Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wild Bill Gelbke's Road Dog.

Via Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

"William "Wild Bill" Gelbke has become something of a legend. People who knew him still pass on tales of their encounters with him. His mother tells stories of his childhood exploits and his attempt to outfit a baby carriage with a washing machine motor.

Gelbke was an electrical and mechanical engineer, working for McDonnell Douglas and Hughes Aircraft. But "Wild Bill" longed for excitement so he opened a bike shop and began building and designing motorcycles. Roadog was one of his "biggest" endeavors and Gelbke logged 20,000 miles on the bike in its first year.

Gelbke’s ambition and outgoing personality made him known as a free spirit. Stories persist that he would jump on Roadog and drive to Texas or Okalahoma for a good steak dinner or beer.

Although Gelbke died young, one thing is certain: Roadog is a permanent reminder of how big and one-of-a-kind "Wild Bill" Gelbke was.

"Wild Bill" Gelbke created Roadog without plans or blueprints, relying upon his imagination and expertise. He had the simple goal of creating the biggest motorcycle ever to ride the road, but his work was much more than that.

Gelbke built Roadog using existing technologies in ways no one else had. Roadog took form with a frame built from aircraft tubing. The powertrain and engine were the same used in the Chevy II Nova. The rear end of the bike was a modified one-ton Chevy truck differential.

Other elements of Roadog’s design were unique to the motorcycle world. It had twin headlights and was the first motorcycle with an automatic transmission. The bike had disc brakes from a Corvette and was equipped with four hydraulic stands to keep it upright when parked.

Gelbke used Roadog as his daily transport around Chicago and was proud to answer the inevitable questions from strangers when he appeared on his bike. He would be pleased to know that people are still amazed at the size and complexity of his creation."

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