During our seven-day blitzkreig through Bavaria last December, Tyler Malinky, Mike Ellis and I went on a wild ride through Peter Schädel's motorcycle shop in central Germany. Herr Schädel is a Deutschlander all the way to his lederhosen, but the man shows his love for the Red, White and Blue like few people you'll ever meet.
As bad luck would have it, we didn't get to meet Herr Schädel personally. Instead, we met his business partner and friend Claus Schmelzeisen. Claus is one of three crusty cats who do the dirty work at this unauthorized H-D tune-and-service center in Germany's wine country, and he gave us a first-class tour of Peter's palace of American kitsch. Despite his absence, we saw enough of Peter Schädel in photos, posters and snapshots to get a taste for this German biker's All-American flavor. From the miniature Mount Rushmore in the bicentennial party room to the Old Glory banana hammock that girds his loins, Peter Schädel puts the U-S-A in "UNUSUAL."
On the surface, Mr. Schädel's dealership looks like any tune-and-service shop you might find in the hinterlands. Only after moving into the shop's warehouse behind the main building do you get a whiff of the candy store Peter has created for fans of Americana. Every square inch of floorspace not occupied by hot rods, choppers or Peter's top-fuel dragster is spackled with flotsam and jetsam from some psychotic Fourth of July party gone wild. Next to the aforementioned Mount Rushmore there's a life-sized Blue Brothers statue, and a horse mannequin that looks like it's missing its George Washington. A paper cutout of a German dude doing his best James Dean keeps a watchful eye on a gaggle of license plates that Peter has collected on his American journeys. In a room beneath an "American Pride" motivational poster a line of old motorcycles stands at attention. Of course, several of these machines have flame paint jobs, and all the choppers have tassles, conchos and saddlebags, the kind any American biker might crave. A glam Uncle Sam statue and his missus watch over the room that protects Peter's hot rod. A stuffed dwarf in a ponytail plays hide-and-seek with a Harley golf cart. Just when you think Schädel's place is all show and no go, three dozen trophies from bike shows and drag races remind you that behind the belly and the beard there's a man who takes some things very seriously.
The crazy display Peter Schädel has assembled for visitors and friends may seem like the common hoarding of a twisted coot, but both the mess and its curator serve a higher purpose. Every year Peter and Claus assemble a dozen of Germany's sexiest pin-up models to produce a calendar at the Schädel compound. Peter donates all proceeds from his shop's calendar to organizations that assist the mentally and physically challenged. Now that's putting your junk to good use.
See Peter Schädel's 2011 calendar, or visit their German website.
* Der Geist des Gebens? The Spirit of Giving