Thanksgiving and Hanukkah (sp?) are just a couple of days away, people have been camping out in front of Walmart and Best Buy for days now to get the best deal on stuff that they say they are giving as presents but you and I know that most of those folks are buying up that stuff for themselves and…they actually think they are getting a great deal. However, you and I are a lot smarter than that, we use ebay and Amazon and shop in our jammies.
At this time of year we motorcycle collectors and restorers start thinking of friends that we would like to get a gift for and as we start this process we put our friends into the ‘naughty vs. nice’ list. The ‘nice’ list gets stuff out of the Aerostich/Riders Warehouse catalog, the ‘naughty’ group gets whatever piece of crap we can find at our local motorcycle boneyard or on ebay. Today I found the ultimate ‘Lump of Coal’ for someone’s Christmas stocking.
We all have a friend that we just love torturing with junk, what we actually don’t think about is the effect it has on that persons significant other (somewhat tolerant wife), Oh well. A twenty year old fruit cake that has been passed from one friend (?) to another over the years is one thing but a vehicle dropped off in the driveway is entirely something different.
For that friend (?) you believe deserves a lump of coal I present to you a 1950 Cushman 3 Wheeled Rust Bucket. No motor, no trans, you’re gonna have to push it anywhere (out to the curb I would imagine) and hope that your neighborhood organization doesn’t send you some nasty letter and a fine.
If you have a friend (?) that has a very good sense of humor or that you would like to really irritate I’d contact the seller of this fine piece of Americana and ask him how much he’ll pay you to take it off his hands.
Click on the pics below for more info and a few more pictures. Have fun thinking of the one friend (?) that deserves this more than anyone else.
A couple of decades ago a good friend of mine bought a 1937 Indian Chief, ten milk crates of parts and a frame. Ten years later he rode that ‘basket case’ Indian up to the front door of my surf shop with the biggest shit eating grin I think I have ever seen on anybody’s face ever. Roger had taken the time to bring the bike back to life without doing a museum level restoration. It was beautiful. Next thing I knew I was riding that Chief along the coast and the last thing I wanted to do was give it back to my friend. Alas, I handed back to my friend, but riding that bike sparked a love for Indian motorcycles.
Roger too came under the spell of Indian. One by one he collected old Indians…I believe he pretty much spent his 401K on his Indian collection. Other than his first ‘Chief’ his favorite was the ‘Scout Junior’ he found in a barn in Montana. It needed a lot, I mean ‘a lot’ of love. It wasn’t in milk crates but it could have been. Roger did get it running without restoring it and last I knew he was still riding it…faded paint, rusty bolts and a seat that is held together with shoe laces.
Here is what Indian said about the Scout Junior, “You can’t wear out an Indian Scout, It will wear you out first”. The Scout was Indians life blood through out the 1920′s and 30′s. It was popular with everyone from racers to women. Yes, in that time period a good number of women did ride motorbikes. The Scout Junior weighed just 350 pounds and was very easy to handle.
The Scout Junior’s main competition in the marketplace was the Harley 45 incher but even with a size disadvantage the Indian outperformed the Harley. Remember, this is a motorbike that in stock form at that time only produced 5hp!? The Scout provided Indian with the basis for 1000cc Chief. Sadly, the Scout was discontinued in 1942.
I found a really nice Scout Junior on ebay this morning. It appears to be an older restoration but still really nice, I love the Firestone tires on the bike. The seller says it is a runner but needs a new battery, no big deal. This truly is one of the best Indian motorcycles ever built, light weight, reliable (for the time), and fun to ride. Owning an old Indian is not cheap nor easy but is certainly well worth it, just ask my friend Roger,
For more info and pictures of this nice Scout Junior, click on the pics below. There are a lot more pictures that reallt show how nice this bike really is.
Those of us into ‘vintage’ motorcycles recognize the German brand NSU, but how much do we know about NSU? WOW…what a history! Here’s the ‘Readers Digest’ version. NSU was a little company making sewing machines in the late 1800′s, they moved on to bicycles and then in 1901 built a motorcycle powered by a Swiss engine. The first NSU was a 234cc, 1.75 HP model with a top speed of a thrilling 31MPH! Side note here, if you live in Southern California or New York City, 31 miles per hour is thrilling!!!
As the founders got more in to motorcycles, development moved faster. In 1905 they developed the first V-Twin with a 3HP motor, in 1909 NSU built the first 1000cc V-Twin. Then came WW1. During that period of time there isn’t much history I could find to fit in this ‘Readers Digest’ version, except that NSU started building cars in 1905 and in 1932 sold the auto business to Fiat. Then came WW2.
Bikes that were built during that time were all sent off to war. After the war, NSU resumed commercial manufacturing. NSU was building cars and bikes. By the 1950′s NSU was huge. In 1953 they developed the first overhead cam pushrod engine, in 1955 they were the worlds largest auto manufacturer, they held four world land speed records (the first of over 200mph!). In the 1960′s NSU became the first to use the ‘Wankel Rotary’ engine in an automobile. There is a lot more to the NSU story and I’m looking forward to digging deeper.
What started this interest for me was this really neat 1937 NSU ‘Pony’ I found on ebay this morning. It has it’s own unique story. During that period the Nazi’s were confiscating vehicles from citizens to use in the war effort, this little Pony somehow escaped (the story is in the ebay posting), now, whether the story is true or not…who cares, it’s a cool little story. The ‘Pony’ is a simple little 98cc 2-stroke motorcycle with a 3 speed, hand shift transmission. It has classic styling, a pillion seat and looks beautiful. The seller says it’s all original…but??? It almost looks too good to be all original? It is a runner, it has all the original paperwork and ‘Third Reich’ license papers and plate…pretty cool.
If you need a bike to add to your German collection or even better want a really special bike from a company with a great history click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures.
It’s no secret among my friends that I am a closet Scooter lover, I really want one. In my years selling motorcycles and scooters I have ridden quite a few and delivered a lot to customers. The most fun delivery I did was I rode the scooter to the buyers home and they took me back to the dealership. When I got ready to leave the shop, I plotted the longest way possible to get to their house and figured out how to ‘get lost’ on my way. It was a great delivery. On the way back to the shop, I told them what I had done, under the guise of starting the break in process for them…they got a big kick out of it.
