Frank Wesley Buddy Stubbs, Motorcycle Cannonball entrant No. 42, is the well-known and long-time owner of two Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealerships in central Arizona. Buddy, as everyone knows him, also has a background as a successful motorcycle racer and as a Hollywood stuntman. Buddy’s motorcycle museum, part of his Harley dealership operation, has a large collection of classic motorcycles, including the one he will be riding in the Motorcycle Cannonball.
“I've been the Harley-Davidson dealer in Phoenix, AZ for 44 years,” Buddy tells us, “and also have a dealership at Anthem, north of Phoenix.”
From a modest beginning on July 16, 1966 with the opening of his first Arizona HD shop, Stubbs’ business has grown into its current 47,000 square foot shop in north Phoenix and the new store in Anthem. Buddy’s sons Jack and Frank help run the Stubbs’s dealerships.
Born to ride
Few people can say, as Buddy does, that they were literally born into a life of motorcycles and riding. Buddy’s parents owned a Harley-Davidson dealership in the Midwest and Buddy “rode” before he walked.
“Motorcycles have been my whole life,” Buddy relates, “I was born in my parent’s Harley-Davidson dealership in Decatur, Illinois. They were quite poor and we lived in the dealership where I slept in a drawer until they could afford a crib.”
Buddy often helped when his father participated in motorcycle hill climbing events. He says his greatest ambition was to be a motorcycle racer. His father taught him to ride at age 10 and he won his first motorcycle-racing trophy a year later. The first big win came at age 15 when he took the checkered flag on a 1954 KRTT 900cc at a TT event in Peoria, IL back in 1961. Buddy reports that his “biggest win of many was the Daytona 100 Miler in 1963.”
After relocating to California, Buddy also raced in other events like the Ascot TT in Gardena. Over the years he raced, Buddy became a familiar sight on Harley race bikes carrying the No. 42 plate. So it’s only fitting that Stubbs be reunited with number 42 designation for the Motorcycle Cannonball.
“The last time I raced motorcycles was in 2003 in the Baja 500,” Buddy reports, “I've also road raced cars for years in Grand Am.”
A film career
With a prestigious motorcycle racing career under his belt, Buddy’s friend, the legendary Bud Ekins, suggested that Buddy go Hollywood and become a stuntman. (Bud Ekins was already well established in the movie business and is famous for his stunt work in dozens and dozens of movies like Bullitt and The Great Escape). Buddy did stunts in some of the best-known motorcycle movies and television of the era, including the short-lived but memorable television series Then Came Bronson that starred Michael Parks.
“In 1969 my friend Bud Ekins came into my dealership and asked me if I'd like to come on a film set to do some stunt riding,” Buddy recalls, “Ekins was the stunt coordinator for a (then) new TV series called Then Came Bronson and I rode whenever they shot in Arizona. Bud recommended that I have a Screen Actors Guild card, which I still have, and use. That card became my ticket to doing motorcycle stunts, modeling, bit parts, and voiceover for 12 years.
“My favorite movie was Electra Glide In Blue in 1973. It was a motorcycle cop movie (staring Robert Blake and for which Bud Ekins was the stunt coordinator). It was shot entirely in Arizona. Harley-Davidson sent me five new police model Electra Glides for use in the movie which I rode, fixed, and maintained.”
Buddy also appeared in other movies with stars like Bob Hope. And, Buddy recalls, “there were also several low budget "B" motorcycle gang/chopper movies and some national motorcycle commercials done here in Arizona that I rode in.”
A 3,000 square-foot wing of Buddy’s Phoenix dealership was specially built as a museum to house his impressive personal collection of classic and vintage motorcycles. Among them are Vincent/HRD, BSA, Harley-Davidson, Indian, Ariel, and Norton. There is even a Zundapp as well, and many other motorcycles of all types from around the world.
“Although I've had a lifetime of involvement with Harley-Davidson,” Buddy says, “I've never been prejudiced toward any brand of motorcycle. I just love all motorcycles and I have owned, raced, and ridden many brands.”
The Buddy Stubbs motorcycle museum is the only such museum in the entire state of Arizona. Free tours are conducted every Friday evening and at midday on the last Saturday of the month or at special events. Buddy himself sometimes conducts those tours. He really loves his collection of bikes and has a personal story to tell about many of them.
By Buddy’s own count, his Phoenix motorcycle museum contains 130 machines from 11 countries and consists of 35 different makes. It is one of those bikes – a 1915 Excelsior Twin with a left-hand sidecar – that Buddy will pilot in the Motorcycle Cannonball. It even has a wicker “trunk” that rides behind the sidecar unit, suitable for carrying tools or, perhaps, a picnic lunch.
“This Excelsior Twin that I am riding in the Motorcycle Cannonball is one of my favorite machines from the museum,” Buddy proudly says.
According to Stubbs, he bought the Excelsior in New Zealand from the bike’s second owner. When Buddy pulls up to the starting line in Kitty Hawk, NC in September for the Motorcycle Cannonball, the Excelsior will be pretty much as he found it the day it became part of his collection.
“I'm the third owner of my Excelsior which was built in Chicago along with Henderson by Ignaz Schwinn,” Stubbs says, “it was imported into New Zealand in 1915. The original owner left it to his son whom I got it from several years ago. I am so looking forward to riding my Excelsior across the United States in the Motorcycle Cannonball.”
Buddy is an avid runner who has “run the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim” several times, including recently. His next challenge is to make it across the country on what he calls “my X” all the way to Santa Monica. That should be quite a stunt.