PEOPLE WHO MOVE US
to relinquish his control of the distribution rights. Between
1971 and 1974, the Husqvarna factory purchased a greater
and greater percentage of the U.S. distributorship until
Penton was out. But it was the John Penton infrastructure
that allowed Husqvarna to survive the following years,
which were very tough.
On the KTM side, the same process eventually took
place. After John took a beating in the silver market, the
KTM factory purchased the distribution rights as well as
the company’s infrastructure. In 1978, the Penton name
was finally replaced by a KTM logo worldwide. The name
Penton was gone, but many of John’s people remained in
place. To this day, KTM’s national headquarters remains in
Lorain, Ohio, not far from the Penton family farm.
BOOTS AND BEYOND
On one of John’s European trips, he visited the
In June, Pipeline Digital Media released the John
Penton story, a big-screen movie depicting John’s life,
before and after the Penton motorcycle days. It’s an
entertaining biography that can expose a new genera-
tion to the Penton legacy and help young riders under-
stand how our sport came to be where it is now.
The movie is the product of Todd Huffman, who cre-
ated The Motocross Files, and he presents the story
through interviews, still photos and vintage film clips.
Some of the key scenes have been reenacted, such as
John’s coast-to-coast record ride in 1959. The narration
and some of the music score are by Lyle Lovett, and it
Alpinestars boot factory completely by accident. He was
lost and simply wandered into the facility. What resulted
was the birth of Hi-Point boots. John designed and import-
ed boots for the U.S. off-road market and eventually domi-
nated the industry. This became a bigger business than
Penton motorcycles. Penton also sold trailers and ignitions
and ran a dealership, all with the help of his extended fam-
Today, the dealership and Hi-Point have long since been
sold. KTM and Husky have kissed and made up, and the
motorcycle industry is mature. But, John Penton remains
active in Ohio motorcycle gatherings, even in his 80s. The
fact that he’s become a motorcycling celebrity seems to
surprise him somewhat.
In truth, he’s more of a patriarch than a celebrity. If
motorcycling had its own currency, he would be on one of
the bills—not the 100 or the 1000, though. He would be on
the 5 or the 10—something in everyone’s pocket. There’s
already a little bit of him in everyone’s garage. ❏
Malcolm Smith, and a number of people with the last
One of the most unusual aspects of the film is the
way it’s being presented to the public. Gathr Films is
distributing The John Penton Story nationwide through
chartered screenings. A group or club can arrange for
a showing at a local theater and then promote it locally.
When enough people express interest, a “tipping point”
is reached and the screening is confirmed. That tipping
point can be as few as 30 viewers, and the ticket price
is no more than that of a typical romantic comedy.
To find out if there is a local screening, or to plan one for
your group, visit www.pentonmovie.com or www.gathr.us.
authored a biography on John
Penton that was
in 2000. It is now
Owners Group at
John (left) with Leroy Winters, Tom Penton and Dave
Mungenast at the 1968 ISDT.
THE JOHN PENTON STORY
Big John on the big screen