In a Winnipeg movie theatre in 1963, an impressionable youth witnessed Steve McQueen launch his motorcycle over a barbed wire fence in The Great Escape. Although it was McQueen’s good friend Bud Ekins who performed the stunt in that memorable movie scene, the young Ross Metcalfe wouldn’t have known that. “I always tell people I saw Steve McQueen jump over that barbed wire fence, and thought, ‘Cool, I’m getting a motorcycle, man.’” Since then, Ross has avidly dedicated himself to motorcycles, particularly old machines. He most recently spent 12 years on the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s Board of Directors, sitting as Vice President and then the last five years as the club’s President. He stepped back from the role late in 2023, some 50 years after he first joined the AMCA in 1973.

Ross Metcalfe on his chopped BSA A65, that was yet a doorway into vintage motorcycling. “THE BSA I pulled up with at Bert Bentley’s house.” [Ross Metcalfe]
“I didn’t come from a motorcycle background,” Ross says from his home in Winnipeg, the capitol city of the province of Manitoba. “But I came from a family that had a brand-new car the first year they were sold here in 1908. My grandfather bought a four-door touring Mclaughlin Buick built in the Canadian GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario. In the province of Manitoba, it had license plate number 52 on it. My dad learned to drive in that car,” Ross explains, adding “I was raised by a guy who was born in 1907, and my mother was born in 1910. I had parents who could have been grandparents, and we grew up loving old cars and history.” His father was a salesman who traveled a route through the prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. When Ross wasn’t in school, he’d ride along, and the pair would stop to haunt antique car museums or visit farmyards hoping to unearth vintage vehicles — including motorcycles. By the time Ross was 19, he was riding a BSA, had a non-running 1941 Indian, and was tinkering with a 4-cylinder 1928 Chevrolet. With the Chevy, he became a member of the Manitoba Classic and Antique Automobile Club, one of the first organizations he’d join (or form) to help pursue a passion for old, wheeled goods.

Ross Metcalfe with his mildly customized ex-military Triumph: “My 1955 Triumph TRW I bobbed back about 1976. Incidentally I courted my wife Kris with this TRW.” [Ross Metcalfe]
It was junior high school teacher Alma Bentley who turned his head towards older motorcycles,. She’d seen Ross riding his 1967 BSA A65, and suggested he should meet her husband. “’Oh, you like old bikes I see’ she said to me, ’you better come and see my husband’s motorcycle collection,’” Ross recalls her saying. He rode to the Bentley’s one evening on his BSA chopper with its pullback bars, Sportster gas tank, 16-inch rear wheel and 10-inch over Triumph front fork all finished off with a spray bomb paint job. “First time I met Bert Bentley, he walked out the front door wearing a tweed jacket and an ascot smoking a pipe. I thought he was going to walk up to my bike and say, ‘Get that piece of junk off my driveway and go away.’ But he walked up to that bike and said, ‘Is that the twin-carburetor Lightning model or the single-carburetor Thunderbolt?’” Deferentially, Ross replied, ‘Well sir, it’s the Thunderbolt model with the single carb.’ ‘Come on in, I hear you came to see some old bikes.’ In the basement, Ross was shown a collection of 16 pre-1920s motorcycles.

“My 1943 WLC H-D Canadian Army issue, repatriated from the Czech Republic, with my Granddaughter. Her quote ‘Can’t this bike go any faster?’” [Ross Metcalfe]
Ross’s first question to Bert was where did he find all the parts and pieces for the machines? “’Well, around 1959 or ’60, I joined a club called the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, and I write letters to guys all over the States and I find parts for these old Hendersons and Indians and Clevelands and Harleys,’” Ross remembers Bert saying, and adds, “I sent my 8 bucks off that evening and joined the club in ’73. You start reading The Antique Motorcycle magazine (essentially, the newsletter of the AMCA, which is now edited by ex-Cycle World editor David Edwards), learning about all the different meets and the different people and I wanted to be involved in that.” Ross was born the same year the club was formed, as The Antique Motorcycle Club of America traces its roots back to 1954 when four New England-area enthusiasts founded the group. They were T.A. Hodgdon, Emmett Moore, Henry Wing Sr. and Henry Wing Jr. Since its inception, the AMCA has grown to include some 14,000 members with 85 chapters not only in the U.S. and Canada, but Europe and Australia. According to the club’s website (, it has “become one of the largest organizations of antique motorcycle enthusiasts in the world.” It continues, “From the beginning, the purpose of the club has been the ‘preservation, restoration and operation of old-time motorcycles.’ Members of the AMCA own, restore, preserve, study or just admire motorcycles that fall into the antique category, meaning they are at least 35 years old. Although the Club is based in the United States, fans of motorcycles from all countries are welcome, and ownership of an antique motorcycle is not required to become a member.”