The modern scooters are great but when I get one it is going to be a classic and the one I found on ebay today would be right up my alley. It’s funky, it’s weird and it’s really cool…a CZ/Jawa Cezeta 501.
The Cezeta was a very futuristic design by the Czech company and technologically quite advanced. It was powered by the standard CZ/Jawa 175cc 2 stroke motor with a top speed of around 55mph, that will get you run over by little old ladies in Toyota Corona’s here on the Southern California freeways…hell, it’ll get you run over on most surface streets by kids on skateboards!! But, for 1959 it was plenty fast.
Other than being a bit underpowered for current times the Cezeta had many technological features that are being used today. The motor is rubber mounted to smooth the vibration, a dual exhaust added a bit of performance,and uses a single sided swingarm for handling and light weight. But, the most unique feature of the Cezeta scooter is the gas tank placement…it’s over the front wheel! Whether that did anything for handling, who knows but what it did do for the scooter was give it more storage space under the seat and give it the most unique style in all scooterdom. Cezeta owners joke that with the fuel tank up front if you ran into anything your bike became a torpedo…KABOOM! Lesson here…don’t run into anything.
I found a really nice Cezeta on ebay that was restored just five years ago and looks to be ready to ride. The scooter has a bit over 30,000 miles on the clock but the motor was completely redone,and the paint was redone to original. The scoot has only been ridden twice since the rebuild so chances are the carb needs a good cleaning and probably a new battery. But, this little Italian beauty looks ready to go.
If you are looking for a really cool scooter that you can pretty much assured that nobody within 500 miles has one like it, check this little Cezeta out. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. I wish I had room in my garage (and money in my bank account) to get this one.
Year by year I have had this building desire to own an Indian motorcycle. It started out when I was just a small child, sitting on Santa’s lap at the local department store.
Did I get one? No. Has my desire for an Indian motorcycle been fulfilled? Not yet, but it is getting a lot closer.
My yearning for an Indian was rekindled by my friend Roger when he bought a basket case ’37 Indian Chief and brought it back to life.
Roger let me ride the ‘Chief’ a couple of times,the last ride was nearly half a day…that’s why it was the ‘last’ ride. That ride was when my lust for an Indian motorcycle grew even more.
Today, I have a few choices. One; find a basket case like my friend Roger did and rebuild it. Two; buy one of the Harley clone models styled to look like an ‘Indian’ from the recent past. Three; wait for one of the new Indian’s that actually will be a new original Indian. Four; find one that is ready to go for a ride now…or, very soon with little work on my part.
Number one option, no way. Number two, I’d rather do number one choice. Number three, high probability. Number four, the best choice.
I found a very nice ’48 Chief Roadmaster on ebay today. This is the pumped up Chief. Beefier motor, optional saddle bags. This bike is a runner according to the owner. I would put new tires on the bike, check the electrics and then ride. From my couple of rides on a Chief I would carry a good tool kit, a few spare parts tucked away in the saddle bags, and then just ride. Ride as far as you want, the Indian will get you there…in true classic style.
Click on the pictures below for more pictures and info on this really nice Indian for sale.
Today I was doing my daily research on cool old motorcycles and started finding an interesting pattern, small displacement motorcycles seem to live on decade after decade with minor changes, but larger bikes come and go and change every couple of years. My closest reference is the Honda 350. Honda built that model for years with little changes and was the largest selling motorcycle in the world. Sure, the CB750 was a world changer and spawned the ‘Superbike’ (actually, Triumph trumped them on that one with the Trident, but Honda got the title…), but while everybody was one-upping each other in the performance range, smaller bikes just kept selling.
A great example of small displacement bikes that just kept selling and going strong was the Moto Guzzi Airone 250. This was a bike that was born in the 1930′s and finally retired in 1957. The Falcone (500cc) was the better known of the two Guzzi singles but the Airone was the better seller. In Italy,the Airone was up against scooters and ultra lightweight two strokes for market share and was considered a ‘big’ motorbike. If you had a an Airone you were definitely in the big leagues, the Falcone in its home market was considered too big?!
Early on the Airone was a very simple motorcycle, a pressed steel frame, girder front suspension and an eye-popping 10 horsepower that would propel the little single to a top speed of 60 mph! Pretty impressive for its time, but still the Airone was considered a very sedate motorcycle.
1948 brought out the ‘Sport’ version of the 250 single. The motor was pumped up to 13.5 horsepower and the top speed went up to 75 mph…now were getting serious here! The styling became a bit more ‘dashing’ with the new paint job and ‘Fishtail’ muffler,the new muffler did more than just look good, it did add a bit of power to the little single and it sounded much more robust (as robust as a 250 single can sound). You could get a speedo and a tach for the bike as options but as was the common thought of the day “If you have to check your speed, you’re not going fast enough”. The Airone was Moto Guzzi’s best selling single through the 1950′s outselling the Falcone four to one. It was also Italy’s most popular lightweight motorcycle at the time.
Today I found a very nice Moto Guzzi Airone 250 Sport on ebay that is selling for what I believe is a somewhat reasonable price considering some I have seen on the market and the fact that there are very few around here in the US. This particular Airone is a 1950 Sport model in really good condition that would only need a basic going through to make a fun rider right now. It’s not a show bike it is a rider…you show up at your local Sunday ride hang out on this bike with the ‘baloney cutter’ flywheel spinning away, you will have a crowd instantly…don’t expect to be eating breakfast all too soon.
For more info and pics, click on the pics below. Nice bike, it ain’t cheap but rare and unique bikes from this era never are. They are worth it however.
Through the first part of the 20th Century, Indian was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Indian produced the fastest and most technologically advanced motorcycles there were. Then World War 2 hit. Indian did supply motorcycles to the military for the war effort but Harley Davidson, Indian’s closest competitor, was awarded more of the contracts to serve the armed forces overseas. This caused Indian some financial problems coming out of the war but they hung in there.
