A MotorBike Museum in SoCalifornia


Active Member
Local time
4:38 PM
Sep 30, 2006
Alabama Holly Pond
Here is an article about a Southern California (Los Angeles County) collector, including many historical motorized bicycles.

We have at least five forum members with similar interests, and I encourage them to contact Motorrcycle USA magazine (there is a contact link after the article, and Mr. Underwood, tell them about MB.com.

That is the best way to get new members with historical insights and maybe hard to find parts.


You won't find the Underwood Museum on any map. The front of the 1950s-era home looks like all the others on the street. There are no clues that a 50-year-old avacado tree provides the shaded entry into a private collector's museum. Were it not for the security cameras and an alarm system worthy of protecting the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I wouldn't have had an inclination as to what was inside. Jim Underwood's assembly of vintage scooters, bicycles, and tin-lithograph motorcycles and car wind-up toys were opened up to me, and I was privy to an all-access pass and was treated to a V.I.P. tour by the curator/collector.

As I exited the 605 Freeway, neon lights shone through the skyward-reaching fronds of palm trees. In my head I could hear the strumming of ukuleles and the tempo of drums beckoning for me to stop at the inner-city oasis that is the Hawaiian Gardens Casino. But gambling away my per diem on the outside chance of turning my $20 into $200 isn't what brought me to Hawaiian Gardens, the smallest city in Los Angeles County. I circled past the casino and proceeded to an unassuming street that dead-ended into a quiet cul-de-sac.

Underwood is what I consider a living historian. He can recount the story of a thousand pieces of iconic Americana from memory and is able to recite their story repeatedly at the request of an inquisitive journalist. Underwood's love for the history of transportation makes him patient as he imparts his knowledge upon attentive ears. The collection is the result of 30 years spent poking around yard sales, attending estate sales, auctions and antique shows, always rummaging with blind ambition fueled by the excitement that maybe this time he will find the rare, the unusual, the rusted-out garage hog that somebody has stored for umpteen years without understanding why they didn't trash it long ago.

Before Hendee and Hedstrom started churning out production Indians, people were already experimenting with ways to motorize two-wheeled vehicles. The advances made in this era brought forth a wealth of ideas that we take for granted as standard equipment. Pneumatic tires, full-suspensions, leaf-spring forks, shaft drive, the use of aluminum for commercial purposes - all of these were implemented on bicycles long before being adapted on motorcycles. Companies that we associate with other business ventures were building scooters and motorized bikes, like Northrop Aircraft, Nash, Powell and Sears.