Ross with his first-year production Harley-Davidson V-twin from 1911, one of 8 known to exist. [Ross Metcalfe]
When Bert began paring back his collection, Ross purchased his 1913 Indian single, and he still owns it. Along with the old machines in the 1970s, Ross rode a series of Kawasaki triple-cylinders. He’s owned three, but only ever sold one. The other two were written off in collisions and he nearly lost his license due to speeding tickets. His first Harley-Davidson, purchased in the mid-1970s, was a basket case 1943 WLC. He threw away all the old Army parts and civilianized the machine. Now, he wishes he’d saved all the old military pieces and realizes he’d made a mistake; but to him, the ’43 wasn’t even 35 years old, and not an antique when he put it together. During much of this time, Ross was at university, where he earned degrees in Canadian History, Physical Education and Education, with graduate studies in Education Administration. He taught high school Physical Education and Canadian History, then became a Principal in four different schools and finally a Superintendent. His career in education lasted 36 years working in the Interlake School Division, which facilitates learning for some 3,000 students in an area bordering north Winnipeg. It is perhaps with that background in education, then, and the understanding of organization that has led Ross to either join or create several enthusiast clubs, beginning in 1973 with the AMCA and the Manitoba Classic and Antique Automobile Club, as mentioned.

From 1991 at the” Great Canadian Buffalo Hunt,” the first AMCA road run ever held outside the USA. L to R: Ross Metcalfe; Siggi Klann (local and long-time AMCA member); Irv Lowen (WW2 fighter of the ‘3 Amigos’); Rich Schultz (Honourary Life Member of the AMCA, 95yo and still going strong, founder of the Davenport Meet, writer of “Henderson Those Elegant Machines”); Connie Schlemer (another AMCA life member, best H-D engine builder ever, oldest rider at the Road Run – my son Tyler was youngest rider at 7  with me on the 36 VL); Alex Grant (no 2 of the ‘3 Amigos’); Lt. Colonel Bert Bentley, the last of the ‘3 Amigos’ (Ross’ mentor).  “Those were good times! Everyone in the photo was a Buffalo Chapter member as we inducted a few Americans that helped us over the years…The first 2 inducted were Rich and Connie.” [Ross Metcalfe]
In 1977 he joined the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group’s Keystone section and that same year, with help from Siggi Klann, created the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba. It’s still running strong with about 165 members. As part of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, in the early 1980s he began the Buffalo Chapter; in 1991, the Buffalo Chapter organized the first ‘international’ AMCA road run dubbed The Great Canadian Buffalo Hunt. “It was the first road run ever outside of the United States, and the first chapter ever outside of the United States; I’m currently the president of that,” Ross says. He’s long been a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America, too, and earned Senior Master Judge credentials. Ross is a lifetime member of the Manitoba Motorcycle Club (which formed in 1911, making it the oldest such club in Canada and perhaps the fourth oldest motorcycle club in the world). When this club was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2014, Ross represented the group.

“My 1938 Indian Junior Scout Bonneville racer and ’48 H-D 45ci Bonneville racer. The ’38 had one land speed record at Bonneville in 2005, and the 48 H-D 45 was billed as ‘the world’s fastest 45’. It had and still has 5 land speed records, and is now on display at the Erickson Museum in Utah, in their Bonneville display.” [Ross Metcalfe]
A believer in flathead motorcycle engine technology, Ross and his friends Ted Hector and Gary MacDonald developed a 1938 Indian Junior Scout with its 500cc engine to race at Bonneville during BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials. With the Scout under their Thunder Road Racing banner, the team set a 78.163 mph record in 2005. In 2006, they put together a 1948 Harley-Davidson Model G Servi-Car engine in a specially constructed frame wrapped in carbon fiber panels, replicating the shape of a B26 auxiliary fuel tank. With that combination, Thunder Road Racing set five land speed records; their best one-way pass was 120.142 mph. The G motor ran with specially profiled cams, 6:1 compression pistons, dual plug heads and dual magnetos with intake chores handled by twin 28mm Amal Concentric carbs. From 750cc, the G motor was stroked to 1,000cc. They experimented with a supercharger but had trouble getting enough fuel to the engine, and it’s run with and without nitrous oxide. Ross recently delivered both racers to the Richard W. Erickson Foundation’s Antique & Classic Power Museum in Wallsburg, Utah, where a Bonneville salt flats display is under construction.

“My first Harley-Davidson WLC restoration – a  1942 WLC with a local Sherman tank. I now have 2 1942 WLC’s and 3 1943 WLC’s all Canadian army trim.”  [note, the WLC was nearly identical to the US Military WLA model, but sent to Canada and the UK – ed]. [Ross Metcalfe]
Ross called Bert Bentley a mentor but spent many years traveling with an influential crew of fellow Winnipeg-based AMCA members he referred to as the Three Amigos: Bert, Irv Lowen and Alex Grant. All three were Second World War veterans: Bert was a beach commander at Normandy responsible for getting goods to the front lines, for the Canadian Army. For his efforts Bert earned an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or (O.B.E.). Irv rode a 1936 Indian Sport Scout for years and was a fighter pilot, flying Hurricanes, Spitfires and P-47 Thunderbolts. Alex Grant, a bicycle racer turned motorcyclist, enlisted in 1939 with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and served overseas until 1945 with the R.C.E.M.E (Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). “We went to a lot of swap meets together in the States, Lamar, Farmington,” Ross says. “We went a lot of miles with those three guys in our back seat. I still clearly remember going to Davenport in 1991 with them in the station wagon and my youngest son in the front seat. By the time we got to the border they’d bought a couple of bottles of scotch. Now I’ve got how far to Davenport? It’s another 800 miles, we’re probably in the car for 14 hours. They’re drinking scotch and singing army songs, then they start reminiscing about their war years. I’d ask Irv what was better, a Spitfire or a Hurricane? And he’d be off about the Hurricane. My son turned around and asked them why they didn’t just shoot Hitler – and they explained that it wasn’t that easy. They did each year of the war; we get to Fargo it’s 1942, we get to Minneapolis it’s 1943, we wheeled into Davenport with the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 – I tell people I felt like driving to Chicago to hear how the war ended! They were great guys.”

