Members   Dana Wassum   1956 Hummer Up     
Dana Wassum
Castle Rock, CO
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(Ed.) So, what would a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, PA (who also built a tractor when he was 14 yrs. old because he was tired of looking at the business end of a team of horses), do for his kids when they were old enough? Yep, he built them a mini-bike with parts he had on hand, a 125cc Harley Hummer motor, and a great deal of ingenuity. Talk about some lucky kids!

" My brother and I own three Hummers, all of which had belonged to our father. Of course, as with just about every Hummer, they each have an interesting story. Of the three bikes, the 56B probably has the most unique history. Although Dad acquired it sometime in the early 60’s, he never actually rode it. He brought the bike home in pieces, with the motor and misc. parts literally in a bushel basket. (Yes – this was the classic “basket case” Hummer). However, Dad never put the bike back together as a motorcycle. Instead he used the 125cc motor to power a mini-bike that he built for us kids to ride. I don’t know what all Dad had to do with the motor to get it running – but he did. He built the mini-bike using the frame of an old bicycle and other miscellaneous items from around the house. He used a drum brake from an old Chevy for the rear brake which he had salvaged from our old go-cart * (see footnote, Ed.). A huge spring and a steel bracket from a high voltage line insulator were used to create the front “suspension.” I think you can see these in the attached photos."

"The one thing that is missing in the photos is the “saddlebag style” cylindrical gas tank that was transversely mounted just behind the seat. If you look closely you can see the mounting brackets for the gas tank are still there."

"Dad finished the mini-bike sometime 1966 or 67. We rode the heck out of it for years to come. All I can say is that the bike would climb a tree if it had claws, and would stop on a dime. We wore out the rear tire quickly by constantly locking up the drum brake!".

(Ed. Note: Mom's experience was a bit different)

   "Mom decided she wanted to try riding it. But the machine was too powerful for her,
    and when she popped the clutch the mini-bike took off, dragging Mom across the
    back yard. She wouldn’t let go of the machine, and kept twisting the throttle as she
    hung onto the hand grip. The bike shot across the back yard right towards the rabbit
    pen, with Mom still hanging on for dear life. Mom kept trying to stop the machine,
    and pulled back on it with all her might. But, she never let go of the throttle handle, so
    the bike popped a wheelie as it got to the pen, and the front wheel landed right on top
    of the pen. With the bike frame now resting against the pen and Mom still hanging
    onto the throttle, the rear wheel kept spinning, throwing grass and dirt all over her!
    Luckily, Mom wasn’t hurt, except for I’m sure some bumps and bruises which
    showed up later. Needless to say, Mom never went close to the Harley “mini-hog”
    after that".

"The mini-bike was in existence until 2008, when we removed the engine to put back in its original Hummer frame. (We took these and many other photos of the mini-bike before we dismantled it). We pulled the frame down from the rafters of my dad’s single car garage, and placed the motor back in it. I was surprised to find that the bike was just about all there – with its original parts intact."

"Because of my limits of time and patience, I chose to have Bruce Mackenzie restore the bike for me. The bike is now back with me here in Colorado. I enjoy tooling around town on it regularly. Every time I take it for a ride, I think of Dad and the “Harley mini-bike” that was powered by the same motor."

Here's another of Dana's Fathers bikes that has been beautifully restored by Bruce Mackenzie....a Pepper Red 1953ST.

Dana couldn't stop there. He added another Bruce Mackenzie bike to his collection....this beautiful Anniversary Yellow 1954ST !

* footnote
Dad had built that “old go-cart” for us about seven years earlier. It was 1959-60, when go-carts were the craze. There were a couple of them buzzing around our neighborhood. Some of you might remember: They all had a 3 hp. Briggs & Stratton motor, a centrifugal clutch, and a brake that consisted of a steel plate that pressed against the rear tires when you pushed the brake pedal. Dad decided to build one for us. He used an old 3 hp Tecumseh engine, and welded the frame together using scrap pieces of pipe. He didn’t like those centrifugal clutches (which failed quite often), so he designed a real “clutch” for the go-cart, which consisted of a belt & chain drive. He used a belt & pulley mechanism by which the belt was tightened by pushing down on a lever to engage the drive. The lever was conveniently mounted at the right of the driver's seat. We had the only go-cart around with a real clutch! Dad also didn’t like those “steel pad” brakes, so he found a drum brake from an old Chevy, and used that as the brake. Dad actually built the go-cart in our basement – mostly late at night, while we slept upstairs. He somehow managed to do this over a period of weeks or months without our knowledge. We found the completed go-cart in our basement on Christmas Day, 1960. We had hours of enjoyment riding that go-cart for several years to come. About 1967, the go-cart craze was replaced by the mini-bike craze. The typical mini-bike then used the same 3 hp. Briggs & Stratton motor sitting in a simple frame, with the same old centrifugal clutch drive. (I think they even had the same metal pad pressing against the rear tire for a brake, although I really can’t remember). Anyways – Dad decided to build us a mini-bike. We had gotten years of enjoyment out of the old go-cart, so I guess Dad figured it was O. K. to destroy it in order to build the new machine. He literally transformed the go-cart into a two-wheeled machine, using the same wheels & tires, and, of course, that same old Chevy drum brake. This is where the Harley Hummer comes in . . . Dad obviously knew that the big, bulky 3 hp. Tecumseh motor that had powered the go-cart wasn’t going to work for the mini-bike! So, Dad used the 125cc Harley Hummer motor that he had acquired years before to power his new machine. Now – here’s the thing: We’re pretty sure Dad had acquired the old Hummer several years earlier. My oldest brother, Wayne, still remembers the night Dad came home with it in the back of the station wagon. Dad had apparently gone to the Harley dealer to get some part(s) for his 48S. When Dad came into the house, Mom asked him if he was able to get the parts he needed. (Wayne remembers this like it was yesterday). Dad got this sheepish grin on his face, and said something like “Well, yeah . . . sort of.” To which Mom said “Dale! What did you do?” Then Dad had to fess up and show Mom what he had brought home! So, questions still remain: How long had Dad been mulling this mini-bike thing over in his mind? And at what point did Dad decide to use the Hummer motor to power the new machine? (I think he decided to build the mini-bike when he realized he already had the perfect motor to power it). Well, it all worked out. Because, not only was Dad able to get the old Hummer motor running – It was a perfect “fit” for the mini-bike! It had a real clutch! And – because it was a Hummer motor, it had a magneto ignition, so it didn’t require a battery. Perfect!
      It is also noteworthy that we were riding our homemade 3-speed, Harley-powered mini-bike long before Honda introduced its 50cc “Z Series” mini-bike to the States in 1969.