Sometimes I just can’t help myself. I love Cafe Racers. Simple. A purpose built/modified machine that can get from here to there quite fast in high style. A cafe racer is a function before fashion machine but…the fashion is definitely there too.
A good friend of mine has recently discovered Cafe Racers. He started his life on a Harley Davidson Sportster, all blacked out, then moved on to a Street Bob (a big twin Harley), again all blacked out and loves it. He is a part time member of the “Harley Culture” but he is expanding his views. My subtle hints and sending pictures of cool bikes seem to be working!
I was living in Las Cruces New Mexico when the original Gold Wing was introduced. The GL1000 was at first thought of as a big bore Sportbike, but as we all know, it became the Supreme Leader in touring bikes. Why the change in thought? The original was a touring bike to go up against the Harley Davidson Electra Glide, but the molds for all the touring accessories were accidentally destroyed so the bike was brought out naked and American Honda tried to market it as a Sportbike. Well, the aftermarket (in particular Craig Vetter) had a field day with accessories. In no time at all you could make a Gold Wing as comfortable as a Winnebago. It is the motorcycle that changed touring motorcycles forever.
I rode it back in 1975 and thought it was rather Ho-Hum (I was riding a Kawasaki H2 750 at the time). Fast forward a few decades when I bought my father his Gold Wing, I came to realize just how good this motorcycle is. I started looking at Gold Wings as more than just an ‘old man motorcycle’ but as a platform for some serious fun. Granted, you can’t convert a modern Gold Wing to anything other than what it is but get an old GL1000 or 1100 and the fun begins.
I found a very nicely done Cafe Racer ‘Wing’ on ebay this morning and it looks very appealing. A little too blingy for my taste but very well done. Pretty low miles for a bike it’s age…my wife says the same thing about me. NOT. Some really nice upgrades and like I said, a little on the ‘Blingy” side for me but nicely done.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a very cool bike.
I really dig Gold Wings with Sidecars. My favorite by far is a ’75 GL1000 with a Vetter Terraplane that I saw at the Griffith Park rally a few years back. Picture a Cafe Racer sidecar rig…it was perfect!
So today I found a more sedate (classic) rig on ebay. A nice ’75 Wing with a Watsonian Sidecar. Now, it is really pretty cool. It’s got a couple of different covers, to handle different weather conditions ands a very comfy seat. The bike has been given some good love but needs a bit more, not much but a little.
If you have never driven a sidecar rig (and the proper term is driving, not riding), what a blast! Your whole view of the motorcycling world changes instantly. Flying the car first time, makes you pull over and check your underwear. The first time you fly the car with some one in the car…well, you’re both checking your undies and your passenger is calling a cab. By the way, ‘flying the car’ means the sidecar is off the ground as you go around a right hand turn. Great fun seeing the look on your passengers face when all of a sudden they feel like they are on a carnival ride!
It’s funny, but when you are driving a Sidecar rig, everybody looks at you differently. You’re not a biker anymore and your cool factor just went up 100%
This is a nice rig, a little pricey but cool factor doesn’t always come cheap. Click on the pics below for more pictures and info
I put this in here today because I have a friend that I work with who lives in a ‘Retirement‘ community and does property management there. He likes vintage motorcycles but needs something a bit cooler than his golf cart to get around the community. I think this is the perfect vehicle.
There is a lot of strange and interesting history when it comes to Indian motorcycles, way too much to put here but I love it. At this period in time, post WW2, both Harley Davidson and Indian were trying any and everything to keep sales up. Small bikes, which both companies pretty much failed at, service vehicles (which Harley did a much better job at) and even scooters.
Indian partnered with Lowther Scooters to build up the 63D model. A three wheel service vehicle that was easy to drive, very functional and inexpensive compared to the Harley Servicar. In truth, the 63D didn’t even come close. As a matter of fact only 8 were built. The 63D had an either 4 or 6 hp motor, a centrifugal clutch, the 63D had a differential for 2 wheel drive, If you had a small farm or ranch (or a modern retirement community) it was probably just fine but as a true service vehicle…nah. However it is pretty cool.
Lowther Scooters built some of the craziest most futuristic scooters ever…check these out…
I found a 63D model on ebay this morning that is a good runner starts on the first or second kick, shifts through the gears just fine and the lights work. This particular model is the ‘high horsepower’ model….all 6 horses are there so it’s going to be quite a handful! It needs some love for sure but nothing too serious.