“Ordered new in 2002 with my youngest grandson and wife Kris 11 years ago. My only push button bike, a 2003 H-D sidecar Anniversary model with Anniversary paint scheme.” [Ross Metcalfe]
Ross pauses, and adds, “Here’s something that’s important. We always talk about youth and giving them the time of day and I hear about people saying ‘the old guy was rude and they didn’t even welcome me’. I was 19, they were 65. Not only did they mentor me, but I was just another guy who liked old motorcycles. They were friends, and I’d drop over to their house, they’d drop over to mine. If it happened then, it can happen now. I’ve made it a point of being that guy at 70 years old now to 19-year-old guys who show up with their 1976 Honda CB360. There’s always a starter bike for everybody. You don’t have to start off with a $100,000 Indian Four.” And Ross truly likes all motorcycles. He laughs, and says “My standard line is; I’m known as the early Indian guy who owns more Harleys whose favorite ride is a Vincent.”

Current AMCA president John Markley, Mike Wolfe, past AMCA president Ross Metcalfe. [Ross Metcalfe]
He maintains a significant collection of machines, starting with the 1913 Indian single he’s owned for 48 years, and a 1912 Indian board track racer he’s in the process of piecing together. He has five World War II Harley-Davidson 45s, all done in Canadian Army spec (WLCs), and 1930 and ’34 H-D Model Cs. One of his most important Harleys is a fully restored and running 1911 Model 7D, the first year of the V-twin engine, and one of eight known to exist. He spent 14 years completing the 1911 project. Then there are three Vincents, a ’48 Rapide Series B, a ’50 Series C Rapide sold new out of Northwest Cycle in Winnipeg and a 1952 Black Shadow. “I sold the farm and stepped up on that one,” he says of the Black Shadow. There are others in the garage and the house, including a 1/4 midget race car powered by a 1949 350cc BSA single and a 1951 Francis-Barnett 197 Falcon, just so he can ride on tiddler tours. He bought a 1949 New Hudson 98cc autocycle for his granddaughter when she was two; she’s 10 now and is asking Ross when she’ll be allowed to ride it. “You’ll have to talk to your mother about that,” he says, and adds, “But probably when she’s 14.”

The Thunder Racing 1938 Indian Junior Scout land speed racer. [Thunder Racing]
Over 50 years, many parts for these motorcycles have been found and collected at AMCA national swap meets. These events are important to Ross. “I like going in person, where you can see the parts and touch them and make the deal in person,” he says, and adds, “Buying the part is one thing: it’s also meeting the people, hanging out, the trip there and the holiday. Many times, we’d get up in the morning after being at a big national swap meet and lay out the parts we bought to look them over, we were like kids in a candy store – that was like going to Disney World for us.” As for his time volunteering with the AMCA, finishing up as president, Ross felt he had spent enough time shepherding the club. “My wife and I like to travel, I’ve done my share and it’s time for new blood and I simply chose not to run again,” he says. “I’m a firm believer new blood is always good in an organization to keep it rolling. I hope we did some very good things along the way. I was very proud of the fact the very first thing I did was make sure we hired somebody to scan all the club magazines back to the first year so that they’re recorded in history on the webpage for anybody to read at any time, and not just a person who had the whole collection – and that would be very few.” And Ross is pleased to see a young guy currently sitting as a director on the board. “Joe (Preston) was 29, just turned 30 and he’s been an antique motorcycle guy his whole life, and there’s some youth on that board,” Ross says.

Ross Metcalfe was recently inducted into the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame for his work founding and helming important vintage vehicle clubs. [AMCA]
Ross says the AMCA is in good health and is pleased to see it growing. “We officially became the world’s largest antique motorcycle club in 2023, and while we’re not out to become the biggest and the best, people are joining. Amazingly, I run into people who aren’t aware of the club. I tell them about it, they join, they get the magazine and as soon as they see those glossy 100 pages, they’re disciples. We’re lucky to have such a publication, and that’s what got me so involved all those years ago.” He concludes, “The AMCA is home to all brands. It is the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, but it’s all motorcycles made in every country in the world and they’re all welcome. If you like old bikes, the Antique Motorcycle Club of America is the place you want to join to get connected.”



Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on Instagram, and explore all his articles for The Vintagent here.


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