After the war, every motorcycle builder was counting on returning soldiers to be buying new bikes as fast as they could build them but, they were counting on smaller, lightweight bikes to be the market leaders. Harley Davidson went to Italy for lightweights, Indian built their own and went to Europe for new bikes, Triumph and BSA also jumped into the lightweight pool but returning GI’s weren’t going for it. Indian and Harley had built their reputations on big V-twins and that’s what the buyer wanted. Harley seemed to grasp the idea a bit sooner than Indian and that was Indian’s downfall. There is a lot of Indian history out there that documents why Indian faded away.
One of the smaller bikes that Indian built was the Arrow. A 220cc single cylinder bike that actually was a great bike for its size, it did however have its problems and Indian ended up losing money on the Arrow due to warranty issues. Sadly, when the motorcycle buying boom really did hit, Indian was becoming just a memory.
I found a true ‘barn find’ Indian Arrow today on ebay. This has all the dust and patina anybody could want in a vintage bike buried in some guys barn for decades. The Arrow wasn’t Indian’s most popular bike and like I said before it was saddled with problems, but still, it is an interesting motorcycle that I think is a good example of what motorcycle manufacturers were building to attract more buyers. The motorcycle buying public wasn’t interested in small bikes, they wanted big, they wanted horsepower, they wanted the classic bike. Come to think of it, not much has changed has it.
The Arrow I found is a left over from a closed dealership in 1949. The motorcycle has just 1874 miles on it and with a bit of clean up I imagine it would look like new. The Arrow may not have the status of the Chief or even the Scout, but it is still an Indian and that makes it special.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
This is the time of year that many (most) classic bike lovers, collectors and hoarders start looking through the garage and wondering what project to work on next. In some cases it’s an easy choice, it’s the bike you have been buying parts for the past year and it’s finally time to get to work. Or…it’s an iennie-meenie-mienie-mo decision, “what bike do I want to ride this spring?” Usually these decisions are made late at night after drinking beers with friends that wish they had your problem…never a good time to make choices that end up costing you a lot of money or your wife making you sleep in the garage with your new ‘project’.
But, some vintage bike people have a different sort of problem, they have ‘non-project bikes’ (bikes that already run just great and just don’t get ridden enough) in the way of bikes that need love. I found one of those on ebay this morning, a 1964 BMW R60/2 that is ready to go.
The R60/ series was basically designed as a true utilitarian motorcycle. Stout, reliable, capable of pulling a sidecar (the frame mounts were already there), and with a top speed af around 90mph, no slouch for its size. The R60 weighed 430lbs, put out around 30hp and was built like a tank. One of the unique features of the R60 in Europe and the early versions brought to the US, was the Earles front suspension. The Earles front suspension was designed to help eliminate the front-end dive of the telescopic fork and keep steering more accurate under braking. It also was the front suspension of choice for those that want to attach a sidecar. Side note here…years back my friend Jeff got a wild hair up his ass about getting a side car rig. He decided that a BMW R80RT was the bike of choice for the project. He got his bike and a sidecar and then started having the best time of his motorcycling life. After much frustration with the handling, he talked with other side car nuts and found that the Earles or leading link front suspension would cure all his ills (bike related ills …not his other psychological ills…). Once that was installed, life was great. I can personally attest to what a difference that change made.
The R60′s really are one tough motorcycle. The travel stories out there that star an R60 are endless. There is a great book, ‘Two Wheels To Adventure’ by Danny Liska that documents his trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on and R60. It is a great read for any one who has a wanderlust and a testament to the strength of the R60′s.
The R60/2 I found today is a ready to go rider that has had some extras added that are well worth it and unique looking too…as in not your typical old BMW accessories, but really perfect for this bike. The black bike has only 47,000 miles on the clock and has pampered its whole life. The seller has detailed service notes and good history of the bike. The is equipped with a Heinrich fairing which looks really great on this bike and a set of Enduro(?) saddlebags which flow really nicely with the fairing. New seats for comfort and they look great. The bike does have the Earles forks which makes it an ideal candidate to hook a side car up to, I think a Steib would be perfect.
The seller is one of these guys that is making room (both mentally and logistically) for other projects and is looking for a better home for this really nice BMW that is a rider not a show queen and as he puts it, “it won’t break your heart to get a few rock chips from a great ride.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more information.
As I am thinning out the motorcycle herd here at the rancho, my thoughts are, much to my wife’s dismay, “what do I want next?”. After visiting the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York last year I have developed an affinity for Indian motorcycles. We probably spent a good two hours wandering through a large room dedicated purely to Indian. The museum had almost one of very model year from 1901! Solo models, side car rigs, delivery bikes, mini bikes..if was Indian it was there. After that visit I could just feel it building…”I need an Indian someday”, but which one? Well, for most it would be the Indian Chief. The most iconic of all Indians. The beautifully valanced fenders, the wonderful Power Plus motor and the perfect Indian head front fender light…I gotta have it. Well, maybe not. There are other models that may be more fun to ride and a bit more unique, take the Indian Scout Junior for example.
There were actually three models of the Scout; the Scout, the Scout Sport and the Junior. The first two were 750′s and the Junior was a 500cc or better known at that time as a 31 cubic inch model. The Scout Sport won the Daytona 200 and the standard Scout saw service in World War 2 but the little Scout Junior just kind of chuffed right along.
Being that I like motorbikes that may not be as popular as others, I have found myself drawn to the Scout Junior. Doing what research I can, there isn’t much out there about the Junior other than the fact that it is the ‘Junior’. So, what I have learned is basically take the Scout info you can find and make a 31 cubic inch model of it and go riding.
I like finding old bikes that have not been restored but have been resurrected and maintained. I found a Scout Junior that fits the bill perfectly…now if I could only unload a few (a bunch…) more bikes I could actually get it.
