~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

24th Annual Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show

The success of this year's Arizona Antique & Classic Motorcycle Enthusiasts annual Phoenix event was looking doubtful when weeks of excellent Arizona weather was predicted to turn to rain on Sunday. I don't know what measure the sponsoring club uses to gage the success of the event, surely there are costs to be met, but from a fun standpoint it looked like success to me. Ride-in attendance seemed down and it appeared there were a few less display bikes than last year but I didn't really count number because I was too busy taking pictures. The sun peeked out just enough to give some good light now and again for photos but for the first time in a long time I resorted to my "big flash" instead of just filling in occasionally with the little pop up flash on the Nikon.

For a small show the range of bikes on display was very good going from the obscure (1957 Zundapp flat twin) to the slightly odd (Suzuki's mid-70s Wankle rotary engined bike, the RE5) to the truly elegant and sublime in the form of a Brough Superior SS80 and a 1913 Indian board track racer.

1913 Indian board track racer

I got a description from one fellow on the starting procedure and "under way" tuning of the 1913 Indian racer. I commented that it would be great fun to ride such a bike once. He said his son had ridden the bike and it was a huge pain to start and not a little dangerous to ride, even casually. Imagine a choke with only three preset positions "way too rich, too rich, too lean." Once underway rich/lean was set by reaching down and turning a slotted barrel on the carburetor, the throttle was on the left and rotated forward -- not back, the right grip was spark advance and I recall something about being able to fiddle with cam timing manually. Oh, and don't forget to pump the total loss oil system hand pump on the front and back straightaways at 100 mph during the race. Definitely not a simple run and bump and do a easy lap sort of procedure. The guys that raced those old bike were iron men, all of them!

If you are not familiar with the "board track era" in American motorcycle racing do a little Google work and read up on it. Imagine a race track a mile around with the highly banked surface made up of 2x4 lumber turned up on edge and nailed or bolted together. No rocks or gravel thrown up by the bikes, just splitters of wood hurled upwards at 100 mph. Some years ago I had the privilege to speak with Jim Davis who raced for Indian Motorcycles in 1916 and he told stories of pulling off the track with splinters pierced through the leather of his lace up racing boots.

Pristine restorations are rightly prized and look great but there is a growing interest in preserving bikes as they are found, especially when the bike has been bestowed with a great deal of character by it's former owner. Look closely at the photos of the original Indian bobber that was been thoroughly decked out to make it truly unique. The windscreen is covered with the old style travel decals from as far away as Havana, Cuba and the highway pegs were made from a couple of old pistol frames. I don't know the story on the bike; truly, my biggest mistake of the day was spending too much time taking pictures and not enough talking to people like the current owner of the bobber.

There was an ok turn out vintage Japanese bikes and a smattering of Italian bikes. The Japanese machinery is becoming a little more collectable each year but price-wise is still within the reach of people of ordinary means. The owner of a very nice 1948 Indian Chief offered to sell me his bike but I'd have to sell the Gold Wing, the Aprilia, and possibly one of our three dogs to make raise the required money. A nice old Honda CB450 or Yamaha 650 seems more doable.

Other highlights that were great fun to see: The "Grumph" Greeves/Triumph hybrid, the odds 'n ends at the small swap meet around the back of the building, and also meeting a couple of on-line motorcycle buddies in person for the first time.

The rest of the pictures, 100+, are on my Webshots page.



Camron said...

Wow! That looks like the show was a blast! I Love that Board Tracker. I was just reading about the board track racers in the new issue of "Ho Tales". (Including a Poster with a pic of Jim Davis from the 1920 Harley Team). Very Interesting!
Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful bikes and pics. I liked the story so much I linked the story to www.oldbikenews.com Come on by and check it out.

Anonymous said...

Great show, great bikes, great photos. Kudos for the coverage and the awesome page! The layout of this page is a work of art. Congratulations!

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