It ain’t cheap but it is really cool. Click on the pic’s below for a lot more info and more pictures. It is a very interesting peice of Indian history and now I’m really interested in Lowther Scooter company history. More to come.
I have always been a fan of oddball motorcycles…actually owned a lot of them, much to the bewilderment of family and friends. While doing my daily search of ebay for stuff I need and / or want, I found a bike I have never heard of before, a Junak?
In Post War Europe there were a ton of motorbike manufacturers, in Poland alone there were Twenty Eight, 28!!, between 1928 and 1972, the Junak is Polish. There is so much history in Eastern European motorcycle building its mind boggling. If you want to learn more about the Post War Eastern Europe motorcycling industry you will spend hours upon hours and days upon days at your computer and talking to motorcycle historians and then it goes back to Britain…and then….
Back to Junak. Junak was the first and only (at the time, post war) manufacturer of four stroke motorcycles in Poland. The best and most popular was the M10, a 350cc single cylinder that very closely resembled the Ariel single (with maybe a touch of BMW thrown in for good measure). Like I have said before, most of the Eastern Euro bikes had their basis on British bikes…who didn’t? Well, maybe the Italians?
The Junak M10 is a very simple 350cc single that had many uses. It was originally designed for the military (was there an Eastern European motorcycle that wasn’t??), and for touring.The Januk M10 became a very popular civilian motorbike especially with a side car, but also had good success in cross country racing
And, circuit racing (roadracing)
I found a very beautiful example of the Junak M10 on ebay this morning. It is a 1963 with just 400 miles (610 KM) on the clock. It is a first kick starter (most of the time) and good runner. Interestingly enough spare parts aren’t all that difficult to come by, there are a number of sources that can still supply you with parts to keep this bit of Post War Eastern European motorcycling culture on the road. Cosmetically it’s really nice, going to need a few things here and there but nothing to be overly concerned about if you plan on riding it. The seller is asking nearly $10K for it…is it worth that much??? You decide.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures
Starting a racing career in the California deserts in the 1960’s was great! These were the days that on the starting line were legendary names…Bultaco, CZ, Maico, Husqvarna, Ossa, Penton, Sachs, DKW, Zundapp and probably a half dozen others that I can’t remember right now. But, also were the heavy weights…Triumph, BSA, Norton, even Harley Davidson (yes, the big motors, not the little Italian jobs, even though there were plenty of them as well) and believe it or not once in a while a BMW?! The Japanese were making serious inroads into off-road competition as well, I rode a Honda SL350 for two years in Enduro’s and desert races. And then to add even more fun to these event were the ‘sidehack’ racers. Talk about nutballs!?
This was a period in time where innovation and experimentation ruled in motorcycling. Off-road racing had the Rickman brothers and Eric Cheney building better chassis’ than the OEM, Flat Track had Champion and Track Master, Road racing had their fair share of custom builders as well. This was a time to take a good motor and make it handle better. This may not be considered the ‘Golden Age’ of motorcycling to some, but to my generation, yeah, it was.
I found a cool Cheney Racing framed Triumph on ebay today and it got me to thinking and remembering…and doing a bit of research. My step-dad’s best friend Stan Hughes had a really cool Cheney/BSA single that I thought was the hardest motorcycle in the world to start, I think I’m still right on that one (but I did learn the secret to easier starting…a few years later). I never got to ride the bike very far but I do remember how good it felt. Everything seemed to just fall into place (ergonomics) and the bike steered with almost no effort. And, on top of all that it was beautiful.
There is a good amount of Eric Cheney’s history on the web, he built the frame for British MX Champ John Banks’ BSA, he developed ISDT (International Six Day Trials) for Triumph from 1968-71 and many other racers. Most of his frames were built around the BSA Singles of the time but also built kits for the Triumph twins. A Cheney framed bike was a prized possession.
Eric passed away a few years ago and his son took over the business. You can still get a Cheney frame built to your specs! How cool is that!
The bike I found on ebay is in very good condition, I don’t think it runs but the seller believes it’s an easy fix to get it going (weak spark…Lucas electrics?). If you want an interesting vintage off roader this is a good choice. And the Triumph 500 motor is a blast to ride!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Every now and then you simply need a vehicle that will get you to and from the grocery store, the local nursery, or just to cruise around the town and have people looking at you like you’re some sort of crazy eccentric. Or, maybe you are a retired mailman and remember driving one of these for your daily deliveries and you want a piece of your history.
