by John Gerber
Monday, May 29. North America’s first Heinkel rally is less than two weeks away and I am pushing my Heinkel due to a blown head gasket (pushing a 320 pound Heinkel seven miles in 85 degree weather is not a pleasant task!). All the other Heinkel enthusiasts planning on attending are plagued with similar problems. Hugh MacLean has discovered a burnt exhaust valve. Steve Miller has his dismantled for generator problems. Steve Mounce’s new van has still not arrived leaving him no way to transport the scooter from Virginia to Vermont. Will the rally even take place under these circumstances, I wonder?
The next week was spent dismantling the Heinkel and taking the cylinder to a motorcycle machine shop to be skimmed down. A call to Steve Miller brought me a special metal lined head gasket. In return I sent him a set of generator brushes. Earlier I had sent Hugh a set of generator brushes. By the next weekend all the Heinkels were once again functioning.
Friday, June 9. The Heinkel is running perfectly and nothing stands in the way of the rally. In the hope of reaching the campground (located 300 miles distant near Barre, Vermont) early, I left at 7:00am to avoid pushing the Heinkel too hard, I decided to take back roads instead of freeways. Despite several long delays for road construction, I made good time. Shortly before the Vermont border a steady rain started fall. Matters became worse a few minutes later when my tire suddenly went flat. No problem, I thought. I’ll just put on the spare. However, the spare turned out to be flat too, so I was left with no choice but to take one of the tires and hitchhike to the nearest town.
A ride was shortly forthcoming and the driver took me to the small town of Walpole, New Hampshire about five miles off the main highway on back roads. There was no gas station in town that had facilities for repairing a tube type tire, but I was told about a tractor and farm implement dealer about two miles outside of town. The dealer had facilities to fix the tire, but the puncture turned out to be near the base of the valve stem and could not be repaired. Foolishly, I had not brought the other tire. Damn, I thought. However the mechanic was able to scrounge up a 4.00 x 9.00 tube to substitute for my 4.00 x 10, which surprisingly worked.
Once back on the road, I continued on to Vermont. Shortly after crossing the Vermont border, I felt a pronounced wobble to the handlebars. Upon examination, I found the handlebars to be loose. To tighten them was a fairly simple procedure, but quite time consuming since the large Heinkel “nose” had to be taken off to get at the handlebar retaining bolt. The rain continued while I did this task. A further problem intruded itself after I put the nose back on. I discovered that I had lost the headlight retaining screw and could not put the headlight back on. Crawling around for half an hour in the mud turned up nothing. By this time it was dark and I had no choice but to take a motel room in Springfield, Vermont.
I started out the next day at mid-morning after the rain had finally ended. The started auspiciously when, after a few minutes of searching, I found the missing headlamp screw. But trouble continued to plague me. About 50 miles out I lost an oil cap. Fortunately, I had a spare. However, in the hopes of finding the lost one I retraced part of the route. No luck. Later it turned up inside the bodywork. Further on, the Heinkel suddenly stalled.
My first thought was that another head gasket had blown. The problem, however, turned out to be only a loose spark plug wire. Rather surprisingly, while making the repairs, a truck pulled up and the driver announced: “Sorry to bother you at a time like this but I have a Heinkel too!”. This was a totally amazing coincidence, since only 350 Heinkels were sold in the U.S. and the odds of encountering another Heinkel owner on a country road in Vermont over 20 years after the Heinkel went out of production seem almost staggering. We spent half an hour talking about Heinkels and I gave him some spare parts sources.
No further problems were encountered as I continued on. About 40 miles from the campground I spotted two Heinkels coming from the opposite direction. Hugh MacLean and Steve Miller had come out on a search mission to rescue me! The remainder of the day was spent cooking a picnic dinner and talking scooters.
On Sunday, the sun finally came out and it turned out to be a nearly perfect idyllic summer day. Most of the day was spent riding Vermont’s famous country roads—a peak experience by any standards. The final evening was spent watching scooter videos, including some of German Heinkel rallies. A special thanks is due to Steve Miller and his wife and friends, whose extraordinary hospitality helped make the rally an especially pleasurable event.
The trip back went without incident. The 300 miles were covered in about eight hours. Although the number of Heinkels present—three—was small the rally was considered by all to be a great success. When one considers that only 350 Heinkels were sold in the U.S., many of which are bound not to have survived, the small number of Heinkel enthusiasts, and the great geographical distances in the U.S., the turnout is indeed impressive. We hope to do another at some point.