While you might remember him from his appearances in “American Restoration” or for starring in “What’s In The Barn?”, the truth is that Dale Walksler was so much more than just a TV star. Guided by his passion and love for motorcycles, Dale dedicated a huge part of his life to the preservation of vintage bikes and their history, gaining more than a few important recognitions for that.
Besides the great contributions he made to the motorcycle industry, Dale was also quite a memorable and passion-driven person who is still remembered by motorheads and everyone who knows a thing or two about the US-based vehicle industry.
It’s been a while since Dale passed away, yet it’s the right time to remember all the great things he did, both in his career as a businessman, and TV star. Stay here to know all about Dale Walksler!
What Happened To Dale Walksler?
The name surely sounds familiar to most car enthusiasts. Besides his prolific career on TV, Dale was the founder of the Wheels Through Time Museum, owned several bike businesses throughout his life, and was known by motorheads all around the US for his contributions to the industry and bike scene, even being inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in 2019.
Unfortunately, Dale passed away at 68 years old on 3 February 2021 in North Carolina, where he resided with his family. Though not many details about his passing were given, it’s known that he’d been battling cancer from around 2017.
At the time of his passing, several bike-related platforms and organizations such as the AMA, RoadDirt.TV, Cycle Word, and many more paid tribute to Dale, describing him not only as a great contributor to the US biking industry as a collector and businessman but also as a man with a ‘larger-than-life personality’.
As well, Dale was honored in a private event held by Wheels Through Time Museum in 2022, when they also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the museum’s foundation. At the event, Dale’s family, friends and close ones shared stories about him, and celebrated the passion which drove his life.
All in all, Dale’s passing is truly unfortunate, but he’s surely well remembered by his loved ones not only for his love for bikes but also for the person he was.
Who Was Dale Walksler?
While many people knew about Dale Walksler for his TV appearances or his links to the bike industry, the truth is that there’s a lot more to know about the memorable man that he was.
Born on 30 November 1952, in Illinois, Dale was always deeply passionate about bikes, building his first one at only 15 years old, and starting his collection two years later. From then on, Dale pursued his bike passion by starting a custom shop named Dale’s in 1973, and becoming the-then youngest Harley Davidson dealer three years later with the opening of Dale’s Harley-Davidson in Mt. Vernon, still not moving away from his native Illinois.
To start his Harley Davidson shop Dale acquired a loan from his father, the job of turning a small local dealership into a nationally known business was all resulting from Dale’s hard work and great business sense, something which back then gained him recognition from Dealer News Magazine and others, and for more than just owning a business, but for being a formidable biker and racer, but he still had a long way to go before taking his motorhead passion to the next level.
Business & Museum
During the first two decades of his business, Dale Walksler was on a mission to create something unique. While some of the most memorable anecdotes about Dale include taking part in hill climbs and accepting a bear cub as a bike deposit, the truth is that Dale was always a man with a vision set several years ahead.
Just as Dale’s bike collection increased with both modern and vintage pieces, the idea of putting all of his beloved pieces together to start a museum strengthened. It finally became a reality in 1992, when he set up his collection as a small museum inside his Mt. Vernon shop.
While showing off his collection served to attract more customers and enthusiasts to his business, he didn’t give up on his dream of setting up a museum, even after selling the Harley Davidson dealership in 1999. He then set his eyes on Maggie Valley, a small town in North Carolina located near the Great Smoky Mountains, where he moved alongside his family, and officially founded the Wheels Through Time Museum in 2002.
It was in this new location that Dale displayed both the old pieces from his then-disappeared Mt. Vernon’s shop, and his new ones, given how his collection never stopped increasing.
It is with a heavy heart to find out today that Dale Walksler of @wtttimemachine motorcycle museum has passed away. He was a legend in the antique motorcycle world and an all-around great guy. I had the privilege of knowing him and spending time with him. He’ll be sorely missed. pic.twitter.com/ivmwNdR9v2
— Paul Jr (@WhereIsPaulJr) February 4, 2021
What Is The Museum About?
The Wheels Through Time Museum wasn’t born with the sole idea of displaying Dale’s collection, but to become an educational place as well. Despite initially starting as a bike-only exhibition, the museum quickly expanded to other areas of the American automotive industry, displaying dozens of rarely-seen vintage pieces.
Nevertheless, no matter how old some of the vehicles displayed might be or how difficult to drive they might look, Wheels Through Time became known as “the museum that runs”, given how Dale and his team always made sure to keep every piece functional and ready for a ride. In fact, Dale himself was often seen guiding people in the museum ,and was always more than open to taking some visitors for a ride, as reported by Tampa Bay Times in 2007.
The museum is an important place for those looking for pieces of history once thought lost, all of them put together by Dale in his film collection. His efforts as a collector, history enthusiast, and automotive lover paid off, as nowadays the museum is a, if not the most, popular tourist attraction in Maggie Valley, getting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world per year.
In honor of his legacy and decades-long work, the museum was officially renamed Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum in 2019.
Career On TV
As a renowned motorcycle collector and enthusiast, it isn’t surprising that Dale Walksler had his fair share of TV stints. The first was in 2012, when he appeared in a couple of episodes of the History Channel’s famous show “American Pickers”, followed then with several features in MotorTrend’s “Chasing Classic Cars” alongside Wayne Carini.
At that point it was clear that Dale was fit for TV, resulting in the premiere of his show “What’s in the Barn?” in 2013. Though the series lasted only two seasons on air, it was enough time to let Dale show his audiences some of the best-hidden secrets of the American biking industry, by exploring several collections and significant places around the country.
Dale’s second time starring in a TV show came in 2016 with “American Restoration”, as the show changed its previous format to give room to feature five different restoration shops around the US, including Dale’s Wheels Through Time. Though the show was taken off-air afterward, in 2017 Dale started his blog series “American Restoration Chronicles”, which gave his readers an insight into the stories of some of the notable people featured in the show, and behind-the-scenes secrets.
To recognize his decades-long work as a bike enthusiast, businessman and collector, in 2019 Dale Walksler was inducted into the AMA Hall Of Fame. This put Dale on the same level as the greatest American bike legends of the past, the icing on the cake of such an amazing career.
As he affirmed in an interview with the AMA at the time, his first experience with a bike was when he bought a Harley Davidson Servi-Car, which was very rare to see even back in the day, but served just right to awaken Dale’s passion for the automotive industry. For the rest of his life, Dale turned his love for bikes into so much more than wheels and metal, as it was sharing his passion, the thing which truly fueled him, with other people – ‘The dropping jaws, the never-ending compliments on the collection. The most satisfying aspect of Wheels Through Time is the reaction of the people who visit’, he said.
Other recognitions of Dale’s work as a collector include winning the very exclusive Concours d’Elegance a couple of times, with the most memorable being his 2010 double-victory event where even big personalities such as Jay Leno were there to marvel at Dale’s bikes. Even after Dale’s passing, pieces from Wheels Through Time Museum keep taking part in the Concours d’Elegance, winning their most recent prize in 2023.
There’s no way to count the many accomplishments, prizes and recognitions given to Dale Walksler throughout his life, leaving no doubts about his unwavering passion and love for bikes and everything which came with it.