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23rd May 2006

Places: Phoenix Classic Motorcycle Show, 2006

A meeting of classic motorcycle enthusiasts can be so much more than a simple show-n-shine. Dennis W Lid enjoys an afternoon of classic abstraction...

Nothing evokes nostalgia like the sight of mint condition classics. There were plenty of these at the 22d Annual Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet in Phoenix, Arizona in early 2006. What a grand event it was. The whole extravaganza was organized and operated by a passionate group of classic motorcycle zealots known as the Antique and Classic Motorcycle Enthusiasts Association. The Phoenix branch knows how to promote their classic motorcycle exhibit with enthusiasm to an elated and adoring public every year.

It was a mixed crowd that came to view the unique collection of beautifully restored classic motorcycles on that warm spring day at the Shriner's Auditorium grounds. The younger enthusiasts were excited and enthralled with these anomalies from the past. The older audience was pensive, even mesmerised, at the sight of these antique beauties. All were attracted by the pull of the past. It wasn't just the classic motorcycles that interested them though; it was the people and stories behind these bikes that intrigued the crowd.

A beaming George HughesFor example, take the third place trophy winner of the Post War Category, whose 1950 Triumph Thunderbird iron horse won a beaming George Hughes his award at the show. George is relatively new to the sport of classic motorcycling, as he testifies that the bug bit him later in his life than most others. He started his avocation just a few years ago after visiting an antique motorcycle event and joining the enthusiasts association in Phoenix. Since then he has been an avid proponent of classic bikes and a relentless advocate of the association. One look at his beaming face tells you his joyful story. The trophy was the pinnacle of achievement for George and his bike. He was on cloud nine with his win.

Rick Spears, the strong, silent typeThen, again, there was the reserved, reticent, almost stoic winner of the first place trophy for the stock British 650cc Motorcycle Class. He was the strong, silent type of personality. His 1965 Triumph Bonneville T120R classic was the most popular British-manufactured bike of its day, and one of the fastest and sleekest as well. His name is Rick Spears. The pictures of the man, his trophy and bike reveal pride of ownership. Rick and his Triumph motorcycle are winners of the first degree, and his trophy proves it. That is what's behind the reserved smile on his face. He has no need to speak of his first place standing. In this case, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

A little further down the row of classic and antique motorcycles on display was a 1954 BMW R68, 500cc with Steib S500R sidecar. Savvy bikers are well aware that BMW's are exquisitely crafted and engineered motorcycles known also for their durability and dependability. In some cases they outlast their owners. Although the original finish was just a tad weatherworn, the bike was in otherwise excellent condition. This BMW was, beyond a doubt, a working man's classic -- a bike made for the work-a-day world in addition to weekend excursions. Its owner was a no-nonsense, honest, straightforward and practical fellow by the name of Nick Emmanouilides. Nick's classic bike has served him and weathered the years rather well. He is one stoically proud owner and 'Best in BMW Class' trophy winner. What we have here is a bike that is not a shiny showpiece strictly for the adulation and admiration of the crowd. This is a vehicle that could be used for basic transportation by its owner. A classic, yes, but a practical and frequent means of conveyance as well.

Near the show's entrance was a particularly well preserved and maintained Indian Sport Chief. Harold Duffey, the owner of this vintage 1942, 45 cubic inch (approximately 750cc) sport custom, not only had his motorcycle on display, but it was up for sale at the moderate asking price of $40,000. To complete the package, and for an additional $40,000, he also offered a restored-to-perfection antique car, a 1932 Ford coupe, with which to haul the vintage bike by trailer. Harold, an astute businessman, was seated behind the Indian Sport Chief in a tent-booth replete with posters of the bike's history, specifications and photographs. He had his sales pitch ready and patiently awaited developments as passersby stopped to chat and query about bike and car.


The story of this motorcycle, along with photos of both vehicles, had appeared in motorcycle magazine articles over the past few years. This notoriety made the owner and his vehicles celebrities of sorts.

The story goes that Harold bought the bike in 1962 at age 16, some 20 years after it was manufactured. He kept it hidden for many years in an old pool hall at a tavern eight miles from home. His parents didn't want him to have a motorcycle. He only took it out for a ride when the folks were not at home.

That, and a persistent engine magneto problem, kept the bike in good-looking condition for lack of frequent use. I don't know how it was affected from an operational point of view with such intermittent usage. Regardless, it runs just fine these days.

Harold had Mr Smith, a chief mechanic for the defunct Indian Motorcycle Company, rebuild the engine and fine-tune it after the 1953 closing of the Indian Motorcycle Company. Harold's parents didn't find out about his ownership of the bike until many years later when their disapproval no longer mattered.

A friend by the name of Dave Jorgenson sold the bike to Harold after owning and racing it during the 1950's. The friend did well at the races; he achieved some victories. Now, nearly 40 years later, that same friend at age 63 is preparing to drive Harold's motorcycle again in the races at Davenport, Iowa on behalf of the now disabled owner. How's that for coming full circle?

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(Not enough Indians on there, see...)

1928 Scott Flying Squirrel

T . Jackson and his wife PamSome final examples of several well-preserved classic abstractions were presented by T . Jackson and his wife Pam, owners of Eastside Performance Motorcycles of Mesa, Arizona. This couple collects vintage motorcycles and won several trophies and awards for their bikes at the show.

A few examples worthy of mention are the following antique and extinct makes and models such as their 1952 Ariel Red Hunter, 350cc; their 1939 Brough Superior, FS-80, 1000cc; the 1928 Scott Flying Squirrel, 600cc, water-cooled two-stroke; and, finally, their 1914 Royal Enfield, 225cc, 2 stroke. Only slightly more than 300 Brough Superior motorcycles were made -- all by hand.

The Royal Enfield bike was sold to a New Zealand owner on the day World War I started. T Jackson bought it from that original owner many years later. All of these motorcycles are in excellent shape and good running condition.

The Jacksons' real legacy is their contribution to the good image of motorcycling in their community and the local region. Add to this their generous contribution as benefactors and patrons of vintage and antique motorcycles and the result is their recognition as recipients of the Oscar and Gisela McKenzie Award. It was the trophy of highest distinction awarded at the show . . . and rightly so.

1914 225cc 2-stroke Royal Enfield

The awards were distributed, evening came and the crowd disbursed. The 22d Annual Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet of Phoenix, Arizona concluded its business. All guests, participants and sponsors of the Antique and Classic Motorcycle Enthusiasts Association left the scene and made their way home. But they will return next spring, as sure as the swallows shall revisit Capistrano, to view, not the newest but the oldest, not the future but the past -- in all its classic motorcycle glory.


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