The Indian I found on ebay this morning is a nice , running ’37 model that shows it’s age beautifully…kind of like Ann Margaret or Sophia Loren. It does have a reproduction exhaust (the original does come with the bike), the motor and transmission were rebuilt (the outside of the motor was left ‘old’), the owner did put new tires on the bike, and it has the original paint. I love it! Now I just wish I could afford it. It’s a good bike for the money for the person that wants a classic bike that is a bit more unique than some others. And I’ll bet its damn fun to ride too.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. About three more bikes out of my barn and an Indian will find it’s home here.
What’s in a name? The Triumph T100 got its moniker because it would go 100 mph, the T110 because it went 110 mph ? Actually, ‘The Motorcycle’ magazine in Great Britain was only able to get it up to 109 mph but some others claim they got it up to 114 mph…so calling it the 110 seems a pretty good compromise. And, the T120 Bonnevillle (next in line) got its name from a T110 (a highly modified T110 mind you) that went 214.17 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. As legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey would say, “and now you know…the rest of the story”.
The Triumph T110 was first debuted in October of 1953 at the Paris Salon. It was the first Triumph to have a swinging arm rear suspension, (quite an improvement over the plunger rear end), it had a higher compression ratio, different cam and bigger carburetor than its predecessor. The first T110′s came with the cast iron barrels and head but was quickly switched over to the newer, lighter, better alloy head. With all these improvements the new T110 was a great sporting motorcycle. In a few short years however, Triumph brought out the twin carb, lighter, faster Bonneville and the T110 became the ‘red headed stepchild’ in the line. But really, the T110 with its single carb and good (by British standards) reliability, was the better choice for daily riding.
I found a beautiful Triumph T110 on ebay today that is in such a condition that I would not want to change one thing. This particular bike seems to be a bit of a mongrel that came out pretty much right? The seller says it’s a 1955 T110 with a 1959 Bonneville motor and it’s titled as a ’59 T110. It doesn’t really matter, your local DMV will be able to work it out…unless you’re in California.
This Tiger is a rider not a show bike and that’s a great thing. The owner had done all the good services, a bit of upgrading and in general taken good care of the bike. A lot of times I comment that a bike would be a good candidate for the Cafe’ treatment but this particular bike…leave it just as it is. I like the solo seat but the seller also offers up the stock dual seat…nice.
Click on the pics below for more info and more good pictures.
Every true vintage motorcycle restorer should have his own junkyard don’t you think? Well fellow enthusiast, this could be your lucky day. Who wouldn’t like a pile of rusty old gas tanks and frames? Seats and headlight buckets? Crusty old chains and sprockets? Wheels with broken spokes and carburetors that have spiders living in them? Engines that have seized and blown up? Boxes of wiring harnesses and stuff that you have no idea what it fits? This is heaven on earth and it can be yours for a paltry sum of money.
All of us that have older motorcycles have spent time at a boneyard. Searching through piles and piles of old parts looking for that one piece that you need and isn’t available anymore through your local dealership. Some salvage yards are nicely organized and there is someone there that is helpful and knowledgeable and there are those that are just junkyards. If you find yourself in a junkyard, you need to KNOW what you are looking for and have a lot of patience and imagination.
Looking for parts like I do every day, a necessity when you have a bunch of old bikes that need to be built or rebuilt, I found this treasure trove. Looking at the pictures, I saw a pretty complete Honda SL350, A Honda CB500, A Kawasaki Big Horn (?), a Yamaha Riva scooter. This is a rat bike builders dream come true. Look at all those frames and motors and gas tanks….oh man, it makes your brain hurt just thinking about all the possibilities.
This boneyard is located in very very Southern California, Salton City at the Salton Sea so you can imagine that all these treasures come all the rust you could possibly want. How can you resist this find?
So,if you either want to move to Salton City California, or if you’re like a friend of mine that bought two forty foot containers full of oddball airplane parts and had them shipped cross country, this the deal of a lifetime. Click on the pics below for more. I love wandering through motorcycle boneyards, however, my wife takes away my credit card before I go.
British singles, I love ‘em. I’m not talking about the ones on match.com.uk, well, some of those are quite attractive as well but I’m talking about motorcycles. I have owned one that was stolen out of my garage, I have ridden a few that I was loaned and I believe that the British Single cylinder racing motorcycle is truly the epitome ‘Golden Era’ of motorbike racing.
As I look back on my years of riding and racing, most of the memories that are truly embedded in my brain are on big singles. Desert racing on a BSA 441, vintage roadracing on a BSA Gold Star and a Honda Ascot. I have a Yamaha SRX 600 in my shop waiting for its turn.
Single cylinder motorbikes have a look, sound and feel that can’t be matched by any other bike. You feel and hear everything. Singles handle like no other…light steering, low center of gravity, narrow enough for you to just tuck into, and because of all that, you and your motorbike become one. The engine vibrates enough to let that it’s alive, and the sound is pure music. I love singles.
Today on ebay I found a really nice 1956 B33. It’s a 500 single bred out of the very successful B31 350. These are not the high-bred Gold Stars, these are the more pedestrian ride it to work, take the wife for a Sunday morning ride or even attach a sidecar to it kind of bike. The B33 was just a good solid reliable motorbike…Cycle Magazine called it, “the poor mans ‘Gold Star’”. Good handling, easy starting and smooth riding. When magazines tested the B33 it was good for about 90mph. Truth be told, I would feel very uneasy riding one of these at those speeds…I have been on a Gold Star at about that speed and had to check my underwear when I stopped.
The bike I found today is a very nice example of a bike you could buy and go riding this weekend. This B33 has a bit over 43K miles on the clock but is a solid runner according to the seller. The bike looks its age and that’s just fine. This will be a wonderful bike to have and ride, classic style and sound. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. Owning a classic British single cylinder motorbike is something every true motorcyclist should do at least once.
How can you not want to get this for someone your Christmas list. We have all taken our bikes to a ‘Knucklehead Garage’ at some point in our life. I think these guys might be the only ones I would love to take a friends bike to when he wasn’t looking.
Click on the pic below to buy and get it for Christmas. It’s a great looking tin sign and it will look great in your garage. Or give it the last Knucklehead that worked on your bike.
