transmission.
In the 1920s, as the chief engineer for Hendee Manufacturing Co., which manufactured Indian motorcycles, Franklin advanced technology that enabled Indian’s side-valve racers to compete against more exotic overhead-valve-engine machines.
Franklin, who died in 1932, also was one of the five men who established the first annual Tourist Trophy race, which became the era’s premier platform for motorcycle engineering development.
Franklin is survived by no immediate family. His only daughter, Phyllis, died in 2007 with no descendants. Acknowledging his Hall of Fame induction was Greg Brew, director of industrial design for Polaris Industries, which now owns Indian Motorcycles.
“We owe a lot to Charles Franklin, the inventor of the Scout and Chief, and we’re trying to keep his competitive spirit alive with the new Scout,” Brew said. “I don’t think a lot of people expected Indian to come back the way we have and continue the legacy that Charles Franklin established. I hope we keep surprising you.”
Jeff Cole was a brilliant fabricator known for faultlessly translating rider feedback, whether highly technical or casual commentary, into geometric expression. In many ways, his revolutionary frame designs changed the racing landscape.
His company, C&J Precision Products, built racing frames that recorded countless AMA Grand National victories and championships since 1970, including 20 AMA Grand National Championships in a 22-year span. His designs also proved to be successful in road racing, motocross, international enduro and desert racing.
“I’d like to thank the AMA and the entire motorcycle community that brought me to this place,” Cole said. “I’m terribly humbled by this honor.”
In his induction speech, Cole talked about the challenges of building racing frames and how he ultimately gravitated toward dirt track. He thanked the industry for supporting his business efforts and thanked his wife and family for “allowing me to do what I loved.”
Miguel Duhamel was the AMA road racing paddock’s most dominant rider in the 1990s and early 2000s. The charismatic Canadian, who was as fast as he was popular with fans, lit up the record books throughout an era that saw some of the fiercest competition ever in the AMA road racing ranks.
At the height of his career, Duhamel was the winningest AMA Superbike racer in history with 32 class wins. He captured the Superbike crown in 1995, won the Daytona 200 five times, took five AMA Supersport titles and two AMA Formula Xtreme titles on his way to amassing 86 career AMA wins.
“I want to thank everybody at the AMA and who’s part of the AMA who helped put me here,” Duhamel said. “That’s the dream that you have when you start — to be here.
“The first time I road raced,” he said, “I wasn’t impressed, but the first time I was able to drive around a corner, I thought, ‘Wow! This is something!'”
Duhamel recalled several moments throughout his career, including famous ones, such as his devastating crash at Loudon, N.H., in 1998 and his monumental effort to win two classes at the Daytona, Fla., season opener the following year. He also talked about private interactions with fellow racers that demonstrated the tight-knit nature of the community.
“I had great people helping me all my life, including my family, my AMA family and my whole racing family,” Duhamel said. “No matter how much you don’t get along with someone on the track, you are always a family off it.”
Riding as a privateer, Ronnie Jones collected 10 AMA Grand National Championship wins and 32 podium finishes from 1980 through 1995. He finished in the top 10 of the series in 11 consecutive seasons and scored Grand National points in 21 consecutive seasons. Jones also scored wins in three of the four dirt-track disciplines of short track, TT and Half-mile, and just missed scoring a Mile victory several times, finishing in the runner-up position five times.
“Thanks to all who voted for me, and thanks to the AMA for shepherding the sport I love,” Jones said. “I fell in love with motorcycles as a young boy, and it’s a love affair that has lasted my whole life.”
Although Jones retired from full-time competition after the 1999 season, he continued to race select events through 2014. During his most recent campaign, he set a record by scoring AMA Grand National Championship points 35 years after his rookie Expert season.
Jones talked about the memories he’s made racing motorcycles and the friendships he’s made. He thanked everyone who supported his career with “sweat, money or advice.” He remembered his parents and thanked his late brother and fellow racer David.