The Cushman Mailster is all that and more…or less depending on how you look at it.
Cushman was started by the Cushman brothers back in 1903 in Lincoln Nebraska making motors for farm equipment. In 1936, during ‘The Great Depression’, started making scooters. Then during World War 2 making utility vehicles.
When the war was over Cushman was sitting on a lot of their 3 wheel vehicles, a lot. Somebody in the sales department was smart and went to the postal service and said, “hey, I’ve got a great idea to make mail delivery faster, easier and more efficient, it’s called the ‘Mailster’!!
Well, by the late 1950’s one third of the US Postal Service was using the ‘Mailster’ to deliver your Sears catalog to your doorstep along with your water and electric bills. And maybe the collection notice from Household Finance company. However, the mailmen really didn’t like the Cushman all that much. The Mailster was way underpowered (7.5 horsepower), was unreliable, had bad brakes and was pretty inconvenient to load and unload. And, on top of all that, they tended to tip over if you went around a corner at more than 25 MPH. They were so easy to tip over that a big dog (who we all know love mailmen?) could actually knock one over!? But…they were good enough that the New York Police Department even used them.
Negatives aside, this a very cool piece of motorized history and can be a lot of fun for somebody who lives in a small town (as do I), or a retirement community (as I don’t). But…There is another idea out there…the perfect tailgater!
Think about this, put a cooler inside, a grill in the back, a keg on the side..you have the coolest portable party machine in town!!
I found this Westcoater/Mailster on ebay and thought this would really be a fun vehicle to have. Cushman has an amazing history from basic scooters, to the mailster and truckster to some very Space Age styled scooters in the 50’s and golf carts. This is a very cool vehicle, licensed as a motorcycle. This one is a runner but probably needs the basic going through. For more info and more pictures, click on the pic’s below.
Over the more than 100 years Harley Davidson has been building motorcycles they have dipped their toes into the waters of bikes other than big twins a few times. Their short lived love affair with Aermacchi, the horizontal singles and small two strokes came from Italy, and more recently a partnership with sportbike builder Erik Buell (of which I now own one, and much to my chagrin, I LOVE). But, The Motor Company always seems to come to it’s senses and goes back to what it sells best…big, heavy, twins that owners can make louder than a Led Zepplin concert.
Let’s take a short walk back to the early 1960’s and the world of scooters. Harley Davidson was doing everything it could to keep their market share here in the U.S of A while the British and more importantly, the Japanese, were whittling away at it. As mentioned before, the working with Aermachhi to enter the small bike market didn’t go quite as well as the bean counters in Milwaukee would have liked. What about building a scooter?? Could it, would it, work?? It didn’t matter, Harley was throwing money (money it didn’t really have) almost anywhere to keep selling motorcycles. Enter the Topper.
Harley Davidson built the Topper to cash in on the growing market of beginner riders and those that just wanted something fun to ride but wanted an American built machine. Well, the Topper went over like a fart in church. Harley built a medium sized 165cc, 9 horsepower, 2 stroke motor with a rope start (just like the one on your Craftsman lawnmower today) and top speed of about 46mph in a fairly modernistic designed, and…well, like I said ‘went over like a fart in church’. Harley kept it on the market for nearly 5 years but only sold about 3,000 of them and today only about 100 are still alive. That statistic alone gives it a very high cool factor.
So, today, I found one of the one hundred on ebay and it’s really cool. It’s no secret that I love scooters and I know that someday soon I’ll have another to ride around, a Harley Topper might just be more to my liking than a Vespa or Lambretta (is that because I now have a Harley powered motorcycle??…am I really headed to the dark side?? Oh Lord, please help me..). The one I found today is in great running condition with just a few small cosmetic flaws and only 6915 miles on the clock. It looks really great and would be perfect for someone who simply wants an around tow n grocery getter or a fun Sunday ride if you don’t have to get on the freeway.
If you are thinking about a vintage scooter that is very unique and quite rare, click on the pictures below for more info.
This is a bike that is not for the faint of heart, but…it’s a really cool motorcycle.