I have a very good friend who lives and breathes Norton motorcycles, well, he lives and breathes all kinds of motorcycles but Norton’s are his first love. He has taken a 1959 Norton to the Bonneville Salt Flats and set a land speed record, built a Bonneville Streamliner powered by a Norton motor and has roadraced Norton’s for the past three decades. In his work shop are the aforementioned Norton’s plus a couple more, one being a 350cc International (it happens to be in a variety of boxes at this time however). He does have plans to get it all back together someday but in reality, he has about a half-dozen other project bikes that are little higher on the list, so the International sits lonely and looking for some love. Sigh.
The Norton International has a great history. Built from 1931 to 1957, with a short break during a little thing called World War 2. When production resumed in 1947 they went back to the iron head motor instead of the pre war alloy ‘race’ model, but they did make a slight change to the suspension. The rear end was still using the older type ‘plunger’ suspenders but the front got Norton’s new hydraulic ‘Roadholder’ forks to replace the girder front end. The bike handled so much better.
The International had a great racing history throughout the 1930′s but by time the late 1940′s and early 1950′s the International was being out paced by the BSA Gold Star’s and Norton’s own Manx. Though the engine did get the pre-war upgrade back to the alloy head and barrel in the early 50′s, the biggest improvement was the ‘Featherbed’ frame in 1953. Sadly, this is one of those cases of too little, too late. The bigger faster twins were leading in every aspect of the motorcycling marketplace and the simple single cylinder motorbikes were becoming dinosaurs.
Being a lover of singles, I have a couple buried somewhere in the barn…actually one is on the lift being brought back from the dead at this time, I am always on the look out for parts and bikes. Today on ebay I found a very nice 1947 (the first year back in production after the war) Norton International 350 in good condition. Yeah it needs a little love, but what bike this old that hasn’t been totally restored doesn’t.
The great thing about vintage motorcycles is seeing their life in the oil mist on the frame, the shoddy electrics and then spending time making back to what it was and then riding it. The seller says that all it needs is a battery? You might want to put a bit more effort into it. The price is a little up there but you know what, if you would like to own a great piece of British motorcycling history this is a great bike to have.
Click on the pic’s below for more pictures and a little info.
Every now and then you find a really cool ‘antique’ motorcycle that you can actually start up and ride that hasn’t been totally restored to museum quality…which means you might be able to buy it without having to take out a second mortgage on your house or cash in the kids college fund. They are few and far between but they do exist.
Last January, while visiting the in-laws in New York, I came across an ad in the local newspaper for a motorcycle museum in a town about thirty minutes away. In order to escape the family stuff for one day I told everybody that visiting the museum was a business thing I had to do, you know, our website www.themotoworld.com. Mom and dad instantly handed me the car keys and hoped we would have a great day…the more I think about it, they probably needed a vacation from me!?
Motorcyclepedia in Newburgh, New York http://motorcyclepediamuseum.org/ is without a doubt the most interesting motorcycle museum I have been to for so many reasons. There is a full story over at our other blog on the www.themotoworld.com. What was most interesting to me was the number of great motorcycles in their ‘found’ condition, so finding a bike like the one I found today is quite exciting.
I have never really thought much about Douglas motorcycles, I know the name and have seen a couple of them but never really learned anything about them, until today…
Douglas has a very cool story. Starting as blacksmiths in England in 1882 the Douglas brothers bought out Light Motors Ltd to get WJ Barters motorcycle designs, the single cylinder and the 200cc flat twin. During WW1 Douglas motorcycles sold somewhere around 70,000 units for military use. Douglas motorcycles had a couple of great innovations way ahead of their time. In the early 1920′s Douglas developed the first disc brake system for motorcycles and, the hemispherical head design. Douglas was very successful in flat track and road racing in that era with their 500cc model.
One great book every motorcyclist should read is ‘One Man Caravan’ by Robert Fulton Jr. It’s the story of a young man fresh out of Harvard University at dinner one evening (and I would imagine a few glasses of wine) boasting that he is going to ride a motorbike around the world. This is 1932. The president of Douglas motorcycles was there and offered him a bike…basically calling his bluff, Fulton took the offer and the rest of the story….read the book.
Along comes World War 2 and, as with many other motorcycle manufacturers, financial problems. By 1955 Douglas was only building the 350cc Dragonfly and in 1957 that model went away as well.
Back to the bike I found on ebay. This is a 1924 Douglas Single that sat in a shed in England for 88 years. 88 YEARS!!!. The motorcycle was brought to the US in 2011. What I really love about this bike is that there has really no restoration work done to it, it has the original gas headlamp, generator, seat and…paper work!! This is way too cool. And you want to know what is even cooler than all of that…it was running just one week ago!!! This is a bike that someone who is interested in an ‘antique’ versus a ‘vintage’ motorbike, a bike with a pedigree and one you can ride instead of put in a museum, this is a great buy. Click on the pics below for a bit more information and pictures.
After World War 2 most all of the German and Italian manufacturers that had anything to do with the war effort were banned from making planes, airplane motors, military hardware…you name it, they couldn’t make it. A number of the companies went on to make cars, refrigerators, toasters, motorcycles and radios (that was Ducati…).
One of the biggest was Aeromere which then became Aero-Caproni. Most of these companies (BMW, Ducati,MV Agusta, and Aermacchi) actually went into motorbikes and scooters because affordable transportation was important at that time…kind of like now…
Small size motorbikes were big business until…the Fiat 500 arrived on the scene. Now you had a small car that would protect you from the weather, get good gas mileage, easy to park and you could take your girlfriend on date and not mess up her hair. The Fiat wasn’t much bigger than your average motorbike. Italians went for the 500 big time and a number of the motorcycle manufacturers started struggling.
