Calling a movie a “documentary” can describe it as a dry, unimaginative recitation of facts, figures, dates and times. This is not the case with Walter: The Missing Link – Discovery of a century-old motorcycle.
This latest take on writer / director / producer James Cutting is a gripping tale of the long history, preservation, salvage and restoration of a 1913 Harley-Davidson 9G avant-car, ultimately named Walter.
The film gives an overview of the three-wheeled vehicles and the different configurations that were used. From this technical introduction instead of the Forecar, the story specific to Walter is recalled.
This particular machine was purchased new by Lemke Electric of Milwaukee, one of Harley-Davidson’s original equipment suppliers for electrical components, which Lemke delivered in its new Forecar.
The next owner was Joe “Ally” Schuster, a trained mechanic who owned Schuster’s garage, who had long-standing plans for a full machine restoration. As is often the case with such projects, everyday life got in the way and the Forecar sat in the straw of a barn for 40 years.
Finally, in 1964, Schuster and his old friend Rich Dickinson took the machine out of the hay mower and began the restoration process in earnest. Around this time, word of the existence of a Model 9G Forecar reached Walter C. Davidson of the founding Davidson family at Harley-Davidson.
Since until then, even Harley-Davidson experts believed that none of the 9G Forecar models survived, Davidson was extremely interested in Schuster’s project. Acquiring it became a goal for Davidson, so he invited Joe Schuster and his grandson, Mike, to visit the Harley-Davidson offices and factory in Milwaukee.
After receiving the tour of the facility and the overall royal treatment, Davidson got down to business, offering Joe $ 20,000 in cash, any new Harley-Davidson motorcycle he wanted, along with all the accessories and clothes he wanted in exchange for his Forecar, as is.
As tempting as the offer must have been, Joe declined, explaining that he planned to complete the restoration with his grandson Mike. This level of commitment to the project by Joe led Mike to continue the project with the same dedication after Joe’s death in 1967.
The cut reveals the remarkable work done by Mike and the many skilled artisans he engaged in the restoration project over the next 20 years. There were also some interesting bends with a bit of mystery in the story regarding parts and components – the Troxel leather saddle, for example.
Early in Walter’s story, the original leather spring saddle went missing – presumed stolen. Years later, the saddle was returned – in near-new condition – becoming one of the few components in the construction that required virtually no additional repair work and no definitive explanation for its disappearance.
In 2000 Mike was diagnosed with cancer and the resulting medical bills forced him to consider selling the Forecar. He began to seek advice and ratings on the potential value of the machine. Estimates ranged from $ 600,000 to $ 1.2 million, although the vehicle had not yet been fully reassembled.
During this process, Mike met several key people in the eventual sale of the machine, and the Cutting producer learned about them. Indeed, it was Cutting who suggested the nickname âWalterâ for the historic Harley-Davidson and helped find a new owner.
In a unique twist in the winding portion of the story, Mike was given an area in the Washington County Historical Society Museum to complete the reassembly process in public view.
In 2013, as part of Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee, Walter was on display at the HD Museum. From 2014 to 2018, Walter was on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.
In 2018, classic motorcycle broker Glen Bator from Bator International was hired to help sell Walter. The following year Walter’s sale to Nick Felgate of Calgary was closed, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
So far, despite having been physically reassembled and mechanically complete as the original, Mike Schuster had decided not to start this incredibly rare engine during his time as owner.
The Felgates, as the new owners, believed that Walter’s story would really come to a fitting conclusion if the machine could be put back into working order. In another ironic turn of the story, it turned out that the original Bosch magneto was in need of a rebuild – it was one of the types of electrical components that Lemke Electric allegedly used Walter to deliver to the Harley-Davidson factory at the time!
Thanks to a few cross-border exploits, a rebuilt Bosch ZEV magneto was purchased at short notice and installed. With Mike Schuster doing the honors on the pedal starter, the old engine has come back to life.
Walter: The Missing Link – Discovery of a century-old motorcycle features commentary on the machine by many personalities, including Jay Leno, and presents the story of a one-of-a-kind machine, its long and winding road to restoration and its place in the history of a community, d ‘a business and a family.
Although you can download the movie or purchase the DVD or Blu-ray disc, if you want to watch Walter: The Missing Link – Discovery of a century-old motorcycle on the big screen, the documentary will be shown at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, Wisc., as part of the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang Film Festival in spring 2022.