The rotary engine was nothing new at the time of the RE5. The first patent of the Wankell’Rotary’engine was back in 1927! However, work didn’t begin in earnest until the early 50’s at NSU in Germany. There is a lot of interesting history regarding the rotary engine, nearly every major car manufacturer was working with the Wankell design as were all four major Japanese motorcycle companies. One little bit of history I found rather humorous was that the weird looking AMC Pacer (a bubble looking sort of car) was actually designed around the rotary engine. unfortunately, GM who AMC was going to buy the motors from, stopped production of the rotary powerplant and the Pacer was built with the incredibly anemic AMC inline 6…sad.
Back to motorcycles, Even though all the ‘Big Four’ had toyed with the rotary engine only Suzuki stepped up to the plate with the RE5. This really was a technological ‘Tour de Force’ and a very bold move. Styling was somewhat typically Japanese for the time and a bit off at the same time. The ‘beer can’ instrument panel was the design of someone who had a bit of Sake’ at lunch and was approved by someone who had way too much Sake’ at lunch.
The RE5 is a really incredible motorcycle, I had the chance to ride one a few years ago and was astounded by how smooth the motor was. The power was good, not great, the handling was typically Suzuki (excellent!) but the main thing here is the motor. Because of the smoothness of the motor I would feel like I was doing 65mph when I was actually nudging 100!!
If you are the type that likes unique motorcycles and wants something way off the normal path, this RE5 is right up your alley. You’re not going to find a plethora of parts on ebay, but you will find a great deal of support elsewhere on the net. Those that have the RE5’s love them and are a very devoted group.
Click on the pics below for more info about this bike and more pictures. It is a really cool bike and well worth the investment.
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.
Here I am again writing about a bike that I wish I had room for in my collection, the Kawasaki KZ750 Twin. It may not have the status of a Bonneville, a Lightning 650, a Commando, or even an XS650 (I have owned 2 out of the 4), but the KZ750 Twin deserves more love that it gets. The KZ750 is a classic bike that has been flying under the radar since it was new.
When the 750 twin came out it fit right between Kawasaki 600 and 1000 fours and we all looked at it and thought…why? At that time there were only two big vertical twins left on the market, the Bonnie and the XS, Kawasaki thought they could find a place in that market. There were still riders that liked vertical twins. Compared to the Triumph and the Yamaha, the KZ750 was just plain boring. The styling was conservative, the motor was just a lump (styling wise) between the wheels and, the mufflers were a bit too big with a big ugly seam running along the top and made the motor sound more like it was wheezing instead of breathing.
What Kawasaki did do with the KZ twin motor, that was either good or bad depending on your point of view, was smooth out the vibration that vertical twins are known for. Part of the charm (?) of the vertical twin motor is the feel, the vibration that comes up from the seat,the footpegs and handlebars…it let you know the bike was alive. Kawasaki built the motor with counter balancers that took that feel away but made the bike a very smooth ride for a big twin. I think that was part of why the KZ twin was really a non-event in motorcycling, that and it just came out a few years too late.
The KZ750 wasn’t fast, it came to market with a modest 55 horsepower (give or take), a top speed of somewhere just north of 100mph (barely), a bit heavy at a little over 500 lbs, and a soft suspension. The brakes were decent though. But you know what…it’s a great motorcycle!
One thing that Kawasaki is well known for is building bikes with great motors, and the KZ750 twin is no exception. Kawasaki motors have a reputation for being nearly indestructible, many journalists have called them the ‘King Kong’ motors of the industry…what else would you expect from a company who also builds steamships and locomotives?!
The beauty of the KZ 750 twin is that it can be any kind of motorcycle you want it to be. You can leave it stock (why?), chop it, bob it, load it up with a faring and saddlebags for touring, put a sidecar on it or, in my case, make a cafe racer out of it. The KZ750 twin is ultra reliable, easy to maintain and parts are still available. The net is full of resources and enthusiasts for this under loved motorcycle.
I found a really nice KZ750 twin on ebay this morning that somebody needs to buy. This is one of those, buy it…go get it…ride it home. Well, unless you live in North Dakota or Minnesota. It has only 9446 miles on the clock, it’s in really great condition and will be a great value for the buyer. Put on a new set of tires, give it a good going over, re-jet the carbs (they came from the factory way too lean), put on a set of good aftermarket mufflers, a set of lower handlebars, better rear shocks…ok, wait a minute, I’m heading off into the cafe zone. Really though, set it up which ever way you would like this is a really good motorcycle for the money.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.