“I know you were with me on each lap,” said Jones, referring to his brother. “Knowing that, I wanted each one to be one hell of a ride.”
Jack Johnson won his first Nevada State Championship title in desert racing at age 10, but his formal career was launched a decade later. Johnson was first overall in the 1973 Mint 250, 1975 Mint 400, 1976 Mint 400, 1978 Cherry Creek Hare and Hound and in the 1979 Baja 500, where he was also first in the solo “Iron Man” class.
“This is such a great honor, to be selected for the Hall of Fame,” Johnson said.
Johnson also won first overall at the Baja 1000 with Larry Roeseler in 1978, 1979 and 1980, and in 1982 with Al Baker. He consistently won his class in the Baja 1000 from 2001 through 2007. He also was a two-time International Six Days Enduro medalist, winning gold in 1981.
Johnson thanked his dad, who taught him how to ride and work on his bike, and his mom for “patching him back together when he made mistakes.”
Johnson also acknowledged fellow 2016 inductee Chris Haines, whom he credited with putting together a number of great teams that included Johnson.
Speaking of those teams, Johnson said “the best thing about life and motorcycling is the great people you meet along the way.”
Motorcycles tuned by Dennis Mahan were part of some of the greatest racing careers in American motorcycling. Mahan-tuned BSAs, Yamahas, Can-Ams and Kawasakis have won championships and set records in dirt track, road race, motocross and land-speed over several decades.
Mahan’s start was in dirt track, where he built the BSA Gold Stars on which AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Gary Nixon began his career. Nixon’s first pro victory was on a Mahan-tuned BSA in 1961. In 1969, Mahan built and managed Yamaha USA’s first factory race teams in dirt track, road race, motocross and snowmobiles, while also tuning Yamaha engines for competition. Mahan built the 250cc factory road racer that sported Nixon’s No. 1 plate.
“Standing on this stage tonight in front of all my heroes is just overwhelming for me,” Mahan said. “I’ve been fortunate in my 58 years of motorcycling to work with some really great companies. Without their support, I wouldn’t be here today. This is the culmination of a great career, and I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Perhaps his crowning achievement in motocross was seeing his bikes sweep the top three spots in the 1974 AMA 250cc National Motocross Championship with AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Gary Jones, Marty Tripes and Jimmy Ellis.
In 1977, Mahan moved to Kawasaki Motors USA, where he mentored future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend Wayne Rainey. Mahan also built factory Kawasaki dirt-trackers for future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Eddie Lawson, and helped develop the production KZ1000 Eddie Lawson Replica street bike in 1983.
Hall of Fame Legend Dick Burleson
As an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend, Dick Burleson joins some of American motorcycling’s greatest achievers.
From 1974 to 1981, Dick Burleson won eight consecutive AMA National Enduro Championships, a record so extraordinary that it may never be broken. In addition to his incredible domestic record, Burleson also won eight consecutive gold medals in the International Six Days Trials (now called the International Six Days Enduro).
While Burleson’s first sport was motocross — in 1970, he was the AMA’s national motocross champion due to rules in place prior to the establishment of a national motocross series — among American off-road racers, Burleson is one of the all-time greats.
“Championships are won from opportunity, dedication, training, preparation and true love for the challenge of the trail and overcoming the mental aspects of the competition,” Burleson said. “Perfection is unattainable. Success is about overcoming problems, finding solutions, not being perfect. This is one of the all-time lessons I learned in my career and life.”
Burleson also congratulated the members of the Class of 2016.
“It’s an honor and a responsibility to be in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “We must represent the sport and help promote motorcycling, the greatest family sports there is.”
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Founded in 1924, the AMA is a not-for-profit member-based association whose mission is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. As the world’s largest motorcycling rights and event sanctioning organization, the AMA advocates for riders’ interests at all levels of government and sanctions thousands of competition and recreational events every year. The AMA also provides money-saving discounts on products and services for its members. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, the AMA honors the heroes and heritage of motorcycling. For more information, visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com.
Text and image provided by American Motorcyclist Association.