Today, small bore Italian bikes have a great value in the marketplace, sometimes they are found just laying out in a field, others are sitting under a blanket in your great uncle’s garage in New Mexico. There are events centered around these bikes, the Moto Giro d’Italia is the premier showcase for these bikes, there is also a version here in California September 30 – October 2, I’m getting my little Benelli ready for that one!! Heres the link if you want to go http://www.girodcalifornia.com
Today I found a perfect candidate for the ride or for your collection on ebay. This is a really neat little 1951 Capriolo that was restored at a well respected shop in Italy and then shipped over here. It is really beautifully done and I believe ready to ride. The price seems pretty reasonable compared to others I have seen of late so click on the pics below for a bit more info and pictures…and then I’ll see you on the Giro D’ California this fall. My Benelli will be faster than your Capriolo…
Everybody that really loves vintage motorcycles needs, at one time or another, to own a classic British Single. The reason I say this is having owned a few, once you own one and if you are smarter than me, you’ll never be tempted to own another. They are difficult, temperamental, a little tough to find parts for and…so much fun to ride. Having spent time (and restored to rideable condition) with a BSA C15, A Gold Star (it wasn’t mine though, sadly), a 441 Victor (which was mine sadly) and a B50 MX (that too was loaned to me by a so-called ‘friend’), I developed an affinity for single cylinder motorcycles. The simplicity, the feel and sound,the uniqueness, and in my opinion the ‘high giggle factor’.
The single cylinder motorcycle has been a mainstay in motorcycling forever. Honda is having great success with the new 2012 CBR250 Single because singles work! Singles may not be the best choice for traveling across the country, though there are those have been brave enough to do it, but for commuting and Sunday rides, a single can’t be beat.
Now, being an old bike guy and enjoying the simplicity of the older bikes, I always look for motorcycles that have an interesting pedigree or history, this particular BSA M20 I found on ebay has both.
Here is the ‘Readers Digest Version’ of the M20′s history. The design started in 1936 primarily as a military side car unit. The M20 was heavy, slow and had less than optimal ground clearance, nonetheless, the British military bought all that BSA could make. The main reason for such support was the reliability of the machine, which at first was a bit dodgey but a few modifications by the factory took care of those issues, and the M20 became the longest serving motorbike in the British military…up until the 1970′s!!?? Want to know how valuable the M20 was?…The main factory was bombed out by the German Air Force, fortunately BSA had a number of other factories so production could continue.
Prior to 1951 the BSA M20 had a girder fork and a rigid rear suspension, after that point, the bike adopted the telescopic forks and plunger rear suspension.
A good number of the military machines were turned over to the civilian market…repainted mostly, but still set up for sidecar usage. These are great motorbikes for someone who is looking for a bike with a history. The M20 was well renowned for being indestructible and easy to start and ride. What more could you ask for?
I found a really nice example this morning on ebay. The owner says it’s a 1953 but someone else who did a bit of research says it is a 1957 based on the motor number. That’s OK, there isn’t any difference. This bike is completely stock and has been sitting for over 35 years in a garage with classic cars in Reno Nevada. No rust and just the right amount of vintage patina. The bike also comes with a box of spare parts. This is really cool motorcycle that you can start down the dark path of British singles with ease. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
This is such a cool little motorcycle. 106cc’s of all out Italian Stallion power. Ok, it tops out at about 60 mph (downhill with a tail wind) but those 60 mph’s are going to be a lot of fun.
Back in the 1950′s and 60′s you could could buy everything through the Sears catalog, even a car believe it or not…the Allstate version of the Kaiser ‘Henry J’. The car business was not the success Sears had hoped for, lasted only two years and they sold less than 2400 cars. Sears actually tried selling cars back as far as 1912, the Sears ‘Motor Buggy’.
But, we’re talking about motorcycles here. Sears sold a lot of motorcycles and scooters during that time period mostly from Puch and Gilera. You could get everything from a little 500cc moped to a 250cc Puch ‘Twingle’. One of the most popular was the Gilera 106cc SuperSport. It was light, easy to ride and cheap, new it only cost $389.00.
The 106 SS is a perfect little cafe racer platform, a great Moto Giro bike and really just a neat little motorcycle. As I was doing my research this morning, I found that there are a great number of user groups and forums about the Sears Allstate Gileras and parts are still pretty easy to find, so if you do find yourself the owner of one of these Italian Stallions, you’ll have a lot of help and support.
I found a good little 106ss this morning on ebay, it’s already in full cafe racer mode but needs a few things to make it street legal. It has been serviced and runs good. Honestly, these are unique and interesting motorcycles that are pretty crude in some ways even by 60′s standards, and at the same time incredibly capable and fun motorbikes. I love the simplicity of the Italian motorcycles of that era, they work so well. Maybe they are a bit crude but there is an elegance that goes along with it that make them so special. For those of us that like small motorbikes, these are almost too hard to resist.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and a contact phone number. This little Gilera could be a whole lot of fun for someone who wants something unique but doesn’t want to have to devote the next twelve months getting it rideable.
There is something about the CBX that can’t be explained. This is a beast of a motorcycle but it is more ‘Beauty and the Beast’ than ‘The Hulk’. It is an incredible motorcycle and Honda did absolutely the right thing with it as time went along.
The CBX came at a time when the ‘Big Four’ (Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda) were all developing ‘Superbikes’. Honda at the time was considered the tamest of the bunch, everything about the bikes were good,fit and finish was way above everybody else, comfort was great and the bikes Honda was building were easy to ride, but nothing really stood out, what’s a poor company to do?! Let’s take our racing success and bring it to the street.
Honda developed the six cylinder motors for Grand Prix racing in the 60′s quite successfully. Jim Redmond and his 250 and 350 six cylinder bikes won just about every race they entered. So, when time came for Honda to blow past the retail competition they brought in Shoichiro Irimajiri, the engineer that developed the Grand Prix bikes to design the new Honda Superbike.
Development of the CBX started in 1976 and the biggest problem they faced was getting the weight down. Initially, Irimajiri San wanted the bike to be water cooled because it would be lighter, but the higher ups insisted on standard air cooling because of cost effectiveness. Truth be told, the CBR1000 four cylinder was actually faster than the Six. In the end the CBX should have produced about 130HP but settled at 103hp only 5 more than the CB1100F of the time. There may have not been much difference in the HP ratings but the difference in the ride is huge.
Here’s what happened however, Honda built a fantastic motor and designed a beautiful body for it but, then scrimped on the handling aspect of the bike. The CBX was not the Superbike that everyone, including Honda had hoped for, but Honda figured what the CBX was perfect for…Sport Touring.
Other than BMW with their RS series motorcycles, nobody else was really into the sporting side of touring. In 1981 Honda took the CBX in a whole new direction that was just about perfect. A complete change to the suspension (front and rear), a sleek new fairing and some stylish saddlebags and you have the sportiest ride to take you from here to Nova Scotia and back.
There is so much more to the CBX story. Sadly, the CBX was only around for four years but since that time it has grown a following that lives and breathes six cylinders. I found a beauty on ebay this morning that if you are looking for a sport tourer that will serve you well, be comfortable, draw a lot of attention as you travel across the country and still leave money in your bank account to do the travels, check this CBX out. It only has 44K miles, has a fresh tune up and battery, the carbs have been gone through and it is ready to ride. This is one of those bikes that I advocate (especially at this time of the year) that you buy it, fly to it and ride it home…the long way!
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a great bike and I think it can be had at a very reasonable price.
It’s sad to see some motorcycles that were beautifully built only last a couple of years and then away they go. This Victoria V35 Bergmeister is a perfect example.
Victoria Motorcycles started out like many company’s making motorcycles by making bicycles. Victoria’s two wheelers started in 1886 and became motorized in 1901. Originally, Victoria built the frames but sourced engines from other manufacturers, FN and Horex as examples. Victoria motorcycles were very popular through the 1920′s and 30′s with good successes in racing, particularly in the mountain races and hillclimbs. In 1926 A Victoria motorcycle set the world speed record at 165KPH.Because of the racing victory’s in the mountains, 1933 brought a new model, the Bergmeister, which means ‘Mountain Champion’.
Along came World War Two. Production shifted to smaller motorcycles built for the military. In 1945, the Victoria factory was bombed by the allied forces and almost nothing was left. But at war’s end, they started rebuilding. Again, it was with small motorcycles and larger bikes with engines again sourced from the likes of BMW, Horex and Columbus.
In 1951 the top German designer, Richard Kuchen, came to Victoria and started with a fresh sheet of paper and designed a new Bergmeister.
This new model featured a very compact V-Twin design of 350cc. The intent was to fit it between the BMW and Horex singles of the time and, the larger Boxer Twins of Zundapp and BMW. The motorcycle was so sturdy and strong that it was well suited for sidecar use. It had 21 horsepower, good for its time and size.
The thing that really stands out about this motorcycle is the engine. When you look closely at it, you don’t see any intake runners, carburetor, air cleaner or battery…they’re all inside. The motor really looks like something out of a Flash Gordon Saturday matinée episode. I really like it. The running gear consists of a four speed chain driven transmission and a shaft final drive. All built to last. Typically German.
But there was a fly in the ointment. The design and prototype process started in 1951 but the bike didn’t make it to market until 1954 and when it did it was already behind the curve of what was being built by other German motorcycle makers and because of its long development time and cost, it was too expensive for ‘just a 350′. The V35 Bergmeister only lasted from 1954-1956, in 1958 Victoria merged with DKW and by the early 1960′s Victoria was no more.
So, in my early morning perusal of ebay, I come across this very nice example of a Victoria V35 Bergmeister. These bikes are very rare, some say only about 450 are left in the world at this time and parts for this machine are even rarer. The one I found here isn’t a runner but it was when it was put away and it’s all there except the mufflers. Has new ‘old’ tyres, the original service book, and seat. It does need some love but the owner says it kicks over strong with good compression, clicks through all the gears like it should and generally looks very good. It has been repainted (frame and body work) but the color is just a little bit off I think, not bad just a little off. I like this bike a lot, it’s got a really clean look, slim and compact and love that engine. So, if you’re looking for something very unusual that really won’t take all that much to restore, or at least get running this could be something that belongs in your garage. And when you’re riding it and someone asks what kind of Moto Guzzi is it, you can just smile and say “it’s not…it’s a Bergmeister” and ride away watching in your mirror them scratching their heads and wondering what a Bermeister is. Click on the pic below for more info and pictures. Hurry up because right now it’s still at a pretty good price.
How does a dismal failure of a motorcycle become a classic? Well, maybe because it was such a dismal failure. Before WW2 Indian and Harley were the dominant makers in the US motorcycle market. Both were successful in racing and in general usage. During the war, both built thousands of bikes to be used overseas. After World War Two, Harley continued building the V-Twin motor but Indian decided that it was a ‘obsolete design’ and looked to compete with the lighter and faster British parallel twins. Enter the Scout model.
The Scout was the first of the ‘Torque’ models to come out of the Indian factory. It was modeled after the Overhead Valve vertical twins from Britain but, it fell somewhat short of the mark. The original Scout was only 440cc’s so it was underpowered compared to the motorcycles it was designed to compete with and because Indian rushed this design into production the first series came with a lot of problems. Based on the Scout, Indian’s reputation was heading down the toilet pretty quickly. Transmission issues, crankshaft bearings…you name it, there were problems. The great hope for this new model was dashed in just one year.
In 1950 Indian brought back the V-Twin Chief and upgraded the Scout to 500cc and renamed it the ‘Warrior’. In the one year period from introduction to remodel, most all the problems had been addressed and solved, but, it was a case of too little too late and then there was another problem…the price. It was still more expensive to buy than a Triumph, Norton, BSA, Matchless, AJS and wasn’t as fast. Things were not looking good for the Indian Warrior.
So after all this history on a short-lived model I still find these Indians quite interesting so when I found one on ebay I had to look into it.
This particular Scout has only 2200 miles on the clock, not too many but may be enough to have the well-known problems rear their ugly little heads. What’s really cool is that it does have the original tool kit, warranty and break in card and the original registration. Neat. The bike looks really good and if you’re into Indian motorcycles which I am finding myself more and more drawn to, this is definitely a bike worth looking at. For more info and more pictures click on the pic’s below.
Yes, BSA goes everywhere, including war. During the ‘Big One’ World War Two, motorcycles were a huge part of getting information and people around. The three great forces…Germany, Britain and America brought their motorcycles. Germany the BMW, America the Harley Davidson and Britain brought the BSA. Most all were side car units and extremely utilitarian. The motorcycle had to be strong (if you think the potholes on your local roads are bad, think about roads that have giant bomb holes!!!), reliable… (I don’t think the Auto Club would come to your rescue at that time and place), and be able carry a couple of soldiers, a machine gun or two and a bunch of hand grenades. These were sturdy motorcycles.
BSA first presented the M20 to the British war department and it was turned down. The BSA didn’t pass the durability test. After a few modifications the M20 was deemed sufficient. Yes it was slow, heavy and lacking in ground clearance, but it was durable and easy to maintain. The M20 was a simple 469cc side valve single cylinder motorbike that put out only 13 horsepower but mountains of torque, important when hauling a fully loaded sidecar or when traversing the mountains. The M20 motor was a very low compression unit because it often ran on very low grade fuel. It’s interesting that a motorbike that was at first deemed unacceptable became the widely used unit in the British military, over 126,000 M20 were in service during the war. The M20 was particularly useful in the North Africa campaign. The M20 was considered the true war horse of the second world war. The M20 has a great war history and there are great number of websites that tell the story so well.
After the war the M20 was kept in production for a number of years being ‘civilianized’. Because so many were built and maintained by the British military there are still many alive and rolling today, however few are still in military trim. I found one.
I found a really nice 1942 model M20 on ebay this morning, which is why I spent the time learning about it. The owner of this particular bike gives virtually no information about the bike except for ‘good condition, slight wear on the seat and original saddlebags’. There are a couple of phone numbers if you have questions…like, does it run?
Anyway, if you are a military buff and need a motorcycle that suits your style, this is a great choice. There is a lot of information available out there if you need to work on it. Click on the pics below for the contact info.
At some point in life every true motorcycle lover needs to submit to the love, joy and punishment of owning a classic British single. I know. My step father and his friends corrupted me from an early age. Triumph Tiger Cubs, BSA Gold Star’s and the “your’e trying to kill me” BSA B50MX. That’s how I ended up starting my singles building and racing career on a BSA C15.
As I matured (read, grew older) I wanted something more exotic, maybe something Italian? I looked at Ducati and Moto Guzzi singles but they were way out of my budget. Maybe an Italian Harley/Aermacchi Sprint? Yeah, I still want one. Japanese singles…been there, raced them and crashed them. So, it’s back to my long time love, the classic British one lunger.
AJS, Matchless, Norton, BSA, Triumph, Vincent???…Matchless wins. There is so much to the Matchless history that why wouldn’t you want one? The racing history of the big singles…1907, the first Single to win the Isle Of Man TT with an average speed of, hold your breath here…38mph. There is so much more.
A quick history here. Matchless started back in 1899, actual production in 1901. They continued until 1966. Matchless motorcycle engines powered the Morgan 3 Wheel car back in 1933 (just a fun little tid bit). Matchless was one of the first motorcycle builders to incorporate the swinging arm rear suspension and in 1941 brought out the ‘Teledraulic’ front forks. Both significant steps in motorcycle design.
1938 Matchless joined forces with AJS to form AMC (Associated Motorcycle Manufacturing).That continued into the late 60′s and early 70′s as all the British motorcycle builders were joining efforts to combat the Japanese invasion. In the end, only one was left standing, well…kind of, Triumph.
Matchless motorcycles have a mystique about them that other British makes haven’t been able to meet over the years. The legendary G50 that raced successfully for decades, The G80…Matchless’ legend is exactly that. There is the racing history in all it’s forms…roadracing, scrambles, trials, there is nowhere Matchless hasn’t left it’s mark. And I don’t mean a puddle of oil underneath the bike, which probably will be there. It is English.
So, this morning I found this really nice Matchless 250 on ebay that I thought would be a great bike for someone to start their path into the world of British single cylinder motorcycles. It’s in great condition, a good runner and reasonably priced. Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures.
Yesterday I went to one of the best motorcycle museums I have ever been to, Motorcyclepedia in Newburgh, New York. I found out about this place from a clipping my mother-in-law sent me a while back. Knowing that we would be visiting the family, I planned an afternoon trip (ok, it’s only thirty minutes away, but in rural New York, it’s still a trip), I wish I planned a day.
Now, I know the other day I wrote I was really more interested in Post War era motorcycles than true antiques, and it’s still true. But…after spending the afternoon at Motorcyclepedia, I think a true antique may be in my not too distant future. We saw all kinds of early 20th century motorcycles, motorcycles we have heard of and some we hadn’t; Rambler, Columbia, Tribune to name a few. There were Thor’s, Ace’s, Flying Merkel’s, Pierces and Cleveland’s.
Today is about Cleveland Motorcycles. Cleveland started in 1902 and made it into the 1920’s. Starting off with a simple single, as most did at that time, and eventually bringing a four cyclinde into the market…as did many others of the time. Cleveland was a fairly generic motorcycle actually manufactured by American Cycle Manufacturing. They had been building bicycles but branched into motorcycles as they become more popular. At the time, many companies were really just kit bikes. You got the same motor that maybe two or three other builders had, the same basic frame, you just added your own touches to it. This is a fascinating time in American motorcycle manufacturing.
This morning I found this very nice condition ‘barn find’ Cleveland on ebay. It looks in really great ‘restorable’ condition. When this simple 2 ½ HP two stroke came out, Cleveland was claiming it would get 75-100 miles per gallon using the Brown and Barlow float feed single jet carburetor. This particular motorcycle doesn’t have the original carburetor. The Cleveland used a Bosch magneto for ignition. An interesting thing about the electrical systems on these motorcycles; there was no battery, no lights, no horn, the magneto only powered the ignition.
The bike had a two speed sliding gear transmission and a very interesting braking system. The rear brake was right side foot operated and what it did was tighten a cork (?) lined metal band around the outside of the drum. Picture an oil filter wrench.
I think this motorcycle is in really great condition to be restored by someone with the time and interest in this era of motorbikes. Click on the pics below for a little more info and a lot more pictures.